The importance of word choice

I was just about to write a piece on the usage and misuse of the word ‘genocide‘, when I came across Thomas Dalton’s very helpful piece on that very subject, on TOO.

Dalton, in a very apropos essay, addresses how the word is very vaguely and broadly defined, and he delineates the origins of the word, as well as the current definitions as laid down by the likes of the U.N.

I recommend the Dalton piece, but I will add my own thoughts as to the questionable utility of a word whose meaning is so elastic that it can include both ‘lethal’ and ‘non-lethal’ meanings and outcomes. For example, any attempt or ‘conspiracy’ to eliminate, or even damage or harm another group is ‘genocide’, per the existing and widely accepted definitions.

However, consult a dicitionary and you will see that the suffix “-cide” as in ‘suicide‘ or ‘homicide’, etc., describe killer, or act of killing. Hence words like ‘regicide’, ‘pesticide’, parricide, and on and on. So it seems we are wresting the meaning by applying it to other situations in which there is no death implied.

There is no half-measure with death; no-one can be sort of killed or somewhat dead. It’s one or the other.

I’ve asked rhetorically in the past: how can there have been ‘genocide’ against American Indians when there are still many living Amerindians, across North, South, and Central America? The rabid left, of course, will say that there were tens of millions of American Indians and that they were ‘all but wiped out’, and would otherwise have represented hundreds of millions. That, however, is just conjecture or plain sophistry. There was never any official census to count the number of Amerindians during the time of the early colonies. How could there have been? And it’s fact that the tribes, being mostly hunter-gatherers, could not have been sustained by that lifestyle had they numbered in hundreds of millions; hunter-gatherers require lots of land and open space to pursue their hunting-gathering way of life.

Amerindians often succumbed to diseases for which Europeans had developed some degree of immunity. This was not intentional ‘genocide’ by Whites, and what about the current situation in which many new arrivals are carrying diseases which are new to North America, and for which we may have no immunity? It’s a fact, but does the left accuse anyone of intentional harm there? Not likely.

In short, it’s fallacious and dishonest to say that ‘genocide’ took place on this continent in the past. And yet, a lot of careless thinkers on the ‘right’ agree with the charges that our ancestors ‘genocided’ Amerindians. But the tribes are still alive and holding their own, so the charge is without validity. Why can’t people grasp that?

To address the question of whether it’s useful or wise, as Dalton questions, to apply the term ‘genocide’ to the replacement of our folk here or in Europe, I would argue, also, for a careful and correct use of language. For many people the word ‘genocide’ seems hyperbolic and hysterical in the current context. I’ve certainly used the term ‘existential threat’ to describe our situation, and I think that’s accurate, but in my opinion it’s about as useful to use the term ‘genocide’ at this point as it is to call the left ‘the real racists’ (the old DR3), in other words, not useful at all. It just rolls of the backs of the targets.

In any case, even if one supposes there’s some utility in throwing these words around in hopes of scoring a bullseye somewhere, there’s this question: considering the history of the word ‘genocide’, its origins and its current definitions (as defined by the United Nations et al), do we really wish to adopt their definitions and their ways of thinking? Since when?

The right can and should do better than to adopt slippery and sophistical rhetoric just because our foes do that so freely.

And far too many on the right, not just the ‘respectable cons’ or cuckservatives have fallen prey to the endless guilt that the left tends to heap on our folk. There is too much ready adoption of undeserved guilt feelings, and the groveling desire to point the finger elsewhere and try to deflect the blame. If we stand on the truth — not easy in this Age of the Lie, we will be much stronger.

Stop the ‘gaslighting’?

Some of the commenters at Steve Sailer’s blog are upset by the use of the term ‘gaslighting’. Somehow they seem to find it especially annoying and tiresome, so much so that comments like the following have appeared:

Whenever people become newly acquainted with a thinky new concept, the use of which they believe will show off their intellectual chops, they tend to over-apply it prodigiously. It’s been an unhappily acquired hobby of mine to track these ripples in thought-space, as a once obscure term starts showing up in one columnist’s repertoire after another with increasing frequency before fading off again

Well, I guess two, or any number, can play at this game. An example, in the paragraph above: the word ‘thinky‘. Is that even a word?  I had to turn to that great fount of erudition, The Urban Dictionary, to learn how it is used.  So  a word like ‘thinky’ is good, but ‘gaslighting’, which is a term that has been in use for some years, is not?

