Fair Elections: Tory newspeak at work

Posted on March 25, 2014 in Governance Debates

TheStar.com – Opinion/Readers’ Letters – Assault on democracy: The minister’s secret, Editorial March 23
Published on Mon Mar 24 2014 

Re: Assault on democracy: The minister’s secret, Editorial March 23

Ideologues of all stripes have long practiced the art of bending the language to their own purposes, and for some time now those on the right have been winning this war of words hands-down. At the very top of their newspeak hit parade is the word “reform.”

Its most commonly accepted meaning is to change incrementally for the better, to effect what most intelligent, fair-minded people on all sides would regard as an improvement. But the ideologues are using the word in its much more radical meaning of re-form, to tear something apart and completely remould it to suit their particular agenda. They have been mentally adding a hyphen without telling the rest of us.

Some misguided poor people voted for Mike Harris’ manipulative, demagogic Common Sense Revolution (its vague proposals could mean whatever you wanted them to mean) because he promised to “reform” the welfare system. Well, he in fact took a chain-saw to it immediately on taking power, cutting their payments by a stunning 25 per cent. His base brayed approval while kids went hungry. Some reform.

This otherwise cogent and welcome editorial falls into the Tories’ trap at one point by referring to their “democratic reform proposals.” Granted, there’s not much we can do about manipulative formal names, such as their Democratic Reform portfolio (using a qualifier like “so-called” would be too heavy handed, right?) so the proper practice of all of us, especially the media, should be to mention these formal names as seldom as possible. Surely we all have a democratic duty to resist this manipulation, to use more accurate, neutral terminology, such as “radical electoral-law changes.”

And don’t get me started on that other biggie in the right-wing lexicon, the word “fair.” In Tory newspeak it is used everywhere, a catch-all word that means simply “putting a thumb on the scales to benefit us, our backers and our base.”

The Fair Elections Act is really just blatant voter suppression, and it is anything but fair.

J.A. McFarlane, Toronto

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