Intentional Distortion through Linguistic Artifacts

  • “Either you believe or you don’t.”
  • “You’re either a liar, or you’re not.”
  • “Either he raped her or he didn’t.”
  • “You’re either in love, or you’re not.”
  • “Either you’re a murderer or you’re not.”
  • “You’re either his brother, or you’re not.”

All of the previous statements have been disingenuously made by those attempting to employ linguistic artifact to distort reality as a defense of their position.

Let me explain.

For all of the aforementioned terms of belief, lying, rape, love, murder, and brother, there is no actual dichotomy as the statements imply.

Belief can come in degrees. You can tend to believe something, and a rational mind attempts to map belief to the balance of the available evidence rather than flipping from disbelief (or non-belief) to belief at some threshold of evidence.

Lying comes in degrees ranging from avoiding direct answers and letting assumptions go uncorrected, to strongly affirming the opposite of what is known to be factual.

Rape is committed in real contexts that vary in their degree of intentional violation and injury. Even as defined by law, rape comes in degrees ranging from statutory rape to 1st degree rape.

Love is clearly not binary. It falls on a quantitative continuum as well as differing qualitatively.

Murder, in addition to having legally-defined sub-categories, is committed with varying degree of intent and maliciousness.

Even the term “brother” is not discretely defined. There are half-brothers, step-brothers, and tribal notions of brotherhood.

Due to the linguistic artifacts of language, terms employed to reflect the reality of the gradient nature of concepts such as belief, lying, rape, love, and murder, as well as the less than binary categories of “brother” are inherently inadequate to capture the full concept. The shame comes in the intentional co-opting of this inadequacy of language to intentionally employ the connotative force of the terms to distort the reality of a situation.

This was done by those telling the world that Obama neglected his “brother”, intentionally avoiding the more accurate nuanced term “half-brother”. If you claim you are technically correct while ignoring whether you are maximally informative, then you ought to be ashamed.

The power of linguistic artifact is employed when calling someone a “liar” and not employing the linguistic nuances that are available to indicate the severity.

This is shameless device of linguistic distortion is employed by those wanting the strongest negative connotation of “rape” to be used without nuance when indexing an intrusive sexual act. (Don’t you dare suggest I am condoning intrusive sexual advances.)

This, more humorously, is done in marriages when one partner asks the other “Do you love me?”, knowing full well that the concept of love is quantitatively gradient and qualitatively nuanced.

And every world leader in history has been called a “murderer” due to his/her decisions that resulted in actions that lead to unintended deaths.

You can abuse language in this way in an attempt to evoke emotions that may sway the less-than-insightful to your cause, but, among the less credulous, you only destroy your credibility.

And anyone making binary statements about clearly less-than-binary concepts such as the 6 above is to be dismissed as either grossly misguided or mendacious.


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