I swear I could devote an entire spin-off blog devoted to analyzing how leftists write. I mean, some days I catch myself trolling the most intolerable left-wing sites just looking for stuff to scrutinize. This is entirely different than the weird leftist proclivity for getting themselves offended; it's a deep and abiding intellectual fascination with the language used by leftist minds.
I've always had the sense that there was a vast and unbridgeable chasm between the left and right, probably going back to the days when I first read Fred Kerlinger's Liberalism and Conservatism in college. There's much to hate about that book, including Kerlinger's questionable statistical methods and reductive treatment of conservatism as merely modern Burkean pseudo-libertarianism, but his criterial referents theory (according to which political attitudes can be measured according to the criteriality attached to certain ideological referents, e.g., "gun control," "abortion," "divorce," etc. -- which was a relatively novel idea at the time) was nevertheless an interesting one because it exposed the inadequacy of the traditional polar conception of politics. Instead, he found that liberals and conservatives didn't just stake out opposite positions on the same referents: they were fundamentally different in terms of the referents they valued. The liberalism and conservatism subscales of his social attitudes scale correlated at a mere -.30 or so, meaning that variance in liberalism subscores could explain, at best, around 9% of the variance in conservatism subscores. That's not nothing, but it's certainly not a lot, and considerably less than the 100% suggested by the typical formulation according to which L = -C.
Ever since then, the realization dawned on me that the left-right split isn't merely just a difference in values (autonomy/equality for the left, tradition/authortiy/duty for the right). The world looks fundamentally different to leftists than it does to rightists. I can't conceive how they see it -- any more than I can, say, conceive of how a person with synesthesia experiences the world -- but I know the difference is there, and I feel like the way that leftists write offers some glimpse into their worldview.
It seems to me that liberalism is characterized in part by (and may well spring largely from) what I like to call spiritual autism. Autism spectrum disorders tend to be characterized by a few neurodevelopmental deficiencies, particularly in the areas of communication, social interaction, and sometimes impulse control. The ordinary liberal's spiritual deficiencies mirror these.
First, I've documented before the extent to which the rise of liberalism in the West has coincided with the corruption of language. Leftists just don't grasp the language with which spiritual matters might be discussed. Consider, for instance, the pathetic delusion that Christian love is nothing more than drippy affection and brainless tolerance, rather than an act of will. In this vein, I've noticed a tendency among liberals to write in a manner that is painfully literal, bereft of even the slightest concession to metaphorical ornamentation. I used to think that when liberals describe, for instance, God as a genocidal tyrant-in-the-sky, they were merely being superficial, blasphemous assholes. Now, though, I think they describe Him that way because they genuinely think religious people see Him that way -- because they cannot grasp that it is proper for God to ordain the deaths of men (even the deaths of whole races of men, such as the child-sacrificing, demon-worshipping Canaanites) and proper for man to obey the will of God, Who creates and sustains him.
I think this communicative deficiency produces profound frustration in those liberals who make an effort to engage religion (and the vast majority don't). This is why liberals and atheists alway seem so damn angry, not to mention deliberately impious. Since liberals cannot grasp religion on its own terms, those who can't reduce it to mere universalized liberalism (God as tolerance) reduce it instead to a collection of superstitions which people need to be shocked out of by means of grossly socially inappropriate displays of desecration. Impiety and sacrilege are to the liberal as aggressiveness and destructive tantrums are to the autist: both spring from an inability to mentally acquire and adhere to proper spiritual or social roles.
If this is true, liberals are in quite a sorry state. The world to them must seem irrational and intimidating; it can hardly seem otherwise. They ought to remain in our prayers, even as we continue to fight them and the false and evil creed their deficiencies lead them to defend.
Not content to have merely ruined the institution of the family, the left has seen fit to destroy even the word, by associating it with their greedy, atheistic utilitarianism:
Don’t think of it as the federal government but as your “federal family.”
In a Category 4 torrent of official communications during the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has repeatedly used the phrase “federal family” when describing the Obama administration’s response to the storm.
