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Weaponizing Language

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Friends of Dorothy Julian and Sandy speaking palare with Kenneth Horne on Round the Horne.

2,459 words

What stood out was the magical notion that the mere pronunciation of words in a ritual manner could effect a change in the character of material objects. Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic

Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Language is a major redoubt in the war for Western culture, and not one held by our side. On a discursive level, the Left and their tech facilitators in social media decide what we can and cannot say publicly, and even on occasion what we must say. The online samizdat we smuggle though is under surveillance as never before. Our words, written and spoken, are scrutinized and matched against an acceptable lexicon which came into being neither by electoral mandate nor precedent, but was simply imposed on us with tacit governmental backing.

On a purely linguistic level, our enemies have fashioned and reengineered some elements of language to use against us, as well as deeming certain usages to be tantamount to actual violence when used against them. And while it is true to say that it is in the naturally libertarian DNA of the Right that no use of language is off-limits, this has proved a feeble defense against the control the cultural, academic, and media Left have gained and maintained over language and, by extension, over us.

This fierce and unsleeping onslaught takes two main forms: straightforward censorship affecting what can and cannot be stated in the public arena, and a double-edged weaponization of language itself.

Censorship is straightforward and inexorable given both that Big Tech is sympathetic to the Left, and that they are aided and abetted by Western governments who show no appetite to defend freedom of speech; in fact, quite the reverse. Indeed, for governmental convenience, censorship has been outsourced to Big Tech and their algorithmic robo-cops. This has been proved yet again in the United Kingdom this week as Member of Parliament Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media, and Sport (none of which should have a dedicated governmental minister, as they are all supposedly free market concerns) has confirmed a pilot program to remove “harmful content” from the Internet — “harmful” in this case meaning “embarrassing to the government.”

So it is also in the United States, to take just the most recent examples, that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dr. Robert Malone’s Twitter accounts can simply be removed and their voices silenced for transgressing governmentally-approved speech rules. Yes, there are ever more alternative platforms in Gab, Gettr, Parler, and so on, but those who move there will be singing to the choir.

Censorship affects the spoken word just as much as what is scribbled on Twitter or Facebook, and often functions as politically expedient self-censorship. Keir Starmer is the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, and thus of Her Majesty’s Opposition. If you require a perfect example of a stuffed shirt and an empty suit, Starmer is your man. He is entirely bereft of personality, the product of focus groups and special advisers, and if he has ever had either an honest principle or an original thought in his head then, as the English used to say, I’m a Dutchman. He did, however, make one statement which unintentionally shows a contemporary truth.

Asked by the host of one of Britain’s vacuous media chat shows whether he believed that only women had cervixes, Starmer looked utterly petrified for a few seconds and replied, “Well, it’s not something you should say.” This was one of the most staggering political comments of last year, and went more or less unremarked in the mainstream media.

Thus, censorship revolves around permission granted or denied, its center of gravity being what may and may not be said. A natural progression for the censored is to say what they wish to say, but by other, disguised means. Thus, a curious side-effect of the current accelerated policing of speech is a change in language itself in order to escape detection and censorship. This means that, for example, in order to fool or distract the algorithm, many YouTubers change keywords during their broadcasts. Thus, when COVID-19 is under discussion, you hear “Coof,” “Inflection,” “Jibby-Jabby,” and so on. I have heard so-called “back-speak,” in which the speaker breaks up the component phonemes of a sentence and rearranges them in a manner the rules of which are shared by the listener. This was popular at British public schools (confusingly, these are actually private schools) in order for boys to communicate without the attentions of masters. Online, certain trigger words are often pronounced using strange, distorted accents in an odd game of linguistic hide-and-seek. The YouTuber Salty Cracker has a hilarious, manic language of his own to avoid the algorithmic sniffer dogs.

