To state the obvious, our culture’s elites no longer conceptualize language as a way to understand reality and apprehend truth. Rather, they conceive of it only as an instrument and have cynically weaponized it to propagandize and terrorize the populace for the purpose of cementing and expanding their power. Language is now deployed, not to pursue the common good, but, rather, to fabricate increasingly asinine narratives, to serve the interests of those who hold positions of dominance. (Josef Pieper wrote a short essay on this subject that I highly recommend and upon which I drew in writing this article.)
To say all of that in a way that risks cancellation: Our elites are akin to rapists who daily press a rhetorical knife against reality’s throat to force it to submit to their twisted lust for power.
As commentary goes, “The media is biased!” is pretty tired. Frankly, it’s a lukewarm, 2008-era take. This is not that. I understand that the media has moved on from “biased” and to “actively opposed to the loves and interests of everyday Americans.” They don’t even try to hide it anymore.
For evidence, we need look no further than the videos created by NowThis, a progressive, social media-focused “news” organization. Those who run NowThis are positively allergic to reporting hard news, and they would rather die than let any just-the-facts reporting slip into their social media feeds. NowThis’ content is carefully curated to push, on a loop, a series of narratives designed to mock those who are not die-hard, progressive Democrats, while simultaneously helping the same die-hard, progressive Democrats gain, maintain, and expand their influence and power.
I want to focus on two of NowThis’ recent videos because they reveal the more sinister dimension of their worldview and project: distorting language beyond recognition, which renders reality unintelligible, so that can secure and wield power more easily. (The videos’ substantive content is less important than their choice of words and framing.)
In a four-and-a-half-minute May 3 video titled, “Lawmaker Compares Black Lives Matter to the KKK,” Justin Humphrey, an Oklahoma Republican state representative, is giving a speech on the Oklahoma House floor—which NowThis set to ominous, unnerving music—about H.B. 1775, a bill that would ban indoctrinating Oklahoma students in the tenets of critical race theory and gender-identity ideology.
Humphrey begins (from what we can see in the video) by unequivocally disavowing the KKK, saying, “They’re terrible—everybody agrees on this floor that they have burned, that they have threatened, that they have destroyed. That’s what they’re famous for.” He then asks one of his colleagues who supports the bill, “Would you agree that when people burn, threaten, kill, [and] intimidate, that they are a terrorist group—and that Black Lives Matter meet[s] that description?” (His fellow representative answers in the affirmative.)
All of that comes in the first 45 seconds of the video. There are more than three minutes left, but none of the three Democratic lawmakers who are shown speaking respond to that comparison; in fact, it is never mentioned again. Yet the video would have you believe that Humphrey’s comparison occupies center stage. It’s designed to make you think that the (presumptively illegitimate) KKK-BLM comparison is the point, to generate clicks, and to evince feelings of scorn from the viewers. (“How dare he compare the KKK to BLM!” viewers are meant to seethe, like trained seals.)
But Humphrey is using elementary logic. Terrorist groups use violence to achieve their political goals. The KKK used violence to achieve its political goals. BLM has done the same. Therefore, both the KKK and BLM are terrorist groups. Anyone who can think his way out of a wet, brown paper bag must agree. But, of course, NowThis does not. Why?
Because there is a submerged premise: Groups that use political violence to achieve goals my friends and I like aren’t terrorists. And because BLM is “antiracist,” which is, to the NowThis crowd, good; BLM by definition cannot be a terrorist group no matter what it does. This is despite the fact that the people in white hoods who burned crosses on suburban lawns have simply been replaced by people in ski masks who throw Molotov cocktails and bricks through local diners in various urban centers.
Perhaps if I squint harder, I’ll be able to tell the difference.
The next day, May 4, NowThis posted a three-minute video titled, “White Lawmaker Has Candid Discussion on Privilege.” The lawmaker in question is again from Oklahoma; this time, it’s Democratic state representative Forrest Bennett.
Bennett mindlessly spouts critical race theory platitudes for social media praise and cringe-inducingly “confesses” his “sin” (“I benefit from being a tall, straight, white male every day. . . . Unlearning [my privilege] will take me the rest of my life,” he whinily grovels). But imagine if a lawmaker, whatever his race (or his sex), had disagreed plainly, firmly, and frankly with the dominant narrative about “privilege.” That is, imagine a hypothetical lawmaker rejecting critical race theory as vigorously as Bennett embraces it. What result?
NowThis would savage him, titling the video (and we all instinctively know this) something like, “Lawmaker, incensed, foams at the mouth in rage, sputters ignorantly and incoherently about race.”
But that’s curious, isn’t it? Because the lawmaker in that hypothetical situation also would have been candid—i.e., “straightforward, frank”—just like (as the NowThis crowd sees it) Representative Bennett was. So, why on earth would NowThis fail to describe a colorblind lawmaker as it does a racist, race-conscious lawmaker like Bennett?
Clearly, it is because NowThis uses language for power, not to get at the truth. The word “candid” simply doesn’t mean “plain-spoken and direct—but only when it benefits my side.” The word has a positive connotation, sure, but it is neutral as to its object. NowThis doesn’t care; it only promotes whatever helps the narrative, and right now, that is, “White people are evil and corrupt; everyone else is saintly and wonderful.”
These videos are two more of the infinite examples one can give of progressives’ “the rape of language”—how it’s been corrupted and conscripted into their political project and forced to create narratives in service of their power instead of used gratefully as a bridge to truth.
The elites who govern you are rhetorical rapists. You’ve been warned. Act accordingly.