Uncivil tongues

Blame social media, modern politics or human nature, but people ­increasingly use ugly words to demonize opponents

AS A YOUNG boy, I was constantly encouraged by my mother to study English. She believed, as I do, that understanding and command of ­language is one of the keys to being a useful citizen.

But my mother would be shocked to see what has happened to her language in the 35 years since her passing. Not so much the way we use it every day, which has always been fluid, but the way many terms and words are now being deliberately misused to further certain political ends.

Take the term Nazi, for example. Most older readers will likely have a pretty clear understanding of what it means, relating to the totalitarian police state run by Adolf Hitler. But today its meaning has expanded to include virtually anyone opposed to a leftist political agenda.

I’ve personally been called a Nazi more than once by people who disagreed with me but would not discuss our differences, preferring an ad hominem attack instead. Such a response requires minimal intelligence, knowledge or thought, and is sadly too often capable of shutting down further discussion. It is attempted censorship of the most despicable kind.

Such people mean to be insulting, but by trying to support their ideology and dismiss other ideas with one misused word they reveal their own psychological inadequacies, the weakness of their arguments and their ignorance of history.

The word fascist is also being used, erroneously, as a catch-all term for anyone who disagrees with them. Yet true fascism, as defined by its founder Benito Mussolini and also practiced by his ­acolyte Adolf Hitler, is a far cry from modern western conservatism.

The right to dissent has been a hallmark of modern democracies yet the opinion is widely held today that certain political opinions should not be heard…

It is very telling to note that both fascists and their derivative Nazis support the idea of political dictatorship, where all dissent is suppressed and individual rights are ruthlessly subordinated to the will of the leader. Objective truth is replaced by ideology, at the point of a gun.

The right to dissent has been a hallmark of modern democracies yet the opinion is widely held today that certain political opinions should not be heard, and almost any method to silence them is warranted. Just look at the disruptions that are fomented on many university and college campuses when a controversial speaker is booked to appear at an event.

Shouting “Nazi!” and “fascist!” have become the favoured responses to any opinion that does not support the far left. Oh, and the term “racist!”, too. Even in the absence of any supportive proof, it is also being used by ‘activists’ and ‘progressives’ every day to shout down voices with which they disagree.

Except for the very real danger to a civil society such denunciations create, it is almost laughable to see how far people will go to conflate opposing viewpoints with such misused pejoratives.

There are other instances where misunderstanding or deliberate misuse of the language is having negative and regrettable effects on ­public discourse, on a number of important topics. For example, certain groups are working hard to make “climate change denier” a similarly ­discussion-ending uber insult levied against anyone who questions the prevailing doomsday orthodoxy of contemporary climate science.

But “Nazi”, “fascist” and “racist” are currently being tossed about in such an egregiously inappropriate manner that they are arguably the best place to start fighting back. One can only hope those who incorrectly use such terms in hopes of stopping reasonable discussion will ultimately see the error of their ways and desist.

Or, in defence of core democratic and long-held societal principles, will come to be seen by the ­public at large as the close-minded bigots they really are. Uncivil tongues Columns Jim Chapman

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