[Notice] what passes for an insult these days. We call someone ‘dogmatic’ when we wish to imply that they are too rigid, when it is perhaps closer to the truth that their dogmas collide with ours. We consider being called ‘opinionated’ an insult; but we don’t use this word because someone happens to have an opinion – but because they have the wrong one or are pushy about it.
We call being ‘ideological’ a sin, not because having ideas is a sin, but because we think our ideas are better than others’. We accuse politicians of getting ‘political’ when what we actually mean is sectarian – not they had fallen into the heresy of having political thought. I also hear of people speaking of ‘propaganda’ as if it were a bad thing, and I wait for the punch line, and it never comes.
If I don’t like propaganda, it is because it is propagating an idea I don’t like, not merely because it attempts to propagate. (The word ‘agenda’, too, is often used like this.) Or, we hear of a group being denounced as ‘a cult,’ when it might have been more precise to call it a bad cult, for isn’t collective worship of anything a ‘cult?’
When we scoff at the manipulation of children by youth pastors in movies like Jesus Camp, calling it ‘indoctrination,’ it might have been clearer to say that children ought to be taught better doctrines.
[We] abuse language with a linguistic sleight-of-hand, distracting the mind by saying a disagreeable idea has a bias, whereas the magician remains unbiased.
– Haw, From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart, p. 130, emphasis mine.
(Via Jason Hood with thanks to Brian LePorte.)