Over the last twenty years conservatives have complained that liberals win most arguments because they control the news media, entertainment and the public schools. In effect that they control the culture. And while this is undoubtedly true, I think even more important is the fact that they have successfully defined the terms of most every debate. They have defined the words we use in discussing the biggest issues.
If you can define the meaning of words you will win almost every argument. Here are just a few words the left has defined to their benefit; choice, equality, gun control, fairness, social justice and now marriage. Recently, they have even shaped the debate over the rebel flag by a subtle change in meaning. The debate on the meaning of the rebel flag is not really a liberal vs. conservative debate, but it is an example of the latest cause of the politically correct. More on that later.
First, some common examples of word redefinition. Do you want potatoes with your steak or do you want rice? This is a common question in my household when discussing dinner plans. This is a choice, and of course we all like choices. In the early 70's the left turned the issue of abortion into a matter of choice. To terminate a life or give birth to it. It was no longer a debate between pro-abortion and pro-life, instead it became pro-choice vs. anti-choice. The word choice makes a huge difference in winning the hearts and minds in any debate.
Another big example, is 'Equality'. From the Magna Carta to the American Revolution the word equality meant equal treatment under the law. In his book "The Constitution of Liberty", Friedrich Hayek describes equality as having three main conditions. All laws are general, they are not arbitrary, and everyone is subject to them. Today the meaning of equality is the opposite. Equality now involves the state intervening to control outcomes it deems as ideal. That is outcomes it deems as promoting the left's concept of 'Equality'. Another phrase the left likes for equality is "social justice." In some cases they take things that can't be equal and declare it so. The most recent example is gay marriage.
I remember years ago hearing conservatives proclaim "We support traditional marriage." They even would pass out buttons and bumper stickers with that slogan. And as soon as I saw that campaign I thought the debate is over and we have lost it. Conservatives simply should have held to the position that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. By claiming that they were in favor of "traditional marriage" implies that there are multiple forms of marriage. Eventually the public decided to merge "same sex marriage" and "traditional marriage."
There are other examples of the bastardization of the concept of equality. Through government contracting, subsidies, and the tax code the massive power of the state is used to promote 'equality', through unequal laws. The tax code is a good example. If you make what the government deems as too much money or more than your "fair share", another example of the left's verbal handiwork, your tax rate goes up. Now at an equal rate you would still pay more, but in the effort to achieve what the government deems as 'equality' they progressively increase the tax rate on certain individuals. And on others they give a lower rate. Another example would be affirmative action. Two candidates are not given equal treatment as Hayek would have defined it.
The very term "gun control" implies that something is out of control. Rather than say we are going to make it harder for citizens to buy guns the left says we want gun control. As if some sort of control is needed on the 2nd amendment. For example they don't argue we need speech control. Well, actually, I take that back campaign finance laws are a way to control political speech.
I could go on and on, but, I will tie this in with the Rebel flag. Notice I said 'Rebel' flag and not 'Confederate'. flag. It seems like a subtle difference, but it is significant.
In 1862 General Pierre Beauregard designed the Battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. CNN reporters and others call this the confederate flag. Beauregard told his men to carry it into battle and it would give them strength and courage.
Now in the last few weeks of the war the crumbling confederate government pinned its hopes on the Army of Northern Virginia and adopted its flag as the flag of the confederacy. However, predominately the confederate flag, colloquially called the "stars and bars" is a different flag. If you were to show the "stars and Bars" to Ashleigh Banfield or any other liberal 'news' personality they would not recognize it.
But there is a significant difference in referring to it as a Rebel or Confederate flag. The former implies rebellion, which encompasses more than just constitutional secession. Rebellion can mean any opposition to the existing order. Occupy wall street, the tea party, the anti-draft movement of the 1970's are in my opinion all examples of rebellion. On a personal level a girl dating a member of a biker gang may be a form of rebellion against her parents.
In the hit 1970's show "The Dukes of Hazard" Bo and Luke Duke drove a car with the rebel flag on top. In my humble opinion it symbolized their rebellion to local law enforcement. As I recall the words from the theme song, "Just good old boys who've been in trouble with the law since the day they were born." I don't think Bo and Luke Duke were racists, but I didn't watch every episode of the show and I was 12 years old the last time I saw an episode.
But if we call it a Confederate flag it implies support for not only of secession, but also slavery. It is taught that the war between the states was fought over slavery, that is only partly true, but people believe that narrative. The fact that President Lincoln in his first inaugural address said he wouldn't interfere with slavery if the south stayed in the union or that there were slaves states that fought for the union, or the fact that most southerners didn't own slaves are facts to be ignored.
The left has defined the terms of the debate and tell a history of America through a 21st century politically correct lens. We need to counter by not conceding to them the power to define the words we use in the debate of ideas. If not we will lose almost every debate.
Post Script. Today I learned that the owner of the Dukes of Hazard car, the General Lee, Bubba Watson, is going to paint over the flag, which in my opinion desecrates the car. The airbrushing of American history and her symbols continues.