Rebecca Watson: unleashing her inner Goebbels (Wikimedia Commons)

Karl Popper, one of the grandfathers of the philosophy of science, popularised the concept of falsifiability to define the inherent testability and, by extention, validity of any scientific hypothesis.

Umberto Eco extends this philosophical approach into the realms of human communications in his 1976 work A Theory of Semiotics

Semiotics is in principle the discipline studying everything which can be used in order to lie. If something cannot be used to tell a lie, conversely it cannot be used to tell the truth: it cannot in fact be used “to tell” at all.

In other words, as far as language, information and communication goes, there is no such thing as “neutrality”1. There is only true or false. It is not possible for true to ever be false, but false more often than not attempts to masquerade as true – whether it’s conscious deception or the full blown cognitive disorder of the true-believer, the falsehood remains false and even the worst perpetrator, deep down inside, has the knowledge that it is false. Those that choose to disturb the voice of the conscience inside the minds of those that wish to believe falsehoods to be true run the risk of unleashing quite a demonic level of hostility. And we’ve rather had our noses rubbed in all of that lately…

So when Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina and cohorts utilise language and communications to create reality distortions, deceptions and manipulations on such a grand scale that it would make Joseph Goebbels blush, it is positively an invitation, and duty, to expand our own vernacular in countermeasure. Sophist waffle needs to be defined before it can be apprehended, and without definition, it is all the more easy for these stage magician tricks to ensnare the unwary. So for the sake of extending our language in this semantic arms race, here are a few new terms for the self-defense arsenal0.

Ad himinem (more…)