The Corona New Speak
With the new normal comes a new language, which deprives the terms of their original meaning and ultimately completely reinterprets them.
by Markus Vollack
[This article published on March 18, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, Der Corona-Neusprech | Rubikon.news.]
The first victim in a war is always language. Every new narrative, every mainstream narrative, and every great ideology needs its own language to anchor itself in people's hearts and minds. This is, of course, all the more true for the totalitarian transformation of the world under the banner of Corona. First, new terms of defamation were created: Corona deniers, conspiracy theorists, Aluhut. Furthermore, an authoritarian language is creeping in, which was once more reserved for dictatorial regimes or prisons. Human normality is being criminalized — 'easing orgies' — and completely unthinkable combinations of words are being devised — 'illegal children's birthday'. Above all, the virus is personalized in order to distract from one's own fault. With the increase of obfuscating words, the spirit of most people also darkens; With the brutalization of language, the actions of the powers of order, as well as, unfortunately, of many citizens, are also coarsening up. Resistance to an inhumane policy therefore always begins with the uncovering and combating of an increasingly dehumanizing language.
Old terms take on a new meaning. New words are supposed to define the mentally permitted thought framework. Defamation vocabulary narrows the opinion corridor. Attitude and attitude are now before reason, rationality and common sense. Language shapes not only our communication, but also our thinking. In the last 40 years, it has been above all the language of neoliberal market radicalism that has not only defined our everyday life, but has eaten deep into our emotional world. But language manipulation is also a proven tool in the preparation and conduct of wars. The "Corona pandemic" has, once again, covered our language with poison and bile.
First of all, the subject of language manipulation has been close to my heart for more than 15 years. My diploma thesis in political science, at the beginning of 2009, dealt with the topic "Neoliberalism and Language". In it, I examined the meaning and use of the concepts of flexibility, ownership and freedom among the parties. Already on April 23, 2008 my guest section Nomen non est omen started on the blog "ad sinistram" with my esteemed colleague Roberto J. De Lapuente. With the birth of the ZG blog in September 2008, the Neusprech section was continued there with more than 180 contributions so far. A clear contribution to the topic can be found here.
In the following, I would like to venture a brief introduction to the language of the Corona pandemic. The sheer volume only allows for incompleteness. The dedicated colleague at DS-pektiven has already provided a helpful overview on October 9, 2020.
"Newspeak" is an important political instrument of domination in George Orwell's novel "1984." Corona language is primarily a language of violence. It enacts prohibitions and instructions for action, raises the moral finger, devalues criticism and people, criminalizes everyday life, and deeply interferes with privacy.
The Ministry of Truth proclaims:
"Do not believe any rumors, but only the official communications, which we always also have translated into many languages" (Angela Merkel, in March 2020).
I already wrote a list of the negatively connoted fighting terms suddenly springing up on May 19, 2020. These include: Corona Relativizer, Corona Denier, Corona Skeptic, Conspiracy Theorist, Aluhut and many more. To date, this has been applied to all people who express criticism of policies or ask uncomfortable questions. What is new is that it no longer seems to make any difference whether the arguments are brought into the discourse by laymen or by scientists. For example, the medical experts and scientists Dr. Wolfang Wodarg and Professor Sucharit Bhakdi, who are very renowned in their fields, were very quickly assigned the negatively connoted labels conspiracy theorist, AfD-affiliated and corona denier.
In general, pejorative terms have the function of preventing any debate, any discourse, and any professional-analytical and argumentative exchange.
By sticking ugly words on protagonists, one makes them personae non gratae. Henceforth, one may, should and must no longer listen to them. For decades, politicians and the mass media - recently also so-called fact checkers and watchbloggers - have been using this method to suppress and defame topics, issues, people and facts that are unpleasant for them. People are quickly declared to be anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, right-wing populists, climate deniers or even covidiots.
