In my last post I made a rash promise to address the abuse of language by the Left; the way in which they weaponise it to undermine opposition to their ideas. Most friends of Liberty are naggingly aware that it's going on and routinely irritated by it but when I started to research it, I realised it was a big, difficult subject to sum up in a blog post. If there were enough liberty-minded academics to fill a faculty, it could be that faculty's sole field of research.
...the purpose ... was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever...
This decision was taken following contact from the Department For Education’s counter extremism unit, the threat of demonstrations at the school by organised groups and members of the public and our overall concerns for the security of the school site and the safety of our community.We note that within 24 hours of advertising the event, more than 220 Langton sixth formers had, with parental consent, signed up for the event and that objection to our hosting Mr Yiannopoulus came almost entirely from people with no direct connection to the Langton.
What as opposed to one of those I-really-really-like-you sort of murders?
"... if you're voting for Trump, it's time for the urn"
Bill C-16 writes social constructionism into the fabric of the law. Social constructionism is the doctrine that all human roles are socially constructed. They’re detached from the underlying biology and from the underlying objective world. So Bill C-16 contains an assault on biology and an implicit assault on the idea of objective reality. It’s also blatant in the Ontario Human Rights Commission policies and the Ontario Human Rights Act. It says identity is nothing but subjective. So a person can be male one day and female the next, or male one hour and female the next.
Some ideas are so stupid than only intellectuals believe them
So with the hate speech issue – say someone’s a Holocaust denier, because that’s the standard routine – we want those people out there in the public so you can tell them why they’re historically ignorant, and why their views are unfounded and dangerous. If you drive them underground, it’s not like they stop talking to each other, they just don’t talk to anyone who disagrees with them. That’s a really bad idea and that’s what’s happening in the United States right now. Half of the country doesn’t talk to the other half. Do you know what you call people you don’t talk to? Enemies. If you stop talking to people, you either submit to them, or you go to war with them. Those are your options and those aren’t good options. It’s better to have a talk.
How different would the western world be today if more people had read The Closing of the American Mind in 1987 when it was published? Shortly after publication, the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War was won by the West. Marxism proper had comprehensively failed and Fukuyama naively told us that history was at an end. However in our schools, colleges and universities cultural Marxist enemies remained firmly entrenched, living behind our lines and at our expense.
That treacherous cadre has convinced generations of the luckiest people in the World that they are oppressed. It has turned citizen against citizen on spurious grounds of race, gender and sexual orientation. It has created false contradictions to be resolved by the ever more powerful state it craves. It has sought to enforce by stealth an ideology that has failed everywhere it has been tried.
It has poisoned the wells of our civilisation. All around at present you can hear the robotic, monotonous drone of the journalists, politicians and other opinion formers whose minds it has warped. Ideologically entirely ad idem, its members vie only to divorce their notions ever more widely from reality and to "no platform" anyone sane enough to laugh. Most on "social science" courses would have done better to leave school at eighteen and join the real world than to wallow in this academic mire.
"Drain the swamp" is a fine and noble slogan. The vilest and most difficult swamp to be drained is academia. It won't be easy, but unless it is achieved all other efforts are a waste of time.
islands of repression in a sea of freedom
Much of what they say is relevant to the current storm on social media in the wake of Brexit. I suggest it may partly account for the division between "educated" and "uneducated" in the referendum vote. I would love to see a breakdown of the Remain vote (but no academic will research it and no productive person would waste the time or money) between what Americans call "liberal arts" graduates and those from harder disciplines such as STEM, law and accountancy. Most of our "education", particularly since Blair forced up the numbers attending "uni" (as those on whom it was wasted always call it) is actively damaging to its victims' intelligence. They come out stupider than they went in.
"In comparison", as Hoff Sommers puts it, "to what?!"
Thou shalt teach both sides of the argument
Trigger warning: This post is full of generational generalisations.
I don't share the general pessimism of my age group about the millennial generation. The Misses Paine are millenials. They are serious intellectuals, hard-working women who want to make a contribution to the world they live in and generally fine human beings. So are all their friends that I have had the pleasure to meet. I would go so far as to say that the millennials I know (admittedly a sample limited by my daughters' excellent taste and my former profession) are more sober, hard-working and serious than I was at their age.
