A buzzword is a word or phrase that is added to a statement in order to say “Look at me!” It’s a flourish, a bit of panache, a stylistic note meant to evoke emotion and get people to perk up their ears. Popular vapid buzzwords have included: robust, synergy, proactive, sunset, bandwidth, lockstep, and learnings. Let’s take a look at a few notable buzzwords in greater depth: global warming, blockchain, and racism. Buzzword #1: Global Warming Astute researchers who have been active in their fields since the late 1990s and early 2000s, before global warming became a popularized concept that attracted passionate mass protest and wider funding, have special insight on this topic. Researchers have always had to answer the question of
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A buzzword is a word or phrase that is added to a statement in order to say “Look at me!” It’s a flourish, a bit of panache, a stylistic note meant to evoke emotion and get people to perk up their ears.
Popular vapid buzzwords have included: robust, synergy, proactive, sunset, bandwidth, lockstep, and learnings.
Let’s take a look at a few notable buzzwords in greater depth: global warming, blockchain, and racism.
Buzzword #1: Global Warming
Astute researchers who have been active in their fields since the late 1990s and early 2000s, before global warming became a popularized concept that attracted passionate mass protest and wider funding, have special insight on this topic.
Researchers have always had to answer the question of how to fund their research. The competition for research funding can be exhausting. From time to time, one can identify an agenda to latch onto in order to help the research money flow more smoothly.
Global warming, as such an agenda, has been big money in academia and beyond. If you were an ethologist studying snowy owl habitats, you needed to only add global warming to the title of your paper, dedicate a fraction of the paper to the topic superficially, and suddenly a new area of funding was available to you.
The individual financial benefit around favorable climate change research has long been evident in academia and has long been ignored outside of academia when evaluating the integrity of research. Though funding for global warming research has become more sophisticated, appending this, or any other buzzword to research, remains an avenue for opening up additional funding.
- To further sweeten this honeypot, funding on global warming in the social sciences is generously given without rigorous methodology. “In an examination of 15 years of energy research (1999–2013), it was found that almost one-third (29%) of 4,444 studies examined had no research design—or method—whatsoever.”
- To stay trendy and effective, The Guardian recommends these synonymous buzzwords to communicate urgency to an audience: global heating, climate crisis, climate emergency, climate breakdown, climate and wildlife crisis, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis, and ecological emergency.
- Layering buzzwords can also be a useful technique. Additional funding sources can be unlocked by researchers “challenging incumbent ways of thinking” through global warming research “promoting gender diversity in research (fighting patriarchy),” or “highlighting the value of trans-disciplinary research designs (fighting dogmatism and elitism).”
Climate science and energy studies remain fields where the application of superficial buzzwords can attract serious funding.
A Toxic Shortcut To Take
Many writers know editor-specific tweaks are needed to get writing published. Many employees know the same about proposing projects to a boss. Entrepreneurs know that about selling products and services to their customer base. The ideal situation is to work with counterparts who allow you to express yourself genuinely. If you do not have that, you are working with the wrong counterpart.
Many take shortcuts in finding their counterparts and instead shortchange their values to make life more tenable. While this may be a useful short term solution for a person in a bind, this behavior is instead treated as a long term norm across society.
The distinction is integral to how society functions, and amounts to a fundamental deceit undergirding much dysfunction. This deceit is harmful to all involved: society gets lied to, employers don’t get their best employee, and the individual never develops the ability to push himself to his potential because so much of his energy is spent in lying and complying.
Sometimes a shortcut is the longest distance between two points. Being a sell-out is not about the money, being a sell-out is about betraying your values.
The Network Effects Of Buzzwords
An important notion behind buzzwords is their network effect: if enough people fall for a buzzword, that buzzword gets the job done. Even funders who will hand out a billion dollars in funding this year have bosses, donors, or other authority figures they report to, and even if the funder realizes the superficial nature of global warming in a piece of research, it still allows the funder to turn around and brag to others that they are funding research about some buzzword that others may have seen getting a lot of attention lately.
They get to mention it at cocktail parties, put it on the resume, get media coverage when the mainstream media finally starts reporting on the topic, and generally get to be the person in a friend group that does the most interesting and trendy work.
This is the way of the technocrat.
This does not even consider the powerful incentive to appear virtuous. Virtue signaling is one of the ways we demonstrate our value to our social circle. To demonstrate value to those we most want to fit in with is a powerful drive.
The Cynical Use Of Buzzwords
There’s more. There’s a cynical political aspect to buzzwords.
Why is a liberal environmentalist called a watermelon? Because they are green on the outside, but so very red on the inside.
