Tales From The Safe Space, Part 53 – Enforcing Social Justice Dogma, From Student Protest To Academic Coercion

Language Police

“Linguistic intervention” is the polite term for coercing students into adopting certain language, phrases and social justice codewords on pain of academic penalty

The Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics continues to capture and subvert our academic institutions, but until now the high priests of social justice have generally contented themselves with shouting down opponents, physically suppressing free speech and socially ostracising those who do not enthusiastically buy into their warped worldview.

That was bad enough. But as nervous university administrations seek to stay one step ahead of their restive student bodies, in some cases they are now going further than the activists and seeking to use their power and authority to enforce new speech codes and language guidelines – rules that do not merely govern personal conduct while on campus, but which impose academic penalties on students who hold the wrong beliefs or use the wrong language in their work.

From the Guardian:

Students at Hull University face losing marks on essays unless they employ “gender-sensitive” language.

Documents obtained under freedom of information legislation show undergraduates at the university have been advised that “language is important and highly symbolic” and informed they should be “aware of the powerful and symbolic nature of language and use gender-sensitive formulations”, while “failure to use gender-sensitive language will impact your mark”.

The document, obtained by the Sunday Times, related to undergraduates on a religious activism course in the university’s school of social science.

The direction follows moves by a number of universities to promote gender-neutral language.

Cardiff Metropolitan University’s code of practice on language has a “gender-neutral term” checklist, giving alternatives for words or phrases, including using “efficient” for “workmanlike” and “supervisor” for “foreman”. Bath University encourages neutral alternatives to “mankind” such as “humanity”, “humans” or “people”.

Two years ago, the University of North Carolina handed out a gender-inclusive language guide, which encouraged students away from using words such as “mailman” , “policeman”, “man-made” and other terms, giving alternative titles or descriptions, such as “postal carrier”.

The Hull University directive is seen as going further, with some critics describing it as “linguistic policing”.

Frank Furedi, the emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, told the Sunday Times: “Usually such threats are implicit rather than spelt out as in the case of Hull. This linguistic policing is used as a coercive tool to impose a conformist outlook. The alternative is to pay a penalty of being marked down.”

In other words, if you commit a sin such as writing “mankind” rather than “humankind” when submitting an essay at Hull University then you will now be at risk of incurring grade penalties and potentially jeopardising your future. Mastery of the academic principles and subject matter contained within the curriculum are no longer sufficient – now one must also think the “correct” things and use the correct language, unrelated to one’s own subject, in order to maintain an unblemished record.

If you are an English literature student who happens to prefer the cadence and evocations of older language when writing an essay, that’s just tough – every piece of coursework now has to help strike a hammer blow for social justice by drawing from the current leftist lexicon, on pain of penalty.

If you’re a mathematics or engineering geek who deals in empirical data and has little time for the subtleties of the English language, that’s tough too – you’d better learn fast how “words can harm” and ensure that your work meets academic standards while simultaneously avoiding the hair-trigger sensitivities of the most demented leftist professor.

And if you are a conservative religious student who sincerely believes that the new progressive orthodoxies on gender and sexuality are wrong and in conflict with your beliefs, that’s also tough. Now you must continually self-censor, guarding against ever inadvertently expressing what is in your heart, or run the risk that those beliefs might colour your writing, lest a misplaced pronoun or awkward turn of phrase cost you a vital grade.

And all of this shall be done, of course, in the name of creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students and faculty.

We are in new territory here. Most of the social justice outrages covered by this blog have involved cultists enforcing their ideology by either threatening heretics with social stigmatisation or using their power to shout down opponents and bend people to their will. That is bad enough. But this goes to another level – this is a university administration using its power to enforce social justice-compliant language (and thus thinking) among students.

For once, rather than scrambling to keep up with restive campus activists, the university is coming out in front of them, preemptively doing their bidding by forcing every last disinterested student to use the same prissy, stilted language as the most committed social justice zealot.

Fortunately, Hull University’s draconian move has also provoked a measure of dissent within the wider academic ranks:

Prof Judith Baxter, emeritus professor of applied linguistics at Aston University, said: “The principle of gender-neutral language has been around for at least 30 years. Businesses, schools, publishing, academic and educational texts use gender-neutral language now. So there is a total expectation.

“Most universities have just incorporated it in their general way of things. So it is a little bit odd that they have made it regulatory. I just think that is a step too far. Taking this regulatory, punitive attitude to the whole business of gender neutrality is a backward step. What it does is set up resistance. It will make people annoyed, not want to comply, when I think the majority of students would incorporate these sorts of approaches anyway.”

Precisely so. Leaving aside the most extreme linguistic absurdities to emanate from the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, most people are happy to use respectful terminology in their public interactions, as a matter of basic politeness. To use the threat of academic penalty to coerce adherence to a speech code – the vast majority of which most students are happy to follow anyway – is a massive overreach.

