It is undeniable – the English language is constantly evolving, with the constant turnover of new words for old ones, as well as the reframing of various words. Within the last year, the Merriam Webster dictionary has added the words “dox” and “bitcoin” to their unabridged dictionary. With the most recent election, however, the publisher may want to consider updating the words “cuck” and “racist” to better reflect their true definitions. That way, such words won’t have to be spun specifically to make ad hominem attacks and sweeping generalizations – they’ll just be as they should.
The use of demeaning terminology in politics is nothing new – words like “pinko”, “lemming”, and “elitist” have all been twisted to in an attempt to dissuade political discussion throughout history. In modern times, such words and phrases are all that’s needed to communicate that your opponent in debate is not worth your time and, conveniently, is a terrible person as well.
These terms have often arisen as a means of representing the most extreme elements of a political movement, then used to encompass the movement as a whole. For example, the term “special snowflake” was initially used to describe those whom felt they had to make every aspect of themselves out to be unique and dramatic in nature. Now, anyone whom is even vaguely liberal in their political stance and takes the opportunity to complain can be counted among these “snowflakes”, with millennials as a whole being a common target. A similar phenomenon has occurred with the term ‘social justice warrior’, with ‘social justice’ in itself meaning “a state or doctrine of egalitarianism” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Despite the broad nature of such a definition, the term ‘social justice warrior’ has taken on the imagery of the bright-haired, screeching, queer feminist. This clownish portrayal of those seeking social justice only gives cause to ignore the more moderate elements of the movement.
The word ‘bigot’, ultimately meaning “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”, has been similarly distorted. Ironically, the term has taken on the purpose of referring to those who defy the narrative that diversity and change in all forms must be supported (and not just tolerated) without question. Bigoted acts can now range from anything from supporting a certain political candidate to viewing obesity as an epidemic. Again, there exists no room for moderates.
In general, those with opposing views have been made to taken on roles and imagery connected to the aforementioned terms. Politically-centered media has taken advantage of these clownish portrayals, with writers well aware that the words “special snowflake” and “privilege” will net them more views. I, myself, am guilty of doing so in the past, and hope to break that habit.
As people with the capacity to think critically, we need to look beyond the sweeping generalizations that come with such mocking terminology. Our attraction to terms of ridicule has promoted the spread of misinformation and encouraged fearmongering, as well as the further polarization of political ideals within the United States. The more we lift up the extreme elements of the political spectrum, the more those with less extreme views must intensify their own views in an attempt to defend their shared core ideology. .