Broadly-speaking, most people tend to find the concept of “political correctness” plain annoying. For others, it is an undemocratic, totalitarian overreach by a cabal of coordinated left-wing nutjob academics who want to turn the world into a giant adult playpen (“fascism pretending to be manners”). For the rationally-minded, however, something is very wrong with this philosophy; not just flawed, but corrupt.
This linguistically-impenetrable “alternative knowledge” being promulgated from academia doesn’t just reek of Eastern esotericism, nor is it merely prime fodder for conspiracy theories of thought control. It’s layer upon layer of meandering bullshit which is demonstrably morally wrong and academically incorrect.
The best little publication in the world, Areo Magazine, has a fascinating new article by fiction writer Cordula Simon, in which she critiques the orthodoxy around language. The first stage in her disaffection:
The first time I encountered something in Gender Studies I was skeptical about was when I was twenty. I had already taken quite a few courses in linguistics. The professor was discussing Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble. He asserted that, first and foremost, everything is language. This seemed reasonable to me. Body language, clothes — everything tells a story. But then the professor continued, “all speech is action, it is performance.”
Her time in education really does seem to have been time-badly-spent with those Sixties-era revolutionaries out to change the world. She continues:
My university lessons on gender were dripping with terms like decolonialize, deconstruct and discourse and slogans like speech is action. And they were soaked in names like Derrida, Foucault and Barthes. I wasn’t allowed to use sex anymore: I was supposed to say gender. I couldn’t say black, I had to say person of color, because speech is action.
What is fascinating is how she so coherently lays out the horrifically-shallow “philosophy” behind linguistic manipulation, and how it has so easily descended into an abusive political thesis of inverted class domination.
Signs: Not Just Things On The Road
Simon traces the root of the scam back to Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (author of Cours de linguistique générale, father of Semiotics, d.1913) and his linguistic theory: specifically the interpretation of signs.
“In semiotics, a sign is anything that communicates a meaning that is not the sign itself to the interpreter of the sign. The meaning can be intentional such as a word uttered with a specific meaning, or unintentional, such as a symptom being a sign of a particular medical condition. Signs can communicate through any of the senses, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or taste.”
She claims Saussure fired the starting gun for Structuralism:
“the sign for something, whether in sound or writing, neither forms a picture of what it refers to, nor is it exclusively bound to its referent. The word tree does not sound or look at all like a tree. They are linked arbitrarily, through social convention, the history of the language and our associations. Associations are individual, but they develop from social conventions.”
Speech As A “Performative Act”
Next up was John Langshaw Austin (J.L. Austin, d. 1960), a British linguistic philosopher who suggested the concept of a Speech Act, which was further developed by J.R Searle.
“A speech act in linguistics and the philosophy of language is an utterance that has performative function in language and communication. “
Hmm. Scroll down.
“There is no agreed formalization of Speech Act theory.”
Is any of this already seeming depressingly familiar? Like the strong acid taste at the back of your mouth in recognising it? Another theory agreed as axiomatic “truth”?
It should do — Judith Butler, the world’s worst professor and leading proponent of absolutely everything at all being “performative”, including gender — was a big fan of Austin, amongst other, less-reputable people.
Back to that madness later.
Coincidentally, the perversion of this idea reached its apex in the origination of “No Platform” (NP) during the early 1970s, when support for the National Front (NF) surged in the UK:
“When the NF started to grow in the early 1970s, left-wing Trotskyist groups such as the International Marxist Group (IMG) and the International Socialists (IS) argued that physical resistance to fascism should be applied to this next generation of fascists. The term ‘no platform’ was first by the IMG, who argued: ‘the only way to deal with fascist type organisations like the National Front is to break up their activities before they grow to a size where they can begin to smash the activities of the working class.”
Je Surrender, It’s All Too Complex
Saussure divided a sign into form (signifier) and content (signified); both perfectly reasonable and logical pieces. Along comes Jacques Derrida (d. 2004), the philosophy world’s idiot savant, and it all goes slightly wrong.
