19 May

Syntactic Tyranny

Nigel Farage has been driven to apologise for saying on television that he would be uncomfortable if a group of Rumanians moved in next door to him. An Australian professor of government has had a petition got up against him and signed by 10,000 for writing an article which claimed that Russian leaders since Stalin have done more to the detriment of civil society than to uphold it. The accusations made in both these cases is of “racism” – but what meaning can we attach to the use of this word?

Why is a man not at liberty to speak his mind and say that the arrival of neighbours of a particular sort and reputation would make him feel uncomfortable? Farage seemed to say that he would rather live next to a German – his wife is German – than to a Rumanian. I don’t think for a minute he meant all  Rumanians. I imagine he meant that generally he would be happier living next to a German than to a Rumanian. I think most people would interpret Farage’s remark in that way; and I dare say many would agree with him. This does not imply that all Rumanians are nasty and all Germans nice. Alex Boot in a recent blog puts the matter into perspective when he says, “I would rather live next to a Rumanian doctor than to a German lout.” This doesn’t imply that all doctors are nice people either! The shocking fact is that political correctness forbids us the rational use of general terms. Common sense understands that the use of general terms means exactly that – in general. The reductio ad absurdum of literal-minded political correctness would be the assumption that, if a man said, “I like the Germans,” one should conclude from his statement that he was an admirer of Hitler and his gang. Most people would understand Farage’s statement about Germans and Rumanians to be shorthand for something such as: “If you were to ask me, I should say that generally speaking I’d rather live next to a German than to a Rumanian. Of course this doesn’t mean that I like all Germans and dislike all Rumanians.”

I’m sorry to labour the point, but unfortunately such labour seems to be necessary.

Similarly with the professor. If he says, “Since Stalin, the Russians have done more harm than good,” no one in his right sense would conclude that the reference was to every single Russian man, woman, child, dog and pet rabbit.

And then, as again Alex Boot points out, there is the larger matter of truth. Looking at the record of Russia, including Stalin’s genocide of his own people, the red army’s viciousness in the invasions and occupations of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Chechnya and Georgia, it might indeed seem to an observer that there is some truth in the Australian professor’s statement. But here’s the rub: political correctness has no concern for the truth; it is the preferred tool of the elite which governs us and its motive is social and political control. The word for this is hegemony. The vocabulary of political correctness is ideological. Its key words – diversity, inclusivity, democracy, equality, freedom, racism, sexism and the resthave no truth-functional context: they are merely emotive and their aim is compulsion and control. This is what makes political correctness irrational. But, though irrational, it is pervasive and all-powerful.

As C.L. Stevenson in The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms (1937) admitted: the purpose of the emotive use of language is to persuade and coerce; and essentially there is no practical difference between persuasion by words and persuasion by a big stick. Our very own A.J.Ayer in Language, Truth and Logic (1936) agreed with Stevenson. (For those forensically inclined, it’s in chapter six) Those two philosophers wrote at the time when Hitler and Stalin were engaged on their vicious sprees. The two totalitarian dictators were as one with the two philosophers. And political correctness and newspeak are one and the same – the servants of totalitarianism.