Sunday, December 22, 2013

Orwell On Speech

Rabel linked to a piece by Jason Lee Steorts called "Steyn On Speech:"

I admire Mark Steyn’s gallantry in defending freedom of speech and thought, but his weekend column is less than illuminating. It seems to have been 200 percent felt and half thought. Sorting through and categorizing the jumble of quite different examples that provoked Mark’s dudgeon was nonetheless a useful exercise. Here are my undoubtedly boring conclusions. 
When it comes to the legal restriction of speech, or the legal coercion of dissenters, I’ll storm the barricade with Mark. It amazes me that any soi-disant free people tolerate that sort of thing
The use of speech to criticize other speech is something else, and the distinction between state coercion and cultural coercion is one that Mark typically doesn’t acknowledge, to the detriment of his arguments. That distinction can get pretty blurry in our present legal arrangements, but in principle the people have every right to make pariahs of whom they will, and to slug it out among themselves, so to speak, when they disagree. 
Still, Mark has a point, and we should ask ourselves what sort of culture we’d like to live in. The readiness to ostracize those who offend our sensibilities is stifling and unhealthy. Except in very extreme cases, we should criticize speech rather than condemn speakers. This is also prudent. Martyrs are popular; better to make an argument. 
On the other hand, I can’t agree with Mark that anything of value is lost when derogatory epithets go out of bounds in polite society. They tend to be bad even for humor, substituting stereotype and cliché for originality. People who used them in different times need not be regarded as monstrous, nor must the canon be censored; we could instead feel good about having awoken to a greater civility and make generous allowances for human fallibility. 
By way of criticizing speech, I’ll say that I found the derogatory language in this column, and especially the slur in its borrowed concluding joke, both puerile in its own right and disappointing coming from a writer of such talent.
I boldfaced the Anglo-Saxon (A-S) nouns and underlined the A-S verbs to emphasize why I think this is a particularly poor piece of writing. Out of the whole piece, only the most vague terms come from Anglo-Saxon: freedom, speech, thought, time, slur, blurry; only two verbs, "slug" and "storm" are Anglo-Saxon, and "storm the barricade" is terribly worn metaphor.

George Orwell wrote in his wellspring of wisdom, Politics And The English Language:
The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

54 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

On the other hand, I can’t agree with Mark that anything of value is lost when derogatory epithets go out of bounds in polite society. They tend to be bad even for humor, substituting stereotype and cliché for originality.

It's interesting to see the revival of a sensibility on the PC left that, growing up as a child in northern Alabama, we thought was the provenance of old biddies.

chickelit said...

Ironically, the very words which Robertson used -- the ones which drew the fire -- were latinate terms: vagina and anus; these words are euphemisms for cruder Anglo-Saxon words.

Revenant said...

I thought the off-color jokes (and the strange aside about Islam) detracted significantly from an otherwise good Steyn piece.

Lydia said...

Steyn has come back swinging, with Re-Education Camp, calling Steorts's piece a "patronizing disquisition on the distinction between 'state coercion' and 'cultural coercion', and that's just for starters; here's his ending:

I am sorry my editor at NR does not grasp the stakes. Indeed, he seems inclined to “normalize” what GLAAD is doing. But, if he truly finds my “derogatory language” offensive, I’d rather he just indefinitely suspend me than twist himself into a soggy pretzel of ambivalent inertia trying to avoid the central point — that a society where lives are ruined over an aside because some identity-group don decides it must be so is ugly and profoundly illiberal. As to his kind but belated and conditional pledge to join me on the barricades, I had enough of that level of passionate support up in Canada to know that, when the call to arms comes, there will always be some “derogatory” or “puerile” expression that it will be more important to tut over. So thanks for the offer, but I don’t think you’d be much use, would you?

Revenant said...

The editor gets the best of it in his response to "Re-Education Camp":

The point is basic courtesy, Mark. It’s that you could mount your opposing argument without insulting people. Sure, you have the right to insult people, but I can’t sympathize much with someone who exercises that right just to prove it exists, which seems to have been part of your rhetorical strategy. What I would like to de-normalize is boorishness, whatever its content. I would do that by criticizing your manners, not by “indefinitely suspend[ing]” you, which would not be my decision anyway.

