You Can’t Defeat an Idea

A lovely old Chestnut by Kate Paulik on the great folly of PC:

political correctness in every incarnation I’ve seen is nothing more than lipstick on the Newspeak pig. PC has never – and can’t engage the root cause it purports to be about. Banning “racist” words does not magically make a bigot less bigoted. The bigot just uses other words in public and more than that, starts to figure that the folks he’s bigoted against must be a bunch of useless wimps because they can’t handle a bit of mockery. If it gets really ridiculous, guess what? The bigot gets more bigoted. I’ve seen it happen. As soon as the bigot figures that nothing he, she, or it can do will be good enough for the authorities, he, she, or it (oh, hell with this. I’m portmanteauing it to figures whoever’s bigoted against is in with the authorities to beat down. Once we get there, a backlash is guaranteed.

One can respond to this with  Orwell’s thesis that we cannot think thoughts that we don’t have words for, so removing racist words will eventually remove racist thoughts. But PC isn’t as efficient as Newspeak: the old words don’t vanish down the memory hole, they just slide onto the samizdata by which dissidents recognize each other. Creating an Index Expurgatorius doesn’t mean the books on it won’t get read.

Also, when you admit that you’re using Orwellian methodology, you’re supposed to feel bad about that.


Why Can’t You Idiots Read? Camille Paglia and Taylor Swift

In an otherwise blandly professorial discussion of “girl squads” for the Hollywood Reporter, Camille Paglia sent some shade at Taylor Swift:

In our wide-open modern era of independent careers, girl squads can help women advance if they avoid presenting a silly, regressive public image — as in the tittering, tongues-out mugging of Swift’s bear-hugging posse. Swift herself should retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props, an exhibitionistic overkill that Lara Marie Schoenhals brilliantly parodied in her scathing viral video “Please Welcome to the Stage.”

It’s vintage Paglia, with sensible advice hiding behind the tartness, and perhaps an unstated annoyance that she has to talk about these current stars rather than barbering about Madonna for the 8,000th time. But because the media is populated by semi-literates, the Google page for “taylor swift camille paglia” currently looks like this.


It’s exhausting to have to point this out, but at no time did Taylor Swift get called a “Nazi Barbie”. Let’s go back and read the sentence:

Swift herself should retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props…

In this sentence, “Nazi Barbie” is a phrase modifying the word “routine”, which is the object of the verb “retire”. The subject of the sentence is “Swift”, and she is advised to do something. What is she advised to do? She is advised to retire something. What something? A routine. What routine? A routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props. This is the routine that is is acidly attacked as “Nazi Barbie”.

What does that mean? Well, we could ask Paglia what she meant, but this is the internet, so let’s decide that for her. What do girls do with Barbies? They play with them, dress them up, create adventures for them, etc. Is there a connection between this activity and what Paglia depicts Swift as doing with her friends and compatriots? Do you see it? Do you then see that “Barbie” is not being used as a perjorative to describe Swift?

As for “Nazi”, it’s just there for spice. In her author bio, Paglia complains of Swift’s “twinkly persona” that evokes “fascist blondes” from her youth. Paglia has a thing about blondes, emotionally and sexually, so she’s vulnerable to making pedestrian aesthetic connections of blondes and fascism. When she uses these words, she’s operating under the deconstructed definition of “fascism” as “something not desired”, as Orwell noted in 1946. For that reason, I think it fair for Jewish anti-Defamation groups to take her to task for connecting the Third Reich with a nondescript pop singer. Godwin’s Law is what it is, but professors should know better.

Everyone else is misconstruing Paglia’s remarks for clicks. It happens every day, and I sometimes wonder if the dogs of the press even notice that they’re doing it anymore.

1985 is a Thing

Way before I’d ever read 1984, I’d heard of it. I don’t know if I had heard of it during the year 1984, as I turned eight that autumn, but somewhere along the way I heard that particular year spoken of in that way that conveyed symbolic significance. When I did read it,that significance finally took shape.

In between the realization that 1984 was a book, and reading that book, I also somehow digested the notion that someone had written a response to it, and that someone was not George Orwell (if I knew who Orwell was at the time, which seems unlikely). I was aware, at some point, that there was also a book called 1985.

Today, in a lonely impulse of delight while pursuing Goodreads, I confirmed that reality.

Anthony Burgess. Of course.

As a sidebar, The International Anthony Burgess Foundation has a nice historical summary of the dystopian genre. I never would have realized that Brave New World was written before 1984.

The term ‘utopia’, literally meaning ‘no place’, was coined by Thomas More in his book of the same title. Utopia (1516) describes a fictional island in the Atlantic ocean and is a satire on the state of England. The English philosopher John Stuart Mill coined ‘Dystopia’, meaning ‘bad place’, in 1868 as he was denouncing the government’s Irish land policy. He was inspired by More’s writing on utopia.

Something fitting about “Utopia” being about England and “Dystopia” being about Ireland. Always thus, I suppose.

In any case, I look forward to reading it.