How social justice and cults control language to control you

The social justice movement and cults both try to control language in order to control people’s thoughts and actions.

Vanessa Glavac Montreal QC

This is a series on how the social justice movement uses the same psychological strategies as those used by cults. Read the first and second installations here.

Language manipulation is an important thought control strategy used in cults–as well as in the Social Justice movement. Cult researcher and psychiatrist Robert Lifton calls this strategy “loading the language”. Being required to learn complex terminology, like we see in Scientology, affects members in a number of ways.

First, the need to translate everything into group jargon forces members to self-censor. It also slows down any criticism or opposition that they might otherwise have expressed.

Let’s see how this applies to social justice. For starters, if you’ve ever hesitated to say anything (including neutral or positive comments) about a protected group because you weren’t sure of the politically correct name for the group, you have experienced this effect. Many of us lament the constantly changing politically correct terms and how difficult it is to keep track of them; this is not accidental.

If you’re focused on trying to remember if the appropriate term is gay or homosexual or queer or LGBT or LGBTQ+, you’ll be paying less attention to the meat of the conversation. This will tax your ability to think critically about that new sex-ed curriculum or new legislation or the latest event that dresses kids in drag. And if you’re worried that you’ll offend someone because you’re unsure of the correct term, you’ll likely decide not to say anything at all.

And of course, you should be nervous. This strategy works in close conjunction with the strategy of social punishment–it’s not uncommon to see people socially shamed for use of an incorrect term, even by someone with good intentions.

Inducing censorship and shutting down spontaneous criticism is only one purpose of loading the language. The type of language used is also an important method in thought reform.

Another method is the strategy of creating new definitions for commonly used words. For example, the term “violence”. There are two definitions of this term. One is the English definition, as used by the general public:

Violence: the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy

The other is the definition used by social justice:

Violence: Any speech or action opposed to the ideals of social justice

Nearly everyone is opposed to violence under the English definition. However, not everyone is opposed to the publication of articles or ideas that criticize the ideals of social justice. So, the movement simply reframes criticism as “violence”, and then well-meaning people jump to their defense. (Much like the use of the term “hidden crimes” to mean criticism of Scientology.)

Let’s call this the Shield & Sword technique. First, the movement hides behind the traditional, unassailable definition of violence–the Shield. Then, they attack using the new definition–the Sword–and move to ban the critical speaker or article, calling it violence. This is how Antifa justifies physical violence in response to words and speakers.

Then, if anyone criticizes the operation under the new definition, they return to the old definition, using it as a shield. So how, exactly, is the old definition used as a defense? Well, if there are no examples of actual physical violence, an alternative method is to suggest that the criticisms will lead to violence.

For example:

Another strategy is to use words that are commonly related to violence. In this recent story, Jameela Jamil accused Candace Owens of “inciting mocking” of trans people. This use of the word “incite” makes Owens’ statement sound closely related to violence.

Of course, if we take a minute to think about it, “inciting mocking” actually means “saying something that might lead other people to make fun of them”. However, in day to day communication, we’re not able to stop and question the meaning of every single word we hear or use. This is how cults–and social justice–use language to shut down critical thinking.

In my last article, I mentioned how publications and critics of social justice are often given labels such as “alt-right”, “racist”, “phobic”, or “misogynistic”–thus immediately stopping would-be readers from viewing outside information critical of social justice. This is an extension of the Sword & Shield technique I mentioned earlier; the traditional definition of these words are things that reasonable people find abhorrent, such as judging people for the colour of their skin, or hatred of women or gay people. However, they are then applied to any idea or publication that criticizes any part of social justice. This strategy of language loading is then combined with the technique of social blacklisting to prevent cult members from even considering accessing outside information.

Some of these definitions get a little silly when you actually think about how they’re used, versus what the English words mean. For example:

Cultural genocide

English definition: Mass murder

Social justice definition: Practices that cause the decline of a people’s culture (excluding whites), such as the decline of their art or language

Right to exist

English definition: Right to life, right to be protected from murder

Social justice definition: A man’s right to be called a woman; a man’s right to access women’s spaces and services


English definition: Hatred of women

Social justice: Opposed to special treatment for women (eg affirmative action hiring programs); advocate for men’s issues; pro-life

Internally misogynistic

Social justice definition: A woman who is opposed to special treatment for women; a woman who advocates for men’s issues; a woman who is pro-life; a woman who criticizes another woman who is advocating for social justice

This last example, internally misogynistic, also illustrates a technique which protects the cult from holes in their logic. In my next article, I’ll explain how a cult’s ideology is always protected from criticism, and can never change. If social justice doctrine is ever found to be internally inconsistent or immoral, it will protect the doctrine–usually by pointing out why the critic or cult member is at fault.


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