Loaded Words


Welcome back to the Scuttlebutt.

Hey, it’s hotter than hell out (for Washington… Look, if I wanted to live in an oven, I would have taken a job in Virginia, or Georgia.)  So someone pour me a cold beer, get one for yourself, and let’s find a place with a breeze to chat.


I’ve talked about this before I am sure, but this is one of those topics that keeps coming up, and for good reason.  A dear friend of mine posted a cartoon the other day, it was the Memorial Day Cartoon from Pearls Before Swine.  I would post it here, but I’m not sure how the whole copyright thing would affect things in this case, so I’ll refrain… I would like to keep my publisher out of trouble, since he gives me this lovely soap box to stand on.


Anyway, the cartoon dealt with the whole Red V Blue situation in the nation today, and reflected on the idea that the behavior we have all been exhibiting of late is not what the boys interred at Arlington, Punchbowl and other national cemeteries died for.  Stephan Pastis (the cartoonist) is indeed right on that, as far as it goes.  It’s not so much his cartoon that I’m writing about, but one of the comments in the comment piece under the cartoon.


(At this point, all the authors in the room cry “Dude, NEVER read the comments!”)


Well, a mutual acquaintance commented that they were “sitting on their fathers grave staring at the flags, and thinking about the veterans who stormed their own capitol.”  They proceeded to express concern for how we got here, and how we get OUT of here?”   


Well, that’s sort of the inspiration for this piece.  


If you want to have a conversation about “how we got here, and how we get out”, or to go back to the cartoon that started this all, with two people talking past each other, then realizing that they are in fact “failing to communicate” and wondering about how to fix that. Now, please, allow me to provide a little more light and a little less smoke.


Let’s start with that first phrase that this person wrote. “Veterans who stormed their own capitol.”  The operative word here, is “stormed.” To a Veteran, “stormed” means: assaulted with overwhelming numbers and deadly force.  The revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, the Mexican army stormed the Alamo, and Marines stormed beaches all over the Pacific.  The choice of that word was, I suspect, intentional.  Meant to elicit an emotional reaction.  There, folks, lies the trouble.  If you’re trying to create an emotional reaction, you will, on both sides, and communication fails.  Once emotions turn on, higher reason turns off. If they didn’t do it intentionally, then they did it because they’re parroting what they’ve read, and that may just be worse, I thought they were smarter than that.. I am fairly certain that this individual thought that the phrase was deserved.  Having been involved in the storming of a thing or two, I’ll tell you that this event wasn’t a “storming.”  The only guns were in the hands of the cops, the closest thing to weaponry the rioters (see, I’ll cop to “riot,” though even that is a loaded word, “protest” would be a better choice) had was bear spray.  Let’s compare and contrast with the Seattle and Portland riots with spiked bats and Molotov cocktails.  Yet this individual called those “protests” and the attempted arson of police stations with the doors chained up from the outside as “righteous anger.”


Oh, don’t get me wrong, the right does it just as frequently: “Democrats in Texas walked out of the state legislature to torpedo a vote,” while the same outfit talks of “Oregon Republicans fleeing to keep from being steamrolled.”


The Left Mainstream Media never fail to use “falsely insinuated” or “tells the lie” or other words like that when discussing the question of voter fraud.  It’s funny, they used exactly the same words and phrases when discussing the concept of COVID being a virus that escaped from a lab, until recently… Then suddenly the words flipped.  I will give credit where it’s due, a few journalists are calling the NYT and others, on this really violent about face with no apology or shame.


Another perfect example in the news today: depending on which article you read, the person that killed Mollie Tibbetts, a 20 year old college student from the University of Iowa was either: “a farm worker” or “an illegal immigrant.”  Both are true, but what you emphasize not only shows your perspective, but emboldens your base, and angers your opponent.  See that’s the way the game is played now.  If you’re on the left, that thing that happened in the capitol building on 6 January was an “insurrection” as they “stormed” the capitol.  If you’re on the right, it was a “protest” against “voter fraud, and an illegal election.”


If you really want to figure out how to “get out of here,” the first step is to choose your words with care: To ask, then listen to understand, instead of listening for points to score.  To not use emotion loaded words to describe your position and put words in the mouth of your opposition.


If you’re not willing to do that, you might as well just start the ball now, because you’re playing the music, and folks WILL dance.  This is not a dance anyone should want, the Devil is playing the fiddle, and he WILL be paid.


