Is there a more over-used and misused word than ‘crisis’? We expect facile sensationalism from the British media as they conduct their campaign to undermine public confidence in Scotland’s institutions and public services. But, even if we are inured to the constant denigration of pretty much every aspect of life in Scotland, the casual abuse of language is becoming a major aggravation.
The term ‘crisis’ implies an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty. A ruptured blood vessel may justifiably be described as a crisis of sorts. I’m going to go out on a limb and hazard that there are no circumstances outside the realm of overly contrived fiction in which it would be appropriate to declare a ‘crisis’ in the event of a broken shoelace. The proper term for that would be ‘nuisance’. Or, perhaps, ‘inconvenience’. But not ‘crisis’.
This devaluing of language may be regarded by some as one of the more minor symptoms of declining standards in journalism. Although, given that words are the tools of the journalist’s trade, such Philistine disrespect for language can hardly be insignificant. Compared to the misrepresentation of facts and other forms of actual dishonesty by which the British media seeks to manipulate public opinion, wilful misuse of terms such as ‘crisis’ may be seen as trivial. But, as Noam Chomsky observed, language etches the grooves through which our thoughts must flow.
Constant repetition of words such as ‘crisis’, even (perhaps especially) in the most clumsily inappropriate contexts, represents an insidiously malicious attempt to shape perception. A small thing in itself, it is as well to be aware of it as part of a larger effort to create an impression of Scotland as failing in every way imaginable. Were you inclined to heed the mainstream media you could be forgiven for supposing Scotland was in a state of incessant and pervasive hysteria as calamity piled on catastrophe amid chaos and pandemonium.
It is a very effective propaganda technique. Not least because it is resistant to challenge. Dare to question the reality of the particular ‘crisis du jour’ and you will be accused of ‘dismissing genuine concerns’. Ask if those ‘concerns’ really are ‘genuine’ and you will be accused of denying there are any issues at all. Attempt to inquire as to the nature of these ‘issues’ and you will be castigated for burying your head in the sand and pretending that everything is absolutely fine perfect and wonderful.
See what happened there? Their claim of a ‘crisis’ has metamorphosed into your confession of complacency without the claim of a ‘crisis’ ever having been scrutinised.
Excessive and inappropriate use of terms such as ‘crisis’ may look like nothing more than appallingly poor writing. But there may well be more to it than that. There could be a malign purpose in such perversion of language. Although far be it from me to suggest that this should be regarded as a ‘crisis’.Views: 2005
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