This camouflaging of language has its precedent, at the least in the UK and particularly in London. “Cockney rhyming slang” is a famous product of London’s East End. Anyone born within the sound of the “Bow Bells,” or the bells in the church at Bow in east London, is deemed to be a “Cockney,” and rhyming slang was what we might call a coaxial language, or a language that exists within another language.

Any Englishman of at least my generation knows about Cockney rhyming slang. “Hello, my old currant bun. I’m just going up the rub-a-dub with the trouble and strife” — or in translation, “Hello, my old son. I’m just going to the pub with my wife.” “Apples and pears”: stairs. “Whistle and flute”: suit. “Plates of meat”: feet. My late father — born in London but a few miles shy of the Bow Bells — often called people, including me, “My old China,” meaning “China plate” or “mate,” and people would often take a “butcher’s” at something, a “butcher’s hook,” or “look.”

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Cockney rhyming slang was more than just quaint linguistic ornamentation, however. It also served to bamboozle the police, the East End being something of a hotbed of criminality. A similar coaxial language, also used to bewilder London’s Metropolitan Police Force, was known as “palare” (pronounced pal-ar-ay). Palare was used by homosexual men in the decades before homosexuality was legalized under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. As you might expect, it was flamboyant and, well, rather gay. It also featured an introductory and universal phrase, which was to describe someone as a “Friend of Dorothy.” This meant that the person was homosexual, and probably had its origin in The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland being a perennial gay icon. The famous and extravagantly English comedian Kenneth Williams — star of the Carry On films — made use of palare in his sketches for the famous radio comedy show Round the Horne, addressing the show’s mainstay Kenneth Horne as part of a double act of gay tailors, Julian and Sandy, who would use a form of palare.

Coaxial language has been at its mischievous best recently in the United States with the now-famous “Let’s go Brandon” chant. Its innocuous NASCAR origins gifted both a wonderful proxy for “Fuck Joe Biden” and a ready-made way to troll the Left, who have acted over the phrase in a predictably pathetic and hysterical way. The creators of the tragically short-lived Irish situation comedy Father Ted in the 1990s achieved a similar feat by substituting the familiar Irish usage “feck” for the then unusable word “fuck.”

So much for language at the discursive level, the raw cargo of communication. What of language in itself? Here, we find a number of things going on: metamorphoses, transformations, and perversions which make Greek mythology look tame. Firstly, a brief look at woke neologisms.

Lucretius’ De rerum natura, written in the first century BC, predicts the oddness of the postmodern, woke, critical race theory lexicon when the poet speaks of the difficulty of translating Greek concepts into Latin, bemoaning the need for “strange terms to fit the strangeness of the thing.” So, too, the Left have produced linguistic grotesques: “transgenderism,” “micro-aggression,” “non-binary,” “othering,” “gender fluid.” These linguistic curios have no essential meaning, but are at the heart of the far Left’s nihilistic enterprise. Ugly words from an ugly tribe.

And what exercises the members of that tribe more than anything else is what they term “hate speech,” as fatuous and overused a term as you will find. It is a blanket term intended at one time in the recent past to stifle debate, but increasingly retooled to defenestrate the supposed guilty party and, if possible, imprison them. “Hate speech” for the Left now includes stating any truth — be it biological, statistical, historical, or otherwise — which they have deemed contrary to their program of destroying white civilization.

So, what is hate speech at the level of utterance or transcription? (For speech, obviously, we mostly understand writing here, the distinction not being important, as this is not an essay on Jacques Derrida). I hate U2, Picasso, and beetroot, for example. Is this hate speech? Well, yes, taken literally. Clearly it is in that it is a statement with intent to express hatred. Does it mean that I wish Bono killed, all of the lascivious Spaniard’s paintings cut from their frames and burned, and a certain rubicund root crop to suffer from the ravages of some deadly weevil? It does not. It merely illustrates that I do not wish these three to play any part in my life. I leave the enjoyment of these things to others, who are more than welcome to them. It is jokey hyperbole. But not for the Left. They certainly do hyperbole, but they don’t do jokes. Just as the Ayatollah Khomeini famously said that “there are no jokes in Islam,” so too there are none for the progressive Left.

