Language games of the Opposition

Dear Editor,
There is a good chance most of you have never hear of Ludwig Wittgenstein. You can’t be blamed for that, because even if you were an avid reader of philosophical texts, Wittgenstein would pose a challenge because of the level of abstraction in his works. Allow me to introduce the concept of language games developed by Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations.
Language games have two important aspects relevant to our discussion. First, words have meaning only in the context of their usage, we all know that. But the second aspect, when combined with the first, is what really matters. That second aspect concerns the intended outcome the speaker/writer wants. This is especially so in terms of political and cultural outcomes.
I submit to you that to understand the relentless attacks by Opposition media in Guyana, you have to understand the language games they play. The editorial in Kaieteur News (October 1, 2022) titled “Protests in Iran – Guyana beware” is a case in point. The editorial attempts to use the protests in Iran to make claims about Guyana based on something it calls “brazen corruption”.
The logic of the editorial is that a handful of unaccountable clerics in Iran practise “brazen corruption”, and it is this, rather than the hijab, that is the source of the protests.
The editorial then continues to assert, and only by assertion, claims that Guyana has the same malady, and like Iran, there may be big protests here as well.
Let us be clear about a few things. Iran and Guyana have practically nothing in common, other than both countries had democratically elected administrations overthrown by foreign interests: Iran in 1954, and Guyana in 1964. Other than that, the differences are stark. Most importantly, Guyana has had democratically elected governments since October 1992, and this despite massive attempts by the APNU-AFC at electoral fraud at the national and regional elections of 2020.
Guyana is also fundamentally different from Iran in that it is a secular state firmly grounded in the Western tradition of religious freedoms, individual rights, and an open market economy. That bastion of Westernism, the IMF, confirmed these traits about Guyana in its most recent annual report.
One of the characteristics of language games is that subjective or politically motivated positions are offered by operatives as the outcomes of careful deliberation. Here is a quote from the KN editorial that falls in this category: “We at this paper are not too optimistic that corruption in Guyana will abate anytime soon. It is now too widespread and deep-seated.” What is the basis for this claim? Well, the basis is what Wittgenstein called “family resemblance”, meaning for KN in this case that Guyana resembles Iran. Mere resemblance, therefore, can function as equivalence.
The logic of this propagandistic language game is as follows: (1) take an issue (protests in Iran) that is already getting worldwide attention; (2) make the claim that Guyana is similar to Iran; (3) claim that the resemblance is such that whatever is happening in Iran will happen here.
Wittgenstein also used the concept of rule-following. In simple langue, the meaning of a word or statement follows a pattern established by the speaker/author. In this case, ‘since’ Iran is corrupt and there are protests, then (if) Guyana resembles Iran, protests would also develop here.
Do keep in mind that the author/s of the KN editorial are not consciously following Wittgenstein. They may have never heard of him.
Language games are of maximum utility to the APNU-AFC and the self-described ‘civil society’ groups in Guyana. This is so because language games work through manipulation of facts, of evidence, of truth. The Opposition do not want to engage empirical information, because, if they do, they won’t be able to make outrageous claims, such as “…we have politicians deceiving, concealing, and sliding all over the place when pushed to provide straight, simple answers.” In fact, deceiving, concealing, and sliding constitute the bread and butter of the editorial in question.

Dr Randy Persaud