One of the distinguishing features of authoritarian societies is the language becomes lifeless and dull. At the same time, the public space is filled with the language of the authoritarian ruling system. The people at the top give long arid speeches and their propaganda organs fill the spaces in between with official noise. Fidel Castro would give speeches that lasted half a day. Stalin would deliver long harangues to the Party Congress for no other reason than to fill the room with words.
In America, this started to creep in after the Cold War. Bill Clinton would give long speeches that were cognitively meaningless. The word “emote” came into common usage at this time as his speeches were like the “feelies” in the Huxley novel Brave New World. They were not intended to stimulate your mind, but rather to anesthetize it so you could experience the raw emotion being conveyed. His most memorable words are those from his rare confessions of guilt.
Obama took it further by delivering nonsense speeches that were not just devoid of meaning, but an assault on the concept of meaning. His language was an assault on the mind, an effort to destroy reason. Instead, the listener was supposed to abandon his senses and float along on the warm thermals of passive happiness. His fans swore he was a great speaker, but they never quoted him. To quote the great man would invite questioning the great man and that was not permitted.
Authoritarian systems use language to suffocate and stifle the mind, because people thinking independently is always a danger. The point of regime language is to strip language of its meaning. Demagogic language makes the people incapable of the objectivity and perspective that leads to questioning. Questioning naturally leads to the formation of individual ideas. Regime language seeks to destroy the independent mind by stripping the language of meaning.
One result of this is some people become parrots, repeating slogans and catchwords without understanding what they mean. These people are so fearful of any deviation from the prescribed opinions, they only use the terms provided by the regime. It is a ritualized self-degradation. To express and judge all opinions in the accepted clichés and phrasing of the regime is to accept that words and the concepts behind them have no independent meaning.
It is logocide, the deliberate killing of words in order to kill the concepts that lie behind those words. The most obvious example is “fascist”, which no longer has a cognitive meaning in modern society. It exists only to trigger an emotional response tuned to meet the needs of the regime. The structure of modern Western government is about as close to fascism as we have come since the middle of the last century, but the word itself now means anyone who opposes the regime.
A current example of logocide is the war on information. Regime media now obsesses over misinformation and disinformation. Both words are used interchangeably, despite having very different meanings. The former means false information that is often intended to deceive. The latter is official lies promoted by the institutions of authority in order to deceive the people. By conflating these meanings, this important distinction falls away and both words just mean unofficial opinion.
Regime media has declared war on misinformation and disinformation, despite being the primary source of it. The social media publishers regularly announce their progress on the war on misinformation. Of course, the government is the biggest source of disinformation, yet no one questions them. This absurd bit of theater is intended to strip the very concept of truth from the minds of the people. It is a form of menticide intended to make people dependent on the regime.
The point of logocide is to cripple the ability of the people to think independently and to prevent them from sharing information with others. If no one can trust what words mean, you cannot trust the ideas behind those words. One of those ideas is the concept of personal trust. If your best friend is just as susceptible to repeating false information as the stranger on the street, that friends can no longer be trusted. The natural bonds between people fall away and everyone is a node of the state.
This even happens to the people tasked with assaulting the language. Look at the subhead from this story in a regime tabloid. “Journalists and academics are developing a new language for truth. The results are not always clearer.” Imagine the intellectual bankruptcy required to manufacture the phrase “new language for truth.” The person who wrote that is dead inside. They are a shuffling zombie incapable of action not directed by the people who now control his mind.
Notice also the creepy flavorless language of the age. No one speaks in the first person unless they are displaying fidelity to the system. In the corporate space, everything is written in soft passive language stripped of declarative statements. Corporate communication sounds like it comes from an encounter session. The people behind it are incapable of independent thought. They fear deviation and degrade themselves with therapeutic language to magnify their obsequiousness.
This is why authoritarian systems are minimalist. They lack beauty, creativity and vitality because those are burned up in the engine of authoritarian rule. A people living in fear of their own curiosity are not inventing new ways to solve problems. That requires independent thought, which means an independent language. When the point of the system is to kill the meaning of words, there can be no independent thought so there can be no new ideas, just the approved ideas.
This is what we see in the West. The suffocating conformity of thought is boiling off the will to solve problems and challenge old solutions. The centers of cultural production are now manned by automatons. They are decorated in the trappings of past creativity, but they are like mannequins in a museum display, interesting only to those who maintain their ability to see what is happening. Otherwise, the culture is a repetition of the banal official clichés and slogans.
This is what makes language the great threat to the authoritarian. To call a man in a dress a crossdresser, rather than use an approved neologism, offends the puppets of the regime, because it threatens the foundation of the regime. Clear language conveys clear meaning which implies clear truths. Standing on truth allows for the questioning of the official language and by extension, the authority of the system. The antidote to authoritarianism is truth and the honest language it requires.
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