Words and their definitions have been seized by the culture’s self- appointed spokesmen in their objective of restricting the power of language and individual intellectualism in favour of a simplistic public mind-set to cement social control.
When public figures use certain words having more than one meaning and opt for the lesser used one, this being interpreted as socially or politically incorrect, the media and its allies then launch into feigned indignation mode and deliver self-righteous moralising sermons. The reason for all this huffing and puffing is to shame the ‘offender’ into offering a grovelling apology to the injured party and the like-minded offended, by repeating the ‘official’ mantra in a suitably remorseful tone. This action reinforces the correctness of the view in the mind of the public as well as discourages any future challenges, at least in the public arena.
Not being an admirer of the celebrity culture nonetheless I happened to peruse the weekend papers and my attention was drawn to the latest hoopla in the tabloid press.
Whilst not wishing to name the individual celebrities involved in the fray as this just serves as a distraction I will deal with the premise of the issue involved.
Societal watchdogs were thrown in disarray over the word ‘rape’ which was not used in the context of a sexual violation but more a personal one, as in an invasion of privacy.
In addition the definition of rape as per the Oxford Concise English Dictionary refers to violent assault, (non-sexual) forcible interference, violation. The word violate mean disregard, fail to comply with an oath or treaty, treat with disrespect in regard to a sanctuary, break in upon, disturb a person’s privacy etc. Some synonyms for violate are; disrupt, disturb, interrupt, encroach upon, infringe and so on.
Those outraged by the celeb’s remarks considered them as trivialising the experience of sexual violence. How so. She just used a different meaning of the word and applied it to another context. Do the critics lack understanding of the English language? A spokesperson for Rape Crisis is quoted as saying “it’s always disappointing when someone high profile uses that language and turns sexual violence into a metaphor for something else” Is no one allowed to deviate from the dictated definition of the word? Is it licenced for use by certain groups only. Why the eagerness to take offense? For offence’s sake?
In another scenario a celebrity was taken to task when she compared being slated online to fighting in a war. Not only was she attacked by Senator John McCain’s wife but incurred the wrath of The US organisation Veterans for Peace no less, stating that she has no idea of what it means to be in real danger. Has the world gone berserk?
It appears anyone can jump on the bandwagon and take offence at language usage they don’t approve of or understand. Is the language war a new weapon in popular culture, and why. Nuance has no place in an all-out war and a bland homogeneous lowest-common denominator pseudo-culture is the result.
Or deliberate dumbing down for want of a better term.
Control is the sought after result, and it starts (and ends) with the mind.