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Professor Elizabeth Warren Offers Class in Political Linguistics

Monday, November 25, 2019

Professor Elizabeth Warren Offers Class in Political Linguistics

Gun control advocates understand the power of language, if not the effective use of it. Over the years the anti-gun establishment has attempted to move away from the term “gun control” to more benign-sounding alternatives such as “commonsense gun safety” or “gun reform.” Their goal of civilian disarmament has remained constant, but the language has changed. Gun control advocates calculate that such shifts in language will further their political aims by obscuring their policy goals. 

On November 17, waning 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted the following,

Traffic violence kills thousands and injures even more Americans every year. On World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Crash Victims, I'm sending my love to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones. It's time to #EndTrafficViolence.

Warren was not referencing the intentional misuse of motor vehicles to attack drivers or pedestrians. Warren used the term “traffic violence” to refer to the common car accident. 

According to the Department of Transportation, there were 6,452,000 police reported car accidents in the U.S. in 2017. An insurance industry estimate contended that the average driver files a collision claim about once every 18 years, and therefore will experience about 3-4 accidents over the course of their lifetime. Little did you know that the time you were involved in a fender bender in the mall parking lot you were a perpetrator of “traffic violence.” 

Motor vehicle accidents are tragic and adversely impact millions of people per year. However, terming such events as violence is purposely misleading and done for political effect. Given Warren’s statist proclivities, she may have some new intrusive government regulation or program in mind.

Colloquially understood, the term violence is reserved for the intentional use of physical force against another person.

Think about it in the context of other circumstances. If a roofer falls off a ladder, is that ladder or workplace violence? If a doctor makes a medical error, is that medical violence? If a child drowns in a swimming pool, is that water or swimming pool violence? The answers are obvious.

Warren’s mischaracterization of car accidents as “traffic violence” has a parallel in the gun debate. Gun control supporters lump many instances where a firearm is involved as “gun violence,” regardless of the facts, such as a criminal homicide with a firearm or purely an accident. This linguistic trick has severe consequences for the public’s understanding of the firearms issue

Like Warren, gun controllers understand that words matter. Gun rights supporters must remain skeptical of the language used by anti-gun advocates and equip themselves with the knowledge to effectively confront their deceptive messaging.

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