[ExI] "PC"

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Mon Sep 8 10:19:34 UTC 2008

On Mon, Sep 8, 2008 at 7:51 AM, Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com> wrote:
> "http://ladislaw.livejournal.com/
> The correlations these folks find between politically correct speech and the
> Newspeak of 1984 simply aren't there. Though PC has become a kind of swear
> word--a marvelous twisting of its intent by conservatives, though certainly
> some on the left are to blame for its "mission creep"--the purpose of being
> politically correct in one's speech is to cause as little offense as
> possible to others. This is achieved by using the terminology for
> self-reference employed by those who are not you.

Why, the least it can be said in this respect is that the adepts of PC
language make curious exceptions exactly regarding those who are in
perceived breach thereof. Has anybody ever labelled its own message,
e.g., as "hate speak"?

I do my best to adopt one's definition of what he is, even though this
may be a moving target, especially for racial, gender/sexual
orientation, and undesirable/undesired personal features, but am also
under the impression that PC is very inconsistent in this respect, and
above all vastly extends beyond that.

Moreover, "labelling" is undeniably also a way to (re-)organise
political concepts along different lines in view of new political
programmes and views. When I use the term of  "neoluddism" to define
altogether the very different brands of anti-transhumanist and
anti-technology preachers one can find around, my purpose is not
really that of "gratuitously insulting" them, but rather to express my
view on the fundamental convergence of their narratives and the bottom
line thereof.

> Certainly such decisions
> are going to be imperfect, but the knowledge that one should at least try to
> moderate language in order to remove innately offensive terms is the key to
> politically correct thinking.

"Innately" offensive terms sound as a quite funny concept... Many
terms who were invented as disparaging have been recuperated as a
badge of honour by individuals and constituencies (e.g., proletarian,
pagan, revolutionary). Other terms that were considered of a purely
descriptive nature have been replaced with other terms, only to see
those being later replaced again, and again, since the social stigma
attaches to what they represent, not to the way they sound.

In fact, one has to suspect that what PC language really aimes at is
the *removal* of the concepts behind the words, or at least a
deliberate change in their emotional perception, an attempt which,
depending on the occasions, may be less than candid (e.g., in

What in fact PC language has in common with Newspeak is to make a
political programme of a self-conscious, deliberate effort to control
in the strictest possible way the language to modify the ideas, for
the better or for the worse, the language expresses, increasing the
repression of "deviant" terminology, rather than letting the language
evolve more or less spontaneously according to its rythms and

> Newspeak is about removing words not because they are offensive, but because
> they are precise. Newspeak is about imprecision. Remove words, the logic
> goes, and one removes the very concepts.

There again, one may well feel less than attracted by the Orwellian
society, and yet recognise that the purpose of Newspeak is rather the
opposite. Newspeak is about *removing* imprecisions, shades and
metaphores, as long as metaphorical, emotionally charged concepts that
can be instrumentalised or reinterpreted in order to suggest a
possible different state of things. See "free from fleas" and
"politically free".

Now, the concept of "political freedom" has been adopted absolutely by
everybody, including conservatives, liberals, secessionists,
nationalsocialists, communists, anarchists, etc. with vastly different
meanings depending on the circumstances; but invariably it was used as
a way to challenge the order in place or to establish a term of
comparison thereto. This is what Newspeak aims at removing.

Stefano Vaj

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