July 14, 2019

DISPATCHES FROM THE NEWSPEAK DICTIONARY: The Totalitarian ‘They.’

As Rod Dreher writes, “every once in a while a piece of journalism will appear that seems custom-made for this blog. In the case of New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo’s latest bit, in which he calls for the abolition of gendered language. Mind you, Manoo is not a columnist for the Oberlin student daily, but the most influential newspaper in the world. He says he’s a normal suburban dad, and doesn’t mind if you call him “he.” However:

But “he” is not what you should call me. If we lived in a just, rational, inclusive universe — one in which we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel — there would be no requirement for you to have to assume my gender just to refer to me in the common tongue.

Right. We’re the ones who are “irredeemably obsessed” with genitalia, not the progressives who can’t stop talking about it.

* * * * * * * *

Damon Linker has a great piece about how out-in-left-field-over-the-wall-into-the-bleachers-and-halfway-to-Albuquerque liberals have become on gender in just two shakes of RuPaul’s tail. Linker points out that Manjoo is not going out on any kind of limb here. This kind of gender radicalism is now part of everyday discourse in pop culture, advertising, media discourse, and in the catechisms generated by corporate HR departments. Here’s the most interesting part:

The first thing to be said about these convictions is that, apart from a miniscule number of transgender activists and postmodern theorists and scholars, no one would have affirmed any of them as recently as four years ago. There is almost no chance at all that the Farhad Manjoo of 2009 sat around pondering and lamenting the oppressiveness of his peers referring to “him” as “he.” That’s because (as far as I know) Manjoo is a man, with XY chromosomes, male reproductive organs, and typically male hormone levels, and a mere decade ago referring to such a person as “he” was considered to be merely descriptive of a rather mundane aspect of reality. His freedom was not infringed, or implicated, in any way by this convention. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to think or feel otherwise. Freedom was something else and about other things.

The emergence and spread of the contrary idea — that “gender is a ubiquitous prison of the mind” — can be traced to a precise point in time: the six months following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, which declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right. Almost immediately after that decision was handed down, progressive activists took up the cause of championing transgender rights as the next front in the culture war — and here we are, just four short years later, born free but everywhere in chains.

Read the whole thing, and then check out Neo on “Language and politics: getting used to the newest Newspeak.”

It’s here that I would add the usual “All the Democrats have to do is not be crazy, and they can’t even do that” Insta-rejoinder. But what if they do win next year? They’re going to want to start implementing the material they’re previewing right now, and give it to voters good and hard, and Mencken would say. Après Trump, le déluge.

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