'It is a truly sad state of affairs, a degradation of the quality of discourse, that should finally give us pause, make us stop and take a long hard look at the reality presently being forced upon us.'
The slow creep of ugliness into the language of public debate is impossible to ignore. It is a truly sad state of affairs, a degradation of the quality of discourse, that should finally give us pause, make us stop and take a long hard look at the reality presently being forced upon us.
But the fact is we have grown accustomed to the knee-jerk application of lazy slurs and the smearing of reputations, to the casual abuse of those around us with some of the vilest accusations imaginable.
Racist, sexist, misogynist, transphobe, anti-Semite – the list of tags is long. But just as the ceaseless printing of money has utterly devalued our currencies, so the machine-gun spraying of labels, powerful labels once reserved for specific behaviours, deliberate crimes with malice aforethought, has rendered once lethally effective words all but meaningless.
Even more worrying, the overuse and misuse of words distracts from real crime, real abuse, and real discrimination. Real crimes of racism, committed against people black, white and brown, for racism, neither knows nor respects any colour bar are lost in the haze whipped up by the ceaseless misuse of “racist” in relation to anything and everything.
‘Sexist’ and ‘misogynist’ are likewise bandied about with wild abandon, used almost without exception now for the purposes of silencing unwanted voices, frightening the fainthearted back into their boxes.
Real contempt for the female sex, made manifest, for example, in the coordinated, wholesale rape of underage, white, working-class female children in towns up and down the country abandoned to their fates by authority in its every guise, police, councils, judiciary, government, and entirely overlooked, blind eyes and deaf ears turned. The words that might rightly have been used to describe what was going on were made absent. Instead, all that greeted the news of all that evil and misery was state-sanctioned silence.
Victims of the horror and those who knew about it and sought to raise the alarm and seek justice were shouted down. Those few actually brave enough to point fingers at the guilty were themselves labelled racists. That’s the reality of where we end up when words are overused or misused. Paradoxically, real crime is left to thrive. “Racist” and “misogynist” are words with actual and precise meanings … their use should sound alarm bells to alert us to real horror, real abuse … like that going on for decades in Rotherham, Telford, Oldham and scores of other towns.
That abuse of young girls has not stopped, either and won’t stop while those who could and should be doing something about it find apathy and lack of meaningful concern and action less damaging to their career advancement and political ambition. More and more we live in a society in which keeping the head down or looking the other way feels, to many, like the only option when to speak out, far less to do something, risks being carpet-bombed with the usual verbal abuse.
Real misogyny is at the root too of the blatant and gratuitous misuse of “transphobe” as well. Men speaking up in support of women fighting to preserve the vital sanctity of women-only spaces – toilets and changing rooms, prisons, refuges and the rest – do not receive the full force of the transphobe label.
In another example of misogyny, that insult, along with its even uglier twin TERF is applied most aggressively towards women.
Transphobe – a word properly descriptive of aversion to and hatred of trans people is therefore deliberately misused … and ceaselessly and relentlessly … not to make easier the lives of trans people but to shame, bully and dismiss women voicing concerns that only a handful of years ago would have been regarded as unquestionable common sense.
All of this means real racists and misogynists can go about their brutal business almost unchallenged, while the once powerful and meaningful words, dread words, are pepper sprayed into the faces of anyone and everyone seeking to ask questions of authority, to draw attention to dangerous societal misalignments and to raise the alarm about overreach and mission creep.
Verbal weaponry for use in emergency has been willfully and carelessly repurposed for one thing and one thing only, which is the silencing of debate.
Most important to notice is the certainty that none of this is accidental … nor is it the product of a natural evolution of human behaviour. On the contrary, this choreographed and whipped up name-calling … and let’s face it, name-calling is what it truly is … deploying the oh-so effective tactics of the school playground that none of us apparently outgrow … has been deliberately orchestrated and massively ramped up during these past two or three years of unprecedented change.
It has been done on purpose and the name-calling has been led and driven by government, by nudge units and the rest of the little wizards tasked with the psychological manipulation and perversion of society.
It really got going with “anti-vaxxer”, “covidiot”, “covid-denier” and “granny-killer” that became the round-the-clock stock in trade not just of government ministers but most effectively from the mouths of familiar TV journalists and other media figures.
As with “racist”, “misogynist” and “transphobe” the panoply of pandemic epithets were the childishly effective bludgeon used to try and knock any and all dissent or downright disobedience on the head.
