If Americans are going to call each other names as we go through the elections of 2024, it’s a good idea if we all agree on what words actually mean — and avoid showing one’s ignorance by shouting a term that reveals you don’t know what you’re talking about. Otherwise, your usage of the word shows that your true goal is tearing people down, or showing your obvious bias (reporters should especially recognize this point.) 

Because words matter, here’s a guide to help us all agree on what we’re disagreeing about.

Book Ban. No phrase has been more misused — in its literal definition or historical context. A book ban means that a government has declared that it’s illegal to purchase, possess, obtain or sell a book. There is not one book banned in America.

When a local school board, librarian, teacher, principal or superintendent determines that a certain book should no longer be mandated reading, recommended, or extra credit reading, it’s not a ban: it’s an academic decision. When a school board, librarian, teacher, principal or superintendent decides that a book should be kept behind the librarian’s desk; may only be checked out by permission, is limited to a certain minimum age of the reader, or moved from the elementary school library to the middle or high school library, it’s not a banned book: it’s an academic decision.

No school library has a copy of every book ever written. Each district has a policy and budget in place to determine which books are or aren’t purchased; placed at which schools; are age-limited; kept behind the librarian’s desk; and, which are mandated reading or eligible for extra credit.

Furthermore, if the book in question is available at the local library, available for purchase at the local bookstore or superstore and/or may be downloaded onto a student’s phone, tablet or computer; it’s not a banned book. 

(By the way, does anyone ever ask if the school districts focused on making sure eleven-year-olds have access to “Gender Queer” also have the Bible or Koran, or books on abstinence, as mandated or available books? But, I digress…)

Having decision-makers making such decisions used to be a good thing, or at least was expected. It’s called using discretion. Middle-school libraries rarely have old copies of “Hustler” available for students, and most school libraries have search engine blocks to limit or prohibit children from accessing certain sites or terms. 

Discretion is why we don’t show young students pictures of those murdered and discarded on-top-of one another at World War II Nazi death camps. (However, in light of recent events, perhaps schools should do this. Again, I digress…)

Fascists. This term has been misused for several years to describe any or all of the following: Republicans, conservatives, and anyone opposing and fighting against government lockdowns and mandates.

Putting aside the merits of any of the above groups’ candidates or policies, it’s inaccurate at best, and intentional slander/libel to call any of the above “fascists.”

Fascism is a belief in a dictatorial, centralized government, suppressing opposition (by force when needed) and prohibiting the accumulation of wealth by individuals with the focus on empowering the state and its chosen people, led by a dictator.

Therefore, those who oppose government imposed lockdowns of individuals, schools and businesses — especially small business — correctly should be seen as opposing fascism. Those wanting to weaken or shrink the federal bureaucracy and strengthen state government or individuals are — in reality — opposing fascism. Those supporting all voices being heard — on campuses, in newspapers and on social media —are in realty acting as opponents of fascism. 

And, for the record, Nazis are fascists with antisemitism added to their ideology of abuses and inhumanity. A primary goal of German nazism was to eliminate the Jewish race—not conquer or punish them; but to remove them from the planet, never to return. 

Bonus definition—that’s what genocide is. That’s why the Nazis captured, abused and gassed six million Jews. (It’s also why Hamas focused on killing families and kidnapped, tortured and killed women, children and babies: part of their plan to rid the world of Jewish people.)

Liberal. While “book ban” has been misused more than anything else, the word “liberal” has the unique distinction of being the word most often misused by everyone — regardless of party or ideology.

Most Democrat officials, politicians, staffers and media are not liberals. They shouldn’t be flattered by being called liberals. In fact, there may be more “pro-life” Democrats than liberal Democrats amongst “thought-leaders.” (Most don’t even call themselves “liberals;” they prefer “progressive” or “democratic socialist.”)

Liberals support freedom — the free exercise of ideas and speech. Liberals believe in transparency and equality of opportunity.

In America’s history, liberals had goals such as: Integration — integrating schools, workplaces, sports and public accommodations; Promoting women’s sports and making sure women had access to the educational and professional opportunities that had been traditionally seen as male only, or male preferred; Equal Opportunity — lobbying so that women, racial and ethnic minorities had access to board rooms, C-suites jobs, real estate and capital to achieve stability and success. And, they fought for the Freedom of Information Act — so that the government cannot keep secrets from us.

(Most) Americans support these liberal goals. 

Today, the loudest and most influential voices in Democratic politics support policies 180 degrees from those goals, or have twisted themselves into intellectual pretzels so that the goals have become meaningless. They are “leftists,” not liberals.

Leftists talk about “misinformation” having to be silenced — that government and the media ought to ignore, oppose or “hide” ideas that are “wrong” or misinformation. This stands 180 degrees removed from those liberals on whose shoulders today’s leftists stand.

Leftists talk about the need for black-only dormitories, cafeterias and graduation ceremonies — that there are “too many” Asians attending Ivy League schools. If that doesn’t set off your “moral meter,” perhaps a historical refresher will help. It was the KKK and other bigots that created black-only dorms and seats — to keep them away from whites because they believed blacks were “inferior.”

Leftists oppose “school choice,” believing that government knows best, not parents.

