Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Power of Foul Language

Chapter Three of Volume I of The Gulag Archipelago is devoted to methods of interrogation used by the GPU (what later became the KGB).  The third method of psychological torture employed is foul language.  It seems almost impossible to me that such a method could have any efficacy, particularly in our era.

As a bit of a side note, I was walking through the Minneapolis Farmer's Market held on Thursday's on Nicollet Mall, and overheard a black woman, probably in her late twenties, having a "conversation" on her cell phone in which she referred to the person on the other end of the line as a "bitch ass" and other such pronouns throughout the conversation.  She also used the f-word as her adjective of choice.  I had a similar experience at a restaurant near my house, only that time the conversation was in-person, and my oldest daughter heard the entire conversation.  It is alarming to me that our language is being reduced such that profanity has become the standard way of speaking. 

Here is Solzhenitsyn:

"Foul language is not a clever method, but it can have powerful impact on people who are well brought up, refined, delicate.  I know of two cases involving priests, who capitulated to foul language alone.  One of them, in the Butyrki in 1944, was being interrogated by a woman.  At first when he'd come back to our cell he couldn't say often enough how polite she was .  But once he came back very despondent, and for a long time refused to tell us how, with her legs crossed high, she had begun to curse."  (Aleksandr Solzhenistyn The Gulag Archipelago, Volume I page 93)

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