Noam Chomsky: The Hidden Meanings Cloaked in America's Bland Political Language

The month of dissecting Donald Trump's win has brought about many theories to explain Clinton's loss, but the most frustrating one, for Democrats, may be communication.


“Politicians don’t appeal to us. Clinton would go out of her way to appeal to minorities, immigrants, but she didn’t really for everyday Americans," Shannon Goodin, a 24-year-old Owosso, Michigan resident and first-time voter told Time magazine in a piece titled 'Meet the Voters Who Helped Put Donald Trump in the White House.'

"Just about every word that's used in social and political discourse has two meanings; it has its literal meaning and a meaning that's used for political warfare which is often quite different," retired MIT professor and social critic Noam Chomsky explained. 

In 1956, Chomsky developed a hierarchy of grammars known as the Chomsky hierarchy. 

"Take, say, the notion 'person,'" Chomsky said. "It's very interesting to see the way that's evolved in American law up to the present and used in a way which is highly significant right now."

"Go back to the Magna Carta," he continued. "It says all free men have certain rights: jury trial, due process... a couple centuries later that was expanded to free people, when it cross[ed] the Atlantic and enter[ed] the constitutional system it was modified again [to mean] free white men." 

These restrictions left out huge swathes of the population. 

"Blacks are out, and of course, the indigenous population are out. They have no rights; 'exterminate them,' and women were out...they couldn't vote till the 1920s," Chomsky noted.

Many of the first amendments tell the same story. 

"The Fifth Amendment says 'no person shall be deprived of rights.' It didn't mean the indigenous population, it didn't mean blacks... it didn't even mean women and it didn't even mean poor [white] men because [of] union poll taxes and various kinds of restrictions," he explained. 

"When you get to the 14th Amendment, the words changed. It's expanded again, the same phrase: 'no person shall be deprived of rights.' It [then] technically included freed slaves that was only technical... they didn't even formally get it right until the 1960s." 

Chomsky pointed that expansion of the term "person" into the next two centuries even began to include corporations. On the other hand, a group with a population of millions is still left out: "Undocumented immigrants."

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