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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

95: Political Leanings Influencing Language

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Bernie Sanders rally, Austin, 2020
Bernie Sanders rally, Austin, 2020

Howdy! Between interactions with my more conservative peers, and reading online content, I've noticed that occasionally, word choice varies by political alignment in the USA. I suspect this isn't so much new, as exacerbated, with the flood of easily accessible media, ready to confirm whatever biases the viewer carries. It's the same as how terminal Twitter users have jokes and slang that Redditors don't get, and vice versa. The media we consume determines our word choice, to an extent, and people choose the media that agrees with them. Some of the differences might be generational, as rightwing voters tend to be older.

The most obvious example is with regards to the Covid-19 vaccine. I'm a leftist, and mostly follow my own, on Twitter. Thanks to Elonzo Mollusk incentivizing extremist takes, by monetizing Blue Check Mark users' tweets, based off the views of the accompanying ads, I'm now actively blocking anyone I've judged evil, ignorant, annoying, etc. Meaning I have a nice little shouting box where my followers and I already agree. Within that neat little box, folks tend to call the vaccine, a vaccine, shot, or booster. There are outliers, but those are the labels I see in my timeline. However, when interacting with conservative relatives, or traveling beyond my box, the Covid-19 vaccine is widely called the "jab." People who don't scoff at being vaccinated against Covid-19 also haven't adopted rightwing terms like, "Plandemic" & "Scamdemic." I've mentioned in the past, but the way the major media conglomerates intentionally muddied information, regarding the virus and the lockdowns, along party lines, is blatantly evil. That the USA government flip-flopped on whether they wanted non-healthworker civilians masking, from the get-go, was certainly a factor.

Another word I haven't run into in my box is "clapter." Clapter, as explained to me by a conservative peer, is when the joke isn't meant to illicit laughter, but agreement. That same peer seems to be watching comedies through a political lens. If the comedian tells a joke that implies they are sympathetic to trans people, or expresses support for a socially leftist view, my conservative peer will roll their eyes, scoff about "clapter," and put a different comedy special on. I've only seen the term on Twitter, from conservative accounts.

Adding to that last bit, the same alt right peers has dubbed making media more inclusive, as "Netflixing," or getting "Netflixed." That's when there is a gay character or a minority character in the story. I wanted to cite the term by linking to a comment using it in context but struggled to find one on reddit that hints at the meaning but doesn't also use slurs, nor is in proximity to slurs from other commenters or the posters, to no avail. Rightwingers commenting online, find LGBT/BIPOC characters an unrealistic addition. I suppose their real life circles must not include many LGBT/BIPOC folks. More recently, one rightwing peer has used that phrase to also indicate media that casts Christianity in a dark, abusive, cult-like manner. While searching for a pseudo citation for the above, I ran across the term "blackwashing." It's when a white character is recast as a black person in a remake of the film version of what was a book. Right wingers claim this is shoe-horning in diversity, and a common complaint is that it is erasing red heads, since the white person recast tends to be the red head in the group. In my experience, when watching a remake wherein a white character has been recast as nonwhite, there remain other white characters, of importance, in the show. Anecdotal, but I also have yet to meet a red head who cares about their slightly reduced representation in the media. Now, I'm well aware of "white washing," as a term used by leftwing and right wingers. The left mainly uses it to describe when history is described in so as to make the actions of white conquerors more palatable to their audience, but also to describe when a story or character is traditionally nonwhite, but altered to be more palatable for western, majority white, audiences. I think ringwingers mostly use that second definition.

"Woke" is an obvious word that rightwing voters use as an insult against leftwing voters who prioritize the social wellbeing of minority groups when making political decisions. Thing is, I've under the impression that woke used by left leaning voters to describe someone who recognized systemic injustice. If my understanding is correct, then the meaning hasn't so much shifted, as the tone. Perhaps to distance themselves from "sensitive" leftwingers, rightwingers are more likely to use physical insults and slurs. In evidence, search any Covid-19 related term on reddit, and click posts denying the severity of the virus. Ditto for Twitter and Facebook. Leftist insulting, don't generally resort to slurs. "Karen" gets thrown around a lot.

I don't think it was originally meant to be, but r/PolticalCompassMemes on reddit leans right. This is obvious in the popular responses to any stories regarding trans people, Covid-19, and green energy. For the pleasantly ignorant, when the commenters on r/PoliticalCompassMemes rant about how they're leaving "lib left" because they can't stands the trans "fan club," they're saying they hate how allies express support for trans people. One phrase that comes up is "[whatever word]-pilled." That's a rabbit hole tracing back to the Matrix films, but they're basically used pilled to imply that the person they're commenting on, has gained wisdom. Generally uncomfortable wisdom. Red-pilling is also an unethical dating strategy wherein men approach women in order from most-least attractive, insulting them "in jest" until a woman with low self esteem responds positively. Leftists on twitter have pointed out that the knowledge from the red pill, in the Matrix, was a metaphor for recognizing one's trans identity? Evidence is that the Wachowskis, who wrote and directed the film, later came out as trans. While there are trans conservatives, I'd wager they make up a very small minority of overall trans people.

Perhaps as with the intention of separating the humanity from the identity, some right wing speakers use the term "transgenderism," "gender incongruity," and "gender ideology," as opposed to "trans people" when writing about their plans to eradicate the group.

Liberals don't really use the word "Duopoloy," but Leftists (including Green Party and The People's Party), Independents, Libertarians, and the Alt-Right do, so basically every one who doesn't vote Democrat or Republicans. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's referring to how the Democrats and Republican work together to intentionally rebuff either groups attempts at change, stifling progress. Ranked voting is a proposed solution but that's a side note. These nonDemocrat, nonRepublican groups, also bring up the word, oligarchy a lot, which Webster defines as, "a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes." Neither ruling party is likely to bring up the term accusing their leaders of rampant corruption. You go far enough right, and folks get a reputation for being conspiracy theorist preppers. Honestly though, Leftists are open to conspiracies too. There difference is that while leftists generally blame corporations and the uber rich for manipulating the government against the working class' best interests, rightwing voters are more frequently Christian, so that colors many of their theories. The more extreme rightwing theories, like the flat earth theory for instance, blames the round earth "hoax" on demons wanting to make humans feel wrongly insignificant so they turn their back on God. Something to bear in mind is that plenty of verifiable history was a conspiracy theory until records were released. That's not to lend credence to antisemitic fantasies, but to make clear I don't call people conspiracy theorists as an insult. Most people have a case where they don't accept the official narrative.

While the growing enmity between rival party voters is alarming, that they've adopted their own terms is a sign of the widening gap between them, but not a huge deal. Again, users of different social medias develop their own slang and short-hands too.

The real take-away, is that, by paying attention to word use, I can get a read on the political lean of the media a peer is consuming. Perhaps you've seen reddit posts wherein conservative men complain that they can't be honest about their political leanings on dating apps or women won't match with them. I'll leave it to you to figure out why that tendency is. But, those guys, who lie regarding their political stances, probably hint at the reality through word choice.

Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!

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