On Language and Political Correctness

Hoo boy! Is it this time again? Time to lose friends on the internet!

Let’s have some fun with metaphors. The problem with language is that it contorts to systems of power, like a sheet draped over an object, and for a very long time “we” in Western Civilization have been living on a massive, continent sized sheet and acting as though it were flat or in other words, objective. But the landscape of culture and language is not flat, it’s clearly sloped in favor of certain sexualities, classes, races, and nations (as us in /r/criticaltheory are keenly aware of). The fact that the landscape is sloped isn’t just a typically left issue either, it could just as easily apply to people who consider themselves right wing like the rural poor who are routinely called hillbillies for not being cosmopolitan enough, the landscape of culture is also sloped against them too. But what I have to emphasize about this is that with the power relations we have and the corresponding language we have, there’s no real way to speak courteously about cultural, sexual, class or any other type of disenfranchised differences without bringing up power differences. I want to get along with Black people, so if they tell me it’s horrifically taboo to use the N-word of course I won’t, but look up what’s synonymous to the word Black in the dictionary: evil, ignorance and sin. I can’t imagine anyone choosing to identify with the label “Black” and being 100% satisfied switching out overt racism with implied racism. The words that society has for people on the low end slope of the sheet are already insults. Just look up a euphemism for any unprivileged group and you’ll see the bread crumbs trail of disempowering language, history is inescapable.

Not saying that all struggles are the same, I’m just trying to demonstrate a point that anyone who’s different from the norm is automatically inferior in some way by our language.

TL;DR of HyperNormalization by Adam Curtis

This movie is about post-politics, or a new way of ruling where politics just simply means how do you most efficiently run the economic and political system, and less about debating ideas and having real citizen involvement. This new method of governing has many “wings” associated with it.

  1. One wing of this has existed since the 1980’s when US politicians have used theatricality over facts in getting themselves elected and when they would describe complicated problems to the American people in misrepresentations and downright lies. Curtis uses the US’ relation to Syria and Libya as a case study.
  2. Another wing of this has to do with financialization, when city governments just surrendered their power to bankers as bankers just straight up fund the cities now.
  3. Another wing is the development of computers and big data to try to predict the future, and astonishingly there’s a computer called Aladdin that tries to safeguard investments from bad trends in the world and it manages 15 trillion dollars, 7% of the world’s economic output.
  4. Also there’s a new method of public relations pioneered in Russia under Vladimir Putin where the story the media tells is always one step behind the actors, and the ones in power guide the story along by feeding this group here some money, and then a group there some money, and then declaring that they were the ones who were behind the trend, which just confuses the hell out of everybody and makes the scenario very hard to grasp.

All of this deception creates working class anger at home and Muslim anger abroad, and makes people so confused that they don’t know what’s real any more and this stumps people from acting politically. To use more metaphorical language, the deceptions of the past 40 years stack on top of each other, congealing together like slime, making it very hard for anyone to trust any information really. And because the past 40 years have been just a stack of lies, it makes room for people like Trump who know that the people’s anger is certainly real but know that they don’t know where to direct that anger.