“I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”
Joseph R. McCarthy
Red Rousing Rhetoric
There is an old joke in journalism. It is a question that can not be answered, “Senator, do you still beat your wife?”. If he says no, then he admits that he did before. A bit of a trap and kind of funny.
I am interested in how language, our most powerful tool, can be used as a weapon. Not that I want to dominate someone so much as I want to know how to defend myself or at least flag it and be wary. Because I am a red-blooded Bible-thumping proud-to-be-an-American man, the world must know the truth.
The Invisible Enemy
The most powerful rhetoric is accusing someone of being in cahoots with something we can not see. Our clergy in the church for 2000 years has cowed their flock with fear of the invisible; demons, devils, evil and have accused us of lust, desire, immorality. By questioning something like decency forces us to behave even more tighter, smaller, scared and defensive.
McCarthy did the same thing with communism. You can’t “see” communism but he could; just like our clergy. The rhetoric was vile and effective forcing innocent people to rat out their friends. This Red Menace was lurking in every corner and your wife might really be a spy and yes, you can accuse her and she might go to jail.
Taken to the extreme in the atmosphere of today, sexual harassment is close, isn’t it? To be accused it to be guilty. Can you see harassment or not, that is the question.
In the World of Warcraft game, we have chat channels. Often someone will try to mix it up by being a jerk. I’ve started to ask “Are you a Russian bot?”. It is dumb but calling out someone who wants to sow descent by asking them if they are “the enemy to our country” really does shut them down. And that is scary.
It is absurd, right? Could Russia be joining WoW games to plant the seeds of anger, mistrust and dis-information? How paranoid can we be? It turns out, very paranoid. If we can imagine it, it must be true.
And, there are plenty of Russian players who are not puppets of their government who enjoy playing WoW for the fun and fantasy and escape. To be “Russian” does not mean evil at all.
Fighting players in WoW is a no-win situation because you attack their statements but not their intention behind the statement. They will gladly go to extremes with foul language about your mother or Hitler or guns or anything because it is a front for their wish to mix things up. It is the same with Trump when everyone stops to look at the lie and not the intention behind it; stops the press cold every time.
I was surprised that I hit on something that worked, it wasn’t really planned. Asking someone if they were a Russian bot really did shut them up.
Now I need to learn some more invisible questions and then I could stand on my soapbox of decency and rule the world.