Ever since reading Orwell's 1984 I have been concerned by how governments, and others, manipulate language. The control of language is about the control of the thought which gives substance to our being. This why those who control the media, and the arts too, are so powerful.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin made the following intervention at the Synod on Evangelisation a few days ago.
...My thanks to Pastor Emeritus.
The challenge of language is especially felt in those countries where English dominates and which are often greatly influenced by linguistic philosophies with known epistemological challenges. There is however a further challenge of the day-to-day language, not just of the media, but of a culture of the manipulation of language and the management of information where the meaning of words is changed and manipulated for commercial, ideological or political motives.
A strongly individualist vocabulary is often developed and then applied in areas such area of human sexuality, where the concepts of relationship and mutuality of the sexes become obscured. Such language can become enshrined in an individualistic understanding of human rights language, with a consequent distortion of juridical and political language. The notion of right becomes separated from its ontological roots. Individual rights are treated as absolutes or attributed a dominant place over and against other rights and responsibilities.
Let me give one current example from public debate in Ireland. In discussions advocating the legalization of marriage between homosexual persons, the terms of the debate are shifting from ‘same-sex marriage’ to ‘marriage equality’. The debate is thus moved away from any debate on the nature of human sexuality into one apparently of equal rights.
Such a manipulation of language and meaning is cleverly developed to shape the debate in society about public morality in a particular direction. The concept of dialogue as robust confrontation of ideas in the search for the truth is replaced by vague interpretations of consensus and tolerance.