Thought Control’s Lingua Franca
Law & Liberty | 2015
Academic-speak these days is quite easy to imitate. Here is a representative specimen that might well be found in your email in-box if you happen to work in American higher education: “As a community we must all rededicate ourselves to dialogue about inclusion, diversity, and social justice, and to rejecting the hegemonic discourse of oppression that dominates the white/heteronormative culture.” Lots of abstract jargon strung together to warn opponents and reassure friends—nothing in the way of real thought or even mere description.
For those who are committed to a de-politicized education, such language represents, to use a phrase of Roger Scruton’s, “the deep syntax of our torment.” Truth be told, language has been deployed in such a manner before. Under communist regimes, there were “reliable” terms that officialdom arranged and rearranged almost endlessly: “bourgeois,” “imperialist,” “Zionist,” “progressive,” “proletarian,” or “building socialism”—one could undoubtedly come up with a host of others.
Language is used in such discourse not to reveal meaning—to provide a window on reality—but to exert power. It prefers the abstract to the concrete, the general to the specific.
People appeared in this discourse not as freely-choosing individuals but as abstractions, through which impersonal forces struggle for domination . . . Meanwhile, it was important to fuse the permitted words into bundles, so as to block the doors through which reality might enter.
Thus does the language of political correctness recall the totalitarian discourse of communism—a world that now belongs to the apparently distant and foreign 20th century.