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Is language going to the dogs?

The use of the term "dog wistle language" by a writer on another thread was new to me, so I looked it up. I found a thorough explanation and history in "Dog-whistle politics." What's fascinating to me about this article is how well it, however inadvertently, documents the increasing fracturing of society. Politicians struggle to find "message" language that doesn't offend anyone, and today it is increasingly difficult, if not actually impossible, to find it.

Back in the 60s, Marshall McLuhan predicted that our instantaneous electronic media would lead to the tribalization of society. (He meant that in a technical sense.) Today, we're all familiar with virtual communities. People who share a comprehensive point of view can easily isolate themselves from the rest of society in something like cybernetic islands.

One result may be that the use of language in one island may appear to be a deadly virus in another island. Because of our isolation and our differences, we seem to be experiencing a confusion of language of biblical proportions - the Tower of Babel story all over again.

This tendency to cultural isolation played a major role in the beginnings of Christianity. Palestine in the time of Jesus was divided into just such cultural islands, notably Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Jesus attempted to reach people in all three areas, and he invited people from outlying Greek districts, such as the Decapolis. He tried mightily to preach reconciliation. Yet even he experienced knee-jerk rejection, and he once declared "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you."

And here I thought the primary problem with language today was Orwellian doublespeak.

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