Monday, December 17, 2012

The Misnomer of Political "Conversation"

Faithful readers of this blog have noticed that I’ve gone on a truth binge when it comes to linguistics. This emphasis on linguistic truth is partially based upon my obsessive love of honesty, to the detriment of other virtues. 
But this emphasis on truth is also because words have meanings. When words are misused (deliberately or otherwise), confusion reigns. A society where even language becomes a source of confusion is a polarized society, where partisans can scream the same words at each other but mean completely different things.
Thus, when the term “conversation” gets tossed around when talking about certain political issues (gun control comes to mind), I get incredibly annoyed. Political operatives don’t want “conversation” when dealing with political topics. They want their own position made into law. When a politician or activist demands “conversation” about a subject, what he really means is that he wants the position he supports made official public policy.
Now, open advocacy of a position is more than acceptable – everyone has opinions, and everyone has the right to argue those opinions. But calling such advocacy "conversation" is ridiculous.
For “conversation” in this day and age far too often is the equivalent of a monologue or a shouting match. Both sides of certain issues remain locked in their respective bunkers and scream at one another from the safety of their ideological foxholes. 
On other issues, one side has all the microphones, and shouts talking points at their foes until the political enemy is cowed into submission. 
Either way, "conversation" is increasingly a misnomer, when it comes to political speech.

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