Editorial – Fluency makes freedom of speech more effective

Tom Henihan

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

There are many interpretations of Wittgenstein’s phrase, one being that the greater our capacity to comprehend the world around us and articulate our ideas, the less confined we become.

In current politics, language is a means not to enlighten or edify but to obscure the truth and manipulate the public.

People working in the Media, many of whom see their job as being on the front line defending democracy, use the English language as trends dictate, and in pursuing the news, they follow one another herd-like into the realm of the alarmist, the voyeuristic and the mundane.

In a time when news reports often happen in the moment on social media and with so much conflict and strife around the world, it is remarkable that media organizations always appear to be chasing the same fire truck, pursuing the same sensationalist angle.

Then, following a brief feeding frenzy and with little left to report, media pundits lapse into a state of analysis, offering opinions that are as unreliable and vacuous as political promises.

The media has analyzed Donald Trump’s aberrant behaviour for three years, producing only equally addled results.

Trump is not the cause of our collective malaise he is a manifestation of it. The latest threat to democracy is the shameless buffoon, a new political anomaly personified currently by Trump in the U.S. and Boris Johnston in Britain.

During his recent visit to Britain, it came as no surprise that Trump endorsed Johnston, saying he would make a great Prime Minister.

Boris Johnston carries a great deal of responsibility for the Brexit fiasco.

While championing the “Leave” faction in the Brexit referendum, Johnston misled the British people with impunity, offering favorable post-Brexit projections he pulled from the clouds.

Here in Canada, Kevin O’Leary’s abortive run for the leadership of the federal conservatives was the closest we came to the shameless, divisive, buffoon entering federal politics and in spite of all his swagger, to Canada’s credit, O’Leary proved a non-starter in Canadian politics.

However, on the provincial front, Doug Ford and Jason Kenney would fit the bill.

When language loses its gravitas and all fixed allusion, it creates an opportunity for interlopers to take the stage and it is then, politically speaking, that we send in the clowns, personified at this time by Donald Trump and Boris Johnston.

Excessive tampering with language: abbreviations and acronyms, and the arbitrary transposing of new meanings on old words creates a scenario that is gaseous, where language loses its center of gravity.

When language loses its gravitas and much of its fixed allusion, it creates an opportunity for interlopers to take the stage and it is then, politically speaking, that we send in the clowns, personified at this time by Donald Trump and Boris Johnston.

Free speech is a central tenet of democracy, so if the language used to express that freedom is no longer functioning fluently then one’s freedom of speech may not be functioning so well either.

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