Now you can say a lot about Derrida — and philosophy majors will tell you at length, because no-one is right about him apart from them — , but two things that should stick out in your mind are a) he, and his good friend Foucault, were against adopting an Age of Consent, and b) smart people don’t get lost in a maze of their own smartness.
Simon contends Derrida’s understanding of the division of a sign into the two elements (text and meaning, or signer and recipient) helped him come to the conclusion that meaning is always in motion, and can never be fixed. His theory of Deconstruction (“Destruktion”)— for use in criticising literature — was then applied to the world, culture, society, and pretty much everything, like a hammer.
Deconstruction in itself is quite simple in its stupidity, despite what philosophy students say: language contains “binaries” and biases, originating in the author and reader’s subjective “situatedness”, ergo, it’s all too impossible and unstable to reduce to any form of truth.
So even the supposedly “objective” is just a manifestation of subjectivity, apparently. How convenient.
Down The Philosophical Sewer
“Unfixed meaning”, according to Simon, then influenced Jacques Lacan (“the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud”, d. 1981); mother-obsessed Roland Barthes (“Death of the Author”, d. 1980); as well as anti-neoliberal Pierre Bourdieu (practice and dynamics of social power etc, d. 2002).
But of course, Derrida’s theories were co-opted by one of the worst offenders to date, his sex-obsessed, communist-then-not, morality-hating friend, Michel Foucault (institutions control everything through power and knowledge, etc, ad nauseam, d. 1984), of whom Chomsky said ”I’d never met anyone who was so totally amoral”. His first thesis argued madness was a social construct, and his biography reads like a list of the traits of a psychopath:
“His fellow students noted his love of violence and the macabre; he decorated his bedroom with images of torture and war drawn during the Napoleonic Wars by Spanish artist Francisco Goya, and on one occasion chased a classmate with a dagger. Prone to self-harm, in 1948 Foucault allegedly attempted suicide; his father sent him to see the psychiatrist Jean Delay at the Sainte-Anne Hospital Center.”
Even more interesting was his compulsive drug use and “romantic life”:
“Foucault spent many evenings in the San Francisco gay scene, frequenting sado-masochistic bathhouses, engaging in unprotected sex. He would praise sado-masochistic activity in interviews with the gay press, describing it as “the real creation of new possibilities of pleasure, which people had no idea about previously.”
Unsurprisingly, almost all of Foucault’s theorising revolves around moral relativism and the deconstruction of the source of any criticism which could be levelled at… him.
It takes a group of philosophers to be this stupid and confuse even themselves with their own un-insightfulness [sic]. They are the only crop who have made things less clear than when they started.
Foucault liked to think about the body and the soul — i.e. dualism — presumably wondering what it would like to possess the latter. In “Discipline and Punish” his argument was the soul is the prison of the body and oppression imposed on prisoners is not internalized but is rather imprinted or marked on their bodies (a bit like what you would imagine happens in a San Francisco gay sex dungeon). Which is where the intellectual horror of “internalized [insert nonsense here]” originates, in part.
As Wright notes in “Language Policy and Language Planning”:
“The French have a long tradition of using the law as well as social pressure to influence language behaviour. This has usually been successful, but we should remember that from the Ordonannce de Villers-Cotterets in 1539–1937, when the Office de la langue francaise was set up to support the Academie and defend the status of the national language.”
Blah blah blah three decades of Parisian posturing and rebellion later, and the collective thinking is the recipient of the message produces the meaning; language is a tool used by a producer to enable and maintain social control, and everything’s subjective anyway.
Libraries of books have been written about Postmodernism, Post-Structuralism, and their endless variants. Suffice to say, material which has no practical use and could only be perceived as food by bottom-feeders is the dictionary definition of garbage.
Postmodernism — in the Lyotard sense of incredulity towards metanarratives — is unarguably the stupidest and most entirely valueless era of wasted philosophical time ever to have been wasted by man. Hitchens rightly remarked its “tyranny wears people down by boredom and semi-literate prose”.
As Foucault himself said, in a moment of salience:
“ that is because, in order to be taken seriously by French philosophers, twenty-five percent of what you write has to be impenetrable.”
