Language can be quite a thing and it’s amazing sometimes to see how people can take words, ideas and concepts and try to twist them into something that is totally different. Many people make a living doing it, myself included. Some do it very well and some do it cleverly, joining dots that make sense and really drive home a point. It can be quite the artistic thing to see in my opinion.
But like with any artistic endeavour, there is another side of this art; the bad and simply absurd. Politics and political parties are full of so many examples of this kind of wordsmithing that either makes no sense, is beyond a stretch or simply becomes the object of complete and utter ridicule. Many times, those ridiculed have earned it with ridiculous language that even George Orwell would never have thought to use because it would be too unbelievable. Let’s face it, some certain political parties or groups often try to push those boundaries even further. Today we just saw a stunner of an example from the United States, one that caught my attention and blew my mind:
Freedom Gas!!! Molecules of Freedom!!! Twirling and twirling toward Freedom!!! That is the language now behind used by the Trump Department of Energy to describe oil and gas, specifically in a press releasing announcing the approval of an LNG project in Texas. The press release goes on to say that the project is critical to “spreading freedom gas” around the World. As the news piece on this describes, this wordsmithing comes from US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry American LNG is “freedom gas” because it’s being sold to European countries, helping them get off of Russian LNG. As he was quoted as that instead of sending American troops to bring freedom to Europe, they’re sending natural gas.
Regardless of your views on LNG, the use of fossil fuels and alike, I think that across the spectrum we can agree that calling LNG “freedom gas” is as ridiculous as calling French fries “Freedom Fries” was over a decade ago. Not only is this kind of language a crazy stretch, it really devalues the whole idea of freedom when you try to wrap it in things that have no barring on freedom itself. Freedom is an important thing, something that we value in our society and many times take for granted. The inherent implication of this language is also seriously troubling: if you don’t support LNG, are you therefore against Freedom? If natural gas is all about freedom, are other energy sources all about tyranny and evil? Using the word plays on these very concepts of good versus evil and are powerful. So, the idea that any elected government anywhere would try to wrap a product for export in such terms is disrespectful of those who fought for that freedom and is just a crass attempt to rebrand a product. It’s the worst kind of wordplay and should not be used.
But is it really surprising that this would come from the Trump administration of all place? Hardly, that’s the least shocking part of it. What’s more worrying to me is seeing other governments and parties, including those here in Canada, trying to copy such language, in an attempt to further their own goals. We’ve seen this already done many times since the election of Trump, so it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility.
I am an admirer of creative language, creating vivid images through words and finding new ways to connect with the public, but this is none of that. This is more propaganda more than anything else, something that doesn’t help us come to a consensus on important issues and only drives us further into divided corners. That’s not good for democracy and ironically, not good for our freedom. I wish that more people would keep that in mind when they try to wrap themselves in these words like this, but that might be a bit much to ask these days. Let’s hope that this language turns into nothing more than another ridiculed phrase that joins so many others in the dustbin of history.