I saw the new movie, Arrival this weekend. I wasn’t going to see it but decided at the last minute to give it a try. Good choice. Besides being a multi-genre, well acted movie, Arrival delivers the perfect quotable line for this season. No, not the holiday season, the season of post-election trauma and the race to establish a new media narrative that will discredit Trump and “get our minds right” before the new President takes office. Here it is:
Language is the first weapon drawn in conflict
Jeremy Renner’s character, a physicist, takes issue with this and insist that technology is the first weapon drawn in conflict. Oddly enough, Eugene Peterson, author of The Message bible, put these things together for me a long time ago. In his book Answering God, Peterson says
A tool that is made of words is no less a tool than one made of steel.
Peterson says what Arrival eventually shows: words are technology, and the most potent weapons humans can control. And they are the first weapons drawn in conflict. This is true because no matter whether the conflict is between two savages fighting over a kill or between two nations fighting over an island, the conflict is ideological. Because the idea is primitive (“This is mine!”) doesn’t make it less ideological. Whoever controls language controls the battle for the ideas that rise and dominate the culture. Idea comes from the Greek word “to see” and it means “to form a pattern.” This is what words do. It is what they accomplish.
Is this too generic to grasp? Try to see it this way; by any measure homosexuality is a minority characteristic in the world. The highest number associated with percentage of population that is gay is 10%, but that number is generally thought to be more than twice the actual number. It would be both careful and generous to put the number at 5%. And the number of transgendered people would be much less than that, perhaps one half of one percent of the population. Yet the national “conversation” of the past several years by any measure has been dominated by LGBT ideas; gay rights, gay marriage, gay cakes, transgender bathrooms in school… Why? Because the people who set the national narrative have flooded the zone with their words and therefore their ideas (patterns). They’ve done it with gay characters in TV and movies, they’ve done it with covering relatively minor news stories with national attention. They’ve done it with strategically placed words, not the least of which is the coopting of the word “gay” as a replacement for the more harsh sounding “homosexual.” If you are keeping score you’d have to say that people who want to promote LGBT issues have taken great chunks of ground in their ideological war. If you want to check on this just ask a millennial what they think the percentage of gay people in America is. You will get an answer anywhere from 25-50%. And that is effective use of words.
This week the cry from the Elites and Establishment has been the need to get rid of “fake news.” Obama for all intents and purposes blamed the election result on the electorate being misinformed and lied to by people distorting facts. The Washington Post ran a story on how to detect fake news and Facebook is in full witch hunt mode to search for and destroy sources of fake news. This is actually a recognition that they’ve lost control of the war of words. It has nothing to do with a concern for accuracy in reporting. If you want a rehash of some of the real fake news we’ve been treated to in the past 8-12 years here are a few:
- Dan Rather and the faked story of George W. Bush’s National Guard service, complete with utterly falsified documents.
- Brian Williams the lead NBC anchor claiming to have flown in combat missions over Iraq and that he was in Berlin the day the wall fell, and so and and so forth.
- Hillary Clinton and Obama tell us the Benghazi attacks happened because of a YouTube video.
- Hillary Clinton didn’t hide and emails from the public, and so and so forth.
- Obama says if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor and that Healthcare premiums will go down in order to sell Obamacare.
- East Anglia University emails that show Climate Change data is being faked to create a narrative of global warming.
There are actually too many examples to list. Actually the term “Fake News” is a piece of technology; a new weapon in the war of words. It is meant to make us doubt news stories that don’t derive from “acceptable” news outlets. But really, after what we’ve been treated to over the past 18 months, does anyone believe the New York Times, NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times are the Swiss in the war of words? Maintaining neutrality at all costs? Give us a break. There are too many ears listening now and too many reporters with their own arsenal of words. Some of them are as nutty as the day is long and some are liars on par with the professional liars. Fake news is not a new problem. When Nehemiah was trying to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem he was fed a constant flow of baloney from the Establishment and Elites of his day who stood to lose all their power if he completed his task. Like him, we need discernment, especially in an era of non-stop 24 hour a day word warfare. That’s why I am going to stick to Peterson’s use of words:
Prayer is a tool that is made, mostly, of words. All the tools are essential: the plow for farming, the book for learning, pots for cooking, prayers for believing. All the sources of our action-body, mind, spirit-are dependent on tools. Every part of our humanity is in the tool-using business. Life is the issue, human life: living well, living whole in a world in which God is in action. To live as a human being means that we use tools. Animals get by without tools, and angels get by without tools, but humans need tools. We live well or badly by means of the tools we have and how well we use them.
I think Nehemiah would agree.