Words Matter

There’s what is said, what is meant, what is intended, and what is understood. Additionally, there’s much space between each of these elements and we don’t need advanced degrees in rhetoric, communications, linguistics, or psychology to understand this.

A discussion which has been touched upon in the last 48 hours, but not to my mind fully explored, concerns leadership comments and how these might be perceived by the various audiences.  Perhaps we should review a smattering of the vocabulary involved.

Let’s start with the phrase which has earned the President some criticism in the wake of the massacre in the Pittsburgh synagogue: Enemy of the people.  The President seems disturbed that the broadcast media discounted his denunciation of the horrific act in Pittsburgh.  They are therefore the fake news, the inaccurate news, the false news.

At one level the President is saying the media is unfairly criticizing him when he did, in fact, condemn the atrocity.  However, there’s another layer, one understood by a segment of the audience that understands this phrasing in a very different way.  In their minds the Jews control the media, the media is unfair, ergo Jews are the enemy of the state, especially the President.

At one level the President is saying the asylum seekers from central Americs are a menace to America.  Anderson Cooper offered a segment on his CNN program this evening about the words involved.  An important observation made was that what the President said and what an unhinged bigot heard were related if not causally connected.  When the President hints Soros (Jewish) is paying for an “invasion,” the bigots hear “Jews are those Others who are destroying our nation.”  When a prominent Congressional Republican tweets “Steyer, Bloomberg, Soros” can’t be allowed to control the upcoming election, the bigot heard echoes of the anti-Semitism formerly associated with the name Rothschild.

The term “globalist” has a deep and stained history.  Globalist = Internationalist = Jew. Perhaps it’s time for a network to dust off previous explications of anti-Semitism in America, broadcast them, and re-educate a population which no longer has a significant number of World War II survivors.  The generation that witnessed the horror of the Holocaust is dwindling by the day, the generation which went to war or manned the Arsenal of Democracy is declining as the pages of the calendar turn.

When we are careless with our terminology and unconscious of our history there is an opportunity for amplifying hateful, anti-Semitic rhetoric. We can and should do a better job of monitoring our commentary such that our compassion is emphasized  beyond that of our conflicts.

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