Icepick said...

Okay, the editor wants to "de-normalize" "boorishness". How does he expect to do that with a President that will openly lie about his previous bald-faced lies? Or one in which the President and the First Lady make a point of screening movies in which lighted candles get inserted into someone's ass in the White House itself? Or one in which a network celebrates and profits from anal insertions and has a fit when someone speaks out against such behavior?

That battle is lost. Culture warriors aren't going to win at this point by playing nice and bending over to take it again and again. (Since getting things inserted into anuses is the thing of the moment, and the highest societal good, I may as well mention it as frequently as possible.)

Unless you're Superman, you're not likely to win a fight by standing still and letting the other guy punch you in the face repeatedly.

Rabel said...

Politically correct alternatives to Dino's recipe.

Since Pastafarian ain't around.

Revenant said...

Okay, the editor wants to "de-normalize" "boorishness". How does he expect to do that with a President that will openly lie about his previous bald-faced lies?

So your argument is that it is impossible for people to behave decently because politicians lie?

Explain your reasoning.

Revenant said...

Unless you're Superman, you're not likely to win a fight by standing still and letting the other guy punch you in the face repeatedly.

The world isn't divided into "people who oppress the Duck Dynasty guy" and "people who like to use off-color names for gay men". You're missing the third group: people who think the first two groups are a bunch of pricks.

Metaphorically speaking, you're like the guy who responds to his neighbor's load rap music by blasting loud country music from your own stereo. Meanwhile your other neighbors hate both of you.

ricpic said...

NR has already chucked Derbyshire for calling a spade a spade. Can Steyn be far behind? The simple fact is that the powers that be at NR desperately want to be seen as respectable by the party goers and party givers inside the beltway. Can't be done. Can't be respectable and tell the truth plain.

rcocean said...

"The world isn't divided into "people who oppress the Duck Dynasty guy" and "people who like to use off-color names for gay men". You're missing the third group: people who think the first two groups are a bunch of pricks."

We're in a culture war and those your group are useless losers who count for nothing. Sadly, instead of just going off and watching football, they persist in interjecting themselves in a war they don't want to fight.

And they so by constantly undermining conservatives through demands that they play nice and not fight.

Or as IP stated, just standing there and taking it.

rcocean said...

And I'd have a little respect for Steyn if he'd ever supported anyone (Coulter, Buchanan, Debyshire, Limbaugh, etc) that was bounced or attacked by NR for being un-PC.

ricpic said...

This is nothing new for NR. Years ago it canned Joe Sobran, a giant. His crime? He criticized Israel. I mean without first going through the "Some of my best friends are Jews but" bit. Doesn't anyone have cojones anymore? Well, establishment conservatives (so-called) sure don't.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Dude, you didn't even bother to do the same thing to Orwell's piece. If you had, you wouldn't have found a much greater percentage of GERMAN words, either. (And let's not even mention how well your process worked. I'm pretty sure "writer" fits into your list of awesome etymology, but you didn't highlight that, either).

Even the Norse couldn't run northern France without being made to speak French, which they then imported to England. Its grip on cultivated speech is even seen in word pairs for animals, depending on whether the speaker bred and hunt them or cooked them. While the English farmed swines/pigs, cattle, deer or lamb and sheep, they served their French kings pork, beef, venison, and veal.

Further, German is a God-awfully ugly language. Anglo-Saxon seems nicer than that, but who knows what it would have become had the Normans stayed home. Perhaps the British Celts just had an easier time welcoming a language family with roots closer to their own.

And then there's the widespread agreement you find. Poll the world on whether they think French, Italian or Portuguese are sweeter to the ear than German, and you'll see what I mean. German has its lovers - they usually speak it or grew up hearing some of it. But the amount of long and distracting agglutinates that German has does not bode well for an Anglo-Saxon tongue made to ripen and blossom on its own.

