A reader points out this article by a liberal in the Atlantic. It is titled “The Left Needs a Language Potent Enough to Counter Trump.” The writer, George Packer, is mostly intent on denouncing President Trump’s “dangerously populist” speech. As usual, the author goes off on Nazi, Hitler, and fascist tropes without acknowledging that the reason why the things Trump says are “populist” is that they make sense to most people, based on their experiences and observations. That part of the article is too foolish and boring to be worthy of comment.
But when the writer moves on to a topic he understands better, the shortcomings of his fellow leftists, he makes some good points–points that are especially noteworthy because they come from inside the leftists’ closed world:
“[T]he language of the contemporary left is anti-populist. Its vocabulary, much of it taken from academia, is the opposite of accessible—it has to be decoded and learned. Terms such as centered, marginalized, intersectional, non-binary, and Eurocentric gender discipline separate outsiders from insiders—that’s part of their intent, as is the insistence on declaring one’s personal pronouns and showing an ability to use them accordingly. Even common words like ally and privilege acquire a resonance that takes them out of the realm of ordinary usage, because the point of this discourse is to create a sense of special virtue. The language of the left also demands continuous refreshing and can change literally overnight: A writer is told that the phrase born male is no longer okay to use and has to be replaced with assigned male at birth. Many of these changes happen by ambush—suddenly and irrevocably, with no visible trail of discussion and decision, and with quick condemnation of holdouts—which gives them a powerful mystique.
The language of the left creates a hierarchy of those who get it and those who don’t. Mastering the vocabulary is a way of signaling entry into a select world of the knowing and the just. The system is closed—there’s an internal logic that can be accepted or rejected but isn’t open to argument or question. In this sense, though much of the language of the left has academic origins, its use in the public square is almost religious.
Italics in the original, bold added. “Almost religious” understates the case, but the author sums up quite well the bizarre world of public discourse in which we find ourselves. I think that Democratic Party politicians are lucky that most people pay no attention to the strange things they say.