I wrote the following specifically for a conversation in a Facebook group, but I suspect that conversation might be deleted and I thought I’d like to share these thoughts here:
The Yellow Vest mission statement there and the conversation here has gotten me thinking about coded language. When do words have different extra meanings? I’m thinking about things like when someone talks about “the sanctity of marriage” in American media, they’re probably talking about promoting certain types of marriages and not others. They don’t have to come right out and say that. I’m trying to think of other examples of coded messaging. The Yellow Vests ends up using coded messages.
The sustainability aspect of the Yellow Vest mission statement reminds me of the fear and rumors associated with Agenda 21, a non-binding UN agreement around sustainable development that certain groups argued was really a conspiracy to depopulate the earth. I remember back when the Occupy movement was a thing, some of the people there talked lots about Agenda 21 and a belief in FEMA camps. There – FEMA camps – that’s another coded thing, because it wasn’t just a belief in the existence of those camps but an implied belief that they weren’t just emergency shelters but prison-camps in waiting for political prisoners. The Yellow Vests fear of the UN sustainable development agreement sounds very similar to the older fear of Agenda 21. Of course it isn’t just that…. its now mixed in with determination to get pipelines built despite both environmental and indigenous rights concerns. It is a concern against the carbon tax. But it is wrapped up in this idea that somehow Canadians have lost their sovereignty and are being forced by the UN to do something we don’t want. It is a way of ignoring the huge number of Canadians who have been lobbying for a carbon tax, and against the pipelines. It is shifting the blame for those issues to foreigners – the evil UN.
There’s more coded language. The emphasis on “we’re okay with legal immigrants, just against illegal ones” makes it sound like there’s some huge moral different between them and that we’re being flooded with illegal immigrants. It is a way of saying “you can hate (some/most/these) foreigners, because they’re breaking laws…”. Never mind the questions of whether those laws are moral, whether we ourselves are always obedient to the laws or any other questions. Never mind if the difference between legal and illegal immigrants is largely that the illegal ones are too poor and desperate to get into Canada the legal routes, but once they’re here they contribute tremendously. Never mind that the same people against illegal immigrants often complain horribly about the amount of regulations preventing them from doing what they want, and believe those regulations should be removed/ignored/etc. (Do they hate people who cheat on taxes? Or is the obsession with legality limited to immigrants.) By trying to frame the issue in terms of legal vs illegal immigrants, those with a general dislike of those whose skin color and culture don’t match their own can believe they’re “not racist.”