Language Controls Thought, Thought Controls Language
So how to bring this together into a whole Grand Narrative [sic] — a behavioural modification program for the human race, in order to change the world?
The power of speech and its coupling with meaning is an old, old, very old idea. The Judeo-Christian worldview holds God spoke the universe into existence (Gen 1:3), and corrupt variants of “creating” reality by “speaking” it first are proselytized by Prosperity Gospel teachers everywhere.
George Orwell, the master, was one of the finest literary minds of the last few hundred years. He was particularly scathing about the danger of “political language” and could not have made his thesis on the link of language and thought any clearer than in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”
Simon finally connects Benjamin Whorf (d. 1941) and the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (linguistic relativity) into the ongoing disaster and its re-adoption from the late 1980s by feminist charlatans like Dale Spender and Deborah Cameron. It can also be found as the basis for films like “Arrival”, made a Quebecois director steeped in a world defined by provincial control of language.
The hypothesis of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition. Also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions: the strong hypothesis and the weak hypothesis:
The strong version says that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories.
The weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions.
“Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf never co-authored any works, and never stated their ideas in terms of a hypothesis. A 1969 study by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay demonstrated the existence of universal semantic constraints in the field of colour terminology which were widely seen to discredit the existence of linguistic relativity in this domain.”
The Degeneration of Thought
Which brings us back to Simon’s original premise at the start of her tome:
“The professor was discussing Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble. He asserted that, first and foremost, everything is language. This seemed reasonable to me. Body language, clothes — everything tells a story. But then the professor continued, “all speech is action, it is performance.”
That professor is an idiot. The mark of an idiot is the act of presenting reality as one would wish it to be, rather than what it is.
Here’s arch-Marxist Butler at her finest, winning the Bad Writing award in 1998 in Diacritics:
“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”
If the French perverts weren’t sure language had any meaning, it certainly doesn’t now.
The thesis of “Gender Trouble” (laundered and accepted as “truth” in 2018) now becomes rather predictable and boorish:
- “Sex” and “gender” are socially constructed because they are words, and can be “deconstructed”;
- Gender is “a performative act” like speech, and is composed of “binaries”;
- Gender is the main social agent which “marks” the body like it’s oppressing a prisoner.
- [insert vomiting sound]
The trouble is, all of this is utter bullshit.
It can be explained to a four-year-old in the sentence “words make it so”. There is nothing complex enough in an argument as simple as Nature vs. Nurture a pre-schooler couldn’t comprehend.
How A Car Got Driven Off a Cliff
Simon posits a fascinating hypothesis which is worthy of a much deeper debate in the larger context of academic and social circles.
- Saussure asserts signs develop arbitrarily from social conventions, i.e. form and content are not intrinsically related to one another.
- Sapir and Whorf posit language and thought are interdependent and language suffers relativity.
- Derrida concludes meaning is not fixed through his understanding of how signs can be divided into their elements and develops Deconstruction to interpret literature.
- Austin and Searle propose language is “performative” with the concept of a Speech Act.
- French Postmodernists and Post-Structuralists expand Derrida’s ideas into psychoanalysis, literary criticism, sociology, and other disciplines, in order to “deconstruct” institutions which control power over everyone and everything through language.
- Feminist writers resurrect Whorf’s hypothesis that language and thought are subject to one another.
- Butler summarises all the worst parts of 1–5 to attempt to “deconstruct” gender and sexuality.
- Social constructionists have a great idea: if all time, space, matter and basically everything is socially constructed through language, then all you have to do to Change The World (TM) is…
Exactly what Orwell warned of.
If you believe speech is an “act” (“performative”), and reality is socially constructed through language — whilst simultaneously believing it is malevolently used for the purposes of social power— , then you cannot intellectually permit or justify even the concept of Freedom of Speech itself.
Again, as Simon theorises:
“the powerless must deconstruct discourse, because they mustn’t leave the powerful to decide what things mean. Discourse is language and language is action therefore language can be violence. The recipient of speech is always right about its meaning, so if the recipient feels offended the speaker must be condemned.”
The only question left is…. why?