The Obama administration didn’t invent the phrase but has taken it to new heights.
“Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is leaning forward to support our state, tribal and territorial partners along the East Coast,” a FEMA news release declared Friday as Irene churned toward landfall.
The G-word — “government” — has been nearly banished, with FEMA instead referring to federal, state and local “partners” as well as “offices” and “personnel.”
“'Government’ is such a dirty word right now,” says Florida State University communication professor Davis Houck. “Part of what the federal government does and any elected official does is change the terms of the language game into terms that are favorable to them.”
“Family” can evoke favorable thoughts of motherhood and security. But it can also conjure images of Big Brother and organized crime.
Bastards. Ruining our words and stuff.
I don't know why, but the way leftists write fascinates me. I've explored left-wing lexicography before, and I recall penning one post I can't seem to find now (perhaps I never actually published it) pondering if there's some kind of book that people are given upon their induction into the leftist... illuminati or whatever.
I don't mean merely the themes they tend to talk about, but the actual styles in which they write. There is just such a style, and it's qualitatively different from the way right-wingers write. I think it says a lot about the idea that attitudes are formed by personality traits, or rather that certain personality traits predispose people to be attracted to particular sets of attitudes. Accordingly, I was hardly surprised about Charles Johnson's remorseless shift to the left the last few years; he'd always written like a leftist, with the characteristic snark and sarcasm, the pained efforts to sound clever, the insufferable moral supremacy -- he was really just going home.
So I was naturally interested in the wrathful outpouring over at Jezebel in response to Roosh's creating a new meme blasting the vapidity and general nastiness (body, mind, and soul) of American women -- a meme that the ladies at Jezebel have, perhaps unwittingly, only reinforced. Emotionality strips people of their intellectual pretensions, I think; it boils them down to who they really are, how they really think. Their rage speaks to me.
First, their woeful misreading of the average IMF reader is pretty noteworthy. Ms. Ryan evidently thinks they're a crew of sexually frustrated self-styled "nice guys" who, in their bitterness, resort to rationalizations about the undesirability of American women. I'm sure that's true of at least some IMF readers, but they hardly seem to be a majority. Many, certainly, were "nice guys" once, a long time ago. Life experience changed that, as it often does -- not only the life experience of being rejected romantically for being a nerdy suck-up but also the experience of sexual success due to repudiating that suck-uppery. I certainly don't think most any of them would call themselves "nice guys" anymore, much less are they bepimpled virginal basement-dwellers. I think of them more as the guys from Swingers (who hang out, eat pizza, and play SNES games for fun) than the guys from... you know, The Big Bang Theory or something, who have scheduled weekly Halo tournaments and actually attach in-group status to the outcome of those games. So although they may be bitter, few of their other descriptors actually stick to the IMF readership; for the most part, they're simply bizarrely inaccurate and wholly oblivious to this fact.
I suppose I can't fault Ms. Ryan for not grasping the nuances of IMF readers' personality traits. She's clearly not a regular reader. People tend to fall back on reliable memes when they are unsure how to proceed; but it's important that this is the meme she chose. Assuming that everyone who doesn't like you must not like you because you're better than them is very telling, indeed. I'll leave it up to you to decide what, exactly, it says about them.
There is, of course, the obligatory reference to somebody's "pointless existence." People have been using that phrase so long now it kind of grates on my cornea just to see it in text. Pointless existence, sometimes rendered meaningless existence, and usually welded into a sentence containing some variant of the word justify. Ugh. For people generally so enthralled to the fashions of the day, you think they'd grab a thesaurus rather than trot out cliched crap. Why not glitz it up and write, I dunno, rationalize your purposeless state of being or something?