Until next time I remain,

Yours in service.

William Lehman.


  1. Well said.

    Also, very difficult to do since a conversation requires at least two people to participate. How do you convince people that persuasion shouldn’t be done with emotion when all the evidence shows that emotion is what they pay attention to?

    I’ve had conversation’s with family who are on the left side of politics, some further that way than others, where it comes down to belief. I believe one thing about a topic and they believe another and nothing we say to each other affects our belief. Gun control was a frequent topic of “debate”. I believe that people commit crimes using whatever force they have available. They believe that such crimes are “worse” when guns are involved. I believe that the focus should be on the people committing the crimes. They believe that the focus should be on removing guns from society. Once those beliefs are stated, the rest of the debate circles around and around. Each thinking that their points are obviously correct and that the other is being an idiot for not recognizing that “fact”.

    Once you get to the point where the discussion is about whose belief is the right belief, you should switch to “freedom of religion” and agree to disagree. Which is how I get along with family now. It helps that they aren’t in Washington State and I’m not in Canada.

    The real trouble is when those who are looking for political power act on people’s beliefs to attract a base. They may or may not share the belief, but they will use and foster it. They have been around since the beginning. Recognizing that they are feeding your biases is hard. Heck, recognizing that you have biases is hard. Yet being unable to recognize your biases means you are at the mercy of those who will use them against you. Groups of people failing to recognize their biases are being used to manage and control them could be considered a cult. Especially when the group enforces the belief and punishes thoughts contrary to the belief.

    In the past, I’ve seen the word “cult” associated with religious sects. I think it applies to far more than religion. I’d be interested in your thoughts about how we get past the “cultish” thinking that we are seeing in the country.

    • Look, if someone flat out refuses to communicate, there’s nothing you can do. BUT, there are a few things to try first. 1) you have to avoid using the loaded words yourself, at the start, and 2)continue to ask questions like “Why do you call a gun evil, what makes an inanimate object a moral force?” “Exactly how is dying by gunshot somehow more horrible than dying by being beat to death, or stabbed?” “Help me understand why you think that it’s better for a 21-year-old girl to be raped and choked to death than to shoot her attacker?” 3) continue to point out that “I’m trying to communicate here, to exchange ideas and understand your perspective. You’re continuing to call names and try and start a fight. Why is that? Are you so unable to discuss this with reason that you must resort to name-calling?” Then if that doesn’t work, remember that discussion and debate is often a spectator sport. You probably will not convince the cultist… But you may just sway the people on the sidelines.

      • All good points. I have to admit that keeping my cool in a debate is not my strongest feature – I’ve been counciled many times about improving my “emotional resiliency”. Once the emotion starts running, thinking clearly about something for which I don’t have the bullet points memorized is difficult. I tend to end up thinking about what I should have said hours later. Just excuses, though.

        Speaking to the gallery is probably a better way to be thinking rather than convincing those participating. Maybe that will help with my “emotional resiliency”.

  2. The sad truth is, logic and facts no longer have any place in the debate. It’s all rhetoric and emotions. It’s about killing destroying your opponent who is evil and wrong and must be silenced, must lost their job, must lose everything.

    Those are the rules of the game. Those are how it is played. I didn’t come up with those rules, the left did. And now the right is starting to -finally- figure this out. The right needs to understand that until they start burning down cities and killing people in the streets, nothing is going to change. The left has been winning with their actions, so they’re emboldened and keep up with them. Notice how the Jan 6th protesters went to jail if they were republicans (and are kept in solitary – no bail for them!) while those who were shown to be antifa and BLM agitators in the crowd were let go and not charged?

    There’s a war on, and once it goes hot, it’s going to be one of the bloodiest civil wars ever seen. Which is why I moved as far away from all of it as I could.

    • Well, if you really believe that, then why aren’t you shooting? If you think that the time for talk is over, that the war has started, why are you not fighting?

      See, I believe that the time for talking and trying to avoid what you’re describing is still here. It’s short, but it’s here. Once the time for talking ends, we all lose. There has never been a Civil war or Revolution that didn’t damage the hell out of the nation involved in ways that took decades to recover from. Most change nations forever, and not for the good. It’s something to avoid if at all possible without surrendering the nation. Or at least that’s what it looks like from my desk.

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