Culture Wars and the Degradation of Language

Like truth, the integrity of words is another casualty of war. From Thucydides to George Orwell, the degradation of language during war and political conflict has been recognized. As Thucydides wrote of the brutal and violent civil war in Corcyra, “Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them.” Like truth, the integrity of language is also a first casualties in culture wars. The culture war that has been waged for over half a century — and is now reaching a destructive absurdity in “wokism,” “cancel culture,” and blatant censorship and suppression of free speech — has made debased language one of its most important weapons. So insidious has been this process that even conservatives opposed to the progressive left’s illiberal and unconstitutional excesses legitimize these transformations of language by using that ideologically corrupted vocabulary. […] No front in the culture wars, however, comes close to the linguistic degradation inherent in our racialist discourse and practice. The word “race” for centuries meant “tribe,” “nation,” or “people,” groups that shared a common ancestry, language, and culture, the real attributes that create a particular collective identity.

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