I count the appearance of some variant of "racist" five times and "misogynist" three times, both in the main post and in the comments section. I'm frankly surprised they didn't appear more frequently. Of course, nothing about the meme is racist. "American," after all, is a nationality, not a race -- at any rate the argument is that the culture of American femininity is defective (which belies the claim of misogyny, too). Nor is it racist or misogynist to claim that women of some other race (or nationality; the commenters refer to women of eastern European descent, but again, eastern European is not a race) are preferable to American women, as, again, the argument is that Asians and eastern Europeans exhibit more desirable cultural traits, not that they're some kind of racially pure übermenschen. At any rate, our friend Inigo said it best.
And finally, the sarcasm. It abounds. It's right there in the title and appears four or five times in the body of the (rather short) post itself. I often think there's a peculiar psychology to sarcasm. As a means of humor, it's wholly ineffective (I once used the term sarcasmosis to describe the act of sucking all the humor out of a situation by means of excessive sarcasm). It literally consists of nothing but saying back to someone what they just said in a slightly more nasally voice. Any babboon capable of mashing a keyboard with his balled-up fists could, given sufficient time, emulate sarcasm with a startling degree of accuracy. But Ferdinand Bardamu has already pointed out how unfunny and blindingly literal their memes are, and I don't think they're stupid enough not to realize it, which means their sarcasm serves some other purpose. I've often felt, although I have no evidence that this is the case, that sarcasm is a response to feelings of oppression and hopelessness. The sarcastic person feels ground down by the weight of the world, and resorts to petty verbal sniping at those who complain about woes that, in their mind, pale in comparison to their own. I suppose being in thrall to an ideology that harps endlessly about unjust power dynamics, the oppressive of social structures, the futility of nonrevolutionary movements, etc., would turn me into a bitter, black-hearted harridan, too.
Before anyone asks, no, I have no plans to examine the lexicography of the right. For one thing, being a right-winger myself, I can't get the perspective on it necessary to write a good one. (To paraphrase Machiavelli, you see the mountain best from the bottom of the valley; you see the valley best from the top of the mountain). And second, I don't really read mainstream right-wing blogs. Frankly, they bore the hell out of me.
Larry Auster observes that yet another word has been ruined by the sinister modern drive to dehumanize every institution by discussing it in the grayest and least personal terms available:
Partner means, or used to mean, two people engaged together in some shared enterprise, or who are friends and are doing things together as a team. But now "partner" has become the quasi official term for two unmarried people--whether homosexual or heterosexual--who live together. And for the truly politically correct, "partner" is even the obligatory term for married persons, since it would "privilege" heterosexual married couples for them to be referred to as "husband" and "wife" while homosexual couples and unmarried heterosexual couples are deprived of those honored titles. Therefore, in the name of equality, husband and wife must be called partner and partner. And with the spread of homosexual "marriage," this change is working itself into the law as well, as I have pointed out many times.
The shift from "spouse" to "partner" is perfectly emblematic of the social-organizational transition from status to contract. Spousehood is a permanent arrangement, unfree after the initial choice of marriage and spouse. Partnership, by contrast, is a fluid arrangement -- fluid by virtue of its meaninglessness -- adopted when useful and casually flouted when it becomes inconvenient, another restrain imposed unjustly on sovereign and absolute wills. Husband" or "wife" is what you are. "Partner" is what you want to be, for as long as you want to be it, and no longer.
Here, as always, the muddling of language is instrumental.
"The attempt to come to grips with the problems of personal and social order when it is disrupted by gnosticisms, however, has not been very successful, because the philosophical knbowledge that would be required for the purpose has itself been destroyed by the prevailing intellectual climate. The struggle against the consequences of gnosticism is being conducted in the very language of gnosticism."
--Eric Voegelin, "Foreward to the American Edition," Science, Politics, and Gnosticism
Someone interested in the muddling of language endemic to the modern era could not have asked for a better example than the Sokal hoax.
In 1996, NYU physicist Alan Sokal succeeded in getting published in a respected cultural studies journal a bit of obviously meritless deconstructionist nonsense, just to prove how shoddy and solipsistic cultural studies had become. My friends in academia no doubt already know about the affair, but for those unfamiliar with you, you can read Sokal's original article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" over at Sokal's Web site, here. The very same day the article was published in Social Texts, another article (also by Sokal) was published in Lingua Franca exposing the hoax (full text here).