The ur-word in the lexicon denoted as hate speech is, of course, “racism.” The word “racism” is, of course, the word the anti-white Left has coopted more than any other. It is now used to mean what “racialist” used to mean, but in a hyperbolized and weaponized way pinpointed by Orwell.

Himself a master of the English language, Orwell wrote famously in “Politics and the English Language” that “[t]he word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.”

“Fascist” is, of course, also favored by our enemies on the far Left, where it joins “racist,” “sexist,” “misogynist,” “Islamophobe,” “homophobe,” “transphobe,” and the rest of the idiot arsenal of hyper-intolerance at their disposal. But what is actually happening at the level of meaning when the Left spit out the words “racist” or “fascist” at the enemy? Just as with their denial of history, the ultimate aim is the removal of context, leaving just a bald utterance with magical effects.

In one of P. G. Wodehouse’s famous Jeeves and Wooster stories, the hapless Bertie Wooster has a friend who gets a walk-on part in a travelling theatrical musical in America. His one line is something like, “I hate to alarm everyone, but the house seems to be on fire!” cuing panic among the actors. When the friend is fired, Bertie himself is asked to fill in, but manages to forget his only line and, with the audience breathless in anticipation as he stands there gormlessly, finally yells out “Fire!” literally in a crowded theater and causing the crowd to stampede. All good Wodehousian buffoonery, but it illustrates a wider point. Reducing language to single trigger words or phrases alters the effect of the utterance. A single word without context, particularly when used in an accusatory way, has a far greater effect than a reasoned and contextualized explanation. Once again, as always for the new Left, emotio dominates ratio.

A strong current of the philosophical school of emotivism runs through what passes for Leftist discourse. This is a theory of language whereby ethical terms are employed in essence simply to approve or disapprove of the matter in hand. A crude version of this is sometimes referred to as the “Boo/Hooray theory.” One philosopher connected with this school has some useful pointers as to what it is that the Left do to language when they reduce it to one-word/phrase approval or disapproval.

In 1964, the legal philosopher J. L. Austin published a book entitled How to Do Things with Words in which he suggested a tripartite structure operating within grammatical imperatives. The command “Get out!” thus has three components, which Austin called the locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary. The locutionary is the simple intent of the phrase — that the speaker wishes another to get out, of a room, say. The illocutionary is the context, perhaps that the command is issued because the house is on fire. The perlocutionary is the performative outcome of the utterance, most likely in this case to be the hearer getting out. In Austin’s terminology, Leftist language passes straight from the locutionary to the perlocutionary, from bald utterance to outcome, without passing through the illocutionary or contextualizing phase. Thus, when a student calls you a racist or a transphobe, they are not required, by the truncated logic of their own system of meaning, to provide the substance of their accusation.

These are mere notes, a whistle-stop tour of various aspects of linguistic usage which the Left have altered for their own advantage. Chairman Mao’s regime outlawed jokes and “weird or strange words” as a part of getting rid of the Four Olds during the Cultural Revolution, and this is happening again now, only to us and our allies.

Language is not, as the Left believe, simply a malleable medium which can be effaced or altered when expedient. Words are embodied history; they are the fossil record of a semantic genealogy. Etymology and philology teach us that words don’t spring fully formed into life and meaning, but are the product of historical accretion and association, of culture, geography, class, and social evolution. This is just one reason the progressive Left has no compunction about disrespecting meaning, as it despises history and it does so because white people were, up until now, the victors who wrote it.

But that was then and this is now, and just as history is being erased and rewritten, so too the language in which the new history is being inscribed has been genetically modified and given, to use a modish phrase, gain of function. Thus, even the language we are allowed to express publicly must conform to rules we had no part in forming, but must nevertheless follow. As schoolchildren used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” As I say, that was then, but this is now.

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