Guest column: ‘Doublespeak’: Right-wing politics and theocracy

The very first thing that caught my eye as I entered the grounds of the Iowa Republican Party Presidential Straw Poll were three young children, I would guess between the ages of 4 to 7, wearing day-glow orange baseball caps with “NRA” scrawled atop, and round stickers announcing “GUNS SAVE LIVES” on their small T-shirts.

The Straw Poll was held a mere three blocks from my home in Ames, and upon the campus of Iowa State University where I teach.

I saw Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee grinning shoulder-to-shoulder for the line of press cameras.

Inside Herman Cain’s tent, the candidate led a religious-style revival meeting proclaiming “Just like we do in the Southern Baptist church, say ‘Amen!’ Everybody shout ‘Amen.’ Now again, shout ‘Amen.’ And again, shout ‘Amen.’ That’s how it’s done!”

A singer on stage in front of Ron Paul’s tent sang the Bob Dylan classic “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and literally changed the lyric to “… Come senators, congressmen, Please heed the call, Don’t stand in the doorway, Don’t block Ron Paul …”

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley took the stage in the “Soapbox” tent and talked about how the tea party speaks for a new and exciting grass-roots movement that is taking back the government for the people. So is Grassley from the grass-roots, too?

Singers on the tea party stage crooned themes of small government and, in particular, issues of liberty and freedom in front of their enormous and imposing red, white and blue sign that read “Guns, God, and the Constitution.”

And tables representing every imaginable conservative organization from the Heritage Foundation to the Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed information, food, soft drinks and plenty of political memorabilia.

As I walked through the extensive crowd, this virtual sea of white faces —old, young and in between — and as I saw the staffs of a relatively large group of presidential hopefuls lobbying my Iowa neighbors for their votes, I was conscious of a unanimity of message, a virtual lock-step thought and expression of ideas.

And I was particularly reminded of the notion of “doublespeak”: that language of deliberate distortion and contradiction in the meaning of words.

Leaders on the political and theocratic right use terms like “liberty” and “freedom” to advance their agendas, which include such tenets as shrinking the size of government and giving more control to state and local governments; ending governmental regulation of the private sector; privatization of state and federal governmental services, industries, and institutions including schools; permanent incorporation of across-the-board non-progressive marginal tax rates; market-driven unfettered “free market” economies, which ultimately, they argue, will ensure individuals’ autonomy.

But will their agenda enhance personal and national “liberty” and “freedom,” or rather, are they engaging in mere doublespeak?

So, the NRA claims that “GUNS SAVE LIVES.” Groups claim they are “Pro Life,” well at least until birth. After that, I guess, infants and their families should be left on their own, while expecting no assistance from government. “Separation of [Religion] and State” means that the state must stay out of the affairs of religion, but religion, it sounds like, has a duty to enter into the affairs of government.

Doublespeak? Yes, indeed!

And the terms “freedom” and “liberty”?

How “free” are we as individuals when the upper 10 percent of our population controls approximately 80 to 90 percent of the accumulated wealth and 85 percent of the stocks and bonds, and the Right’s agenda will only increase this enormous imbalance?

How “free” are we as individuals when corporate executives currently pay lower tax rates than their secretaries as the political right fights to maintain these advantages for the super rich?

How “free” are we as individuals when 50 million people in our country go uninsured and their only form of health care is the hospital emergency room that the remainder of the population must pay for because our government will not provide a single-payer health care system, but instead, we all must accept the exorbitant profit-motive insurance premium rates of private health care insurers?

The political and theocratic right has very skillfully manipulated the language and the discourse in its concentration of so-called “social issues” and thereby the demonization of those who favor women’s reproductive freedoms, marriage for same-sex couples, stem cell research, those who warn of the human component in global warming, and those who advocate for a compassionate immigration policy, maintenance of the social safety nets, for universal healthcare, for gun control, and other progressive issues. By supporting these conservative and ultra-conservative politicians and agendas, many people operate against and undermine their own economic self-interests.

We all must, therefore, expose the language for what it is: doublespeak.