Some 60 years ago, George Orwell wrote an allegorical novel, called Nineteen Eighty-Four, to describe life in a futuristic Britain under a one-party police-state presided over by an all-powerful figure known as Big Brother.
Orwell described a grey, austere and totalitarian society which would have been familiar to hundreds of millions of Russians and eastern Europeans then living under communist rule.
One of the features of the nasty world described by Orwell was its systematic misuse of language, which went by the name of “Newspeak”. By re-defining words and endlessly repeating them, the Ministry of Truth through the Thought Police was able to control what people thought, and through that, their actions. Language was instrumental in destroying the culture.
The same technique is being used by different people today, with similar effects. In all areas of public administration, the words “spouse”, “husband” and “wife” have been replaced by the word “partner”, although the words are subtly but substantially different in meaning, and convey different realities.
In some schools and university departments, feminist ideologues have dictated that the personal pronoun “he” must not be used, and is replaced by the word “they”, which means something different.
The word “Christmas” is in process of becoming “the festive season”, a phrase which conveys an utterly different meaning, particularly in a post-Christian cultural environment.
Years ago, the word “gay” was commandeered by the militant homosexual lobby, and transformed from being an adjective meaning happy to a synonym for a male homosexual, and the homosexual lifestyle.
Currently, the word “marriage” is in process of being transformed.
In every language and culture, across the span of human history, this word has always meant the union of a man and a woman in a permanent relationship designed for their own welfare, and for bearing and rearing children. It is now in process of being transformed into a temporary coupling of any two people.
The word “homophobic”, which just a few years ago was used to describe a person who supported vigilante action against homosexuals, is now being used to describe anyone who defends the universal definition of marriage.
In a similar way, the process of legalising the personal use of dangerous psychoactive drugs such as marijuana, heroin and ice is now called “harm minimisation”, when its effects are exactly the opposite.
The word “abortion” is rarely used in the public arena, because it is understood to convey not only the forced ending of a pregnancy, but also the taking of innocent human life. Instead, it is described as a “termination”, or by the even more obscure acronym, D&C (dilation and curettage).
Although the transformation of language is seen most obviously around social issues, it is also being used systematically to shape political debate.
So, we are told that the federal government is introducing a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which is newspeak for its new carbon tax. The fact is that the new tax is not remotely concerned with “carbon pollution” at all, but rather with emissions of the gas CO2 which is not a pollutant by any credible definition, but rather, an essential building block in every cell in every living plant and creature.
By the government’s own admission, it will not lead to any reduction in CO2 levels, either in Australia or globally.
And the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is being introduced in Australia at the same time the government is expanding exports of coal, which is virtually 100 per cent carbon, to countries such as China.
Similarly, the Government has introduced the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT), which is not, as the words imply, a tax on minerals extracted from the ground, but a highly selective tax on Australia’s coal and iron ore production.
Every one of these examples could be multiplied, time and time again.
We live in a society in which the ordinary meaning of words is being systematically manipulated by spin-doctors and ideologues, as a means of changing the way people think, and, more fundamentally, the way they act. Language is an important part of the culture wars.
For those of us who see this as a challenge to the foundations of society, it is important that we identify the problem and expose it.
It is clearly preferable to avoid using the new debased, transformed language of the politically-correct left, although this can be difficult in situations where constant usage has already normalised it, as has happened with the term “same-sex marriage”. The alternative phrase, “same-sex unions”, has a different meaning.
When such terms are used, they should be identified for what they are: a form of linguistic dishonesty, designed to undermine existing institutions and transform them.
Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.