“Simply put, semantic infiltration is the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality. The most totalitarian regimes in the world would call themselves ‘liberation movements.’ It is perfectly predictable that they should misuse words to conceal their real nature. But must we aid them in that effort by repeating those words? Worse, do we begin to influence our own perceptions by using them?”
– Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D – NY)
Semantic infiltration, a term first introduced in a 1972 Cold War column by Fred Ikle, permeates nearly every facet of our culture today. Consider these common examples:
- POLITICS: “Pro Life” vs. “Pro Choice.” Each of these labels represents a not-so-subtle attempt to frame the abortion debate. After all, how could anyone be against “life?” On the flip side, who doesn’t value individual “choice?”
- BUSINESS: “Salesman” vs. “Client Services Associate.” Ever notice no one hires salesmen anymore? They’re all “associates” or “advocates.” So let your guard down, Mr. Consumer, and let our “Client Services Associate” sell you something!
- ENTERTAINMENT: “Musical Artist” vs. “Justin Bieber.” OK, that’s just a cheap shot.
You get the point. Words matter. Labels matter. They subtly frame the way we perceive our world. Think of the word “credit.” Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find synonyms such as “commendation,” “distinction” and “acknowledgment.”
Look up the word “debt” and you’ll find synonyms like “deficit,” “encumbrance” and “liability.”
So how would the way you perceive your “Credit Score” change if it was instead referred to as a ”Debt Score?”
After all, Debt Score may be more accurate. “Debt” is not as pretty to think about as “Credit,” but you use that score primarily to accumulate debt. What else is it good for? What else can it do? That score is the reason you have debt.
If at this point you’re thinking, “That’s not true. Creditors use my credit score to determine my ‘overall credit worthiness,’” do yourself a favor and stop reading. You’ve already “adopted the language of your adversaries.” As such, you belong to them.
Credit Score sounds positive. Debt Score sounds negative. Don’t forget – no credit history is the same as bad credit history, as far as your score goes. If you’ve been responsible enough with your money to have never borrowed a dime from anyone in your life, you will have a terrible credit score even though you’re a demonstrably responsible human being.
Your creditors make money by lending you money, so they want you to feel good about accumulating debt. They want you to think about your debt in terms of credit. For those of you who think there might be something to this, but doubt the presence of pre-calculated semantic infiltration, consider this:
Fair Isaac Corp. invented the credit score back in the 1960s. Fair Isaac’s FICO score – what you know as your credit score – is industry standard for lenders.
Fair Isaac is largely business-to-business sales: They make their money tracking and selling consumer credit information to lenders. But Fair Isaac does have a consumer division, called myFICO. This is where consumers can go to learn about how credit scores are calculated and buy a credit report and score from Fair Isaac.
The Credit Education tab at myFICO.com explains in painstaking detail how scores are calculated.
Follow the link and you’ll find the word “debt” does not appear anywhere on that Web page.
Don’t be a slave to your debt to feel good about your “Credit Score.” If you have a great score but you’re buried in debt, do what you have to do to become debt free. You’ll have a lower “Debt Score,” but you’ll be a happier person.