I don’t think that the phenomenon I am going to discuss in this post is anything new, but it is certainly something that is much more common nowadays thanks, in particular, to the delights of social media. And when the ‘leader of the free world’ indulges in it, it is only going to become even more commonplace.
The phenomenon I am referring to is extremely lazy, but can be very effective, particularly when directed towards a receptive audience. It does away with such inconveniences as a reasoned argument, and instantly gets susceptible readers on-side. It is the technique of adding a derogatory prefix to mention of one’s enemies, or targets.
Let us return to the President of the United States to explain. Now, you may think that as he beat her in the race to the White House, Mr Trump may no longer feel the need to denigrate Hillary Clinton. However, for reasons best known to him, he does still feel that need, particularly when using his favourite medium of Twitter. Thus, when he refers to ‘Hillary’ he invariably prefixes that name with the word ‘crooked’. It is therefore ‘crooked Hillary’, in all Twitter references to her. The term is not explained – it does not need to be – it is as if it is a given. And the constant repeating of the message drums it in.
Unfortunately, we are seeing this phenomenon increasingly arising in the debate surrounding the family justice system, in particular its fitness for purpose and what reforms are needed. I’ll give two examples.
The first example is one I’ve given here before: the addition of the prefix ‘corrupt’ to all uses of the term ‘family courts’. Thus we have those who find it necessary, or irresistible, to always refer to the ‘corrupt family courts’, as if that is an unarguable given. Of course it is not, but there are many gullible people who will read this nonsense and believe it is. In fact the use of the word ‘corrupt’ in relation to the family courts is actually quite absurd – an example of hyperbole, or deliberate exaggeration used for effect. The family courts are no more corrupt than any other state body working for the general good, such as the National Health Service.
The second example of this phenomenon appearing in connection with the family justice system (and, indeed, with the justice system generally) is the addition of the prefix ‘out of touch’ to all uses of the word ‘judge’ or ‘judges’. Thus we are regularly hearing of ‘out of touch judges’, as if it is axiomatic that all judges are closeted away from the realities of life for the rest of the population, unaware of what things are really like for ‘ordinary’ people, or of the views of such people. In fact, most judges are probably more aware of such things than the average ‘man in the street’, being more informed about the ‘realities of life’, through their own knowledge and experience. Yes, there may still be some judges who fit into this hackneyed stereotype, but they are few and far between. To paint the entire judiciary as being ‘out of touch’ is at best extremely lazy, and at worst a deliberate act of dishonesty, aimed once again at deceiving the gullible.
And that is the real issue here. As I am sure the current President of the United States fully understands, no informed or discerning person is going to be deceived by the use of these derogatory prefixes. However, such people are not the targets. The real targets are those who are not informed, and who are prepared to accept what they hear or read at face value, at least from sources they trust. In this way it is easy to gather supporters to your cause, without the tiresome necessity of having to put forward a reasoned argument.
In the realm of family law this means that those who seek to destroy the system have an unfair advantage, adding to their numbers and making it more difficult for the powers that be to ignore them. For this reason we must challenge the use of cheap tricks like derogatory prefixes whenever we can, rather than giving them a free ride.
A derogatory prefix does not make it so.
Image by Christopher Sessums via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence