In addition to writing one of the seminal novels of the 20th Century in 1984, British writer George Orwell was an accomplished linguist. In his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, he sized up the language of politics as the practice of designing something “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Lewis Carroll put it perhaps less eloquently, but no less accurately, in Through the Looking Glass – “When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
A perfect example of Orwell’s and Carroll’s pithy observations was displayed last weekend when a freelance write named David Peisner, described the torching of a police cruiser and smashing of bank and storefronts in Atlanta by a group of eco-terrorists angry about the construction of a public safety training center in a wooded area just outside the city, as something — anything — other than “violence.” His sophomoric rambling was defended by a pedigreed CNN national security analyst with gobbledygook of her own.
Though not alone among media outlets in its pursuit of linguistic fluidity, CNN in particular has made a practice in recent years of describing scenes of destructive rioting as “mostly peaceful,” and in fact not even meeting the network’s threshold of being “violent” in the first place; as in its 2020 coverage of widespread disturbances in Kenosha, Wisconsin following a police shooting.
CNN’s practice of torturously twisting language in order to avoid calling violence “violence” may be premised on the fact that the network disagrees with the underlying acts or the reasons behind the disturbances. Whatever the reason for describing hoards of individuals burning cars and buildings as “mostly peaceful,” the phenomenon opens the doorway to a new lens with which to view the world, or at least one’s place in it – the “Mostly World.”
In the Mostly World, for example, grades are meaningless. So long as a student is able to claim with a straight face that their answers to the test or assignment are “mostly correct,” they pass and eventually graduate.
The “mostly” auto mechanic invoices are to be paid so long as the work performed was largely completed.
Restaurant fare must be accepted by patrons if the waiter affirms that the meals have been prepared “mostly” according to customers’ stated preferences.
Elections at all levels in this brave, new Mostly World hinge not on which candidate secures the majority of votes as actually cast and counted, but based on who asserts their claim to “most” of the votes received.
“Mostly” currency is no longer tethered to hard value such as gold or even to balanced government spending, since to do so would require absolute valuation rather than the far more flexible approach to economics and budgeting practiced in this new environment.
The legal system, including both civil and criminal proceedings, has essentially nullified the need for juries, with decisions of life or death, right or wrong, and divorce or marriage determined by which verdict “mostly” satisfies the decision-maker. Grand juries would be prohibited from issuing an indictment for perjury so long as “most” of the answers demanded of a witness are truthful.
And, of course, there would be no unlawful riots or “violent” demonstrations or disagreements so long as “most” people did not join in such goings on.
Oaths previously required of judges, legislators, cabinet officials, and even presidents no longer are necessary in the Mostly World, as they are predicated on adherence to defined codes of conduct and legal responsibility. Principles of “honesty” and “truth” no longer can be demanded, as the requisite certainty and consistency on which they are founded does not fit within the resilient parameters of the Mostly World.
The decennial census no longer becomes necessary as otherwise mandated by the Constitution. All that is required, indeed all that can be done is a reasonable estimate of the population, whether individuals of either legal or illegal status.
Even the Congress becomes a far less-structured venue in which issues are debated and votes taken on the fly, and with attendance no longer mandatory since “mostly” attendance or majorities are all that is required. Presidential statements and speeches are evaluated and judged only on whether they reflect mostly what may be true or accurate.
Come to think of it, we already are living in the Mostly World.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.