Lastly, Latin is a much more useful language to learn. Whether through Rome's political, social and building feats or the beauty of the modern tongues that grew in the lands that it gained, it comes out far on top of Proto-Germanic. (The tribes speaking it didn't even have a name for Proto-Germanic as they were too busy running around bare-ass naked in the woods fighting each other to bother creating a functioning civilization with which to write it down, let alone use it to write about anything else. The Norse didn't even use runes until 150 AD).

Orwell was just nostalgic for Old England. But others piggyback onto his prejudice to justify their own coarseness.

Learn Latin and a love of Rome and you will come to dislike its roots a lot less.

Lem said...

Watching prime ministers questions i notice how they say "in work" to mean working. Their Unemloyment is down .

ricpic said...

Better watch your P's & Q's, Pollo, the professional feces thrower just called you coarse.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Well, he's German, ric (lol, it keeps autocorrecting as "roc"). He views anything having to do with Roman civilization in a coarse (or at least suspicious) way.

I think the Germans have a complex about being a scientifically advanced society that was cornered on the continent, spent a lot of time holding their own against Rome, and didn't get to advance as quickly and conquer as much of Europe as Rome did - back in the days when it mattered and the rules allowed for that.

Just a guess.

Unknown said...

Eh - I don't see why we should knuckle under to the left's continued acts of war.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Wrong post, April. The author was writing for NRO and didn't even mention politics.

As an example of my last comment - I mean, no one thinks "Deutschland uber Alles" would mean much of anything to them if they weren't already German. But it's hard to discount the contribution of Rome to our modern world. You could say "Rome super Omnia" and something about it would ring true. But the disproportionate German contribution to the world is pretty much limited to chemistry. (Pretty important in our modern world but nowhere near as broad). Rome influenced a heck of a lot more.

Also, I bet Hitler felt pretty damned peeved at the English. Although nominally Anglo-Saxon (genetic studies contest the idea that the Celts and other tribes were largely displaced), their contribution to global civilization rivals that of Rome. I think Germany felt like a parent with less accomplishments to his name than his wayward son.

Trooper York said...

Hey Ritmo since you know German I have a question. What did Horst Wessel lie about?

Trooper York said...

I am watching the original "Sound of Music" and I was just wondering.

ABC wants to jump on the band wagon.

Rabel said...

The Steyn/Steorts dispute seems to be getting a little personal. Couple of possibilities:

1) Steorts is Steyn's editor but doesn't have the chops to make Steyn change his work - Steyn is Steyn after all. So Steorts is irked at his impotence in making Steyn play nice with the totalitarians and he resorts to attacking his writer in the mag they both work for. That seems unusual to me. Then Steyn rips him a new one and now they're both all wee-wee'ed up.

2) It's all click bait.

(I'm pretty sure that "wee-wee'ed up" has its origins in ancient Greek.)

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Lol. I had no idea. Wiki says it's actually a word for "song" and describes a Nazi anthem.

Any German I'd know is actually piss-poor, BTW. You're probably better off asking Chickie for translations.

Trooper York said...

This editor is just you typical Rhino pussy who wants to get invited to all the cocktail parties and to be the house conservative on some liberal media rag.

You need to punch back these people twice as hard. You should be able to say whatever you want.

This is still America right?

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

One thing about the Anglo-Saxons, they seem to have been more mellow and peaceable than how those attributing conquest to them have made them out to be. Further, they were kick-ass jewelers. I just watched this special the other night that blew my socks off when it came to Anglo-Saxon metal-working. The narrator contrasts the exquisite beauty of their works with those of the Carolingians, and other European or French dark-age artistry.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Well, the pen is mightier than the sword, but I suppose that doesn't stop some from trying to use words as nuclear weapons.

Trust me, that approach is limited. I know. I've tried.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

I think the funny thing about all this is that even though the greatest German contribution to the world is modern chemistry, their word for it is even beyond Latinate. It's Greek.

Even the German word for science, ("wissenschaft") is authentically German. But the branch of that incredibly vibrant field that they excelled at, they stuck with the apparently more "prissy" root.

Prissies.

Revenant said...

We're in a culture war and those your group are useless losers who count for nothing.

