The mutation of language in unfinished wars

Paulo Rosenbaum

My grandmother, of fond memory, was born in the city of Chernwitzi and as a child had to flee the region that belonged to Ukraine. They fled overnight, leaving everything behind when the Cossacks – also known as White Russians – murdered their father, my great-grandfather, inside the house, with a shot in the head. systematic attacks against Jewish populations).

One hundred years later, Wladimir justified his not-so-secret expansionist rage using the expression “denazify” Ukraine. However, in the face of such a noble ideal, the complaint deserves analysis. It forces us to examine the contemporary context of the use of the term “Nazi”. It has been bastardized, distorted, trivialized, misused, and, as if that weren’t enough, used in a perverted way. The term Nazi has been semantically distorted, linguistically vilified, and under these mutations the term now reappears as a polysemic expression, with meanings so expanded that it compromises its intelligibility. In Putin’s strategic mouth it means one thing. In the mouths of neo-Nazi vociferators, another. In those who call themselves native influencers who have recently asked for the legalization of eugenics associations, a third meaning.

And this mutation of meanings in vocabularies has been expanded to a good part of the slogans uncritically propagated by the media. Expressions such as “genocide” and “fascist” “communist” among others are used with elastic indulgence. Why and in what sense? Glossaries have often been used without the necessary rigor, without consensus. That is to say, they are generated by self-referential committees, at political summits, universities or newsrooms, and, for the most part, they are contrary to the understanding of public opinion.

Take the current Russian “president” as an example – 30 years in power and with no signs of being overthrown or viable opposition. Have you been elected through free and fair elections? How did this become possible? The formula can be found in the best-selling “Autocratic Manual of Enlightened Neo-Czarism” (book out of print in Latin America): concentration of power, circumventing the rotation of government with the camouflage of poles, under difficulties invoking permanent threats to the democratic order, enunciate artificial enemies, maintain party centralism disguised as political diversity, and regulate elections in which independent voters and institutions cannot audit. All this under the approval of the single journalism centers. In the case of Russia, spontaneously or compulsorily, relying on the press that is rarely critical, and taming it so that it behaves particularly docilely with power.

In the maneuvers carried out during unfinished wars, the mobilization of language was always used to exalt certain mantras. They magnetize the audience’s passionate structures. And the fragmentation of nomenclatures creates tangles to make it difficult to identify true political trends.

The linguistic chaos constructed aims to deceive public opinion, before it can be properly clarified about the real nature and political orientation of the candidates. Some politicians are masters of this camouflage tactic, others will not even realize that it is available.

All this is reflected in the control of speech and the use of language as manipulation. Domain that transcends mere rhetoric and that usually invades pulpits in lawsuits and war campaigns. It is an instrumentalization that exhorts the thirsty masses to adhere to causes that, not infrequently, are contrary to their own interests.

Several policy analyzes agree on one point: institutions are at risk. And in recent days, while the United Nations Security Council was meeting — with China and India abstaining, the resolution condemning Russia was vetoed by Russia — missiles and bombs continued to hit Ukraine’s civilian population. It is estimated to be the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II. Simultaneously, the Venezuelan “President”, the Iranian “President” Ayatollah and a Brazilian party launched manifestos repudiating the unjustifiable Ukrainian aggression against Russian armored vehicles.

Tyrants and totalitarianism have their defenders, so it is necessary to recognize them in advance, to scrutinize them with precision, to expose them with courage. The evidential paradigm helps us to know how they usually act: they threaten to regulate the media, muzzle freedom of expression, suppress the polyphony of voices, and, finally, impose their hegemony and their whims against the individual wills of their subjects. Not infrequently, disguised as spokespersons for national salvation, heralds of unification, heroes of the homeland, and fanatics of the gem.

At this point, we still don’t know how the improbable future will surprise us, but it’s not just the reputation of the Western world that is at stake, but the entire cultural structure that organized post-war civilization. We passively assimilate the futile erudition “from Plato to Nato” deceived by the thesis of the end of history. It is recommended to trigger the memory whenever the experts give their opinion.

We live in one of those serious historical moments, where it is forbidden to invoke gradations, concealments, or intermediate solutions. In any case, a return to the world’s previous status quo is ruled out. To our misfortune what is being presented on the menu has been reduced to two options: the autocracy of totalitarian populists and humanity’s right to freedom.

If the West does not choose the latter, and acts accordingly by offering unconditional support to the brave Ukrainian people, we will reap far more than hunger and anomie.

We will harvest Gulags.