In the wake of 2008, many millennials are having a much tougher time than the late Mrs Paine and I did at the beginning of our working lives. We walked, debt-free, out of university straight into employment. We earned enough to leave our parents' homes and pay our frugal way. We were able to marry at 23, rent a crappy flat for a couple of years and buy our first modest home. Neither of us were unemployed until we chose to be. We worked hard, took things seriously and struggled at times, but our lives look golden in retrospect compared to the struggles of the average millennial.
Nor do I join the Daily Mail and today The Times on reviewing this report (actually about post-millennials currently at university but I suspect reflecting similar beliefs), in fearing for them ideologically. They are not a political bloc any more than our generation was. They are socially liberal but they are also sceptical of politicians' promises to fix their economic problems. Some go so far as to criticise previous generations for having voted themselves unfunded benefits, incurring massive government debts now dumped on them. They are right. They have been screwed.
To the extent that they have scarily illiberal ideas, I think the interesting question is why? Based on my daughters' experiences at British universities, I blame lecturers of my generation. We may have won the debate in 1970s student politics about "No platform for fascists and racists" on a pure free speech argument. But then most of us on the winning side went into productive work and many of the "no platform" losers went into academia. They have indoctrinated subsequent students to the point where only 27% of them (and only 22% of women) believe that "Universities should never limit free speech".
Some of this is simple confusion about the difference between good laws and good manners. Laws should only prohibit real harms, which do not include hurt feelings. I might ban from my circle of friends someone who went off on a racist or anti-Semitic rant, but I would not call the police. Universities can make their own rules, just like me at my dinner table. But the consequences are very different because they are rather more important fora for intellectual debate.
If students are not prepared to confront the ideas they dislike in the comfort and relative safety of a university lecture hall, how are they going to deal with them in the real world? And what, whisper it softly, if some of the ideas they hate turn out to be right?
Leftists have divided society into a hierarchy of victim groups entitled to dismiss the views of their supposed oppressors. But in the tradition mocked in "Life of Brian" when the Judean Peoples Front fought the Peoples Front of Judea, they have also allowed their zealotry to divide them in frankly hilarious ways.
Feminists like Germaine Greer are now banned from campuses because of remarks like her infamous "transphobic" observation that;
Just because you lop off your penis and then wear a dress doesn't make you a ******* woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a ******* cocker spaniel.
An interesting phenomenon in this context is the emergence of the "licensed dissident." The only people who can easily challenge illiberal views are those from the Left's pantheon of the oppressed who as Milo Yiannopoulos puts it, "go off the ideological reservation". Hence the importance of his "Dangerous Faggot Tour" of American campuses in which he systematically "triggers" the "spoilt brat rich kid social justice warriors" and exposes their idiocy by posting videos of their screaming on YouTube.
It's ideology pretending to be scholarship. It's propaganda pretending to be fact.
Milo is even more amusingly forthright on that topic and more seriously says in the course of the discussion;
The violence is coming not from the right but from the left and it is informed and justified in the minds of activists by this zealotry.
Yes, I see millennials behaving as absurdly as my leftist contemporaries but I also see them arguing against such absurdities with great verve and skill. I also hope that soon the effects of 2008 will be behind them so they can start to earn properly and pay more taxes. Nothing produces economic liberals faster than excessive tax. So, once again, and perhaps to my own surprise I am on the side of optimism.
The traditional political division into 'left' and 'right' must be used with caution. For much of Europe 'right-wing' refers to nationalist authoritarians seeking to impose traditional values on society at large. I would be uncomfortable in such company. No right-winger on the Continent and few in America would share my stance on what they would call 'social issues' and I would call 'none of your damned business.'
The 'good guys' of Continental Europe are usually called Liberals. The bad guys of American politics have made that glorious name unusable in English. In their constant gee whizz quest for euphemism, our American cousins have made a cuss-word out of a formerly-useful term. They do that a lot. How little of a life would you have to have to keep up with American fashion on what to call a black man or a red indian, for example?
These labels matter more than they should. Serious political debate is of interest only to a minority. Most voting decisions are made on impressions rapidly formed by the free use of labels as either praise or abuse. How many voters analysed what Tony Blair meant by 'New Labour' for example? They simply thought of themselves as left, hated the mess Old Labour had made and welcomed a new brand they weren't embarrassed to be associated with.
