To carry out a revolution, the left once resorted to the “masses.” That option is no longer available. The giddy times of worker mobs are long gone. The left is now gentrified. It roosts in corporate offices and gated communities.
However, one powerful weapon in the leftist arsenal is still the dictionary. Activists coin words and expressions that carry a revolutionary charge. Their cause advances by hiding inside the ambiguity of expressions that can be interpreted in many ways. These loaded terms find their way to the media and culture, which broadcast them powerfully. They help change mentalities by applying pressure to conform.
The Manipulation of Words
Catholic thinker Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote a book titled Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue that analyzes this tactic and describes the unperceived process of semantic manipulation. He shows how the left employs what he calls “talismanic words” to change people’s opinions and mentalities, especially in times of fear and crisis.
These words have legitimate but elastic meanings that can be artfully manipulated to evoke a constellation of emotions, sympathies, and phobias. The media can easily exploit these and apply increasingly radical meanings to these words. Using words like “peace,” “dialogue,” “diversity” or “equity,” public opinion moves leftward.
The author explains the need to “exorcise” these words of the power to influence by analyzing them and exposing their false meanings.
Woke, the Adjective
The left has used this tactic with the word “woke” (the adjective not the past tense of wake). The original leftist meaning described the state of being aware of the forms of systemic racism in society. A “woke” person perceived almost instinctively the prevalence of racist structures everywhere. Such persons act upon this knowledge as if awakening from lethargic sleep. The woke are the new proletariat, ready to overthrow a decrepit system unwilling to defend itself.
However, woke carries a multitude of other meanings that appeal to people and pull them leftward. It conveys a fuzzy feeling of compassion for those who are suffering. The word suggests to those identifying with it that they are engaging individuals who understand others. The woke person is unselfish, caring and solicitous. On the other hand, the word casts a threatening shadow on all who refuse to get in step with its revolution.
The Exorcism of Woke
“Woke” probably would have been an excellent talismanic word to promote social revolution. Its vague, fuzzy meanings are perfect for disarming centrist Americans willing to compromise while inhibiting and paralyzing whoever is not.
However, “woke” suffered the disaster of meeting up with Critical Race Theory. While woke is vague and fuzzy, CRT has an easy to discern class struggle message. The meeting of the two helped “exorcise” woke of its false meanings and reveal its malevolent nature.
Hence, the unmasked term took on brutal overtones. It became an indictment of the unwoke. It divided the waters and brought condemnation to all who did not accept the systemic racist narrative. The woke litmus paper test soon evolved to mean the hard-handed obsessive enforcement of the left’s CRT agenda. Activists proclaim that only the woke will be saved. Woke that originally meant enlightened and caring is now arrogant and menacing.
Once exposed as subversive, the term woke becomes a liability. Its badge of honor became a stain of ridicule. The semantic bomb that seemed so powerful a couple of years ago has backfired. It’s not hip to be woke anymore. Woke is broke.
The left is jumping ship to abandon the term. Woke will soon be joining others in the leftist graveyard of exhausted words that include politically correct, the “l-word” liberal, self-management, socialist and communist. All these words were once worn proudly by leftist activists but now rest buried and forgotten.
A Word Gone Rogue
However, woke is worse than most abandoned word weapons. Woke has gone rogue. Like a monster working against its mad creator, woke helps the left’s enemies win elections. Woke activists have awoken to the fact that their Frankenstein word creature must be taken down.
Indeed, all the big names on the left are scrambling to let go of the word. The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd complained that wokeness “derails” the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party’s strategy guru James Carville has denounced what he calls the “stupid wokeness” alienating voters. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a wokeness demi-god, called the term worthless when she tweeted,” ‘Woke’ is a term pundits are now using as a derogatory euphemism for civil rights & justice.” Most leftists now agree the term is beyond repair.
Many are blaming the radioactive word for the left’s defeats in the 2021 elections. Woke and Critical Race Theory are bringing each other down. The continued use of both these terms will spell an even greater disaster for the 2022 midterms. The best thing is to do damage control by dropping woke into a memory black hole of oblivion and denying that CRT-derived ideas are even taught.
Using Words as Weapons
The left has always manipulated the meanings of words to favor its class struggle narratives. Indeed, it needs to use this maneuver because its final goals of egalitarianism, collectivism and atheism do not naturally attract the masses (or anyone else). The history of the left has been a constant effort to disguise their goals and hide their agendas by using tactics like word manipulation to dupe an unsuspecting public.
The role of those who defend the Christian order must expose the false meanings and narratives of the left’s semantic warfare. In its turn, the right must never hide its goals and program. Indeed, the pursuit of the good, true and beautiful naturally attracts people to a loving God.
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