The Wokening of Language Bodes Ill for Free Thought
No one speaks English like the English. From the poetry of Shakespeare to the humor of Monty Python, British wordsmiths use language to teach lessons. The English writer speaking most prophetically at this moment is George Orwell, author of the world-famous 1984.
Among 1984's lessons is this: powerful people can change thinking by changing language. Words mean things. Their meaning is assigned by mutual consent. When that meaning is changed forcibly, the effect is tyranny over thought; ideas; and, ultimately, liberty. The technique is common in Marxist regimes.
Language changes organically. Slang and idioms do so constantly — in our hyper-communicative world, too quickly to follow. Though purists may take issue, such changes are innocent and harmless. The changes forced upon us by leftists in government, media, academia, and the arts are the dangerous ones; poet Ogden Nash would say they "lay eggs under your skin." The intent is to divide us, for political gain, canonizing those in favor and demonizing those who are not. The politics of race and sex is particularly useful in creating division.
A few examples of Newspeak, USA, 2021:
White supremacy is a real thing, with a long history. Prior to this year, everyone knew who "white supremacists" were: radical fringe groups like neo-Nazis and the KKK. It's a blessing they're few in number; law enforcement can keep better track of them. Recently, that label has been slapped willy-nilly on Republicans, conservatives, and anyone not accepting newly minted critical race theory. This vile slander has already been used to justify unconscionable political aggression against people whose politics looks like mine.
Mostly Peaceful Unrest
Until the theft of the election, news in 2020 was dominated by COVID and riots. It's not hard to spot a riot. A mob forms, destroys property, loots, and sets buildings alight. Inevitably, people are assaulted, sometimes murdered. Law enforcement called on to control the mobs become targets.
Riots aren't new to the U.S.; the New York draft riots of 1863 killed over 100. In October, the AP found a new way to characterize them. Its Stylebook called for the term "unrest" instead, noting that people should not be "stigmatized" for "protesting," even when protests lead to 29 deaths, 700 buildings torched, destruction of a precinct headquarters, blinding of police officers with weapons banned by the Geneva Convention, armed occupation of six city blocks for seven weeks, and the months-long siege of a federal courthouse, highlighted by an attempt to burn U.S. Marshalls alive inside. This "unrest," typically led by Antifa, was routinely characterized as "mostly peaceful" by reporters silhouetted against towering flames. The maiden voyage of the Titanic was mostly peaceful, too. November 22, 1963 was, for the most part, a quiet day in Dallas.
Twenty eighteen saw the advent of the "MeToo" movement. We learned that many famous and powerful men made a practice of propositioning and even assaulting women. I can believe that. Most whose behavior came to light were prominent liberals — no surprise there, either. The left, amplified by the mainstream media, reacted with the Newspeak directive "believe women." Its clear implication is that a woman's accusation against a man (Kevin Spacey's case notwithstanding) should be accepted as true by default. This homegrown credo flies in the face of fundamental principles of justice. A fair hearing requires credible evidence, subject to scrutiny. Neither party has the right simply to be "believed." The chorus of "Believe Women" began its crescendo during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, when a succession of women made accusations of sexual misconduct that began with the uncorroborated and descended rapidly into the bizarre. No woman should be dismissed or disregarded. For far too long, many were. "Believe women" demands much more: a leap of faith justice doesn't allow.
Silence Is Violence
At Black Lives Matter protests, marchers chanted that Silence Is Violence, accosting bystanders to compel "solidarity." The "What We Believe" statement since removed from the BLM website reveals that the group was founded by trained Marxists. Coerced allegiance, a favorite Marxist tactic, is violence. Silence is not. My silence may mean I don't understand your cause, or my energy is devoted to other causes. Most likely, silence means we disagree, but I choose not to confront you. Freedom of speech also guarantees freedom to be silent. I'll offer support when convinced, not when commanded.
A privilege is something I enjoy without having earned it. Those who inherit wealth or titles are said to be "privileged." Despite the assertions of Critical Race Theory, in which students and employees are being indoctrinated as we speak, race does not confer privilege.
Race is often grounds for denial of human or civil rights. When those rights are violated because of race, in ways large and small, the laws of God and man are violated as well. The protection and expansion of human and civil rights has always been the American mission. We all share in it. If two brothers are both nearsighted, but their parents buy glasses for only one, it's both wrong and unhelpful to chide the one with glasses for his "sight privilege" while blaming him for his brother's inability to read books or play baseball. Vision is a right, not a privilege. So are equal justice, economic opportunity, a good public education, and a myriad of others. "White privilege" is a misnomer created by political and economic opportunists. Its mission is to foster misplaced guilt for possessing the rights every citizen of the republic should enjoy.
The grand prize for Newspeak this year goes to the AP, which decreed we should capitalize the adjective "black" but not "white." Neither should be capitalized. My third-grade teacher could have told you why. The adjectives "African-American" and "Caucasian" are capitalized because they're formed from proper nouns. Colors used as adjectives are not, even when referring to skin. This must change, says the AP, "conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black[.]" That simply doesn't follow — but if we abandon the logic of grammar for one color, shouldn't we do so for all? No. The AP finds no such history, identity, or community shared among people who identify as (W)hite. That's gone down the Memory Hole, with the books and statuary banned, burned, and demolished this year.
Much of the value of common language lies in the goodwill it creates among those who use it: friendship, collegiality, and simple politeness. The Ministry of Truth opposes all that. The people running it prefer to see us at war with one another. It's a war of words — for now.
Charles Turot is a pseudonym.