Dec 7, 2021 • 12M

Disnomination and the right's war on language

The left's PC etiquette rules and the right's newspeak campaign are very different problems.

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Readings on politics, socialism, and other things from Carl Beijer's substack.
Photo credit Anthony Crider. Licensed under Creative Commons.

So many pathologies of the modern right can be traced back to twentieth century anticommunism, and the discourse surrounding “political correctness” seems to be yet another example. Criticism of censoriousness goes back much further, of course, but it was in reaction to the USSR that you really start seeing a critique of left censoriousness — the notion that there’s something about left politics in particular that works to silence debate and crush dissent. This, meanwhile, was when you really started to see the right position themselves as guardians of free speech liberalism.

There are all kinds of problems with this narrative, but one thing that has struck me in recent years is the way it has expanded from a critique of censoriousness to a critique of etiquette. What I mean by this is that while leftists often do advocate a certain way of talking about things, these speech codes aren’t always substantive; often, they’re just superficial and stylistic.

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