Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Using the Language for Fun and Profit

Sometimes, we Libertarians forget that it is often how one presents ideas that is perhaps more important than the ideas themselves. I present the below essay to illustrate a couple of mistakes we make when presenting our points of view on self-defense and private consensual behavior.

Notice I have not used neither the phrase "gun control" nor "illegal drugs". That is because, in my estimation, these phrases give legitimacy to the activities of the Control Crowd.

What do most people think of when they hear the word "control"? What are they thinking when they try to envision the opposite of control? Maybe: Out of control? Aimless? Anarchy? Violence?

Yes! Those, and a bunch of other terms that should make anyone uneasy.

What mental image comes to mind when we hear "illegal drugs" or the other phrases drug warriors use, like "crack babies", "drug addict", "pushers", "narco-terrorist", and "dope"? Do you think such images would be positive?

What I am here to suggest -- emphatically -- is for all libertarians to consider more carefully what we are really doing when we use establishment terms in support of our positions.

When discussing drugs, what term might be used to cast a negative image on drug law instead of drug users and dealers?


The average American knows Alcohol Prohibition was a dismal failure. I don't think you'll find many Americans supportive of the idea of making alcohol illegal again.

So use that word, instead. Any time you speak of the government's war on private consensual behavior, be it recreational substances, contractual sex, private or non-state-lottery wagering, or the employment of weapons for self-defense, speak of these things in terms of Prohibition.

Tie it to Alcohol Prohibition immediately, without even mentioning the word "alcohol"!

Your audience's first reaction upon hearing the word should be visions of the mayhem caused by that law. This forces them to quickly quell their own internal argument about prohibition; then, they must then come up with arguments to defend continuing Prohibition -- instead of attacking legalization.

Never ask, "should we legalize drugs?"

Instead, ask "should Prohibition be repealed?" Or "Why should Prohibition be continued?"

Doing so immediately shifts the burden of the debate from our court to "theirs".

I am sure other terms could be used effectively, also. But in no case should we lend our opponents the advantage by using the terms they have chosen!

Purely as an example of this tactic in action, think of the abiortion debate. Do people who favor keeping abortion legal call themselves "pro-abortion", which carries the stigma of the actual abortion; or do they call themselves "pro-choice"? Isn't it harder to explain why an individual's "choices" should be taken away? Likewise, people who favor outlawing abortion call themselves Pro-Life, for similar reasons, instead of “anti-abortion”, or “anti-choice”. No one likes to be an "anti" anything, the word itself is negative. On the other hand, who can justify being against life?

Gun control is not gun control. It is "victim disarmament", or even "gun Prohibition."

Don't legitimize the language of tyrants. Use proper English and use it to your advantage.

Listen to the following sentence carefully:

"And now, since I favor allowing others to speak, I will return to my seat." Some of you might notice that sentence contains no negative sounding phrases like "in closing".

Remember: use that language FOR what you believe in, not against what they believe in!