Feelings Trump Reality

Posted on Thu 09/21/2017 by


By Edward Cline ~

I have not posted anything lately, because Hurricane Irma was imminent and on my mind, and then I was without power and the Internet for days. Yes, I live somewhere in Florida, in a region of  the state that was relentlessly baptized by an outer band of the storm, rich in  rain and howling winds.

Now that I’m back in business, and able to catch up on the news, I see that a new hurricane is imminent, that is, the storm of censorship and the enforcement of politically correct thought, speech, and writing. It promises to wreck destruction not just on Florida, but on the whole of Western civilization. The storm has been collecting strength for decades as it approaches the mainland of Freedom of Speech.

When to date the origins of the storm? Let’s say in 1995, with the publication of a fussy, snarky book, addressed mostly to academics. I quote from the article I wrote about it, “The Ghouls of Grammatical Egalitarianism.

A small, innocuous-looking book appeared in bookstores recently, published under the auspices of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), an organization which claims to be devoted to the dissemination of knowledge and scholarly research. Its title is Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing, by Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-Free Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). It is little more than 100 pages long, weighs less than a pound, yet its contents are more potent than the Oklahoma City bomb. Its ingredients are politically correct jargon, multiculturalism, and the phenomenon of what may be called “grammatical egalitarianism.”

It is important to note at the start that the Association boasts a membership of 114 institutions, mostly university presses, but includes such diverse organizations as the National Academy Press, the National Gallery of Art, the Modern Language Association, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. Its membership includes all major American and Canadian universities, plus Oxford University Press and presses in Tokyo, South America, and Scandinavia. This is an organization with significant cultural clout.

Guidelines promotes and encourages “grammatical egalitarianism,” which in practice serves to stifle the dissemination of knowledge and scholarly research.

Presciently, Guidelines, in 1995, covered virtually every issue now at large in 2017, including feminism, “social justice,” and race. Feelings have replaced language as a mode of expression.

Guidelines includes the disclaimer, “there is no such thing as a truly bias-free language” and stresses that the advice it offers is only “that of white, North American (specifically U.S.), feminist publishing professionals.” The Task Force, which is composed of 21 university press editors (two of them men), recommends euphemistic proxies for all of the terms on its “hit list.” [Brackets mine]

This is true. There is no such thing as a truly bias-free language, but Marilyn Schwartz and her team resisted that truism anyway. A truly bias-free language would be no language at all, except for grunts, gesticulations, and facial expressions. But even those would not be free of bias. Looking through an atomic microscope, without a bias-loaded language, how would a scientist otherwise say that an atom’s valence of electrons is abnormal? How would one say that “this is a very good (or bad) painting”? How would one say, “I love you.”? I leave it to your biased imagination. Because language is governed by values – that is, by “bias” – such as objective truth, it enables precise communication. Without bias, language, communication, and the formation of concepts would be impossible to men.

Ayn Rand wrote extensively on the role of language. In her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, she noted that:

Concepts represent a system of mental filing and cross-filing, so complex that the largest electronic computer is a child’s toy by comparison. This system serves as the context, the frame-of-reference, by means of which man grasps and classifies (and studies further) every existent he encounters and every aspect of reality. Language is the physical (visual-audible) implementation of this system.

Concepts and, therefore, language are primarily a tool of cognition—not of communication, as is usually assumed. Communication is merely the consequence, not the cause nor the primary purpose of concept-formation—a crucial consequence, of invaluable importance to men, but still only a consequence. Cognition precedes communication; the necessary pre-condition of communication is that one have something to communicate. (This is true even of communication among animals, or of communication by grunts and growls among inarticulate men, let alone of communication by means of so complex and exacting a tool as language.) The primary purpose of concepts and of language is to provide man with a system of cognitive classification and organization, which enables him to acquire knowledge on an unlimited scale; this means: to keep order in man’s mind and enable him to think.

Language is a conceptual tool—a code of visual-auditory symbols that denote concepts. To a person who understands the function of language, it makes no difference what sounds are chosen to name things, provided these sounds refer to clearly defined aspects of reality. But to a tribalist, language is a mystic heritage, a string of sounds handed down from his ancestors and memorized, not understood. To him, the importance lies in the perceptual concrete, the sound of a word, not its meaning. . . .

Moves to penalize “hate speech” are moves to prevent the identification of things and to punish thought. A law student at Edinburgh University is being “investigated” for using very biased language against Islam and supporting President Trump’s MOAB destruction of an ISIS mountain center in Afghanistan. Fox News reported:

A British University student who supports President Donald Trump has been subjected to an investigation for putting “minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear” after he mocked the Islamic State group on social media.

Edinburgh University officials have launched an inquiry into comments made by Robbie Travers, 21, who allegedly committed a “hate crime” when he mocked jihadists in Iraq and Syria, the Times of London reported.