More than that, it is simply wrong. Academic discovery can only take place when people are free to challenge existing orthodoxies, theories and beliefs. Insulating any worldview – especially such a new and untested one as intersectionalism-soaked social justice – from academic enquiry and criticism goes against the core duty of a university. Whether it is theoretical physics or (as in this case) the social sciences, ideas can only be refined, proven or disproven if people are free to question them. Nobody and no theory should be exempt from such criticism.

With this punative, draconian policy, Hull University is essentially teaching their entire student body that some ideas are above criticism, above reproach. They are functioning not as a university but as a social justice madrassa – because, ultimately, the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is less science, even less objective fact, and far more like a religion.

 

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The Reviled American Media, Part 2

Jonah Goldberg gets it:

One need not paint with an overly broad brush or accuse the entire press corps of being part of a knowing conspiracy to manipulate the public. Many mainstream journalists sincerely believe they are operating in good faith and doing their job to the best of their abilities. At the same time, it seems patently obvious that the “objective” press is in the business of subjectively shaping attitudes rather than simply reporting facts.

Consider the hot topic of the moment: illegal immigration. The syndicate that distributes the column you are reading follows the AP stylebook, which says that I am not allowed to refer to “illegal immigrants” (i.e., people who migrate illegally), but I can refer to illegal immigration (i.e., the act of migrating illegally). Kathleen Carroll, then the senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press, explained that the change was part of the AP’s policy against “labeling people.”

Many news outlets followed suit, using such terms as “unauthorized” or “undocumented” to describe immigrants formerly known as illegal.

The move was hailed by left-wing immigration activists as a great leap forward. And for good reason: It is part of their agenda to blur the distinctions between legal and illegal immigration, and to make it sound as if objecting to the former is morally equivalent to objecting to the latter. But as a matter of fact and logic, the difference between an “unauthorized immigrant” and an “illegal immigrant” is nonexistent.

The media play these kinds of linguistic games all the time. Economics professor Tim Groseclose walks readers through countless examples in his book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Partial-birth abortion virtually never appears without a “so-called” before it, and the procedure is virtually never described clearly. The word “kill” is almost never used to describe any abortion, despite the fact that this is what happens. Whenever some great sweeping piece of liberal social legislation is passed by Democrats, it’s a “step forward.” Whenever a law is repealed, Republicans are “turning back the clock.”

The language games are part of a larger tendency of journalists to follow certain scripts that conform to how coastal elites see the country.

The very same point that this blog has been making again and again and again and again and again.

Jonah Goldberg’s criticism of the mainstream media is all self-evidently justified, but as America’s premier news outlets rend their garments and weep about being unfairly demonised it is worth noting that hardly any of them have shown the slightest bit of introspection as to their role in becoming so widely despised and distrusted by a large segment of the American population, let alone contrition or a desire to do better, to reflect the objective truth or the concerns of the other half of the country.

Beltway journalists will neither acknowledge to their readers that their deliberate manipulation of language and skewed story selection might possibly have played a part in fuelling conservative distrust of prestige newspapers and television networks, nor promise to stop doing so in the future. Now, is this as bad as creating a brand new fake news website and churning out sensationalist nonsense about Barack Obama raising an army to take back Washington D.C. in a military coup? No, of course not. But the fact that the mainstream media’s crimes are of a lesser severity does not excuse their dereliction of journalistic duty.

As I wrote the other day, we must keep two competing thoughts in our minds as we navigate the Age of Trump: yes, the president is often worryingly unstable and his administration troubling across a whole host of areas, but the people tasked with reporting on Trump, holding his administration to account and keeping the American people informed are no angels, either.

And part of me would rather deal with Trump’s lies, which at least tend to be huge emblazened whoppers which are obviously false and easily disproven, over the media’s deliberate and cynical attempts to slowly reshape public opinion in a leftward direction under the false flag of objectivity.

 

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Inclusive Language Week – This Is How Western Civilisation Commits Suicide

Ball pits, puppy dog videos and safe spaces – the seeds of Western civilisational decline are being sown on the university campus

Heat Street reports on the slow-motion suicide of Western civilisation:

During its “inclusive language” campaign, California State University-Northridge students lounged in a bouncy-ball pit and held forth about words that hurt their feelings in a so-called “vent tent,” Heat Street has learned after exclusively reviewing documents and video footage.

CSU-Northridge’s event stretched on for an entire week, teaching students about “potentially hurtful phrases” and cautioning that “using non-inclusive language can have a negative affect on others.”