As well as about silencing and controlling, it has been about division. Lockdowns and social distancing kept us physically apart, but even more sinister now is the way we are being set at each other’s throats, fracturing and damaging the very fabric of society.
Again, the ceaseless overuse … of terms like anti-vaxxer … rendered them utterly meaningless. People who had taken the products pushed as vaccines … and been harmed by them and then left in want of recognition, help and compensation … were routinely dismissed as anti-vaxxers, an allegation requiring exquisitely complex mental gymnastics in search of any sense whatsoever.
Anyone questioning the claims as to the safety and effectiveness of those medical products is still automatically defamed as a “covidiot” or a “granny-killer”, or a “covid-denier”.
And yet even though reams of peer-reviewed literature are out there now making plain the reality of harm and risk from taking those products, still the c-words are bandied about.
And again, as with the rest of the name-calling, it’s all about silencing dissenting voices and seizing and maintaining control of narratives.
The ugliness and attempted bullying is everywhere. Perhaps the granddaddy of them all right now – the Swiss Army knife of insults – is right wing. Everyone and everything standing in defiance of the narratives about Covid, the war in Ukraine, the so-called climate crisis, 15-minute cities, is instantly and automatically right wing.
Real old-fashioned right-wingers must be revolving like revolutionaries in their graves at the butchery of a term that was once upon a time actually descriptive of a political position. Fearing the loss of cultural and community cohesion in the face of mass immigration is automatically right-wing, as well as racist, of course. Brexit is right-wing. Love of country is right wing. Gardening is right-wing, and also racist, and so too the English countryside and being good at maths.
After a lifetime of skirting around politics … avoiding the whole sordid business like something left behind on the pavement by a passing canine … I got out of bed one morning a couple of years ago to find I was right-wing too, apparently.
Not just old fashioned, stick in the mud middle of the road right-wing, mind you … but frothing at the mouth, swivel-eyed, ultra-far-right, right-wing.
I achieved this feat by … not moving at all in any direction. I have stayed where I have always been – which is to say in the land of those cynical of politics and politicians of all stripes and therefore politically homeless for a lifetime – while some sort of undetected shifting of the tectonic plates moved the old world out from under my feet and off into the distance never to return.
Articles about me in the newspapers used to describe me as “long-haired” and “Scottish”. Nowadays I’m mostly known to the MSM as right-wing conspiracy theorist Neil Oliver. It’s laughable, but there we are.
I said Right Wing was the granddaddy or at least the catch-all. But of course, that would be to overlook the many megaton explosive power of the a-word … which is ‘antisemite’. Arguably as ubiquitous as racist “antisemite” has an edge of lethal sharpness.
To be labelled antisemitic is to be allegedly guilty of one of the oldest and ugliest sins of all.
Last week a piece in the Guardian raised the spectre of antisemitism, political journalist Peter Walker nudging it as close to me as he dared after I spoke on this channel about the erosion of the thousand-year-old British constitution by one Parliament after another.
It was quite a leap, I can opine that much – but then you’d expect some convoluted reasoning from a Social Justice obsessed newspaper.
It was also imaginative dot-connecting to invite readers to infer anti-semitism in a monologue about the British constitution.
But there you go – it appears antisemitism nowadays, like sexism, misogyny, transphobia and far-right politics, is in the eye of the beholder.
Here's the thing: as I said at the top … ugliness … unspeakable ugliness … has slithered into our public discourse like sewage from a burst pipe. It has been no accident … rather a deliberate campaign based upon application of the oldest and most childish tactic in the book … that of baseless name-calling … to shore up the defences around official narratives that are collapsing like sandcastles in the face of an incoming tide.
In the process – once important and precisely descriptive words have been utterly compromised until they mean everything and also nothing. After all, if everyone is a right-wing misogynist antisemite, then no one is.
Just as they tried to distract us, from the erosion of our liberties, right under our noses, by fear porn and nudge units … their lockdowns, face masks, forever war and climate crisis … so we are losing sight of real crimes of violence against women, abuse and discrimination on the grounds of race and the persecution of ancient faith and culture.
The truth is that we are over this now. We have had a gut full. We have seen the attempted manipulation, the wordplay and the rest … and we are not fooled for a moment. Words matter at the deepest level of our relationships with one another. Our language is what makes us human and makes possible our society and civilisation. We must reclaim the words like everything else and keep talking sense to one another.
And at the end of the day, if we must be back in the playground again, there’s this: Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt us