Silencing the Voices of Others



The following is an excerpt from I’m Right and You’re an Idiot

It comes from the chapter with Jason Stanley. Stanley is a professor of philosophy and epistemology at Yale, he teaches courses on democracy and propaganda; but he also explores new ideas and techniques about mass deception that are directly related to pollution in the public square.

There are a number of rhetorical and linguistic tactics being used to silence people today, and Stanley said one of the most blatant is the misappropriation of words such as “ethical” or “clean” in relation to oil and coal. In an article for the New York Times’ Stone series, Stanley said that using what he called code words to win support has always been part of the arsenal of politics, but it is now widely used in the popular media.

When we talked, Stanley explained that making outlandish allegations, twisting meanings and making improbable statements have the same effect. This is not really about making substantive claims; these tactics are what he calls linguistic strategies for stealing the voices of others, silencing people. Making bizarre claims that President Obama is a secret Islamist agent, or was born in Kenya, painted the US President as grossly insincere. His voice was stolen, not by a legitimate objection to his platform or a logical argument, but by undermining the public’s trust in him so that nothing he said could be taken at face value. Simply put, when Fox News carried a story charging Obama with being a secret Muslim it damaged everyone’s sincerity, and any opportunity for reasoned debate evaporated.

Read the full excerpt on the Huffington Post: Silencing the Voices of Others

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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