‘I don’t understand your viewpoint,’ she said. ‘You broke his nose, yet he had done you no harm of any sort. You expect me to approve that?’
‘But Persephone,’ he protested, ‘you ignore the fact that he called me a most insulting name.’
‘I don’t see the connection,’ she said. ‘He made a noise with his mouth-a verbal label. If the label does not fit you, the noise is meaningless. If the label is true in your case—if you are the thing that the noise refers to, you are neither more, nor less, that thing by reason of some one uttering the verbal label. In short, he did not damage you.
‘But what you did to him was another matter entirely. You broke his nose. That is damage. In self-protection the rest of society must seek you out, and determine whether or not you are so unstable as to be likely to damage some one else in the future. If you are, you must be quarantined for treatment, or leave society-whichever you prefer.’
‘You think I’m crazy, don’t you?’ he accused.
‘Crazy? Not the way you mean it. You haven’t paresis, or a brain tumor, or any other lesion that the Doctor could find. But from the viewpoint of your semantic reactions you are as socially unsane as any fanatic witch burner.’
[Robert A. Heinlein, “Coventry”]
“Mr. Rearden,” he had said once, “if you feel you’d like to hand out more of the Metal to friends of yours—I mean, in bigger hauls—it could be arranged, you know. Why don’t we apply for a special permission on the ground of essential need? I’ve got a few friends in Washington. Your friends are pretty important people, big businessmen, so it wouldn’t be difficult to get away with the essential need dodge. Of course, there would be a few expenses. For things in Washington. You know how it is, things always occasion expenses.”
“You understand what I mean.”
“No,” Rearden had said, “I don’t. Why don’t you explain it to me?”
The boy had looked at him uncertainly, weighed it in his mind, then come out with: “It’s bad psychology.”
“You know, Mr. Rearden, it’s not necessary to use such words as that.”
“Words are relative. They’re only symbols. If we don’t use ugly symbols, we won’t have any ugliness. Why do you want me to say things one way, when I’ve already said them another?”
[Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]
If I were to recount all the words and phrases the Left has striven to render unspeakable, I’d run out of breath long before I got to the pronouns. These days, they act as if they hold an absolute veto power over our locutions. But I didn’t award them any such. Did you?
Thing is, they censor us selectively, according to political / tactical considerations. They allow their favored and protected ones to get away with what they forbid to others. That, of course, is in harmony with Leftist thinking generally. A concise exegesis was provided by chekist Martin Latsis, way back in the early days of the USSR:
We are not making war on individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class…. Do not look in materials you have gathered for evidence that a suspect acted or spoke against the Soviet authorities. The first question you should ask him is what class he belongs to, what is his origin, education, profession. These questions should determine his fate. This is the essence of the Red Terror.
Today, the Left identifies its targets by their politics more than by their “class.” This article is on point.
There is a theory beneath it, of course. It’s expressed in the Atlas Shrugged quote at the top of this piece. It’s equally well expressed by the famous Syme quotation from 1984:
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it….The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak….”
“By 2050 — earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like ”freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
(Why yes, I could make up an essay entirely from quotes. Especially if I were allowed to quote myself. But not today.)
While perusing my archives, I ran across a Curmudgeon Emeritus essay I first posted at the Palace of Reason in 2004. Rather than repeat myself still further, I’m going to post the relevant snippet of it below. Read it – preferably securely seated; it’s rather rough – and reflect. Reflect particularly upon what our unwillingness to defy the would-be censors has wrought upon us and our nation.
With regard to the anathematization of the words colored, Negro, and nigger — is your Curmudgeon the only honky in America willing to spell that last word out in its entirety? — a confluence of forces was at work. One of these was a genuine contrition among white Americans for the racial sins of prior generations, and a willingness to overcompensate for them as a gesture and proof of good will. Another was the rise of black racial-identity politics, which used undeserved guilt as its principal weapon, and reinforced it cleverly with the continual reassignment of words to and from the “taboo” category, so that whites would always be off balance and hesitant about what they could say.
Because of the circumstances of the Sixties and Seventies, in particular the complete dependence of the whole country on the ideologically uniform newspapers and broadcast media for news about the war, it took a long time before the typical American learned that Tet had been a huge, bank-breaking victory for our forces in Vietnam. Though the media’s duplicity wasn’t the whole of the reason for our ultimate withdrawal from Vietnam, Miss Coulter is quite correct that the misrepresentation of Tet was a major factor in the public’s disaffection from the war, for which popular support had never been better than lukewarm in the first place. The media crowbar was strong enough to pry the government and the electorate apart.
Because of the willingness of white America to overcompensate for the racism of prior generations, the black racialists of the Sixties and Seventies succeeded at conditioning the overwhelming majority of whites into self-censorship. The main significance of this result was not a reduction in offense offered to blacks by whites; that was already about as low as it was going to get. It was a stutterer’s hesitancy among whites: a nervous, self-doubting reluctance to address race-related subjects at all, no matter how extravagant the claims of exploitation and victimization offered by black racialist leaders. One could not know what word or phrase black race-shouters would fix on as a pretext to attack one’s motives, objectives, or character, thereby destroying the preconditions for discussion.
Truly, words have power. But sound, consistent ethics have even more power, as recent developments have demonstrated.
The black racialists have revealed their real agenda by their ceaseless maneuverings for money, power, and prestige, in pursuit of which they’ve repeatedly sacrificed the well-being of those they claim to represent. As a result, white Americans have grown calluses over their sensitivities, and have largely cast off the undeserved guilt in which the racialists have tried to swaddle them. More, the racialists have been countered effectively by a new set of black voices of great integrity. The racialists are stunned by the power of these new voices. To this point, they’ve managed no response other than increased stridency and volume, which isn’t working.
But what of the desire not to give offense?
A prime tenet of the old Gentleman’s Code was that a gentleman never gives offense unintentionally. But a gentleman is also supposed to speak truth and shoot the arrow straight. More, though noblesse oblige commands him to show generosity toward the less fortunate, and patience toward those less well reared than he, he is not required to apologize or make reparations to those he has not harmed, nor to kowtow to the insincerely “sensitive” sort who seeks pretexts for offense in the innocent behavior of others.
What’s this antiquated nonsense about a “gentleman’s code,” you ask? Why trouble about gentlemen when the species has been extinct longer than the dodo? Why hasn’t your bloodthirsty pale-assed mick-wop Curmudgeon staked out a position of his own on the thing? But he has:
Try not to annoy others without cause.
Try not to be too easily annoyed.
Assume sincerity, decency, and good will in others until they demonstrate otherwise.
Once they’ve demonstrated otherwise, cut them no slack at all.
Support and defend America in all dealings with other countries and their governments, unless it is absolutely and indisputably in the wrong.
Not quite what you’d have expected of a fascist war-mongering ofay from the privileged white capitalist patriarchal ruling class, is it? Well, we tophatted oppressors expend most of our energies on maintaining iron-fisted control of our dark Satanic mills, so we tend to be easygoing about everything else except our bank balances, our coupon-clipping, and our ius primae noctis. But to those who find it noxious even so, a parting word of advice: If you decide to shoot at your Curmudgeon, don’t miss.