Editorial: Learning the new polispeak

Our political vocabulary expands

Politics has always had its own way of putting things.

The jargon used by, and about, politicians is confusing, but we can’t just ignore it like we might the latest teen slang. What’s being said is important to our understanding of how the game is being played.

In the past few years, the vocabulary has expanded, so, in advance of the upcoming federal election, we thought we’d offer a primer to clarify some of the new jargon.

Gaslighting: This one dates back to the 1944 movie Gaslight, but in recent years, it’s become much more common in political circles. Gaslighting is a tactic where someone, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. Repeated assertions, often blatant lies, eventually wearing down your confidence in the facts and blur reality.

Dog whistles: A high-pitched whistle that only dogs can hear, or a political message that sounds perfectly innocent on the surface, but carries a secondary message that speaks to a certain demographic, often reassuring racist elements that ‘hey dude, I’m really on your side.’

Fake news: This one is the biggie. It would be nice if this just referred to the news media’s tendency to have a little fun with their readers on April 1.

But the concept is more nefarious. In modern terms, it refers to the intentional fabrication of news with the intent of spreading misinformation, propaganda, financial gain or simply for the lols (laughs).

In practice, fake news has come to mean something different. The use—and overuse—of it by a certain world leader has given it a secondary meaning: “any news I don’t like or makes me look bad.”

You can expect to hear this one a lot in the run up to voting day.

The important thing is to a) consider the source, b) make up your own mind and c) get your news from trusted organizations, not social media. In the end, it’s up to you to discern what the message really is.

– Steve Kidd is regional assistant editor at the Vernon Morning Star

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