Word Games

Just Words?

Just Words?

I have said it before many times: Republicans are really, really fantastic at framing. They take an issue, and put it in such a way that if you try to disagree, you put yourself into a verbal noose that can’t be untied. One example is the phrase ,”I support the troops!” That is an essentially innocuous statement, but when KKKarl Rove gets a hold of it, it becomes, “I support the war in Iraq, and George W. Bush, and if you don’t, then why do you hate America?”

I had an interesting exchange with my online frenemy, “Republican in Seattle,” on my recent post “On Consciences, and Rules.” (I swear we’ll do karaoke someday, Republican!) Her tactics were most interesting. She tried to redefine the words “pro-choice” as meaning, “pro-EVERYONE’s choice.” This was her logic: If you’re REALLY pro-choice, you’ll support the choice of the pharmacist to deny a woman emergency contraception or birth control based on conscience.

Uh-uh. That’s not what “pro-choice” means. “Pro-choice” means pro – the woman’s choice. It means the woman’s choice is the most important when it comes to reproductive issues. How could it not be – it’s her life, her body, and her baby (or not).

The idea that my pro-choice position means I have to give a pharmacist power over my body is classic Republican doublethink. I expected her next to tell me that “some animals are more equal than others,” or that “we have always been at war with East Asia.”

But you see what she did there? If you’re not paying attention, these types of word games could really sway you into thinking that “pro-choice” means…well, its exact opposite. 

Another example of this manipulation is what has been done to the word “liberal.”  After decades of demonization, a liberal is now a cartoon character who would rather save the spotted marmoset than the economy; who would rather give a terrorist a scholarship to Yale and three virgins than to punish him for his crimes; and who actually thinks inflating your tires is a real strategy for saving the planet. (That last one was even kind of true if you go by Barack Obama’s example!) So who the hell would want to be one of those people?

I would. Because liberal does not mean that, never has and never will.

But quite a few of our Obaman brethren and sistren decided, a few years ago, that the word “progressive” was so much nicer and carried so much less baggage than the word “liberal”, which was ooky. So they all took up the “progressive” banner. (We PUMAs tend to call them “fauxgressives” because they threw all their principles away by supporting the Great Pretender.)

Notice what’s happening now, though? The word “liberal” is coming back into vogue, and they’re using it to define supporters of Barack Obama.

This phenomenon is most curious, and distressing. Because when Barack Obama crashes and burns, the word “liberal” will once again be associated with people who haven’t the first clue as to how to vote, or govern.

My advice? If this applies to you (and I know that for some, it does not!), on your blogs, in your comments and whenever you find a sympathetic ear, say words something like this: “I didn’t vote for Barack Obama because I’m a liberal, and he’s not.” If they argue, just tell them Barack Obama himself said he wasn’t a liberal. Okey-doke?

It’s the ultimate irony that the Republicans listened to him, and the “progressives” didn’t.


23 responses to “Word Games

  1. Let’s face it, Republicans are just better politicians. And they’ve got brass you-know-whats. One reason our political system is such a failure is that the two major parties are not operating on equal levels. We don’t have real debates, we don’t have competition, and we don’t have real compromises. To Democrats (for years synonymous with “liberal,” which is ludicrous) compromise means moving towards the Republican view, whatever it may be. To me the problem with the Bush years and the Republican control of Congress wasn’t that Republicans were just so mean, it’s that Democrats were (and remain) such cowards. I don’t want bipartisanship. I want a bare-knuckled, back-to-the-wall fight from both parties. That’s how you get an actual debate and that’s how you compromise. We don’t have this. What we have is Republicans outplaying Democrats at every turn, even now that Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress. Republicans are just better at it. They create new definitions of words, as you point out MB, and Democrats consistently find themselves on the defensive. Democrats’ idea of a fight is starting something with Rush Limbaugh while the Republican minority wipes the floor with them in Congress. Idiots.

  2. Three Wickets

    I’m a liberal, and he’s not. He claims he’s a progressive who embodies change. What change exactly?

    That works for me.

  3. Another word twisted (deliberately, I suspect) is ‘triangulation.’ In the Clinton admin, that meant finding a whole new solution from left field that was so practical that it satisfied both liberals and conservatives. Also ‘Third Way’.

    It meant an alternative to ‘split the difference’ compromise — which is what Clinton’s enemies later twisted it to mean.

    Originally it was the name of what Clinton did — so it had to become something bad that he could be accused of doing.

    Btw, David Brooks’ NYT piece “No Apology Necessary” defending Hillary’s AUMF vote used the term in its right sense, iirc — praising Hillary for it.

  4. Madamab,

    I’ve been saying that for a long time. I am not a “progressive.” A progressive is a term chosen by the New Democratic Party. Of course Obamanation would adopt it since everything connected to the Old Democratic Party is bad (especially the Clintons). A progressive is OK with sexism, misogyny, voter fraud, disenfranchisement, redefining words (I will not get into that – but I think you know what I mean). In short, progressives turned out to be like Republicans. They used every dirty trick that the Republicans used. I hated the dirty tricks that the Republicans used. I thought that this country deserved better than dirty tricks. No, Obama is no liberal, but I still am.

