The use of language to frame debates is the oldest trick in the political book, Anti- immigration advocates want. to “deport undocumented citizens‘K Or do they want to “remove illegal aliens”. Are you “pro-life” or do you “oppose a woman’s right to choose”? The use of language to distort our perceptions is one of the most common forms of propaganda. However, the fight to control language can become a meaningless, pointless exercise. A few years ago, in the wake of the death of a black man by a cop, two hashtags began circulating Twitter: #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMattert While at first glance, the statements would not seem contradictory, the shitstorm of backlash from both sides seemed otherwise, The irony was that both sides has the same intent: the point of both hashtags was to show solidarity with the deceased and bring attention to the issue of police brutality.
“All Lives” includes “Black Lives”, and when “Black Lives” matter, “non-Black Lives” are not necessarily excluded.
Yet, the needless disagreements persisted. Here a group of people that agreed were being split up based solely on a single word. The use of language and our reaction towards it is how we show what tribe we are, When Trump reportedly used the phrase “shithole countries”, conservatives leaped to his defense and liberals leaped for his neck. Unfortunately, on both sides, that accomplished nothing. There were no policy implications for the remark. There were not even any grand revelations; Trump campaigned on being anti-immigration and aggressively patriotic, That he would look down upon other countries is not especially surprising.
Nonetheless, “shithole countries” made headlines for a few days.
Had either side controlled the narrative, would anything have changed? Would any liberals have become hardline immigration hawks? Would any conservatives have become open-borders advocates? While it is possible, it is unlikely. The problem with arguing over language is it ignores the actual matter at hand, Whether one agrees with Trump or not that there exists “shithole countries”, one‘s support of said statement does not provide an argument for or against DACA, or the wall, or anything related to immigration laws. Arguing about symbolism is a primitive, pointless activity. It lets us argue and fight and defend our tribe without having to do any research or careful thinking.