Image by Steve Buissinne
There’s no doubt about it: modern politics can be incredibly alienating. In order to truly understand politics with a centrist perspective, one must basically learn a new language in order to understand the discourse. The reason for this is the goalposts are being shifted so that you can never truly engage with someone you disagree with politically. Regardless of whether you identify as Left- or Right-leaning, there are probably a few key terms nobody outside your ideological echo chamber can interpret.
Many websites with a typically Left-leaning bias have tried and failed to interpret the buzzwords of the Right. Al Jazeera’s “A brief dictionary to help understand the US far right” is a prominent example. Al Jazeera incorrectly defines Kekistan as a racist creation of 4chan when it is actually a fake country popularized by classical liberal Sargon of Akkad. Kek itself refers to the word lol being changed to kek on World of Warcraft, and is not racist or religious in origin.
There is a good reason why so many words are misinterpreted: People on the Left and Right do not want to engage in a debate. They wish to remain safe and snug in their bubbles on the internet, free from having to interact with others they deem “inferior”. Just head onto Tumblr and search terms like “allocishet” and “ace spectrum” and try to make sense of what is being said. While it may be cliched to reference George Orwell, his analyses of manipulation and the human language in Nineteen Eighty-Four roughly describes the degradation of language employed by many political ideologues. As stated in the novel’s Appendix:
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.
If political language is constantly evolving to change the meanings of words, it will soon become impossible to have a debate with political rivals. For example, the meaning of the word “Nazi” has changed from someone who identifies with the radical principles of early twentieth-century German fascism, to simply anybody whose politics somewhat align with the Right. This has made it difficult for any dissenters to actually call somebody a Nazi without it being assumed you’re talking about a conservative. Their aim, it appears, is to make it impossible for someone to say the word “Nazi” without assuming “Conservative”. While language is constantly evolving, this is insidious in that it changes the meaning of negative and positive words to snugly fit political rivals and allies.
However, there is a way to change this sinister narrative, and it involves learning the lingo. Even as the language evolves, one must learn the language, even if it is completely absurd. Here are some words modern liberals and conservatives use to deliberately bamboozle their ideological rivals:
The Left Playbook:
Nazi/white supremacist/fascist: Anyone to the Right of the Communist Left. Except if the person uses the term “neo-Nazi”, then they’re actually referring to an actual Nazi.
Literal Nazis/Literally Hitler: Same as above. Literally Hitler refers to anyone with conservative-ish tendencies (Donald Trump). Literal Nazi is another way of saying Nazi but used for dramatic rants on social media.
Cishet/cisgender/allosexual: Any human who is not on the LGBT+ spectrum. Typically used as an insult.
Gross: Anything perceived as disgusting. Used to describe everything from Donald Trump to video games to food they dislike.
Safe space/online spaces: Anywhere they can criticize their opponents without receiving any criticism or debate at all. The Right’s term for this is a “hugbox”.
Having a dialogue or conversation/unpacking: They have no intention of debating you. This refers to a friendly conversation between two people on the same side of politics, with no room for anything other than minor quibbles. They also don’t seem to want to get past the unpacking/conversation aspect and actually do the hard yards.
Racist, sexist, Islamophobic, misogynistic, queerphobic: Regardless of whether it is true or not, these terms are used indiscriminately to discredit someone they disagree with. Add “internalized” as a prefix if opponent is a woman, nonwhite or LGBT+.
The Right Playbook:
Communist/Leftist/Leftie/Cuckservative: Anybody to the Left of fascism. Cuckservative refers to a conservative politician who has any beliefs that lean even vaguely to the Left.
Cuck: Refers to any man the Right deems left-leaning. It was originally meant to refer to men who willingly allowed their partners to cheat or engage in dishonest behavior.
Cultural Marxism: Another word for “identity politics”.
Social Justice Warrior (SJW): Originally known as “keyboard warrior”. This is not just someone who supports equality. An SJW is a pejorative applied to those who generally have feminist leanings, who repeatedly and vehemently engage in arguments about social justice on the internet, generally for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation.
Regressive Left: A mockery of the term “progressive Left”, implying the Left has instead become more regressive in their attempts to become progressive.
Normie: People who don’t understand internet culture. They catch onto memes long after they’ve gone stale. The sorts of people who share Minions memes and rage comics.
Virtue signal: Al Jazeera was correct with their first sentence, but not the second: The act of publicly proclaiming one’s opinions or feelings in order to appear morally superior publicly. It is about obviously showing your superior moral values , with the primary intent of “enhancing standing within a social group.” For example: Changing your Facebook profile picture to a #PrayForX filter.
The Centrist Playbook:
Mix and match the above to your heart’s desire. Since centrists identify with the policies and ideology of both the Left and Right, they will use words from both sides.
By this time next year, most of these terms will be deemed irrelevant and there will be an entirely new dictionary to learn. Sometimes words are shared between both sides, such as “woke” (someone who follows the correct line of political thinking and is generally an eight year old), “triggered” (not an insult to PTSD sufferers, but refers to overreacting to minor issues) and “snowflake” (based on a quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club).
It is concerning that in order to keep up with modern political discourse, one must learn useless buzzwords. Leftism involves a cursory knowledge of bell hooks and intersectional feminism, and Rightism relies on an awareness of Right-leaning revolutionaries and internet culture. The question remains: Why is there is such a divisive nature in modern politics? Well, for an answer, we must only look towards the divisive, exclusionary language employed by—dare I say it—both sides.
In looking at the use of exclusionary language, is it any wonder politics is so divided? We are so entrenched in the language and ways of our ideological echo chambers that it proves nearly impossible to escape them. We change the meanings of words to discredit our opponents and to avoid having any semblance of a discussion. Without this discussion, we can not move forward from this age of radical politics. How can anyone hope to be moderate when the modern political language encourages “sides” like we are prepping for battle?
At the forefront of all the gobbledygook lies humans disgruntled with the state of politics. If we don’t deal with this divisiveness now, then perhaps the dystopian worlds envisaged by George Orwell may not be an overused cliche but a real-world nightmare.
Four legs good, two legs bad…no?