The Books Briefing: Language Can Build Community—Or Sow Division | The Atlantic

Unique ways of communicating help families grow closer; they’re also a powerful tool for cults: Your weekly guide to the best in books

By Kate Cray, September 3, 2021

Getty; The Atlantic

In the media reporter Brian Stelter’s book Hoax, he shares an anecdote that neatly sums up so much about Fox News and its influence on how its viewers communicate.

A staffer who described a restaurant chain’s decision to offer a vegan burger as an improvement to the menu said they were castigated and corrected: The new option was actually proof of the “war on meat,” a network superior said. Thus, the story was quickly reframed in the channel’s familiar vernacular.

My colleague Megan Garber argued last year that Fox had become a language, one in which a new reality had been manufactured. This dangerous linguistic manipulation extends well beyond TV news.

In fact, language is exactly what cults—and cult-like brands—use to lure in new members, the scholar Amanda Montell writes in her book Cultish.

Attend any class offered by a popular fitness brand like Peloton, CrossFit, or SoulCycle, and the enticing power of their insider-y mantras becomes apparent. On the HBO docuseries The Vow, which is about the cult NXIVM, viewers see how a strange new way of speaking drew people in.

Source: The Books Briefing: Brian Stelter, Amanda Montell, Noah Webster – The Atlantic

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