The University Student Union, a student-led nonprofit campus organization, spent more than $1,000 in student fees on the event, according to invoices. Urging students to avoid hurtful language, USU came up with a list of offensive words — and then printed them in huge, all-caps text, hanging the poster on campus regardless of their supposedly triggering potential.

[..] USU also created a spinning wheel of the phrases it deemed offensive, hiring a videographer and prompting students to describe why a word or term could cause emotional harm and what language they’d use instead.

Most students acquiesced. Some suggested that specific words be banned outright.

The article doesn’t quite do it justice. Apparently California State University-Northridge also laid on a ball pit for their infantilised students to sit in and carp on endlessly about their feewings.

Katherine Timpf, who does an excellent job covering the social justice beat for the National Review, reports:

Students at the California State University–Northridge sat around in a big ball pit (which they a called a “vent tent”) and talked about hurtful words and their feelings as part of a school-sponsored inclusive language campaign.

According to video and documents obtained by Heat Street, the campaign lasted for a week, was put on by the University Student Union (USU), and cost more than $1,000 in student fees. It’s not clear exactly how much of that money was spent on the ball pit rental, or if there is any research supporting the idea that sitting in a ball pit while having a discussion provides any educational and/or therapeutic benefits.

Maybe Glenn Reynolds was right the first time – if these infantilised people are so desperate to be treated like children, maybe we really do need to look at temporarily removing the franchise from them by raising the voting age.

It is obscene as it is absurd that the current generation of students in the English-speaking West, living in the most prosperous and technologically advanced age in history and enjoying tools and luxuries undreamed of by their grandparents, have nonetheless been raised to be so self-involved and determined to wallow in their own confected fragility. What are we doing?

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

 

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The Democrats Rub Illegal Immigration In The Faces Of Struggling Americans – No Wonder Many Support Donald Trump

The American Left’s determined intransigence and dishonesty on the issue of immigration pushes decent people into the arms of Donald Trump

Imagine that for some crazy reason, you just happen to believe in the strict upholding of law and order.

Suppose that this belief extends to the enforcement of federal immigration laws, and zero tolerance on those who seek to bypass, subvert or ignore the legal avenues for attaining permanent residency and citizenship of the United States.

Suppose that you’re a hard working, ordinary decent person who perhaps doesn’t have the time or inclination to ruminate on the ways in which a conspiracy of the two political parties has effectively encouraged plentiful illegal immigration for so long that the US economy is now dependent on the millions of illegal immigrants living in America.

Suppose that you occupy a relatively unskilled and low-paid position in the labour market, and have not seen your disposable income or living standards increase for years, or in some cases even decades.

Suppose that whenever you watch or read the news, both politicians and the media refuse to call the people who overstayed their visas or snuck into the country by their proper descriptor, “illegal immigrants”, preferring to term them “undocumented immigrants” as though they were regular Americans whose birth certificates, passports and other papers proving their right to residency had simply vanished in an unfortunate puff of smoke.

Suppose that every time you turn on the television you see a deliberate effort to change the language to speak of “undocumented” rather than “illegal” immigrants, while the media consistently portray people like you, those with legitimate personal and civic concerns, as being inherently “racist”.

Suppose you then see the Democratic Party not only consistently celebrate “undocumented” immigrants at their quadrennial national convention but actually invite many of them onto the stage to give speeches, and reward those speeches with thunderous standing ovations – while the Democratic presidential nominee described people like you as belonging to a “basket of deplorables”.

Suppose that while you and your family are held to account and in some cases persecuted by the criminal justice system for the smallest infraction, the hearts of politicians and the media seem brimming over with sympathy not for you but for those whose very presence on American soil violates US immigration law.

Suppose that you are a relatively low-information voter, but someone who is very aware of the persistent air of scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton and who sees in the media’s incredulity at Donald Trump something of the same hostility that you face every day simply for daring to believe that immigration should be legal and controlled.

Now: if you were this person – and there are millions of them, in every state of the Union – why the hell would you NOT vote for Donald Trump this November?

And wouldn’t all of those people in the political and media class clutching their pearls in horror at the thought of a Donald Trump presidency bear a significant share of the responsibility for pushing you toward that decision?

 

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Blast From The Past: Jonah Goldberg Lashes Out At Political Centrists

A refreshing tirade against political centrism

Most regular readers will know that this blog has time for just about anyone on the political spectrum, save the out-and-proud centrists, those virtue-signalling, sanctimonious oiks who think that by eschewing strong opinions and continually fudging every issue they are somehow morally superior to us hot-headed partisan folk.

That’s why this blog has been a consistent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. While I would never vote for him myself – and what’s with this trend of demanding that even the leaders of parties we would never vote for still agree with us on key issues? – far better that the Labour Party has at its head someone who stands for vaguely socialist principles than another rootless centrist in the mould of Tony Blair or David Cameron.

