What the HELL do you think this is about? It’s about something incredibly big and important. Big! And important! Nothing less than saving humanity and preventing the end of civilization as we know it!
It’s a little bit less important than that actually, but these days it seems like you have to play the “end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it” card just to get a date.
Everybody’s doing it! There’s the Iraq war, Islamic Jihad, liberals hating America, conservatives destroying America, immigration, stem cell research, gay marriage, celebrity divorce, global warming, immigration, CHINA!, godlessness, objectionable rap lyrics, flag burning, Janet’s nipple, immigration, job outsourcing … And that’s the short list. There’s also immigration! And more important, just what the HELL are we going to do about immigration???
Now, we don’t want to beat you about the head with it, but some things are actually more important than almost all of these imminent apocalypses, except of course for Janet’s nipple; that threat is perfectly clear.
No, we are speaking of a frightening and rapidly accelerating threat to language. In certain corners, particularly among the political, media and business elite, twisting language to achieve questionable ends (obfuscation, manipulation, distortion, conflict, outright violence, good ratings, etc.) has become a high art form — they must be high when they think this stuff up, and we must be high in order to swallow it.
But this kind of… well… “lying” is most often manifested in a syndrome that we here at LiteralMayhem call paroxysmic hyperbolicosis (a.k.a the red-faced shrieking disease), which seems to more and more define public debate in America, especially in broadcast media. Other forms of linguistic malignancy include:
- acute neuro-flatulary dissemblemania (obsessive lying, accompanied by a delusional belief that it’s the same as the truth as long as the lies are consistent and incessant)
- dispeptic hypofactual blovioma (a related condition in which the volume of speech increases concurrent with a decrease in factual content)
- chronic reflexive blameopathy also known as Rosencrantz-Guildenstern syndrome (a compulsive need to shoot the messenger)
- multi-positional panderemic briberalgia (a common affliction in the business community: it’s the uncontrollable need to play both sides of every issue and pay off everybody involved, this condition is often accompanied by a rash of white papers)
- and over the past decade or so we have seen an astonishing rise in a common, virulent affective disorder known as recurrent mytosistic folliculitis (obsessive hair splitting).
These are just a few of the linguistic corruptions threatening civilization as we know it. And no, that’s not red-faced shrieking, that’s a fact: Intentional corruption of people’s ability to communicate is a crime against humanity because it creates… (and now we tie back to the “about”)…. it literally creates MAYHEM!
These diseases, collectively, are undermining our ability to hold cogent public discourse, not to mention devise appropriate and informed public policies, and just plain “get along.” As such, linguistic corruption is anathema to the Commonweal and the whole notion of self-governance, to which all citizens and especially public officials owe their allegiance. To bloviate about what a great nation we are… the most blessed and advanced on the face of the earth, according to some… and then deliberately set out to destroy the possibility for common understanding among “we the people” (an essential element in both this nation’s birth and its survival), is nothing more than a terminal bout of degenerative hypocritic cynictosis.
But ultimately, on this site we believe that the issue goes all the way ‘round the ‘round-about, eventually coming back to a philosophical question about language: Is language purely, as Newt Gingrich so quaintly put it, “a mechanism for control?” Is language simply a means of manipulating public psychology and perception to achieve specific self-interested ends?
We live within the rules of a post-modern Orwellian game: continually re-defining, re-classifying and re-engineering the meaning of words and concepts; the goal is to re-create the world as we would like it to be, even if that new creation bears no direct relationship to… um… the actual world in which we live. And most of the time, those doing the re-defining stand to reap the greatest benefit from it all.
But is this game without consequences? And is language really such an empty vessel? Is this semantic shell game truly the best and most fitting purpose of language? Here at LiteralMayhem we say: No, no and NO.
Language is both the crucible and repository of our shared reality. As such, language can be a unifying force in an increasingly fractured world: deserving of respect, if not outright reverence. Language can also be a redeeming force in a world that desperately needs one. So now… About face! Forward march! To the dispensary! We have an epidemic to contend with!