Subverting Language

Taboos have always altered over time as societies and language cultures have slowly evolved. We’ve discussed this before. The great, empowering revelation for social science theorists and activists, has been that, in the age of social media, taboos can be manufactured. 

In the past, it took time, possibly generations, for a word to change, or alter its associations. It had to spread through populations, by word of (literal) mouth. Many, many people had to use it repeatedly, in its newly evolving sense, for that meaning to take hold.

Now, however, the required critical mass of usage can be generated in days, due to the enormous broadcast of the internet. Plotted on a time/ population graph, usage would not rise incrementally as it travelled horizontally along the X (time) axis, it would spike suddenly upwards along the vertical Y (population) axis.

This plural usage is created not within one community, over time, and then taken into others, creeping slowly out, with years to bed into social discourse. Instead it is instantly exported across the whole dark continent that is the internet, generating the necessary levels of usage across nations rather than time, but rootlessly so, so that its meanings need to be imposed by those with apparent authority, and are highly volatile, changeable. 

The demotic nature of the internet is of benefit to the theorists, activists and language mavens. It is genuinely less hierarchical, more egalitarian, but that makes it much more difficult to work out who has genuine expertise and who is a quack, a snake-oil salesman. Authority is reduced to an assertive way of talking, a confident, declarative manner. 

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