The language of violence
The following terms are primarily authoritarian in character; fundamental rights and freedoms as well as empathy have been stripped from them. In addition, they are regarded as instructions for action without alternatives. Some terms even have strong associations and references to past unjust states. For example, people talk about a "quarantine regime" or proclaim a "total lockdown. There is unabashed hatred of people being acted out via Twitter: #SterbenmitStreeck. Contacts are "pursued" and "contacts are forbidden. The Weimar judge Guericke described the contact ban as a "serious encroachment on the general freedom of action pursuant to Art. 2 (1) GG." Also the "camps" are again there! Paraphrased with the following words:
- Forced segregations
- forced admissions
- Quarantine breakers
- Central collection points
The meaning as well as the definition of the human being as an individually appreciative, autonomously acting and self-determined subject got strong cracks in the Corona pandemic.
Humans are now primarily a potential threat, a virus carrier, a superspreader, a bioweapon, a disease vector, and a reinfection. It is the language of managed objects of the ruling authorities. All in the name of public health - a term, by the way, that also recalls darker times. At times, it all sounds like prison slang: there is "loosening," "tightening," or "isolating away." People who are having fun and enjoying themselves, laughing, dancing and listening to music are staging a "super spreader event" in pandemic-speak. Are these still terms of a free democratic basic order? What image of man is being cemented here? What values are being semantically demanded and promoted here?
Word creations and criminalization
This includes all terms that were not used in public or social discourse or in scientific discourse before the pandemic. These include, for example, the negatively connoted "lockdown discussion orgies," "opening fantasies," "lockdown contests," or "opening discussion orgies." Quite as if the lockdown as well as the restriction of fundamental rights were the normal state of affairs, i.e. the new normality, and everyone who wants to have their fundamental rights back is having competitions or fantasies. The new normality was already proclaimed in the spring of 2020 and involves establishing the state of crisis and emergency, including the restriction of fundamental rights, as an everyday life of millions of people without alternatives.
Who would have thought two years ago that we would soon be talking about "illegal children's birthday parties"? The private is not only made public, but also criminalized. There are tobogganing children being chased away by the police. There are weddings being stormed and church services being interrupted. Nationwide control days" are proclaimed. Every form of human interaction is transfigured into a crime: "illegal gatherings" or "illegal carnival celebrations."
Even the supposedly harmless farewell formula "Stay healthy!" is actually a subtle threat. After all, what if I get sick? Am I then no longer deserving of compassion and empathy? Will I then have only myself to blame because I supposedly didn't submissively go along with everything? Will I then be socially ostracized and shunned - quarantined? Or more radically, what if I have no problem getting sick? Am I then immediately a "selfish elder killer"? "The AHA rules must no longer be questioned." RKI President Wieler
The virus as enemy and subject
A very conspicuous phenomenon for rhetorically evading any political responsibility is, on the one hand, to shift it to the population by dutifully supporting and participating in all measures and, on the other hand, to speak of the virus as an acting subject that is supposed to bear the responsibility for all consequences and collateral damage. They say, for example, that the virus requires a lockdown. It is not the political actors who decide on it, nor the panic media that fuel it - or let it be, as in Sweden or Belarus - but the virus wants it that way.
The virus drives cities to ruin, raises taxes and duties, is insidious and never tires, it causes bankruptcies, obesity and suicides. And, "It doesn't give up!". So has a will of its own. At the forefront of infantile personalization tactics is the rule-stabilizing "fact checker" correctiv.org:
- "It is not the measures against the virus that are the cause of bankruptcies, unemployment and national debt, but the virus.
- The power of the viruses feeds only on the stupidity of our species.
- (...) it forces billions of people to live differently, to work, to manage, to travel, to learn, to love, to die.
- The virus infects not only human bodies, but even more the human society and social consciousness.
- (...) the virus is disintegrating our society.
- (...) that no state in the world can protect it from the social force of the virus.
- It promotes nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, social division.
- The virus ignites an internal civil war.
- Rulers and ruled believed they could play with the virus."
In this completely absurd thinking, there are no excessive and/or disproportionate, politically quite deliberate measures, but only constraints and actions and concepts without alternatives.
By the way, the same discursive strategy and shifting of responsibility was applied to demographic change and globalization.
All fate. Natural disasters. Made by God. From now on, all socio-economic-ecological damage will be blamed on the almighty and omnipotent virus. Exactly this we will experience the next years - when the social cruelties come - again and again medially. We must not fall for this: Because a virus cannot increase taxes, expand the surveillance state or decide on social cuts!