That’s one of many reasons why this blog campaigned tirelessly for Brexit and a vote to leave the European Union. Bland, woolly, resigned pro-Europeanism – the centrist belief that Britain is hopeless, the nation state is outdated and that security and prosperity can only come by surrendering sovereignty to an unaccountable supranational body – was the watchword among every single one of Britain’s main political parties, save UKIP. Brexit slapped that smug consensus off the face of Britain’s politicians, and their pampered cheeks will be smarting for years to come as a result.

All of this is an unnecessarily long way of labouring the point – again – that I really, really, don’t like centrists. I may have written about this already, once or twice before:

Bring up the subject of taxation, to pick a random example, and you’ll get a group of people who strongly feel that taxes should be cut in order to stimulate the economy and allow taxpayers to keep more of what they earn, and you’ll get another group of people who think that it’s morally obscene that some people are enjoying themselves, so we should make the tax code more punitively progressive to help bring about social ‘equality’. But you’ll also get a third group of rather bovine people who look up from Britain’s Strictly Come Bake-Off On Ice, wipe the pizza grease from their mouths and just say “what?”

At present, we tend to think of this last group of people as “centrists” or “swing voters”, simply because they do not quote direct from either the Labour or Conservative Party manifesto when asked to offer a political opinion. But are they really centrists? There’s a world of difference between someone who carefully studies the competing policies of different parties to arrive at a considered position half way between two extremes, and someone who mutters something about politicians being “all the same” before their eyes glaze back over.

[..] And can we also please disenthrall ourselves of the unsupported and misleading notion that these “centrist” voters will immediately startle like shy fauns if they encounter a strong political opinion once in awhile, when most of them probably could not run for the bus in the morning, let alone into the arms of another political party?

Which seems as good a time as any to revisit this Jonah Goldberg video taken from an interview with Glenn Reynolds, in which Goldberg is promoting his (then) new book, “The Tyranny of Cliches”.

Here is Goldberg on how centrists are overrated:

We all see the centre as this incredibly privileged and wonderful place, right? The mainstream media constantly talks about the centre as if it’s just the greatest place in the world, and centrists are somehow wiser and more noble than the rest of us — “Shh! David Gergen’s about to talk!” And it’s all nonsense.

First of all, the whole idea of the centre as being this privileged place is actually one of these enlightenment myths. There’s this whole slew of argumentation about how Galileo and Copernicus “dethroned mankind” by getting rid of geocentrism, that the theory of heliocentrism, that we revolve around the sun rather than the Earth being the centre of the world [sic] was an elevation or promotion for mankind, and in our arrogance we couldn’t handle it and the Catholic church beat up on it. And it’s not a real left-right thing, except in the regard that it explains how we understand the whole geographic political landscape.

The reason why the Catholic church and pretty much everybody else opposed geocentrism was one, they weren’t sure the science was right because it was a novel theory at the time, but two, because they considered it a promotion. In medieval understanding, in ancient Greek understanding, Jewish medieval understanding and Catholic, Thomas Aquinas understanding, the centre of the world, the centre of the universe is literally the asshole of the universe. The centre of the universe is considered the lowest and most disgusting and turgid place in the whole cosmos. In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest pit of hell is the centre of the universe. Maimonides talks about this, Aquinas talks about this and it is this myth of the modern mind that somehow geocentrism, getting rid of geocentrism somehow elevated mankind. It completely misunderstands where the medieval mind was, and we carry it forward to today.

There are a lot of huge arguments we have with the Left, or are between the Left and the Right. The Left says we have to build this bridge over a canyon, it’s a stimulus thing, it’s infrastructure, we need this bridge. The Right says are you frigging crazy? We can’t afford it, we don’t need the bridge, it’s a bridge to nowhere, it makes no sense, blah blah blah. That’s an honest argument – one side says let’s build the bridge, the other side says let’s not build the bridge. The friggin’ pinky-extending centrists parachute in and says no no, let there be peace among you. We’ll compromise – we’ll build half a bridge that goes halfway across the canyon.

It is these difference splitters who drive me absolutely batty, and we treat them as if they hold this privileged place when we don’t even understand that the centre is a geographic metaphor, it’s not an actual place in politics. All the serious ideas in politics have always come from where they were considered to be the extreme at one point or another.

Brexit and the reclaiming of our nation state democracy from the failing euro-federalist experiment in Brussels was considered a niche and even extremist idea for most of the past 40 years. And look at us now – with the only remaining resistance consisting of Owen Smith’s pitiful, petulant bleating and a few pathetic europhiles with the EU flag painted on their faces, Brexit is happening.

All the serious ideas in politics have once been described as extreme and unmentionable, says Jonah Goldberg. Darn straight.

And nobody has ever built a monument to a centrist.

 

Political centrism

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