American Elephants


Weaponized Words: Language is Today’s Disruptive Technology by The Elephant's Child
pexels-photo-1309899Charles Hill explains that language is arguably the most fundamental human tool. In history, at certain times, when language has undergone major changes, it has disrupted the world order. This is such a time.

“A language revolution is under way, propelled by an eruption of electronic communication technologies that, while enhancing productivity, are also creating social and political chaos. The e-revolution in communication is challenging, even threatening, the conduct of responsible governance. Thanks to digital technologies, marginal sociopaths are being empowered to organize and act collectively as never before; dictatorial regimes are perfecting powerful tools to monitor and suppress entire populations; and instantaneous popular judgments on political issues are beginning to overwhelm representative government as designed by the founders to avoid the chaos-producing “direct” democracy of premodern societies. …

Today’s social media distort this relationship. Instant communication by way of platforms such as Twitter makes it possible for individuals to immediately express the slightest emotionally disruptive and damaging reaction to events or ideas to a worldwide audience. Opinions and private outbursts once perceived as self-harmful blunders, resolved by improving one’s repressive subconscious mechanisms, are now instantly exposed to multitudes in a permanent form. Civilization depends upon the time and ability to contain such eruptions; the “discontents” created by acts of self-control are the price of civil society. Were every discontent expressed, the public sphere would collapse as “all communication, all the time,instantly produces a surrounding effect. As the astute columnist Peggy Noonan wrote, we are agitating and exciting the unstable sector of the population, a sector that increasingly grows larger, a Pandora’s box of once-subconscious partisan venom breaking open as no one becomes able to suppress the slightest discontent.

As the individual is “liberated” by the ability to promulgate unconstrained feelings in every direction, the governing regimes of the world are gaining new powers of surveillance, intrusion, and control over their populations. The 2011 “Arab spring” uprisings were considered at first to be made possible by the new language-spreading technologies in every young person’s hand; it was widely agreed, at the time, that such tools of expression would be beyond the abilities of dictators to control. Such an assumption was foolhardy; the Arab spring was crushed in a few short months as the old powers—colonels, hereditary monarchs, strong-armed clans with puppet “parliaments”—regained control even as they were assaulted by even more ideologically autocratic radicals claiming religious dominion.

“For the rest of this essay, go here.

Strange times. We are already seeing the dictatorial regime in China increasingly controlling the lives of ordinary citizens. And here at home we are seeing the journalism profession being transformed by partisan politics into something unrecognizable as a profession or a purveyor of truth. Our universities are indoctrinating rather than educating our children.


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