Even a casual glance at the original text of the article by a normal person should have revealed its unquestionable idiocy. Some money quotes:
Rather, [natural scientists] cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ``eternal'' physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ``objective'' procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.
Describing reality as an objective fact is artifactual of the lingering Enlightenment scientific metanarrative?
At one point, he declares that quantum gravity is "an archetypal postmodernist science," meaning it is "free from any dependence on the concept of objective truth." But, he goes on to say:
However, these criteria, admirable as they are, are insufficient for a liberatory postmodern science: they liberate human beings from the tyranny of ``absolute truth'' and ``objective reality'', but not necessarily from the tyranny of other human beings. In Andrew Ross' words, we need a science ``that will be publicly answerable and of some service to progressive interests.''
(Ever notice that the modern PC mind sounds pretty much exactly like Milton's Lucifer?)
Finally, postmodern science provides a powerful refutation of the authoritarianism and elitism inherent in traditional science, as well as an empirical basis for a democratic approach to scientific work. For, as Bohr noted, ``a complete elucidation of one and the same object may require diverse points of view which defy a unique description'' -- this is quite simply a fact about the world, much as the self-proclaimed empiricists of modernist science might prefer to deny it. In such a situation, how can a self-perpetuating secular priesthood of credentialed ``scientists'' purport to maintain a monopoly on the production of scientific knowledge?
The coup de grace is his call for an "emancipatory mathematics":
But all this is only a first step: the fundamental goal of any emancipatory movement must be to demystify and democratize the production of scientific knowledge, to break down the artificial barriers that separate ``scientists'' from ``the public''. Realistically, this task must start with the younger generation, through a profound reform of the educational system. The teaching of science and mathematics must be purged of its authoritarian and elitist characteristics, and the content of these subjects enriched by incorporating the insights of the feminist, queer, multiculturalist and ecological critiques.
Finally, the content of any science is profoundly constrained by the language within which its discourses are formulated; and mainstream Western physical science has, since Galileo, been formulated in the language of mathematics. But whose mathematics? The question is a fundamental one, for, as Aronowitz has observed, ``neither logic nor mathematics escapes the `contamination' of the social.'' And as feminist thinkers have repeatedly pointed out, in the present culture this contamination is overwhelmingly capitalist, patriarchal and militaristic: ``mathematics is portrayed as a woman whose nature desires to be the conquered Other.'' Thus, a liberatory science cannot be complete without a profound revision of the canon of mathematics. As yet no such emancipatory mathematics exists, and we can only speculate upon its eventual content. We can see hints of it in the multidimensional and nonlinear logic of fuzzy systems theory; but this approach is still heavily marked by its origins in the crisis of late-capitalist production relations.
Really quite profoundly stupid stuff. Sokal, in his Lingua Franca article revealing the hoax, acknowledges the endeavored from the outset to answer the question, "Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies -- whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross -- publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions?"
He answers in the positive, and concludes:
Social Text's acceptance of my article exemplifies the intellectual arrogance of Theory -- meaning postmodernist literarytheory -- carried to its logical extreme. No wonder they didn't bother to consult a physicist. If all is discourse and ``text,'' then knowledge of the real world is superfluous; even physics becomes just another branch of Cultural Studies. If, moreover, all is rhetoric and ``language games,'' then internal logical consistency is superfluous too: a patina of theoretical sophistication serves equally well. Incomprehensibility becomes a virtue; allusions, metaphors and puns substitute for evidence and logic. My own article is, if anything, an extremely modest example of this well-established genre.
Sokal is no friend of ours, but we owe him a modest debt of gratitude for exposing the corruption of language endemic to the modern age. It's not only the case that certain words no longer refer to the same concepts (i.e., "love" to affection and sentiment rather than goodwill and charity); it's that the purpose of language itself is slowly shifting.
Language is coming to be used not as a means of communicating ideas, beliefs, thoughts, feelings, or intentions, but to disguise and obscure them.