I confess I am one of those offenders who has used (recently, in fact) the term gaslighting. So that makes me one of the ‘intellectually vain‘? This man says so, so it  must be:

“Gaslighting” is a very useful concept to have once you get your head around it, but because of its inherently sophisticated subject, it is prone to being either misunderstood by the general population or overused by the intellectually vain. In this respect, I believe, it is similar to the hackneyed cliche or quotation.”

I probably will be tempted to use the term again, making me a repeat offender. I use it because it has a precise meaning, one that is not hard to understand, and it therefore serves a purpose — one for which I will probably employ it as I see fit.

Someone else on that thread said that the verb ‘to trick’ is a simpler and better way of expressing the idea behind gaslighting. Not so. ‘Trick’ is a much less precise term. Unfortunately the term ‘gaslighting’ was adopted some years ago by people in the psychology trade and they do often use it in the sense of ‘psychological abuse’ of women by men. I can’t help that they’ve taken the meaning of the term in another direction.

In the movie versions of ‘Gaslight’, the villain had a specific strategy of making his target think she was going insane, as he manipulated reality to produce false perceptions. As I recall, he also made others doubt the woman’s sanity as she was made to appear delusional, and as a result she began to lose her mental stability.

No need to make this a feminist issue: we, the normal members of the public, are manipulated by a devious and cunning system to doubt our own perceptions. We are being made to feel as though the problem is with us: we are paranoid. We are ‘conspiracy-mongers’, extremists, unhinged. We are ‘phobic’ in some way or another.  Even worse, our collective history is being manipulated and altered by the rewriting of history in which we are made out to be the cause of all evils and all problems. News stories disappear, like the stories of the post-Katrina Superdome events, or the 2000 ‘Election that wouldn’t die’, as the Democrats concocted tales of flawed ballots, leading up to months of drama over vote recounts, ‘hanging chads’, culminating in the Supreme Court decision that ended months of such insanity. And now the national media and the Left feign horror at the idea that Trump might ‘not accept the results of the election.” As if such a thing had never ever happened before — when they themselves refused to accept the 2000 election results. Or maybe we just imagined that happened. Yes, that must be it.

Of course the young millennials never heard of those events, and even if they were told of it they would likely scoff — because if it had really happened, why had they not been taught about it?

That’s gaslighting. One day those of us, as the survivors of that era who still remember those days, will be told outright that we imagined it; it’s all a senile delusion.

So can we sum up all those processes by using the word ‘trick’?  It’s just not an adequate word to the task. If people don’t understand the nuances of the term ‘gaslight’, perhaps because they never saw the movie which gave rise to the term, well, that’s no one’s fault but theirs.  Perhaps they don’t like old movies or ‘passé’ popular culture.

From my point of view, I often don’t get the meaning of various current pop culture references, which are used everywhere on the Internet. I expect the people who use pop culture references would dismiss me as out of touch for failing to grasp their allusions to Harry Potter or The Matrix or whatever the current pop culture fads are. But if I am, it’s by design. I don’t find much of any value to me in such trends du jour. Does that make me a ‘snob’? Everybody looks down on certain aspects of pop culture; to some, everything that’s recent has more cachet than old movies, so it is not surprising that an old movie reference is viewed as hackeneyed and cliched by most people. The thing is, every cliche and every so-called ‘hackneyed’ phrase was once new and fresh. Cliches are popularized because they seemed apt — and fresh, once.

If I could vote down certain terms I would say I am sick of the overuse of the verb ‘to pivot‘ — I’ve never seen it used so much in my life as in this current election season. Who knows why it has become so overused? People are copycats, for the most part, herd thinkers.