A recent post at Paperwight’s Fair Shot reminded me that I’ve been noticing there are a lot of folks in Left Blogtopia who continue to be surprised upon discovering that conservative Republicans seem to define some words quite differently from the way we define them. After quoting Rod Dreher’s recent confession –
I had a heretical thought for a conservative – that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word – that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot – that they have to question authority.
– Paperwight has some difficulty trying to figure out just which conservative “philosophy” Rod’s brand would have fit into. He finally concludes:
The only form of conservatism that allows one to actually have that belief is authoritarianism, whether it’s royalist, theocratic, fascist, or otherwise dictatorial. Authoritarianism lets you just turn off your brain when your leaders speak, because your leaders can’t do bad things. And that in a nutshell is one of the central features of and problems with American conservatism.
Well…YES. And it has been since Nixon’s resident PR assassin, Roger Ailes, found that he could blunt criticism by simply changing the words Nixon used, particularly about Viet Nam. The invasion and bombing campaign in Cambodia became an incursion, cover-ups became protecting executive privilege, and an illegal domestic black bag operation ordered directly by Tricky Dick became a rogue operation Nixon didn’t know about because of something called plausible deniability.
But the capper was the concept of the imperial presidency – the so-called “unitary executive” – developed by Ailes and John Mitchell, who “interpreted” the Constitution by throwing out the separation of powers clause and assuming for the president the power to do anything. As the late Howard Hunt, boss of the Watergate break-in, put it:
“I had always assumed, working for the CIA for so many years, that anything the White House wanted done was the law of the land,” he told People magazine back in 1974.
Later on, the late, great Lee Atwater expanded Ailes’ original contribution by inventing “spin” and, more significantly, “reverse spin” – the art of convincing the press that a war-like statement was really about peace and a peaceful statement was really advocating war, that racism was merely a response to runaway affirmative action and affirmative action was really racist, and so on. The definitions Atwater came up with for his legendary reverse spin sessions were so attractive to radical conservatives that over the next quarter-century they first absorbed, then processed, then began to actually believe in the invented black-is-white, day-is-night definitions as if they were the real ones.
Of course, that explains only about half of the terms conservatives use. The rest come from deep disconnections inherent in conservative Republican dogma between what they wish were true and what actually is true. In fact, the essence of conservatism is, as Paperwight finally noticed, anti-democratic, authoritarian, demagogic, anti-Constitutional, and anti-American to an alarming degree. Which means that conservative Republicanism attracts demagogues, imperialists, monarchists, and would-be dictators like a dogpile attracts flies.
So I thought it might help if someone compiled a dictionary of Conservative RepublicanSpeak one could refer to if one was unsure how a Republican was defining a particular word or phrase s/he’d just used. Which is all a long-winded way of introducing (apologies to Ambrose Bierce) the first installment of:
The PubSpeak Dictionary: Translating Conservative-RepublicanSpeak into English Continue reading