A new phase of combat in the language wars?

Thomas Lifson
We are at a very interesting point in the conservative awakening, following the trauma of the 2012 presidential electoral defeat. Many conservatives have grasped one of the key lessons of the Progressive takeover of the media and academy: the ability to define the terms of discussion wins political battles. We now discuss "gay marriage" instead of "marriage redefinition" or "marriage transformation," for instance, because the media has made that term the familiar norm.

I think we are going to see an active pushback on the left's latest offensive to redefine the language for discussing violators of our border wars: demonizing the expression "illegal immigrant."  AP, the single most pervasive supplier of news content, has already dropped the expression.

The next step is to brand those who use the term as "racists," of course. Eager to jump-in and get some airtime on the subject was Geraldo Rivera (the onetime Jerry Rivers), appearing on Bill O'Reilly's show. Mediate reports:

"You can never use the expression 'illegal alien' again," the radio host said to his colleague Bill O'Reilly. "It is a pejorative. It's like saying 'negro' or 'homosexual.' It is a loaded term that doesn't accurately describe."

"Why don't you just give me a list of things I can say?" O'Reilly pushed back.

"Illegal aliens" and "Bible thumping" are two things you cannot say, Rivera quipped in reference to his Fox's colleague's controversial remarks about the religious opponents of gay marriage.

"I'm not giving into this stuff. You're crazy," O'Reilly replied. "If somebody's in here and breaks our immigration laws, they're an illegal alien."

"They're not an illegal alien," the host concluded. "They're an undocumented immigrant, give them some slack."

I suspect most conservatives are like O'Reilly. The major thing that bothers us about immigration problems is its flouting of our laws. Illegality is the heart of the matter.  We all know that if we euphemize the heart of the matter out of the discussion, then the other side wins. Besides, we realize that if laws become optional, then we are no longer a nation of laws. That matters to conservatives because they look ahead and see the longer term consequences. That's what makes them conservatives who don't just do what feels good at the moment.

So I think that we are not going to lie back and let the left once again define the terms of verbal combat. We are going to sue the expression illegal immigrant proudly, and we'll be happy to explain why to anyone who says that it's racist.

The left, after all, is a relatively narrow cabal that believes its superior virtue and its command of the cultural heights gives it the power to shape mass culture. Actually getting people to follow their lead in the face of common sense is a challenge. Especially when most people believe the media is dominated by liberals.

We are at a very interesting point in the conservative awakening, following the trauma of the 2012 presidential electoral defeat. Many conservatives have grasped one of the key lessons of the Progressive takeover of the media and academy: the ability to define the terms of discussion wins political battles. We now discuss "gay marriage" instead of "marriage redefinition" or "marriage transformation," for instance, because the media has made that term the familiar norm.

I think we are going to see an active pushback on the left's latest offensive to redefine the language for discussing violators of our border wars: demonizing the expression "illegal immigrant."  AP, the single most pervasive supplier of news content, has already dropped the expression.

The next step is to brand those who use the term as "racists," of course. Eager to jump-in and get some airtime on the subject was Geraldo Rivera (the onetime Jerry Rivers), appearing on Bill O'Reilly's show. Mediate reports:

"You can never use the expression 'illegal alien' again," the radio host said to his colleague Bill O'Reilly. "It is a pejorative. It's like saying 'negro' or 'homosexual.' It is a loaded term that doesn't accurately describe."

"Why don't you just give me a list of things I can say?" O'Reilly pushed back.

"Illegal aliens" and "Bible thumping" are two things you cannot say, Rivera quipped in reference to his Fox's colleague's controversial remarks about the religious opponents of gay marriage.

"I'm not giving into this stuff. You're crazy," O'Reilly replied. "If somebody's in here and breaks our immigration laws, they're an illegal alien."

"They're not an illegal alien," the host concluded. "They're an undocumented immigrant, give them some slack."

I suspect most conservatives are like O'Reilly. The major thing that bothers us about immigration problems is its flouting of our laws. Illegality is the heart of the matter.  We all know that if we euphemize the heart of the matter out of the discussion, then the other side wins. Besides, we realize that if laws become optional, then we are no longer a nation of laws. That matters to conservatives because they look ahead and see the longer term consequences. That's what makes them conservatives who don't just do what feels good at the moment.

So I think that we are not going to lie back and let the left once again define the terms of verbal combat. We are going to sue the expression illegal immigrant proudly, and we'll be happy to explain why to anyone who says that it's racist.

The left, after all, is a relatively narrow cabal that believes its superior virtue and its command of the cultural heights gives it the power to shape mass culture. Actually getting people to follow their lead in the face of common sense is a challenge. Especially when most people believe the media is dominated by liberals.