You're losing that war, and it isn't because you didn't express your dislike of gay people forcefully enough. But hey, I'm sure whining and calling other people "losers" will totally turn things around for you. :)

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Agree with Rev.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

I mean, do the words "culture" and "war" even belong in the same sentence in a free society?

Chip Ahoy said...

Steorts is disingenuous when he purports a difference between State and social coercion when it is precisely that gray area where social coercion intersects law and suspicious government activities (mormon donor's names released by IRS later published) that GLAAD operates.

If it were just a matter of changing minds over time, that can be done by being excellent people and having that shine and noticed but they've chosen another antagonistic path, legal and political, and that is their choice to make. Fuck them for choosing antagonism.

The condescending wipes suggest Robertson join them in discussion with and discover their common ground, how nice, how about meeting Robertson in church and discuss letting Jesus into your life. No?

And Robertson's grandson, come on, there's gotta be at least one thinking, "Shit, Grandpa, do you have to be such a dick by making my coming out so hard?"

Anonymous said...

And I'd have a little respect for Steyn if he'd ever supported anyone (Coulter, Buchanan, Debyshire, Limbaugh, etc) that was bounced or attacked by NR for being un-PC.

rcocean: Steyn is a regular guest host on the Rush Limbaugh Show. Steyn wrote a glowing review of Coulter's book "Godless." Steyn defended Derbyshire with caveats as Derbyshire was fired from NR. I don't know where Steyn stands on Buchanan but three out of four ain't bad.

Your lack of respect for Steyn is not supported.

Anonymous said...

I mean, do the words "culture" and "war" even belong in the same sentence in a free society?

R&B: Why not? America has always been a fractious as well as free society.

In any event the current culture war is mostly being waged by blue against red, as in the case of A&E/GLAAD vs Phil Robertson.

Robertson simply stated Christian positions which have been orthodox for most of the past two thousand years. In response he had his show discontinued, which goes well beyond civil debate.

Revenant said...

Steorts is disingenuous when he purports a difference between State and social coercion when it is precisely that gray area where social coercion intersects law and suspicious government activities (mormon donor's names released by IRS later published) that GLAAD operates.

I don't think you understand what the word "disingenuous" means.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you understand what the word "disingenuous" means.

Revenant: I'm sure Chip knows what disingenuous means.

disingenuous - not genuinely sincere: giving a false impression of sincerity or simplicity

I'd say disingenuous fits you and Steorts well.

Revenant said...

Not at all.

Steorts isn't defending GLAAD; he is criticizing Steyn's use of off-color language.

Ironically, Steyn and his defenders *are* being disingenuous by equating "you shouldn't deliberately insult people" (Steorts's point) with "you shouldn't say anything that offends anyone" (GLAAD's position).

chickelit said...

Rhythm and Balls said...
Well, he's German, ric (lol, it keeps autocorrecting as "roc"). He views anything having to do with Roman civilization in a coarse (or at least suspicious) way.

Mostly so, as far as I know. But they came over here in the 1750's. But I guess that makes me responsible for anything that happened afterwards in Germany?

Anonymous said...

Rev: No cigar. You claimed that Chip didn't know what disingenuous means.

You've been here long enough to know that Chip is pretty bright literate guy, however colloquially he writes.

To pull "The Princess Bride" dis on Chip is indeed to convey a false impression of sincerity, i.e. you were being disingenuous.

chickelit said...

This story is getting complex. Could someone link the the original post of Steyn and the responses in chronological order or link to someone who has already done so?

I have to leave for several hours but will check back

virgil xenophon said...

Chip@11:50 last night gets to the essence of the matter. It is precisely that "gray area" in the Venn diagram between social and State coercion that is the battleground. And Chip is right about the antagonism bit; as we in the Air Force of my generation used to say after we had knocked the shit out of a target: "Fuck'em if they can't take a joke.."

Anonymous said...

The Age of Intolerance
By Mark Steyn
December 20, 2013 6:00 PM
http://nationalreview.com/article/366896/age-intolerance-mark-steyn


Steyn on Speech
By Jason Lee Steorts
December 20, 2013 9:19 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/366912/steyn-speech-jason-lee-steorts

Re-Education Camp
By Mark Steyn
December 22, 2013 10:47 AM
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/366943/re-education-camp-mark-steyn

Anonymous said...

