The Art of Keeping Silent

One thing I’ve discovered is that words truly do have power. There are two things that give words power: 1) The meaning behind its use, 2) the way the words are used. It’s a crude example but consider this. Nobody likes hearing a derogatory phrase in daily life, like the N-word. I don’t have to explain the meaning behind the word, the hate and the history that goes with it. That is the meaning behind its use that makes it unpleasant. But say you’re watching an old west movie and a character mentions it because that’s just how they spoke, then its use  is understandable. In today’s world that would be unacceptable and rightfully so, but in the movie it is the context of it that counts. That’s what confused so many people about Obama’s use of the N-word last month, the word itself is obviously full of hate but the President of the United States using it in a non discriminatory way took people by surprise.

We’ve been told since elementary school the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all,” which for the most part nobody follows. What that phrase leaves out is that our silence can have as much power as our words do. Think about the controversy this summer with the confederate flag, how did the story play out? Well the same way as every major news story. First there was an incident that sparked it, then the blame falls on somebody. In this case it was the confederate battle flag, at the Aurora shooting it went to how much ammunition people could buy, after Columbine it went to violent media. Often times these accusations are justified but regardless the blame has to go somewhere. After blame was placed there was an immediate backlash of people defending the item being blamed. The controversy grew and other stories were spawned from it, and suddenly the whole thing disappeared. People got tired, they stopped talking about it and moved on to something else.

Considering that practically every major news story plays out like that, what’s the most effective way to make it go away? Just simply don’t talk about it. If there is a bigger kid in school making fun of you, if you don’t respond he’ll get bored and go away. This bully metaphor is easily replaced with Donald Trump. Half the country loves him, the other half despises him. If the other half of the country stopped talking about him and giving him the attention that he wants, he wouldn’t be a big deal. It may be the trend to write about Trump’s candidacy but with every word you write, good or bad, you are contributing to his campaign by simply spreading his name. In that way there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The best reason to consistently write about a subject is to spread the message. Think of it as a battle, if you are rooting for Bernie Sanders to win the election then only write about Bernie Sanders, don’t respond to Trump because the rest of the country has already done that. The same goes with Rand Paul, if you want him to win keep spreading his name and try to let the other names disappear. It’s all like a game of chess.

I also realize that just by writing this I’m going against my own lesson, which is why these will be the only words I write about Trump for the time being. I’ll see a lot of other writers touch on the trending controversies when I prefer to stay out of them, because if I don’t like the topic I won’t say anything to make it go away faster instead of voicing my opinions and fueling the fire.

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21 thoughts on “The Art of Keeping Silent

  1. This is such an interesting post, and I agree 100 percent that words DO have meaning and actually can affect a person, despite what naysayers say about political correctness being fraudulent and unimportant. Hitler somehow got all of Germany on his side via words, millions of Germans believed, because of those words, that Jews were vermin, and that they needed to die because of this. I tell my dad (who is very against political correctness and thinks it’s “ruining the country”) repeatedly that words have meaning and power, but he doesn’t listen. I feel like I need to hit him over the head with the book 1984 to get my point across.

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  2. I agree that our attention and reaction to words is what gives them power. The same can be said of actions, extreme ideology, and power structures. Of course you can still suffer consequences from things that you generally ignore, but the cumulative, long term effect of focusing our attention on the positive is to diminish the negative.

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  3. Very well written.

    Although, I would have to disagree with the part where you said, “…I’m going against my own lesson…”

    I don’t see that “Trump” WAS the lesson (although maybe the inspiration.) I believe (and fully agree) that talking about something keeps it alive – and by just ignoring the ignorance, we can have more of an effect than by fighting with it on it’s own terms.

    That was what that I took from this. So thank you for sharing it.

    Have An Excellent Day!

    -C.

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  4. Hi, thanks for the like. 🙂 I think your writing is extremely disciplined and on point, not without losing the elegance of clarity! I wrote a much shorter similar thing in my last post funnily enough about the prevalent misuse of psychiatric terms in daily life by people who frankly have no idea. Thanks again.
    ~ P~

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  5. I’ve often thought the same thing about Ann Coulter. I’m a conservative woman who generally identifies as Republican, but she drives me nuts. I think she gives conservative women a bad name. I dislike her rhetoric and most of the time, I think she’s just plain vile. But she is a marketing genius, and for that, I can admire her. She writes a book, filled with poor writing and outlandish ideas and comments designed for nothing more than to get a rise out of the left. And it works. So media outlets all over the country get her on their shows so they can denounce her and argue with her and try to convince her why they are right and she is wrong. All the while they are giving her more press, more minutes of fame and more coverage of her book. So now a book that previously only right-winged nut jobs in America’s heartland like myself might have cared about is suddenly water-cooler fodder all over the country. And she often makes money going on the talk-show circuit. So she’s getting paid to promote her book and boost her sales by the same media outlets that hate her. Pure. Marketing. Genius. She has figured out a way to use her “enemies” to help her and promote her and make her very wealthy. I wish the media would do the left and the right a favor and just ignore her and her crazy. We’d all be a lot better off.

    Ditto for Trump. Let’s all please just ignore the nutjobs and make more room for practical, sane and legitimate candidates. I wish all of conservative America would realize we are better off losing without him than we ever will be winning with him.

    I enjoyed this post and others on your blog. Excited to read more of what you have to say as the political realm heats up!

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  6. Reblogged this on Goilala's District Development Forum Blog and commented:
    One thing I’ve discovered is that words truly do have power. There are two things that give words power:

    1) The meaning behind its use,
    2) the way the words are used. It’s a crude example but consider this. Nobody likes hearing a derogatory phrase in daily life, like the N-word.

    I don’t have to explain the meaning behind the word, the hate and the history that goes with it. That is the meaning behind its use that makes it unpleasant.

    But say you’re watching an old west movie and a character mentions it because that’s just how they spoke, then its use is understandable.

    In today’s world that would be unacceptable and rightfully so, but in the movie it is the context of it that counts. That’s what confused so many people about Obama’s use of the N-word last month, the word itself is obviously full of hate but the President of the United States using it in a non discriminatory way took people by surprise.

    Like

  7. I think you make a really good point about remaining silent, whether the topic is politics or just general media. The same advice goes for clicking on news articles, links etc for celebrities and various controversial topics. I know so many people who read about so-and-so celebrity, only because they dislike them and wish they would go away. Clicking on the article is counterproductive. Then the responses section is filled with negative comments. That’s still *more* counterproductive because their comments represent an even higher level of engagement in the topic. Love something or hate it, as long as people are engaged and interacting, there is incentive to continue reporting on it.

    Like

  8. Words have power, yes, but it is just as you said: we give words power. It is not as though these words were born with some intrinsic evil. Even the swastika was (and is) a holy symbol in the Hindu faith.

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  9. And here we are at the very end of the year and trump gets more attention then ever! But I agree, if we’d just so responding to his abrasive rhetoric it would help him slide into obscurity, but then he says some other outlandish thing to keep his name in the media. That must be why he does it.

    Like

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