Words, words, words. You’re reading some right now! But have you ever noticed how some groups of people use words differently? Government, for example, seems to speak a foreign language sometimes. Advertising agencies use certain ‘buzzwords’ to catch the attention of particular demographic groups. Political parties & movements are no different. Here in Ulster, one political movement uses language much more effectively than the rest. That movement is Provisional Sinn Fein. Over the last 15-20 years, PSF have honed their use of semantics. They have become ever more effective at using language as a weapon. In that same period of time, the Loyalist/Unionist community have stood still, generally preferring ‘plain talking’ to the sort of linguistic gymnastics performed by Irish nationalists. This is a real concern, or it should be, to anyone with a genuine concern for the political process in NI, because Provisional Sinn Fein are not just using semantics to promote their agenda, they are using it to stereotype, denigrate & dehumanise the Loyalist working class & the pro-Union community in general. PSF & their supporters (and fellow travellers) have carefully cultivated an image of Loyalists as being uneducated, backward, ultra-conservative, racist, homophobic, reactionary, violent, uncultured & generally unsophisticated. This infantile stereotype goes unchallenged (or has up to now) & the NI media are, at the very least, acquiescent in this myth building (at worst they are actually helping to drive this dehumanisation.) To make sweeping generalisations about any community is unhelpful, to do so on a daily basis is more than unhelpful, it is downright dangerous. The constant portrayal of the U/L community as ‘knuckledraggers’ or ‘bitter bigots’, makes it easy for many in the Irish nationalist/republican community, to view their neighbours as being less than human, & therefore, make violence against the U/L community almost inevitable. PSF has decommissioned terms like ‘Planter’ or ‘Black bastards’, but just as PIRA replaced decommissioned weapons with new ones (imported from Florida), so PSF have merely exchanged one set of derogatory terms for a whole new set. They make the generalisation, the tell the lie, then they repeat it until ‘their community’ accepts it as truth.
It is time that we in the Unionist/Loyalist community began to challenge PSF’s puerile stereotype of our community. Traditionally, the U/L community has had to be self-reliant, we are going to have to be again. The politically biased media will push the Irish nationalist agenda. The so-called ‘mainstream’ of political Unionism will, as usual, bury their heads in the sand until it is too late. Loyalists need to become far more savvy, more media literate & more sophisticated in our use of language. Just as PSF have weaponized their vocabulary, so too must Loyalists. Do not parrot PSF buzzwords, do not let republican stereotypes go unchallenged. Take every opportunity to remind the world how Irish nationalism allied itself with European fascism during WWII. Remind the world of the heinous crimes of republican death squads. Use your head & choose your words carefully. During The Troubles, Ulster Loyalism lost the ear of the international community & lost the propaganda battle. We cannot afford to lose the ‘war of words’. PSF see our community as sub-human, a view they would love the rest of the world to share. History has taught us what happens when one group dehumanises another to such a point. Through social media, through lobbying of the traditional media, we can challenge the stereotyping of the U/L community. There is no such thing as a ‘typical Loyalist’, just as there is no such thing as a typical republican. There is no such thing as a ‘flegger’ or a ‘snout’. Everybody is somebody & everybody deserves respect! No community, no ethnic group, no social class in Europe would accept their community being labeled & typified in the way that the U/L community has been in the last 15-20 years. PSF & Irish nationalism as a whole, is using language & semantics to attack the U/L community, it’s time for Loyalists & Unionists to respond. Every word is a weapon. Choose yours carefully!