Marxists, decades ago, figured out how to greenwash their anti-market sentiments and to con people into going along. Two or three generations into the process, some naively believe buzzwords to be more than buzzwords. As new indoctrinated young folks come of age in this cynical system, they approach the system with sincerity, and buy into its established truths rather than sorting through axioms themselves from the ground up. Peppering speech with thoughtless buzzwords and jargon that they have not themselves examined the veracity of becomes the norm.
Every person seeking to be intellectually honest in life must sort through axioms from the ground up themselves. That is part of the heroes journey that we are called to take in western culture. There is nothing heroic about preferring buzzwords to hard-earned victories.
Buzzword #2: Blockchain
Blockchain is a buzzword that I am intimately familiar with, having worked seven years in the eleven-year-old cryptocurrency industry and having authored the book The Bitcoin Manifesto. The blockchain is a technological underpinning of Bitcoin, an influential free market currency that is difficult to censor and difficult for governments to regulate.
A blockchain is also a synonym for a database, though in the case of Bitcoin there are some significant differences. When the word blockchain is dropped into conversation, the astute listener can simply ask “Why is a blockchain needed, won’t a database suffice?” and in our current environment will have hit the nail on the head better than 9 out of 10 times.
As in the matter of global warming, superficially plastering the buzzword blockchain on a project you are already passionate about, will attract additional funding and attention to your work. Very few people will be able to recognize the word as superficial rather than integral.
Buzzword #3: Racism
Racism, once an important example of the logically flawed notion of determinism, has become yet another buzzword. The loss of the word will spell decades of woe to English-speaking people. Without a word to describe the pernicious concept, English speakers will likely setback human freedom around race decades.
The word has become a buzzword and a calumny devoid of specific meaning.
Buzzwords are marketing. When we sacrifice the important meaning of a word at the altar of marketing and influence, we really do burn up the substance of the word as it is presently understood. It grows overused and loses its meaning.
Some 5 million technocrats globally are now superficially attaching the word racism to work they had already been doing and dropping it into conversation as much as possible. This is work that previously had no direct connection to race.
The most veteran among them have been through this song and dance a dozen times.
Willing to claim plausible deniability, the harm done to their small area of influence in society, when they follow this trend, is ignored. The urge to claim powerlessness or even default to the Nuremberg defense is overwhelming to some: “I’m just following orders,” or “I can’t change a thing, so why not ride the wave,” or “I can’t speak up, because if I do, I’ll be a barista at Starbucks by the end of the month with third-rate, off-the-beaten path, community colleges refusing to answer my job inquiries.”
The Saddest Thing About Racism As A Buzzword
Use of racism as a buzzword makes the identification of actual racism nearly impossible.
This is not a problem in a one-on-one conversation, as one should define key terms in all such conversations, but this is a massive problem for larger conversations.
The English language no longer has a useful term for this that can be understood societally. This is an attack on language and reason. It is an attack on opposition to determinism based on race that western culture has so vehemently developed tools against.
Denying the English language a word for racism, allows the true racists in the room to continue their racism unopposed, and allows the true anti-racists in the room to be silenced by whatever mob can shout the loudest.
This silencing often happens because the speaker has the clarity to see and express how many times Marxism has destroyed countries. The speaker does not want it for their own country, so they potently denounce it in all its forms.
Unconcerned with intellectual dishonesty, Marxists shamelessly practice racial discrimination, alongside other forms of determinism, and do not desire to have a mirror turned on them, least of all by someone who is not a repentant member of the coalition of the oppressed.
The consistent speaker may take this further and oppose all statism, advocating across the board for the same principle of voluntary association that makes slavery or rape immoral. Of course the Marxist doesn’t want to be compared to the rapist or slaver that they are the moral equivalent of. The more clearly a speaker can express this moral failure of Marxism to those who will listen, the more the Marxist seeks to silence them. Other statists too may appreciate the Marxists for ridding them of the persistent gadfly.
To have such a person silenced, is an injustice in the world and makes the perpetrators villains in the most evil sense. Attacking language silences such a fighter for human freedom and incisive thought, while empowering the dullard, the bully, the mob, and the racist.
And you know what, the Marxists don’t care. No part of them feels bad. So stop treating them like they do. Stop pretending that they care about the moral turpitude of racism or any other form of determinism. It is merely a momentarily useful tool to the Marxist. Stop having the arrogance of assuming that others define this powerful term identically to you. That way, at least, there is no moralizing agony for you related to the term.
When someone says “racist,” or “racism,” you must only ever hear “look at me!”
That’s all it means. That’s all that a buzzword is, a call for attention, an attempt to seize an extra newton of power — the impact on society be damned.