Destructive cults, the media, politicians and governments use loaded language to influence thought and behavior. In this episode I discuss what this is all about, how it’s done and give specific examples from my experience with Scientology.
Group language or loaded language is one of the primary but far from the only cult control mechanism.
– installed phobias and fears
– confession and guilt
– suppression of thinking for oneself
– sacred science: The beliefs and regulations of the group are framed as perfect, absolute and non-negotiable. The dogma of the group is presented as scientifically correct or otherwise unquestionable. Rules and processes are therefore to be followed without question, and any transgression is a sin and hence requires atonement or other forms of punishment, as does consideration of any alternative viewpoints.
– and many others
What is loaded language?
Done by inventing new words or re-purposing existing ones.
– Helps foster special feelings of secret knowledge and sacred science
– Helps create us vs them mentality
– Helps group members feel closer and that they understand each other better (elitism)
– Special words/labels become a substitute for understanding and critical thinking
In his book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China,” Robert Lifton wrote: “The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly selective, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. They become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.”
Aaron Smith-Levin made a video about Scientology’s special language and the thinking behind it which anyone can check out and I, of course, have worked to define many of the terms in Scn on my channel.
Relationship between language and thought
Inextricable relationship – we often think in words as well as express our thoughts through words to others and understand the world around us through language.
Not everything that goes on in our internalized world is expressed in words or even can be expressed in words, such as recalling moments in the past, experiencing intense feelings or imagining new concepts.
However, thought can and often is shaped by the words/language we use and hear
The old ( 1920’s) Sapir Whorf hypothesis states the following (taken from wikipedia) “The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view, or otherwise influences their cognitive processes. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined as having two versions: (i) the strong version that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories and (ii) the weak version that linguistic categories and usage influence thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behaviour.”
Removing words in an effort to remove the very idea of a thing, such as Florida governor Rick Scott forbidding anyone in his state government to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” or “sustainability” while sea level rise alone thratens 30 percent of his state’s beaches over the next 85 years.
Altering the definitions of words to gain agreement, loyalty, etc.
Orwellian Newspeak is a penultimate example of how language is used to control thought.
“The Oldspeak word ‘free’ existed in Newspeak, but could only be used in terms of something not present, as in the sentences “The dog is free from lice.” and “This field is free from weeds.” Politically, the word ‘free’ could not denote free will, because such a humanist concept does not exist in the society of Oceania. The linguistic design of Newspeak is for thought control, by diminishment of the user’s range of thought, which is realised with a minimal vocabulary of limited denotation and connotation; hence words such as: crimethink (thought crime), doublethink (accepting contradictory beliefs), and Ingsoc (English Socialism).
“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.”
The character Syme discusses his work on the latest edition of the Newspeak Dictionary: “By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of The Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “Freedom is Slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
Now Orwell was using this material on a whole society and the mechanisms and control systems to accomplish something like that and keep it in play for generation after generation simply haven’t been invented yet. The closest the world has come as far as I can tell to this was Communist Russia which fell apart after less than 100 years but I can’t speak intelligently about Communist China and how it has used language on its people to influence their thinking.
Examples from Scientology:
It’s been said that Scientology has more control mechanisms than any other destructive cult and one of these is how L. Ron Hubbard put a lot of emphasis on the definitions of words.
– very exacting about looking up words in dictionaries
– word clearing techniques
– meant to instill exact thought patterns, to get Scn thinking specific ways
English: a hypothetical permanent change in the brain accounting for the existence of memory; a memory trace.
Scientology: (1) a mental image picture which is a recording of a time of physical pain and unconsciousness. It must by definition have impact or injury as part of its content. (HCOB 23 Apr 69) 3. a complete recording, down to the last accurate detail, of every perception present in a moment of partial or full unconsciousness. (Scn 0-8, p. 11)
English: the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.
Scientology: 1. a symptom of an overt act having been committed. (SH Spec 37, 6409C01) 2. a critical pc = a withhold from the auditor. (HCOB 23 Aug 71)
This goes further in Scientology:
CRITICISM, 1 . most criticism is justification of having done an overt. There are rightnesses and wrongnesses in conduct and society and life at large, but random, carping 1.1 criticism when not borne out in fact is only an effort to reduce the size of the target of the overt. (HCOB 21 Jan 60, Justification) 2 . a criticism is a hope that they can damage, and that’s what a criticism is, with an inability to do so. (SH Spec 119, 6202C22)
NATTER, sometimes pcs who have big overts become highly critical of the auditor and get in a lot of snide comments about the auditor. Such natter always indicates a real overt. (HCOB 7 Sept 64 II)
Creates a mindset of introversion and guilt.
1. the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone. “women bear children and take responsibility for child care”
2. the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.
“the group has claimed responsibility for a string of murders”
3. the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.
“we would expect individuals lower down the organization to take on more responsibility”
Originally, in Science of Survival in 1951, his definition was sensible: “the area or sphere of influence the individual can rationally affect around other people, life, mest and the general environment.” (SOS, p. 142)
But then came Advanced Procedure and Axioms in late 1951 and everything changed:
1. the ability and willingness to assume the status of full source and cause for all efforts and counter-efforts on all dynamics. (AP&A, p. 57) 2. when one speaks of responsibility he means “the determination of the cause which produced the effect.” (AP&A, p. 62) 3. full responsibility is not fault; it is recognition of being cause. (AP&A, p. 58)
Clarification of this from AP&A:
“It means responsibility for all acts, all emotions on every dynamic and in every sphere as one’s own. It includes such “disrelated” data as the death ofan individual one has never met on a highway on which one has never traveled at the hands of a stranger, no matter how culpable. One does not “send to find for whom the bell tolls” without full willingness to have tolled it and to have caused the cause of its tolling.”
“There is a cycle of responsibility. One acts andseeks to negate his responsibility for such action by placing the “reason” at another’s door. This works so longas one succeeds in making another accept responsibility for the action. The moment this action fails and another does not accept it, the entire action comes back at one. It is then a matter of fault and fixed (by another) blame and stirs the emotion of “guilt.” Before this cycle begins, there is no aberration, no matter what has been done, no matter what has happened to anyone. The action occurs, but is no cause for discussion or justice until one seeks to shuntcause elsewhere than self. This starts the cycle and eventually comes back as “fault.” Full Responsibility is not fault, it is recognition of being cause.”
“A soldier shot on the field of a battle may “blame” the sniper, the Selective Service, the stupidity of government. But he nevertheless had Full Responsibility not only for being there and getting shot, but for the sniper, Selective Service and the stupidity of government.”
This stuff was not popular in 1951 and Hubbard put it away, but hauled it back out in 1960 for security checking. Followers were more devoted and willing to listen.
Talk about sec checking, O/Ws and how Hubbard tied this in to OT.
Personal consequences of the influence of these words:
– Slavish devotion
– Introversion, blame and self-flaggelation
– Yet also a delusional concepts of one’s own importance and sphere of influence
Importance of language is something to think about and keep in mind
– We are communicated at all day every day
– The words that the media and politicians use are carefully thought out
– Intended to create an effect in us and make us think and act in certain ways
The importance of this cannot be overstated