George Orwell was probably the 20th century’s greatest craftsman in the English language. Writing in 1946 on Politics and the English Language he observed of the language that:
“It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”
Slovenliness of language and foolish thoughts go together, and they have consequences.
Slovenly language leads to foolish thinking. The use of the term “fundamentalist” is not a description but a means of writing off the views of any who are out of step with establishment thinking. I believe in God, think homosexual practice is a sin, therefore I am a fundamentalist whose views can be dismissed out of hand. The fact that I also have a beard only goes to prove that I am a fundamentalist.
In wider society the use of “phobia” as a descriptor for any who are out of step with progressive thinking is a clear example of that “slovenliness” of language which “makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”
On BBC Radio 4 news yesterday an interviewee insisted that the MP’s who rebelled against the party whips and voted for an EU referendum were not democratic, not principled, not people who had thought out their position, rather they were “Europhobes.” Slovenly language, foolish thinking.
His accent indicated that English was his first language and as he was a professor we should presume he was not uneducated. But as a professor he was in a position to influence many who in turn would be in positions of influence in schools, government, churches etc.
Homophobe, Islamophobe, even Francophobe (as though distrust of the French was anything but rational.) Once someone who disagrees with a progressive position is diagnosed as suffering from some form of mental disorder there is no need to listen to their point of view or engage them in enquiring dialogue. The phobic becomes a non-person and the progressive can remain undisturbed in his complacent cocoon, secure in his own moral righteousness.
That this form of slovenly language leading to foolish thoughts is prevalent in progressive discourse is no surprise. Slovenly language leading to foolish thought facilitates the urge to totalitarianism inherent in progressive politics.
The two most evil political systems of the 20th century, soviet communism and German national socialism both argued that to disagree with their obviously morally as well as socially and economically correct systems was to be insane. The asylums of soviet Russia were an intellectual gulag.
In this both systems followed the lead of that darling of progressive thought, Jean Jacques Rousseau. His elaboration of Diderot’s theory of the General Will led directly to the Great Terror and has been used by oppressive regimes ever since. According to Rousseau if the general will was not accepted the people would have to be “forced to be free.”
Diderot wrote that “We must reason about all things,” a sentiment with which we could all agree. But he went on to write that whoever refused to seek out the truth as defined by the general will had renounced the nature of man and “should be treated by the rest of the species as a wild beast. This stood to reason as once truth was discovered to refuse to accept it is “either insane or wicked and morally evil.”
In Britain progressive forces with a clear conscience attempt to force us to be free. The only truly acceptable views are those which are progressive. To express a view unacceptable to the progressive conscience is to lay oneself open to the possibility of being accused of a “hate crime” and even liable to prosecution. To take a position at odds with acceptable ideologies is to be phobic. Virtue is imposed on the unenlightened, whether they like it or not.
Slovenly language leads to foolish thought, leads to slovenly language leads to… But it’s all much more than just language.