Obscurantism is the norm in the academic class. Modern scientific output is now largely unreadable to the modestly-educated layperson. (It doesn't help that the standards by which we deem someone to be a "modestly-educated layperson" have fallen dramatically in recent generations. My standard undergraduate background in statistics was apparently sufficient to equip me with the skills to analyze and write up the results section of a research paper which one of my team members, an MPH at a respected East Coast university, termed unreadable to anyone but an MIT statistician!)
Obscurantist discourse is especially endemic in the humanities, which lack technical jargon compared to the hard sciences but make up for it with agonizingly long and torturous sentences of unintelligible PC buzzwords and insane hermeneutical styles. Robert Locke, commenting on deconstructionism in Front Page Magazine years ago, wrote:
One of the clearest signs that deconstructionism is a con is that it is invariably expressed in the most complicated possible language, not the clearest, a sure sign that the writer is trying to sound clever rather than convey information. The summary I have just given would take months to extract from the average deconstructionist. The effort required to glean the actual meaning from their spaghetti tangles of runon sentences, larded with a standard repertoire of tortured constructions and verbal tics, is a kind of hazing ritual required for initiation into the deconstructionist illuminati.
They have a number of these standard verbal tics by which they can be recognized. Gratuitous plurals are one, as in "homosexualities," a favorite term intended to convey the great insight that not all homosexuals are alike. But not even Jerry Falwell thinks this! When I saw the home decorating section of the New York Times Sunday Magazine headlined "domesticities" a few months ago, I knew for sure that some deconstructionist young pup had finally made it to the editorial chair.
Curiously, though, the unintelligibility of modern academic writing seems to have the simultaneous effect of shutting out right-thinking people from participating (how can the psychiatrists commune with their straitjacketed patients?) while allowing a (marginally coherent) leftist narrative to form, which of course then trickles down to the masses; it's the ability of the left to form and propagate such narratives, quickly if necessary, that gives them such a tremendous advantage over the right, which persists to this day.
But this corruption of language is not unique to the university: it's everywhere (as should be expected, since the university is the spawning pool from which every modern idea and institution and leader emerges).
Political speech, for instance, is widely hated: no one trusts politicians and everyone instinctively assumes they're lying. They lie about something, get caught lying, and then lie about their lies -- and everyone knows the second round of lies are no less lies than the first. Flattery and lies are basically the essence of democratic discourse.
There is widespread and growing recognition that the media is either shot through with dishonesty and corruption or else is grossly incompetent; hence newspapers across the country are failing as preferences shift toward online news sources.
Dr. Charlton notes that dishonesty is the norm in Britain even in its private life, and, as Jim Kalb notes in the comments section (where he traces the etiology of modern dishonesty through its corporate, political, and ultimately academic channels), it is more or less the norm in America now, too. Nearly everyone lies, almost constantly; it is a wonder anymore that people are surprised by this.
To backtrack to the academic for a moment, Peter Drucker identified the rise of academic obscurantism as a second treason of the intellectuals (the first, in reference to Benda's titular work, was their selling-out to the Nazis and communists):
I consider the obscurantism of today's intellectuals to be betrayal and treason. In large part they bear the blame for the debasement of culture, especially in the United States. The intellectuals themselves plead that the laity has lost receptivity to knowledge, to science, to discourse and to reason. But this is simply not true. Whenever a scholar deigns to write decent prose he or she immediately finds a wide audience. I myself am an example. But so was Barbara Tuchman, among historians, Rachel Carson or Loren Eisele among ecologists of the physical universe, Irving Louis Horowitz among sociologists, and a good many others. The receptivity is there, and so is the need. What today passes for scholarship is nothing but arrogance.
Incidentally, Drucker goes on to say:
But then, the Vienna in which I grew up was also the home of Karl Kraus (1874-1936), arguably the greatest master of the German language in this century. And for Kraus language was morality. Langauge was integrity. To corrupt language was to corrupt society and individual alike.
