[ExI] "PC"

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue Sep 9 23:01:47 UTC 2008

Stefano writes

>> "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 [that] 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 [his or her] own
> message, e.g., as "hate speak"?

Great point. Note also the precisely lyrically equal tempo and sense
of "hate speech" and "thought crime". We are now also blessed with
"hate crime". Orwell knew these people inside and out, infinitely
better than they can see themselves, even, I'll wager, after they
read Animal Farm or "Nineteen Eighty-Four". But it still amazes
me; how could someone be so idiotic and ignorant as to coin "hate
crime" or "hate speech" in our culture, and not some euphemism
instead? The most probable answer scares me: it's because they
think *so* precisely as did the institutions that Orwell was 
attacking that they just can't help it.

> 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.

Certainly!  Who (in the West) call themselves "Communist" any
more, or "Fascist"?  And the "white supremacists" I've met really
only think of themselves as "white separatists", yet the "black
separatists" never undergo this kind of abuse. There are a lot
of American liberals who don't go by that name anymore, and
I've wondered now just what to call them, having reluctantly had
to reject "progressive" as too loaded and imprecise. Bill O'Reilly
suggests "secular progressive", and that's not a bad idea. 

> 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.

Quite right. In a similar vein, we do need to refer to some people
as *racists*, because like it or not, this term does connote their
belief and behavior that race supersedes other characteristics that
one may learn about some particular guy or gal.

>> 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...

Thanks for pointing this out. This too had totally escaped me.

> Many terms [which] 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.

Yeah, I just made that point in another post.

> In fact, one has to suspect that what PC language really aims 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
> education).
> 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 rhythms and
> mechanisms,

Terrific! We should find a way of sending your paragraph to the author
of that article.

>> 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
> metaphors, 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.

Yes, I understand that even the strictest Soviet Communists gave
lip-service to "political freedom" and "democracy"---the "vastly
different meanings" you speak of. And I guess I understand that
when first coined, these terms did serve "as a way to challenge
the order in place". But I don't understand what you mean exactly
by suggesting that Newspeak aims to remove this---this what?

> Stefano Vaj

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