For my part, I hate the Labour Party as I hate the very devil. Indeed I suspect Old Nick would make better company than any socialist and might actually have better intentions. Yet I hate the fact that saying so makes most Brits label me as what I am emphatically not; a Tory. I am, in truth, a Liberal. I happen to know from personal experience that there are gallant members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Britain still clinging to the true meaning of the L word, but they are out-numbered by leftists too snobbish (and who can blame them) to be in the same party as John Prescott. So the label I use in my head is no use in the wider world.
The conversations in my primary school playground were conducted in a higher register and exchanged far more complex information than most political 'debates' that make a difference to voting intentions. In the Labour heartlands where I grew up, calling someone a "Tory [Anglo-Saxon expletive of choice]" was all it needed to win an argument. I have never lived in a Conservative constituency until recently, and judging by the copies of the Guardian in evidence around here, I doubt it will remain one long. Perhaps there are Tory Shires where one could similarly raise the tribal flag to end all discussion? I don't know.
It's pointless to be a purist about this and dismiss the use of 'left' and 'right' altogether. They carry an emotional weight that cannot be denied. Just as every Brit knows which side he would have been on in the Civil War, he knows if he is left or right, often with an unjustified prefix of 'Centre-" to make himself feel moderate. It would be great to have more accurate labels, but we don't.
The easy route to explain my position to my fellow citizens is to say that I am socially-liberal and fiscally-conservative, but that doesn't tell the truth either. 'Social liberals' in Britain are highly illiberal. They are more like authoritarian Continental Christian Democrats in seeking to impose moral orthodoxy. Why, for example, was I expected to pay tribute to a dead foreign Communist before Fulham FC's game against Aston Villa yesterday? No similar tribute was offered when Margaret Thatcher died and rightly so. But a darling of the 'social-liberals' must apparently be lauded, however disgusting his political views.
For another current example, it's not enough that you don't give a damn who shags Tom Daley. They expect you to 'be supportive;' to 'ooh' and 'aah' sympathetically and tell him how 'brave' he is. If someone in my immediate circle is gay and wants to introduce me to his or her partner, I will buy them both a drink. If I liked him or her before the news, I will after (and will try to like the partner too). It's my business because I am a relative or friend and I need to know their situation so as to welcome their new partner into our family or group of friends. The sexual preferences of people outside my circle, however, are properly a matter of indifference.
Genuine liberals don't give a public damn what you consider to be right or wrong as long as you don't impose it on others. We only want laws to limit physical or economic aggression. As to the rest, go to it with a will and take all the consequences yourself. We afford you the tolerance we expect of you, but we don't demand or offer approval of private choices. The clue is in the adjective, 'private.' So don't be so needy. Shut up and get on with it. We will think what we please, to the extent that we become aware, and will factor it in in deciding whom to drink with or give the time of day to. Feel free to do likewise.
The right-wing and left-wing in Britain share a disgusting desire to shape thoughts and private preferences by law. They seek to pull in different directions. It's the pull I mostly resent. If they are of the Right seeking to reinforce traditional Christian views of marriage, they insult their God by thinking He needs the feeble help of Earthly powers to enforce His Divine will. If they are of the Left seeking to suppress the expression of 'inappropriate' opinion on Twitter, then they should have more trust in the ability of 'the people' to deal with such matters informally. Both expose the feebleness of their views by doubting their eventual triumph without misuse of law. Law is a blunt, violent instrument. It is not a teaching aid.
If you have a need for approval from strangers, I suggest you get professional help. You may think that's harsh but on the other hand, if you leave me to make my own life choices, I will happily take no interest in yours. Furthermore, I am remarkably unlikely to preach to you. Most likely, I will offer you no opinions on any subject not affecting my family's interests unless you are my friend and you ask me.
Does that make me right-wing or left-wing? You choose.
After less than two years back in Britain I am bored of the first world problems of this plump and pampered land. I am particularly tired, for example, of the overused word "privilege". To me, the great enemy of mankind is not privilege but poverty. Those of us who are not poor represent a problem solved. The question is how to increase the wealth of those who still are. As a purely economic issue, that's a question long since answered.
History shows us that free markets cure poverty fastest. History also shows us that socialism increases poverty. Ask the millions of people in the former Soviet Bloc. It is a stupid, nasty, hateful doctrine; the moral equivalent of deliberately infecting the healthy with disease in order to reduce health inequality.
