Gianfranco is a student at St. John's University, who has a passion for learning and helping others.
Words Do Matter
"Yes We Can," "Make America Great Again," even "It's the economy, stupid" won people's hearts over, and more importantly swayed their vote. These campaign slogans are just small examples of how words can effectively decide how a person feels about a candidate. I mean let's face it, "Ross for Boss" was simply never going to work. The truth is though, these particular slogans are, for the most part, harmless. This brings us to our quote and topic: what if the words used by politicians are actually harmful?
The Power of Persuasion
Rudyard Kipling, most famous for writing the endearing story The Jungle Book and the not so endearing poem "The White Man's Burden," once said "words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." Despite Kipling's questionable credibility, he is absolutely correct in his quote. The power of words is strong, and like a drug, heavily addictive. In addition, like a drug, words can be destructive in politics and even still the user will always come back for more.
For instance, two words in particular entered our vocabulary in 2016 by then-candidate Donald Trump: "fake news." The term at first was used to criticize news coverage Trump believed was false, which on the surface seems harmless but over time "fake news" has become a rallying cry for those who do not favor some stories in the news, even if the story is true. This eventually led a man to threaten to attack CNN headquarters in the name of "fake news." That is just one example of how two words uttered by a political figure could lead to potentially disastrous consequences. There are countless other examples across all party lines, some of which led to real violence. The fact is that in politics, the right words are the most powerful way to get one's message across and also to get people to buy into whatever the politician is saying.
The public must be weary of words that sound nice or sound as if they are tailor made for you because words truly do matter. That is the drug that Kipling alludes to, the idea that if the message feels good, there is no need to know if it is true or not, you just want more of it because it feels refreshing and comforting. In the quote, Kipling's matter-of-fact tone demonstrates his confidence in the power of words and their ability to inebriate people with feelings of fear, hope, and anger. This is partly why hopeful, or nationalistic slogans win, and not slogan's like "Ross for Boss."
With Great Power...
Words though, aren't all that bad in politics. Some messages inspire real emotions for noble and genuine reasons such as civil rights speeches, protest chants, and The Declaration of Independence to name a few. It is important to note that words are not always akin to drugs, words will always be the most sophisticated and effective means of communication between two people and someone who wields this skill should always use it in a responsible manner.