  5. garychapelhill

    Everything has been reduced to who can come up with the best propaganda slogan. The Bushies had “support the troops” and “freedom isn’t free”, now for the obots it is “Change you can believe in”. They also use witch hunts to demonize their enemies. Repubs called theirs unpatriotic, Obots call theirs racists. I am a liberal, and have been my entire life. My political views haven’t changed either. They can call themselves anything they want, but to paraphrase Shakespeare, A pile of sh#t by any other name would still smell as foul…..

  6. I hear ya fsteele, with BO “triangulation” all of the sudden became “nuanced and complicated”.

    Great post madamab, glad you are posting. Hope another “play” is in the works!

  7. Can a pharmacist refuse to fill a prescription for birth control pills because of his ‘conscience’? Or refuse to sell condoms?

    A change in the law is pending. Comments are being taken here:


    Presumably all comments will be relayed to the official agency. But sba-list.org is an anti-choice site, so better comment elsewhere as well.

  8. Three Wickets

    Another new word is “responsibility.” Anyone who disagrees is just plain irresponsible.

    But again there is no clarity or consistency to the rhetoric. He wants it to mean the JFK “ask not” kind of responsibility. But in a near depression, it comes across as, you’re on your own so don’t cry about it. And based on his approach to the financial crisis, responsibility apparently does not mean accountability. Certainly does not mean fiscal discipline. How about having the integrity to admit your mistakes and apologize from time to time. He however prefers to throw people under the bus or turn things in his favor by trying to give the civil right speech of the century. And “hey, I screwed up” which he’s been sporting lately is not quite an apology.

    No, he does not own “responsible.” It’s not in his policies, and it’s not evident in his behavior and the example he sets everyday as POTUS. He should not be allowed to play with big words like that.

  9. pro-choice means you believe a woman has the right autonomy the same as men do. That’s what you need to tell the next anti-choicer who comes your way & wants to parse words: do you believe a woman is entitled to autonomy or don’t you?

  10. I am one of those people that consider myself an American first.
    Both the republican and democratic critters sent to Washington are being paid to represent ALL Americans. They forgot why they are there. If they want to represent different lobbies that paid them under the table then give me my money back.
    If I do not do the job I am paid to do I am let go and they find someone who will do the job.
    If California can have a recall and new election why can’t the whole USA have one and get people in who do what the American people paid them for REPRESENT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.



  11. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an American party that really represented all of us?
    Wouldn’t it be nice if our congress critters spoke truth and not double speak?
    Wouldn’t it be nice if the congress critters gave a damn about this country?



  12. Why not have a law that if you refuse a rape victim birth control and a child is born, you are responsible for supporting and raising the child?
    Since so many of these people are pro birth and anti quality of life maybe it will wake them up to the consequences.
    Just a thought////



  13. Helenk,

    Good idea!

  14. It’s not just words that the bots twist, it’s the intelligence behind the words. A bot has turned up at TNA talking about Obama having more ‘elected experience’ than Hillary.

  15. Create your own reality.

  16. FSteele – they just can’t quit the primary of 2008, can they? Sorry bots, it’s not about Hillary anymore – it’s about Obama. And he sucks, no two ways about it.

    Three Wickets – On the nose! He now says he’s “responsible” for the AIG mess, then turns around and decides to give the financial sector another TRILLION. If he were responsible, he’d see that the financial sector should no longer be bailed out!

    P.S. I wish I could respond to you all individually, but time is NOT on my side these days. I think you’re all great, though!

  17. Responsibility? Bah! There’s a lot of aides willing to take the bullet. There was a Telegraph article about Obama telling his staff to learn from their mistakes about Gordon Brown’s visit. The buck most definitely does not stop here.

  18. Republicans have no monopoly on framing.
    It is just always easier to see it when the other side does it.

    ‘Pro-choice’ is in itself framing. As is ‘pro-life’. In exactly the same way as ‘I support the troops’.

    BTW – first time here, great name for a blog.

  19. Thanks, Jon!

    It’s not that we don’t do it, it’s that we do it while thinking that no one will present the opposite side. “Pro-life” is just brilliant. It implies the other side is “pro-death.” “Pro-choice” implies the other side is…what? Against choice? Please.

  20. I agree that “pro-life” is a brilliant slogan. And that movement has managed to equate being “pro-choice” with being “pro-abortion.” I don’t know a lot of people who are for abortion, though we seem to have met a few closeted pro-abortionists during 2008!

  21. republican in seattle

    Damn, Madama, I’m so honored to have a post inspired by our debates in the comments. That’s probably gotta be the highest honor any liberal (or progressive?) has ever bestowed upon me. LOL.

    Hey, at least I got you to think a little bit before deciding to dig your heels further into your “women have the only choice” kind of position. 😉

  22. don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back,
    repub in seattle.

    madamab thinks plenty, without any inspiration from you. I somehow doubt you’re her muse.


  23. LOL catarina! Well-said.