. . . And Kierkegaard [too] preached the sanctity of language. For Kierkegaard, language is aesthetics and aesthetics is morality. Long before George Orwell I therefore knew that the corruption of language is the tool of the tyrant. It is both a sin and a crime.
For the social ecologist, language is however doubly important. For language is in itself social ecology. For the social ecologist lanuage is not "communication." It is not just "message." It is substance. It is the cement that holds humanity together. It creates community and communion.
I had previously wondered whether the corruption of language was antecedent to modernity or whether it was a deliberate affectation enacted in order to advance it -- that is, whether the modern mind degenerates into nonsense because he doesn't have the language to think clearly, or whether the modern mind intentionally corrupts language so as to render antimodern concepts intellectually inaccessible and to sew confusion within which he can advance his subversive and evil agenda.
I'm increasingly inclining toward the latter view, which matches my increasing inclination to see modernity as not merely a human error but as an antimiracle, a work of the Devil.
Continuing from my earlier discussion about the corruption of language in the modern world, a few more thoughts occurred to me.
"Authority" is a word that has not only lost its meaning (the reality of power joined to the legitimacy of its exercise -- the union of might and right) but has acquired a sinister connotation. To speak of authority is to conjure up not memories of one's parents or beloved school teachers but nightmare-images of Big Brother and police brutality. Accordingly, the idea that one ought to submit to authority is regarded as cowardice and unreason. Nearly everyone has "issues with authority," to the point that "rebellion" (especially by the young) has become normative.
The idea of "orthodoxy," too, has had its meaning tainted by modernity, as G. K. Chesterton illustrated in the introduction to Heretics:
In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. ... All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, 'I suppose I am very heretical,' and looks round for applause. The word 'heresy' not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word 'orthodoxy' not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong.
As commenter Bill noted in my earlier discussion of this issue, the language of emotion has become especially confused, so that love no longer refers to an act of goodwill but mere goopy sentimentalism, hate no longer refers to the willing of someone's misfortune but to pronounced dislike; conversely, charity has come to mean not an attribution of good faith but the act of giving money (oh, the wages of materialism!); and so on.
Bill also noted the corruption of the term "dogma," but the converse is the corruption of "reason," which has come to mean merely positivism -- the notion that nothing can be known that isn't experienced. Hence, atheists always assert a claim to superior reason over theists, who, by all accounts, have a longer and richer tradition of rational thought. Where is the atheist Aquinas, after all? Who the atheist Augustine? Who their John Paul II?
I mentioned in the earlier post that "modernity" itself was a strange thing. And why shouldn't it be? Time has not imbued atheism, utilitarianism, or liberalism with any more truth than they had 1,000 years ago; yet we're to believe ideas that are "modern" are good by virtue of their association with modernity. To be outdated is the one of the only sins left to the modern world (besides the sins of hypocrisy and judgmentalism). Modernity is a terrible word for the darkness that's befallen the world. Properly understood, it ought to mean merely "nowness," the present age; what it, in fact, entails, is this particular kind of nowness, the present age that was the subject of Kierkegaard's scorn. I sometimes wonder if the people who approve of modernity (more specifically, the people who approve of calling it modernity) do so to hide its true nature, to hide the fact that it is not the product of the inexorable march of history but the culmination of a long series of errors, any (and all) of which can be fought and reversed. To call this darkness modernity is therefore to lie about what it is and what it means.
(Really, someone needs to write a very clear and simple book about modernity, and the muddling of language ought to be one of the central chapters of it. As I mentioned before, nearly everyone who writes about modernity approvingly does so in the most indecipherable language possible, as if they're deliberately endeavoring to conceal their beliefs from the world for fear that full knowledge of the evil they represent would expose all their works to ruin).
One of the peculiarities of the modern condition is its corruption of language. Concepts that were once readily intellectually accessible are now cloudy and muddled to the vast majority of people because the language we use to discuss them has been warped. Although the general effect has been to draw a veil of uncertainty over knowledge of pretty much everything premodern, the exact nature of this muddling varies depending on the word.
