27 May 2009

The Grammar of Authoritarianism

Starting to notice an unusual upshot of the fall of Fascism and Communism and the prevalence of the liberal-democratic consensus. Don't get me wrong, I love all that liberal democracy shit, it's great, but the fact that it's ended up largely beyond criticism has had some rather fucked-up effects on our language. In modern society, saying "We oppose democracy and individual freedom" leaves you less popular than saying it was you kidnapped Maddie. So, whenever people oppose some kind of freedom, which they often do - though only for other people of course - they always have to phrase it in terms of freedom. I did a branespeak on one of these once, I've also found one on Lionheart's blog, via mail-hating Perec fan Anton Vowl, and again today on the Beeb. And of course, there's the ubiquitous "MY human rights" cuntwhine.

We'll start with Lionheart, being the outright simplest and the most blatantly hypocritical, says:
Another demonstration which has been given the green light by Luton Borough Council is planned for May 24th where a petition will be handed into the relevant people, demanding that Sayful Islam and his group be banned from Luton town centre.
He has a lot to say on the subject of freedom, which I can't be arsed trawling through, but among other things, he quotes Geert Wilders here as saying:
Ladies and gentlemen, the dearest of our many freedoms is under attack. In Europe, freedom of speech is no longer a given. What we once considered a natural component of our existence is now something we again have to fight for. That is what is at stake. Whether or not I end up in jail is not the most pressing issue. The question is: Will free speech be put behind bars?
and himself adds:
Thats why people say what they say on blogs like this one because it is still our right to say what we are thinking based upon the facts, its called FREEDOM of SPEECH, but a full page spread in the National news, come on what is this Country coming too
So Lionheart, staunch defender of free speech, is weeing himself in anticipation at a demonstration calling for the state to restrict a private citizen's freedom of movement based on his peacefully-expressed opinions. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that you shouldn't be allowed to say such things, but there should definitely be some kind of state recognition, like a trophy or something, for that kind of hypocrisy.

Next, the Proposition 8 cretins, and a Beeb-molester calling himself Ulysses S. Drivel. Ulysses wants the
Right to stop having the Government tell me I should eat 5 portions of fruit a day
and the decision to uphold state intervention reducing individual freedom
was hailed as a "victory for democracy" by Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative group that supported Proposition 8. "[The ruling is] a victory for the civil rights of clergy, county clerks and Californians across the political spectrum who did not want to be forced by the government to approve of same-sex marriage," he said.
I've put the verbs in italics. Look how complicated they are. Especially Ulysses'. Jesus. Serious rights like the right to express your opinion, the right to vote or the right not to be imprisoned without trial, passives and negatives notwithstanding, can generally be expressed in one verb - one action which you are permitted, or the state is forbidden, to do. The Pacific Justice Institute pulls of a deft little sleight of hand with "to be forced to", but as far as I know forcing approval out of someone is impossible. You get some very similar attitudes if you google "forced to tolerate", and waves of authoritarian paranoia with "force us to tolerate". Naturally there are exceptions, but when your grammatical construction involves the right to:
  • silence people you disagree with
  • stop members of the government talking
  • stop other people marrying in their chosen format
  • generally ban stuff you don't like
you're not defending freedom and you're either deluded or disgustingly mendacious if you claim otherwise.

Basically, once an idea becomes established, such as freedom, womens' rights (at least among women, anyway) or Jews being people and Nazism being something of a bad thing, you need to be very, very cynical when you hear these in any argument.

Edit: tidied up the quotes, added another one, thought of a better title.

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