In April, Travers celebrated the U.S. military bombing of an ISIS center in Afghanistan using the so-called “mother of all bombs” – a strike that killed at least 36 ISIS militants, Fox News reported.

Of course, neither “Islamophobia” nor “biased” words have the physical property to hurt anyone, yet the mere utterance of words is believed by those whose minds are self-inoculated against reality to have the power to put some people “at risk” and to instill in them fear and panic. To them, words are bricks that can inflict mental anguish. The speech censors and regulators as well as the “minority students” do not subscribe to the 19th century children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” The adage is an anathema to those who feel a need for coddling and insulation from words.

The censors and regulators aim to treat adults as children who feelings may be impaired or damaged by the “sticks and stones” of mere words. The infantile adults must therefore be “protected” from “hate speech,” which could include anything from a scholarly work on Islam to a passing dirty look on the street.

Britain is not alone in unrolling the legal duct tape to stifle criticism of especially Islam. Among the European countries cracking down on alleged “hate speech,” Germany is the most zealous. The Washington Post reported in January 2016:

As Western Europe’s most populous nation grapples with a historic wave of mostly-Muslim migrants, politicians and activists are decrying a rash of incendiary speech bubbling to the surface of German society. In a country whose Nazi past led to some of the strictest laws in the West protecting minorities from people inciting hatred, prosecutors are launching investigations into inflammatory comments as judges dole out fines, even probation time, to the worst offenders.

German authorities, meanwhile, have reached a deal with Facebook, Google and Twitter to get tougher on offensive content, with the outlets agreeing to apply domestic laws, rather than their own corporate policies, to reviews of posts.

Critics call it the enforcement of political correctness, raising the question of what constitutes hate speech and sparking a national debate over free expression. Germans have been outraged, for instance, by reports of more than 100 sexual assaults and robberies in the city of Cologne allegedly committed by gangs of young Arab and North African men on New Year’s Eve.

Fortune Magazine in June ran a lengthy article on the scope of Germany’s censorship by proxy with the help of tech companies. The government establishes the censorial policies,  leaving the tech companies to do the dirty work of enforcement.

German lawmakers formally approved a new law that will expose social media companies such as Facebook to heavy fines if they fail to take down hate speech and other criminal content.

Under the law, which will come into effect in October, Facebook, Google-owned YouTube, and other social media platforms will have to take down posts containing “obviously illegal” material within 24 hours of being notified of it. For less “obviously” criminal content, the compliance timeframe is seven days. If they repeatedly fail to meet those deadlines, they will be liable for fines of up to 50 million Euros ($56 million).

The law is a landmark in holding social media companies accountable for the material posted on their sites. It sets a precedent, in the West at least, that contradicts U.S. legislation passed at the dawn of the Internet age that broadly shields tech companies from such liabilities.

Neither has “hate speech” the intrinsic, magical power to physically harm anyone. An utterance of hate cannot smack one in the jaw, but it isn’t the words that assault one physically. It is the action accompanying it. Islamic “hate speech” by itself cannot harm anyone; it is but the emotionalist ranting of lunatics who refuse to think. It is only when they murder. However, to attempt to police “hate speech” of any species, is to punish, penalize, and arrest concept formation, and is futile, because it asks men to cease thinking. If you want a demonstration of the futility of searching for a lost meatball in a mound of spaghetti, see Tucker Carlson arguing with a college professor who is also an Antifa activist, about the alleged “right” of masked thugs to throttle freedom of speech.

A line from an extremely tedious, yawn-inducing film, “Salt and Fire,” about an allegedly man-caused catastrophic disaster, a spreading salt flat in South America, reveals the operative epistemology and metaphysics of political correctness and European leaders:

“There is no reality, only perceptions, anger, and views. All collective anxieties condense into conspiracies.

Europe is mired in this subjectivist, Kantian-Hegelian, suicidal mare’s nest, and doesn’t seem to be able to extract itself from it, or has shown any inclination to want to. Europe is in a philosophical, almost masochistic self-induced coma. It fears the reality of an Islamic takeover, and knows it will be painful, but is willing to undergo the transformation. Its political leaders are quite willing to subject their populations to the pain, but are reluctant to experience it themselves. They have mentally inoculated themselves from the brutal reality of their kneejerk, embedded evasion – taking refuge in the gated communities of political power and privilege and their armies of security – and the devil, the rest of us, must take the hindmost.

Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in England and Virginia in the pre-Revolutionary period, of several detective and suspense novels, and three collections of his commentaries and columns, all available on Amazon Books. His essays, book reviews, and other articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Journal of Information Ethics and other publications. He is a frequent contributor to Rule of Reason, Family Security Matters, Capitalism Magazine and other Web publications.

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