Word Power in Paris and Berkeley

Anyone who has become aware of the true nature of political and social issues, and has attempted to share their  new-found knowledge with friends, will be familiar with the typical reaction. One’s arguments are rejected; and a particular class of words deployed which constitute an insuperable barrier to rational discussion.

This experience is succinctly captured in a song: ‘Quand j’étais parisienne‘ by Les Brigandes. The track is featured on the controversial French band’s third album, ‘Foutez le camp !‘; released at the end of 2016. The lyrics appear to be written from the point of view of lead vocalist Marianne, who is the daughter of a Parisian doctor. An unofficial and unauthorised English translation follows:

When I was a Parisian

When I was a Parisian, I had plenty of friends
Gothic christians and buddhists too
Around the peace-pipe you have no enemies
It all flows smoothly to the end of the night

But when matters worsen, they say everything’s getting better
Ears full of wax and gunk in their eyes
The noise of the metronome is breaking their heads
Zombies of the smartphone, internet internees

One fine day, that’s upended; you take to thinking
You jump ship during the crossing
Like the slave in chains who wants to be in the water
Right away you take it back to the midst of the herd

They haul you over the coals, and bring out the artillery
Unpleasant words, everything they’ve been taught
They call you a racist; that’s still polite
After that you’re a fascist; and to finish, a nazi

If you’re a homophobe, it’s thanks to Taubira*
Racist, is for the snobs who don’t miscegenate
The fash, that’s the Frenchman who loves his country
Nazi, if you know more than is permitted

From atop the scaffold, like Mandrin** at Grenoble
I observed France, and saw vile things
France as you see it when once you step out of the box
Resembles from top to bottom nothing more than a warehouse

When I was a Parisian, I had plenty of friends
True republicans, all a bunch of Charlies***
But I found myself on the forbidden side
That I might savour the taste of heresy

Here “racist, “fascist”, “nazi” and “homophobe” are used in a vague sense, to negate rational argument.

Dr. Thomas E. Turner, in ‘MULTICULTURALISM – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?: Smokescreens and Mirrors‘ (reviewed here),  calls words of the afore-mentioned class, “nebulous-power-words”. As the song mentions, their use by ordinary people has been taught rather than arising spontaneously. The terms are used by the organs of the ruling elites, including politicians, academics and the mainstream media; to disable opposition to unpalatable policies such as mass immigration.

Nebulous-power-words derive much of their potency from their low referentiality. They lack clear definition; and often have a variety of senses, which may be contradictory. Their effect is consequently emotional rather than cognitive. They are unusable in rational discourse.

The examples mentioned by Les Brigandes are pejorative epithets applied to the person. Others can be applied to a person’s views; by labelling them as “fascism”, for example. Nebulous-power-words can also refer to allegedly positive, if ill-defined, values such as “diversity” and “equality”.

On 1st February 2017, an Antifa riot forced the cancellation of a talk at Berkeley University in the USA  by British speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. The riot’s organiser, Yvette Felarca, was interviewed about the incident on Fox News by Tucker Carlson. She presents a particularly striking and colourful example of the use of nebulous-power-words. She calls Yiannopoulos some of the words mentioned in Les Brigandes’ song; “racist”, “fascist”, and even “homophobe” in spite of his own flamboyantly homosexual lifestyle.

The use of nebulous-power-words severely hinders rational discussion of vital social and political issues. That they have been subjected to study and acquired a name, is an important step in the process of overcoming their pernicious influence.

Those who have been subjected abuse by the application of such terms will be glad to learn that experiences such as theirs have now found expression in song.

*Politician Christine Taubira was instrumental in establishing same-sex marriage in France.

**France’s real-life “Robin Hood”, Louis Mandrin was broken on the wheel and strangled in 1755, having been illegally abducted from his refuge in the Kingdom of Savoy.

***Satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ is widely perceived as promoting degeneracy.

Word Power in Paris and Berkeley