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Never before has the word become so weaponised

Friday 25 February 2022 | Written by Thomas Tarurongo Wynne | Published in On the Street, Opinion

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Never before has the word become so weaponised
Columnist Thomas Tarurongo Wynne. Photo: CI NEWS/16040843

Listening to the flurry of news reports on the invasion of the sovereign country Ukraine by President Putin and his army, I couldn’t help but notice the comparison between other narratives of tyranny, nazification and the weaponisation of words like freedom fighters around us today.

In a report by Channel 4 news, the reporter said: “Putin has weaponised and twisted history creating false narratives, and his narrative is that he was in fact freeing the people of the Ukraine from Nazi elements.”

When in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

I was born in the turbulent 60s, 1966 to be precise, television was black and white, milk came in bottles and Maori and Pacific peoples were living as we were in central Auckland.

That year Te Ataiarangikaahu became the first Maori Queen after the death of her father King Koroki.

President Lyndon Johnson, the 36th president of the United States from 1963 to 1969, came to New Zealand to summon support for the ill-fated Vietnam War and the All Blacks had a clean sweep on their Lions tour.

The Batman show with Adam West debuted on TV, the mini skirt was named by Mary Quant, and Ronald Reagan became governor of California, with protests about the Vietnam War continuing to build.

Russia and America were in a full-scale Cold War, money was still pounds and shillings, and the Cook Islands as a self-governing democracy were not quite a year old.

This was the world I was born into and a world that has changed so drastically if we consider the one we now live and have our being in.

And yet has it really changed, especially when we see our hearts and minds being fought for, over wars and conflict, power grabs and the assault on our information, except this time not through television and newspapers. This time it’s through the device that often sits at the end of our hands and a device that once meant we could communicate with each other and now we sit quietly trolling through newsfeeds saturated with information controlled by an algorithm, and masterminded by Facebook, to pull people apart and to throw them into a corner with countless others, polarising our world and communities, and filling them with information that feeds their already growing biases and opinions.

Never before has the word become so weaponised as it is at the moment. Words like freedom, tyranny, Nazis, apartheid, medicine, vaccines and fake news.

If we look at the Trump era and its catchphrases and ideologies, it is not surprising that this kind of rhetoric finds its way around the globe, around communities, and ideologies from one cellphone to the next.

And the counter argument by so called liberals also, making its way around cell phones and news feeds pushing us further apart, filling us with the potential to take those weaponised words and use them freely against each other in the same cyberspace that fed us the poison in the first place.

Poison in, eventually means poison out and this is what we see in so many places, even the paradise we call home.

When wars are fought the first casualty is the truth, and clearly demonstrated in this aggressive attack by Russia on the people and government of the Ukraine.

Hearts and minds are attacked, as they pose as freedom fighters, before a single bullet is fired and words weaponised to soften the ground before the boots of soldiers have left their gunships and planes.

If you want to see true tyranny then here it is, unbridled and out in the open, and a tyranny, that actually attacks the rights and freedoms of the innocent, and fascism at its worst.

For those that throw the word tyrant, Nazi, and freedoms around so flippantly, think of the people of the Ukraine as Russian tanks, soldiers and helicopters now bomb and encircle their cities and freedom.

So true are the eternal words of David, the Psalmist, that above all else, to guard our hearts, for everything we do flows from it.

It is not our words we should guard and mouth, nor our thoughts, though we should do these also. David’s admonition was that the gate of our hearts is above all the things we guard and watch out for and protect because once it is poisoned, once it is sullied or muddied, so is everything that we do from it.