Kimberle Crenshaw, — like Marx, in the years before she worked as legal counsel on the Clarence Thomas hearing, in 1989— , gave the Far Left a perfect way to intellectualise some extraordinary collective resentment:
“Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.”
A New Theory: Security Through Obscurity
In computer science, when you rely on secrecy or nobody knowingsomething to keep something secure, it is known as Security Through Obscurity. It’s a very, very bad idea indeed.
We all know political correctness is dirty. Like dirty money is dirty. But nobody can easily explain why.
“In security engineering, security through obscurity (or security by obscurity) is the reliance on the secrecy of the design or implementation as the main method of providing security for a system or component of a system. A system or component relying on obscurity may have theoretical or actual security vulnerabilities, but its owners or designers believe that if the flaws are not known, that will be sufficient to prevent a successful attack. Security experts have rejected this view as far back as 1851, and advise that obscurity should never be the only security mechanism.”
Literary theory has an interesting parallel which seems a little non-sequitur on first reading, named Obscurantism.
“the practice of deliberately presenting information in an imprecise and recondite manner, often designed to forestall further inquiry and understanding. There are two historical and intellectual denotations of Obscurantism: (1) the deliberate restriction of knowledge — opposition to disseminating knowledge; and, (2) deliberate obscurity — an abstruse style (as in literature and art) characterized by deliberate vagueness.”
Over the last 60 years, postmodernists, social constructionists, and anti-Western sixties counter-culture revolutionaries have spent most of their adult lives deconstructing and undermining their own cultures and promoting an artificial epistemology of “alternative knowledge” laundered through academia.
They’ve hidden their bad ideas in mindless garbage-language. The thesis is language creates reality; it the language were clear, it would communicate the ideas clearly.
The question is why.
- Why would you need to steep your ideas is such stultifying, impenetrable prose?
- Why would you cite obscure journal articles as a “correct” interpretation of “truth” we all have to use?
- Why is the so-called “correct” information so mindlessly complex, when truth is painfully simple?
- Why is there not a transparent explanation of how and how these ideas relate to one another?
- Why are any of these theories and/or hypotheses consulted as “truth” without being testable, reproducible, or robust enough to withstand critique?
Most people cloak their emails and articles in jargon simply so they, and/or their bad ideas, will sound cleverer than they are. Others use it to “soften” unpleasant reality.
Richard Dawkins has an idea.
“Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life, collect a coterie of reverent disciples and have students around the world anoint your pages with respectful yellow highlighter. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content.”
Science attempts to eliminate subjective bias as it examines the facts and evidence to arrive at objective truth, where it earns its authority.
This humanities nonsense lubricates its ideas in the self-determined “legitimacy” of subjective bias, then sets about collecting self-confirming, self-cited, circular facts and evidence to support the conclusion it has already determined it wants and is planning to arrive at.
The big secret is nobody in these disciplines has had a new idea since the first part of the 20th Century. The truly wicked might suggest it’s all a part of a Soviet plot to smuggle brainwashed communists into the knowledge supply.
The promoters of this nonsense survive only because no-one knows where it comes from. As soon as they know, the facade simply collapses: once you get the gender madness comes from an illiterate Marxist lesbian who won the prize for bad writing spinning off theories from another Marxist psycho who formed them in a gay sex dungeon, the game’s up.
And they know the game’s up as soon as anyone takes a few minutes to investigate. Which is why it’s time for the character assassination games.
These revolutionaries are terrified that other academics — and by extension, the wider culture and general public — are going to deconstruct their lives and bad ideas — just as they themselves have spent their adult lives deconstructing everything.
A new hypothesis:
Obscurantism in the Humanities is a form of “security through obscurity” which:
a) protects counter-culture revolutionaries, and their bastard children, from the charge their self-ingratiating “work” is not only entirely empty, meaningless, and of no intrinsic or practical value whatsoever, and ultimately, destructive, and:
b) allows activists to covertly “launder” politicized ideas into culture through legitimate institutions, in order that they can be falsely referenced as a moral authority of epistemological “truth” to a wider audience.
Or could it be a much more human answer?
If language creates the world, let’s use it against them. We can re-make the world in our image.
That’s a much older idea.
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”