Societal Engineering Technique 3: Redefinition of Words

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Let me ask you something — what does the word “liberal” mean to you?

What about the word “Christian”?

How about “conservative”, “Jew”, “Muslim”, “Nigerian”, “American”?

I’m willing to bet that the answer would change a lot based on who I’m asking. It would probably even change over time, for that same person.

Definitions of words change based on the ideas that we associate with them. This fact is used heavily in the social engineering world.

Change a word’s associations, and you change a person’s viewpoint on subjects that involve that word. It works like magic when used right.

In the third installment of this series, I’m going to go into a very specific and highly effective propaganda method called “word redefinition”. This is one of the primary tools of the societal engineer, akin to a carpenter’s hammer. It can and should be used in every situation that you want to see a culture shift, regardless of what other techniques are also being used.

It is also one of the most easily veiled techniques, as when it is used correctly, it doesn’t look like propaganda at all.

Right off the bat, take a look at the prime example of the legendary transformation of the word “gay”.

“Gay” usage over time

As every giggling schoolchild knows, “gay” was once an extremely appropriate and commonplace word that simply meant happy and carefree — with no sexual connotations whatsoever, and no harsh penalties for its use.

As judging from Google’s algorithm, the word usage dropped steadily until about 1990, where it sharply rose again — peaking at about 1998, at its highest level ever.

It has since tapered off, but usage is still remarkably high.

What could explain such a drastic change in trend like this?

If you’ve had even a weak pulse over the last few decades and you weren’t living as a hermit up in the Himalayas, you probably know the answer to this one.

In the 90s (when I was growing up), the word “gay” was mostly used as a slur word — an insult, a pejorative — without any relation at all to either of its official definintions of “happy and carefree” or “homosexual”.

In fact, throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, it just meant “bad”. That was literally it. It was the same as calling something stupid or awful or dumb or retarded. It was just a word that meant you were rejecting the subject being talked about. A negative classification, with no further qualifiers.

Ask any 90s kid about the 90s and they will tell you that word was a major part of the common parlance. They will also tell you that it had nothing whatsoever to do with actual gay people — as insulting it might be to that group to use their sexual orientation as catch-all slur.

I can distinctly remember one particular day in 11th grade English class, when my teacher said something to us that would come to mark the end of an era. After she had caught us (the students) casually throwing around the word “gay” in a before-class conversation among ourselves, she spoke up and let us know, “you shouldn’t be using that word…how would you feel if I said ‘that’s so Michael’ or ‘that’s so Katie’ about something that was obviously bad? It would do more than just describe the situation — it would associate your name with a bad connotation”.

When she explained it in that way, something inside me clicked, and got was she was trying to tell us.

She was pointing out the fact that even though the word “gay, meaning bad” was a different word than the word “gay, meaning sexual orientation”, they sounded the same.

And so they could be mistaken for being the same. And that was a big deal.

Up until that point, I had a hard time grasping why some adults would take issue with us kids using that word in the casual way that we did. In my mind, the word “gay” as we used it was functionally a separate word compared to the one that referred to a person’s sexual orientation — much in the same way that “can” could be two separate words, such as “I can do this” versus “pass me that can of beans”. These were words that were the same only by virtue of having the same letters arranged in the same order. Contextually they had nothing to do with each other.

This being the case I could not, at the time, imagine why the word would ever be insulting when it was used in the common manner — until my 11th grade English teacher said her piece.

The reason any gay advocate would do their best to disrupt the usage of the word in common parlance is because of the association that is built up in the minds of the supposedly benign users.

Which means, consciously or subconsciously, using the word “gay” as a pejorative deepens the “badness” of gay people — by simple word association.

Calling someone “gay” in such an environment, without sufficiently clear context, would lead to the follow up question, “do you mean they like people of the same sex or you don’t like them?”

And those who wouldn’t ask that question…might just assume it to be both.

Thereby conflating the sexual orientation with the derogatory slur…

And leading to the hatred and oppression of gay people. Again, if only subconsciously.

Fast forward to today — you can hardly find a person who uses the word in the sense it was used in the 90s. Even schoolchildren who might not know any better have moved on to other words.

The culture has changed — gay marriage is legal, pride month is in full swing, and every major corporation seems to be jumping on board to support.

You can’t just go around saying “that’s so gay” anymore. “Gay” unequivocally means sexual orientation these days, so any usage of that word now has that assumed meaning.

And if you even so much as dare to even suggest that that word could be derogatory, you will be publicly lambasted for it, and maybe even lose your job, friends, business deals, etc.

And this is only natural. The word has come to mean something different.

It is no longer a word that can be casually thrown about, meaning whatever you want it to mean. It no longer can be acceptably used derogatorily.

It instead has absolute connotations of respect, courage, solidarity, and openness.

This definition was changed intentionally. Perhaps by a few at the top, perhaps by the slow opinion drift of the general population, maybe by both. But the change wasn’t random. It wasn’t something that just happened. It was caused — as all societal change is.

A definition was changed. One word. And look at the results.

THAT’S how you change a culture.

Not that I’m claiming that U.S. culture is ubiquitious — it obviously isn’t — but it is certain that in many prominent social circles, including Hollywood and news media, the term “gay” (and all those associated with it) is only to be used with the utmost love and admiration. Of course there are still pockets of society where this isn’t the case — 100% of the country will never agree on anything, no matter how laudable the cause — but the societal change at large is still obvious.

Now the question becomes, how do we, as societal engineers, use this technique?

We use it by taking words that are associated with the message we want to broadcast and slowly working to change their associations (and thereby their definitions) so that they better align with what we want our audience to believe. The key aspect of this to keep in mind is that when a particular word is associated strongly enough with a particular idea, that idea becomes embedded in the word’s definition.

Take a look at the word “public”. It supposedly means “owned by everyone”.

But do you really own a public park, even partially? Public roads, bridges, bathrooms, beaches?

Places that are deemed “public” are those places which generally have the strictest rules, and the harshest penalties for violating them. They are the most regulated. You even have to pay to use some of them.

That doesn’t really sound like ownership, does it?

Cops are even known as “public” servants.

Public, as its used in these contexts, actually means “government owned”. It does not mean or imply shared ownership or owned by everyone or anything else of the sort. But the same word — public — is used.

Why? To make you believe in the illusion of control. To force an association in your mind that will pacify you and reduce your willingness to resist government influence.

North Korea calls itself the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”.

China calls itself the “People’s Republic of China”.

Then there is the “Democratic Republic of the Congo”.

Word associations create ideas in people’s minds. They are sometimes false. Used long enough, the definitions change.

One day, “republic” might not be so happy of a word.

To many already, “public sector” isn’t always associated with butterflies and rainbows.

This redefinition of words can be approached from both the positive and negative angle — forbidding people to use a particular word by threat of punishment, or encouraging the use of a word through reward.

Corporations did not just all of a sudden become pro-gay because some board of directors thought it was the “right thing to do”. They launch these ads and throw up these pride logos because they believe that they will be rewarded in the marketplace for doing so.

The profit motive takes on the appearance of a moral motive, when enough of a given audience are in agreement as to what the “correct” morality should be. And that correct morality was intentionally put there by the redefinition of a word.

That’s reward and punishment. That’s how you change a society.

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