Originally published in American Thinker on November 20, 2009
In the prophetic 1984, George Orwell described the purpose of Newspeak, the language of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. Newspeak was designed not only as a medium of expression for the Ingsoc worldview, but also "to make all other modes of thought impossible." Once Newspeak was fully adopted, "a heretical thought ... should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent of words."
The ability to control the political vocabulary bestows enormous power on the possessor. For decades, progressives have had a monopoly in this sphere. It is unlikely that they will be able to make "heretical thought" unthinkable, but their ability to control the terminology gives them a tremendous advantage in any political debate. Even conservative commentators have adopted the progressive terminology.
The term "moderate" is part of a continuum that includes "left," "moderate," and "right." While "left" and "right" can often be described as extreme, there are few examples of extreme "moderates." Opposition to "moderates" is by definition immoderate or extreme. Moderation is the position we should all strive for because it is considered reasonable. In the current political landscape, there are "conservative Republican," "ultra-conservative Republicans," and "moderate Republicans." These designations are universally accepted, even by "conservative" commentators. Republicans who adopt positions that can be described only as progressive are exclusively labeled "moderates." If Republicans holding progressive beliefs are described as "moderates," who then are the progressive Republicans? In the current terminology, there is no such thing as a "left-wing" or "progressive" Republican. They do not exist.
Republicans are advised by "moderates" and "objective" commentators to adopt a "big tent" philosophy. They must be more inclusive if they want to remain a viable party. They must not drive "moderates" from their tent. This tent must be large enough to include people like Dede Scozzafava, who endorsed the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives. How big of a tent should Republicans create? Should it, like the Democratic tent, be big enough to include Maoists, Black Power advocates, Islamic fundamentalists, and assorted leftist "super-moderates"?
Irving Kristol has pointed out that John Kenneth Galbraith, who described himself as a socialist, and Michael Harrington, who once headed the socialist party, were frequently described as "liberals" in the media. Van Jones, who described himself as a communist, was deemed "a mainstream liberal" by commentator Alan Colmes. CNN news analyst David Gergen stated that he knew Van Jones for a number of years. However, Gergen claimed that he "was not familiar with some of [Jones's] past statements," and that "[i]t's a sad day to see a man of good work get so little credit."
The universally adopted division of the political spectrum between "red" and "blue" is not an accident. The individual or individuals who made this decision intended to obscure the historical connection of the term "red" with communists and progressives. Prior to this redefinition, to describe Nancy Pelosi's activities as "red" would arouse some disturbing thoughts. That is now impossible. She now represents the "blue." The "reds" oppose her. To describe any policy as "red," even if it originated in The Communist Manifesto, would only cause confusion.
It is practically impossible to combat this progressive advantage. Their victory is almost upon them. As long as conservative commentators acquiesce and use the progressive terminology, they will assist the progressive cause.
In Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll illustrates the power derived from the ability to control language: "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all.'"