Language in Political Discourse

By: Willem Nesbitt

Invoking Matthew 25:35 in his Advent Statement, Pastor Gábor Iványi succinctly and pointedly criticized the hypocrisies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s claims of running a Christian government, but in turn, also provided an interesting insight into the refugee crises that Europe continues to face, and how language plays a key role in it.

Author Dan Stone, in his article “On Neighbours and those Knocking at the Door,” provides the example of UN High Commissioner for Refugees Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s claim that “phrases such as ‘swarms of refugees’ used by David Cameron” (p. 231) are hauntingly similar to the way the world “turned its back on Jewish refugees.” Likewise, Norimitsu Onishi’s article for the New York Times discusses the right-wing slogan of the “great replacement” and the French author who coined it, a phrase to which Renaud Camus says; “I take responsibility for it. I believe in its relevance.”

This pointed use of language, whether it be slogans, biblical statements, dehumanizing remarks, or any other manners of speech, thus seems to be an integral part of the European refugee crisis, but it leaves me curious about the level of discourse around all level of political conversations around the globe. In North America, for example, the prevalence of phrases such as “snowflake” and many other, often disparaging and slur-heavy, pejoratives seem to have come to fill our political discourse. It may then be worth taking a closer look as to how we ourselves use our language, and also more closely analyze the words, slogans, and phrases used by politicians, political parties, and those passionate about politics to better understand their intentions.

2 Replies to “Language in Political Discourse”

  1. Hello Willem,
    thank you for this insightful and interesting take on the weeks readings.
    I think it’s a really interesting and important topic to discuss in a world becoming more and more polarized around politics. As you mentioned before, slanderous terms such as “snowflake” and others (I would add terms like fascist and racist against people who simply disagree politically on topics) are detrimental to constructive conversations as a whole. In your opinion, what is the best way to combat this harmful tool and get back to a more civilized and mature way of discussion?
    Thanks!

  2. As unfortunate as it is, I can’t help but feel that slanderous terminology and insults will always be a part of politics. It’s a way of demonizing the opposition and confirming to ourselves that we are correct in our point of views. I’m not sure that we can control others use of terminology, but the best we can do is try to limit our own use of it. Attempting to keep in mind that those who disagree with us are not illogical, but have logical reasoning behind their perspectives regardless of whether we comprehend it or not is key to humanizing the opposition and preventing us from turning them into something else.

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