Socialism's obsession with material goods ignores the fact that the ability to accumulate wealth, important though it is as an engine of economic development, is not that big a deal at a personal level. Faced with my late wife's cancer, our life's savings could ultimately only buy her more comfortable surroundings in which to die. Material rewards for a life of hard work are all very well, but any sane person knows that true happiness comes from things that have little or nothing to do with money; health, culture, education. recreation and family.
There's a wonderful passage in one of Billy Connolly's shows where he talks of a man at a dinner party who, asked what he did, said "I am a tobogganist". Connolly has much fun imagining what his Glaswegian working class father would have said if he had told him that's what he wanted to be. I have recently been reading about the famous photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. Both came from rich families. Both walked away confidently from their material comforts (although Frank occasionally took money from his parents to help him along) in order to embark on artistic careers. Their equivalent, if you like, of tobogganing.
The confidence, perhaps even arrogance, of such people about the importance of their life choices derives from the fact that, unlike Billy Connolly (and most working-class children) they have no practical-minded parents telling them, with their best interests at heart, to "get a real job" The confidence, or indulgence, of their parents is helped by money, of course. If you can't support your child for ever, you are understandably more anxious to see him support himself. But their "privilege" was more complicated than that. Their parents did not laugh at them when they aspired to be "tobogganists". Rather, they expected of them, if that's what they were going to do, that they should head for the highest Alp. That expectation is the true nature of privilege.
Yes, it's easier with money but it's also possible without. Chinese children do not do best in Britain's schools because Chinese parents are, on average, richer. They do better because their parents, on average, value education more highly and expect more effort. A "tiger mother" may not feel like a privilege when you are under her care and control, but she is worth more than all the money in the world. Any parent, rich or poor, educated or not, can be a good parent - with better effect on their child's ultimate happiness (and, incidentally, the nation's prosperity) than any redistribution of wealth.
I remember two long-lost school friends in my scruffy home town up North. Their father was a dustman devoid of all aspiration. Their mother, however, had a dream. Both arrived at infants school able to read because she had pushed them around town in their prams teaching them to do so from the road signs. Unashamedly eccentric herself, she empowered them to be different from their contemporaries and not to give a damn about the relentless peer pressure to be stupid at our bog-standard comprehensive school.
She wasn't Chinese. She was from the white working class; now the second-worst performing ethnic group in Britain's schools. She did nothing any parent, grand-parent or aunt - rich or poor - could not do. I wish all the whingeing envy-ridden half-wits banging on about "privilege" would shut up and be like that scruffy, oddball, utterly splendid mother. She refused to be defined by her circumstances. So - if we have any dignity - should we all.
If you have economically under-privileged kids, if you teach them, are related to them or even just have them as neighbours don't tell them they are doomed. Don't encourage them to hatred and envy. Encourage them to dream of "tobogganing" and lend them the occasional book. Let them see you reading for pleasure (pretend if you have to) so they think of it as normal. Then they will be privileged kids too.
American state school teachers may, for all I know, be as consistently left-wing as ours. One needs no conspiracy theory to account for it. People who choose careers financed by force either have no scruples about it when they sign up, or soon learn all the excuses necessary to live with a clear conscience. Such careers are simply not attractive to those of an independent spirit - though many such are to be found teaching in private schools.
It's heartening however that - because so much of it is independently-financed - American higher education (though hardly pure) still has enough diversity to allow the linked exchange between an economics professor and an 11th grader.
Can anyone imagine such correspondence with a pupil in a British state school?
This is a direct quote from a note sent today to all the students on a post-graduate course at a particular English university. It is from the programme director of the course, who teaches English.
Can I also empaphise the imporatnce of arriving at lectures and seminars so that you are ready to start on time. Arriving late can cause disruption and distraction. It is customery and curtious to offer an apology and reason to your teacher.
I do not dissent from his sentiments. Punctuality is a much-neglected form of politeness. However, it seems England's academics are as relaxed about spelling as they are militant about politics. But then, their organisations are largely funded by force, so why should they care about quality?
He became a fellow of the British Academy in 1978 and was awarded the companion of honour in 1998.
What kind of country gives its highest honours to a man dedicated to the destruction of its free society? To the destruction of the economic system that made it capable of sustaining him in a life of contemplation? A man who supported the Soviet Union even after it crushed the Hungarian Uprising? A man who remained a member of the British Communist Party until its collapse - long after all with any decency had resigned? A man so monumentally misguided as to support to his end an ideology that had led directly to the slaughter of millions and the impoverishment of billions?
You tell me.