Leftists indulge in moral and cultural gymnastics over what a “woman” is so that they advocate that biological men should be allowed to compete against biological women in high school, scholarship, college and championship sporting events. That’s not exactly what Billie Jean King was fighting for in the 1970’s, nor why Title IX was enacted.

In short, most liberals loved America and were fighting to make sure that women, blacks, Hispanics and the marginalized were allowed to be full, active participants in the American Dream. They wanted to be in corporate America’s C-Suite, even own the companies, not to tear down capitalism. 

Believe what you want. Say and write what you want. But, if you’re going to ask that your ideas and words be taken seriously, know what you are saying. Know our history.

If your goal is to tear-down and pull us apart; confuse readers and use personal attacks; that’s your First Amendment right. 

I’d prefer that we agree to disagree — and agree on what we are fighting about. 

Guy Ciarrocchi is a Senior Fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation. He writes for Broad+Liberty and RealClear Pennsylvania. Follow Guy @PaSuburbsGuy

6 thoughts on “Guy Ciarrocchi: Let’s agree on what we disagree about”

  1. The problem with these words is that the dishonest media uses them incorrectly. I believe it’s an intentional misuse to further their obvious socialist ideology. Now comes the hard question. How do we combat this misuse? Without a free and honest press, this country may not survive.
    The best way to get someone to behave is to hit them where it hurts, For most people, that would be their pocketbook but not so for the press. So what would hurt the so-called journalists most? Hit them in their ego. To facilitate change, the press should be held accountable as publicly as possible. We should demand that corrections, which are abundant, cannot be buried in the back pages or ignored, but rather be placed on the front page above the fold or be the lead story. If only the media was subject to community notes like Elon Musk implemented at X (twitter).
    There are a lot of problems facing this country, but a dishonest media has to rank as high as any.

  2. And speaking of language obfuscation:

    From the “Circumlocution Office of GAC:” June 6th 2021
    To Clarify The Issue, words and phrases as Heard in order on NPR and WHYY.

    We have been asked to drill down, to come together as a community and talk to you about where you are coming from since we have boots on the ground and can speak experientially and unpack the ideas, widen the lens of the problematic issues at this point in time regarding faith leaders.

    Our process is to empower places of worship, the underserved and underrepresented black and brown people of color with a just diet, as I am thinking in my head and wrapping my head around it all for me personally with this event process.

    Since, confident of the sex assigned to us at birth, going forward baring a rain event, we need to utilize the community of educators to positively advance food deserts and housing insecurity with affirmative action to win the future seeking systemic justice.

    The clarity of this statement will send a message to the gentlemen murders in jail that lifting themselves out of poverty and achieving equity above the poverty line can be healing, for sure, and for all the community of unhoused people.

    Therefore, let us unpack this connectivity of the vaccine hesitant in real time and punch down with porch pirates so we can gaslight them and speak truth of power.


    And, then we will walk through climate gentrification relating to first responders as we score and also build down carbon emissions.

    Welcome to Main Media Speak!

  3. The realpolitik of Wokism, anti-semanticism; the paradoxical inversions of legacy constructs, e.g., merit = privilege, academic achievement = Whiteness, abortion = choice, woman = man, dog (personified) = child, Hamas = freedom fighter, criminal = victim, pedophile = minor attracted person, Jew = Zionist, Zionist = colonizer, illegal = asylum seeker, riot = protest, arson = peaceful, obese = body shaming, lowering standards = removing barriers, and on and on.

    I have characterized the practice of paradoxical inversion of our legacy constructs and institutions as satanic (small “s” to avoid connections to spirituality). I allude to Satan as a metaphor for Woke practice. Satan wants to turn God’s creation on its head making good evil and evil good. That’s what the Wokists do. Justice is injustice. Original sin is racism for which there is no redemption. Repentance is self-abasement not salvation. Looting is a form of redistribution of capital and economic justice. Replacement = extinction.

    The scary part is that educated people on the Left are accepting this recalibration of Western Civilization without taking into account what will replace our legacy constructs once they are lost.

  4. Guy,

    I feel like you are arguing semantics. I understand what you are trying to say, but words mean different things to different people from different back grounds. Also words and their meanings change over time. They evolve and should evolve; as should the thinking of society. Just because a words means something different than what you think it means or what the dictionary says, doesn’t meant the association with them is wrong (or right) either.

    1. Who am I to question the author of the dictionary…ahem. All kidding aside, there is a major and important difference between words, terms or even customs evolving and politicians, activists—and their allies—intentionally selecting “dog-whistle” words to intentionally evoke a response, slander a speaker/thinker/cause. Left-wing activists intentionally use the phrase “book ban” because they want to evoke anger, fear and resentment amongst citizens—and, because it fits into their narrative that conservatives (or anyone opposing “progressives’” march to transform America) are somehow know-nothings and/or dictators. Plus it’s easier to use personal attacks than engage in thoughtful discussions about discretion. Ditto for “facist.” The term hasn’t evolved; it’s being used as a weapon to attack conservatives. Again, it’s a personal character even moral attack that allows one to skip over debate. Liberal is just a leftover term used by the lazy, ill-informed or those seeking to put lipstick on the pig that is Leftwing ideology. Shutting down debate; blocking speech; the government forcing/partnering w/BigTech to hide or delete postings could be called a lot of things—under no thoughtful analysis is that Liberalism, or the action of a liberal.

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