In some cases, words have acquired contrary meanings. "Faith" was once understood to be something more akin to "trust": trust in what one's reason has revealed to be true, no matter how much one's senses may scream out against it. You have faith, for instance, that a rope and hook tested on 10,000 pounds weights will hold your comparatively meager frame when you go mountain climbing: you know it's irrational to believe there's much more than a vanishingly small chance you'll die, but still you must force yourself to let go and swing. But today, faith is understood to mean something quite different: a kind of blind, irrational, groping hope against hope, utterly unmoored from any basis in reality. I'm assuming this probably comes from the triumph of fideism in the larger body of religious thought, although it's certainly wound up a convenient means of denigrating a perfectly rational dogma.
In other cases, words or phrases that once would have been understood to be nonsensical have acquired meaning, carrying along them with particular ideas. For instance, the phrases "good person" and "bad person" are ontologically meaningless: the former a tautology, the latter a non sequitur. Yet they're widely bandied about today, especially in service to liberal causes, e.g., "homosexuality can't be immoral, I know plenty of gays that are GOOD PEOPLE." At best, the phrases are heuristics: "good people" really means "people who do good things." But that hardly means those same people don't also do bad things, or even principally do bad things. The problem with even talking that way is that, since everyone does some mix of good and evil, the judgment that one is a "good person" is necessarily subjective and informed entirely by what you've witnessed of them. Thus we're always surprised when some seemingly nice, quite fellow snaps and kills people, and the common refrain is heard (but never listened to) that he seemed like such a good guy. Our understanding of good and evil itself is made hazy with such talk.
There are also curious cases in which two perfectly innocuous words acquire some other (usually sinister) meaning when juxtaposed. I'm reminded of some vaguely right-wing columnist (I think a National Review type) remarking that "social" was a word which, in modern parlance, had the remarkable ability to completely destroy the meaning of any word joined with it, so that "social justice" is typically grossly unjust, "social engineering" lacks the methodological rigor of traditional engineering fields, and "social studies" usually involves the unstudious distortion of history to fit the official modern narrative of slavery/genocide/bigotry/oppression/intolerance rememberance.
Even "modernity" itself is a bizarre word. When I first started to develop an inkling that there was something fundamentally wrong with the world (back in my last year of college), I started looking up what I could about the concept. Unfortunately, much of it had been written by art historians, who seized on the concept of modernity and developed from it the grotesque visual abortion that is modern art. Much of the rest was unintelligible gobbledygook written by pondscum sociologists. Nowhere was I able to find a clear and succinct explanation of what modernity actually was, what it meant, when it started, who was responsible for it, and so on; that realization came gradually as I read more history and philosophy. I almost wonder if that obfuscation isn't intentional, at least in the sense that the whole modern project has been intentional, as if the moderns are deliberately hiding the fact that there is an antiquity against which modernity can be contrasted.
Some words have had additional and previously unheard of meanings attached to them, so that, for instance, "duty" is honored as a virtue rather than simply acknowledged as a fact of human life arising from nature.
Other words have been severed from their traditional connotations, so that "illegitimacy" is seldom thought of as a problem (and the fact that previous generations saw far lower rates of illegitimacy than we have today as a source of concern is simply baffling to most people). No one talks or cares about "divorce" as a problem anymore. On the topic of sex and marriage, that which is "natural" has ceased to mean "that which accords with human nature" (a definition that logically excludes, for instance, homosexuality) and come to mean "that which occurs in nature" (a definition that excludes nothing). Relatedly, "disorder" has come to mean merely "dysfunction," to the exclusion of its more traditional connotation relating to the use of a healthy and functional faculty in a manner that does nto accord with human nature.
The fact that words themselves have fallen victim to modernity's ever-spreading poison just goes to show how deeply the modernist/leftist project has triumphed. I don't even have to make the obligatory 1984 reference. The rot has, at last, reached the heart of the world, and salvation for many people is impossible simply because the language needed to communicate the core concept of it is rapidly disappearing.