In his retort to Steorts, Steyn drives his point home with an industrial nail gun:

As to his kind but belated and conditional pledge to join me on the barricades, I had enough of that level of passionate support up in Canada to know that, when the call to arms comes, there will always be some derogatory or puerile expression that it will be more important to tut over. So thanks for the offer, but I don t think you d be much use, would you?

In other words, Revenant, Steyn considers Steorts' piece disingenuous.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

But they came over here in the 1750's. But I guess that makes me responsible for anything that happened afterwards in Germany?

I guess that depends on how strongly you remain identified with them. To confine unions to the same immigrant group, representing ~17% of Americans, for more than ten generations suggests a sort of sociological affinity that is pretty far outside of any norm.

You guys weren't Amish, were they? And I'm assuming no unusual rates of inbreeding. ;-)

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Fractious and militant are not the same thing, creely, no matter how discomforted one is by non-conformity.

Anonymous said...

R&B: OK. If you're going to be so literal, there is obviously no culture war because there are no pitched battles occurring between armed forces of the red and blue cultures. At least not yet, though the century is young.

I thought you might have an interesting point to make. My mistake.

chickelit said...

You guys weren't Amish, were they? And I'm assuming no unusual rates of inbreeding. ;-)

My early forefathers belonged to the UBC church (United Brethren sounds neo-Nazi, huh?). Before that, they were Mennonite. They became Methodist. I think the Amish schism happened earlier, and we were never Amish that I know of, though they lived side-by-side in PA and in WI in the 18th and 19th centuries.

rcocean said...

Rev doesn't understand what the word "Understand" means.

I think that's been proven.

chickelit said...

I guess that depends on how strongly you remain identified with them. To confine unions to the same immigrant group, representing ~17% of Americans, for more than ten generations suggests a sort of sociological affinity that is pretty far outside of any norm.

I don't think you understand rural dynamics in America (surprise surprise). Entire swaths of America were homesteaded by similar ethnic nationalities. My ancestors all farmed for a living until the 1940's. Nobody lived in the teeming cities of the East.

chickelit said...

Rhythm and Balls said...
Well, he's German, ric (lol, it keeps autocorrecting as "roc"). He views anything having to do with Roman civilization in a coarse (or at least suspicious) way.

Rome and Berlin are my favorite European cities. Does that make me a neo-Fascist?

I admit to francophobia (except for their contributions to science and mathematics).

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

A point doesn't have to be "interesting" to be valid, crealy.

Speaking of interesting though, your story is cool to hear about Chick. I actually wasn't sure when I deduced that, but it was one possibility that I, for some reason, found far-fetched but went with anyway. Sure there are differences with the Amish - who seem the most purist of all - but at least it explains a closely related community with similar national origins.

I went through a phase recently of catching up on learning more about what the Amish are about - esp. rumspringa and whatever I'd found interesting for at least an episode or two of Breaking Amish (it appears now that so many of them had gone "English" that it's less interesting, esp. with the way the one girl turned out to be such a little bitch. But it was refreshing to see that the really hot one still seemed pretty nice, at least on the surface from what you could tell.

chickelit said...

Thanks for the links, creeley

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

I don't think you understand rural dynamics in America (surprise surprise).

No, I do. See my last response. Obviously if I'd guessed an Anabaptist explanation, then I was aware of that as a possibility. I just didn't think it was a likely one as you're on the internet typing about a bunch of things having to do with the modern world and never bring up a religious foregrounding having to do with anything like that.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

I haven't been to Berlin but Rome has a lot of glory and history to it. I think fascism was a pretty small mark on the place. Roman civilization wasn't perfect, but close. Just because Mussolini seized on its most barbaric, militant, nationalist and outdated aspects doesn't mean that I'd define Rome as having an indelible anti-freedom problem.

Anonymous said...

A point doesn't have to be "interesting" to be valid, crealy.

R&B: Ah, another word game.

Well, what is your "valid" point then?