Monday, January 29, 2007

Language as a source of power

From "The Rise of Glossocracy" by Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna and from The Fjordman Report: an occasional series from Scandinavia

There was an interesting book called The New Totalitarians written by British historian Roland Huntford about Sweden in the early 1970s. It is especially noteworthy how the Socialist government deliberately broke down the nuclear family. This was presented as liberation from the oppression of women, but was in reality about tearing down the religious fabric of society and eliminating the Church and Judeo-Christian thinking as ideological competitors.

It was also about increasing state control over all citizens by breaking down a rival institution that obstructed the uninhibited state indoctrination of children. Besides, the state could foment animosity between men and women and step in as an arbitrator, thus further enhancing its powers.
During the past few elections in Sweden, there has been virtually no debate about mass immigration, but a passionate debate about “gender equality” in which almost all contestants call themselves feminists, and only debate which ways to implement absolute equality between the sexes.
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Mr. Huntford demonstrated how, when it was decided that a woman’s place was not at home but out at work, there was a rapid change in the language. Page 301:

“The customary Swedish for housewife is husmor, which is honourable; it was replaced by the neologism hemmafru, literally ‘the-wife-who-stays-at-home’, which is derogatory. Within a few months, the mass media were able to kill the old and substitute the new term. By the end of 1969, it was almost impossible in everyday conversation to mention the state of housewife without appearing to condemn or to sneer. Swedish had been changed under the eyes and ears of the Swedes. Husmor had been discredited; the only way out was to use hemmafru ironically. Connected with this semantic shift, there was a change in feeling. Women who, a year or so before, had been satisfied, and possibly proud, to stay at home, began to feel the pressure to go out to work. The substitution of one word for the other had been accompanied by insistent propaganda in the mass media, so that it was as if a resolute conditioning campaign had been carried out. Very few were able to recognize the indoctrination in the linguistic manipulation; in the real sense of the word, the population had been brain-washed.”


Language is underestimated as a source of power. Those who control the language and the school curriculum control society.

George Orwell said: “If freedom of speech means anything at all, it is the freedom to say things that people do not want to hear.” In his book 1984, a totalitarian Party rules much of Europe. Their three slogans, on display everywhere, are: War is peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is strength. It’s the ultimate glossocracy, even creating an entirely new language called Newspeak:

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.”

I love Orwell’s book, but frankly, it fits an openly totalitarian society more than it does Western nations. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, with its hedonistic society where people derive pleasure from promiscuous sex and drugs, is closer to the mark. Scholar Neil Postman contrasted the worlds of 1984 and Brave New World in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death:

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

Much more here.
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