I know very little about Brandeis University, the private research university in Massachusetts, and yet when word about its "Oppressive Language List" emerged in the last week, I can't say that I was overly surprised.
With as idiotic and counterintuitive as it may be that a "university," ostensibly predicated around the pursuit of "universals," would traffic in the shallow absurdities of pop culture, anyone paying any attention to the recent trajectory of post-secondary education in America couldn't help but anticipate this nonsense.
In case you missed it, the school's "Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center" (PARC) issued a directive under the heading "Holding Ourselves Accountable" that outlined supposedly oppressive phrases and words that they recommended be stricken from student vocabulary.
Along with the oppressive language came alternative words to serve as adequate substitutes, conveying the same meaning while not causing anyone pain in the process. Some of the best:
- The encouraging phrase "Killing It" to describe a person's strong performance should be replaced with "Great Job" or "Awesome" because, "If someone is doing well, we don't need to equate that with murder!"
- "Trigger warning," a phrase that originated in the crucible of over-sensitive political correctness itself is now being banned because, "The word ‘trigger' has connections to guns for many people…[and is] connected to violence." The school recommends saying things like "Content note" or "Drop-in" instead.
- "Rule of thumb" is to be replaced with "General rule" because the traditional phrase, "comes from an old British law allowing men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb."
- The school recommends students use the phrase "outdoor eating" instead of "picnic" because that term "is often associated with lynchings of black people in the United States, during which white spectators were said to have watched while eating, referring to them as picnics or other terms involving racial slurs against black people."
I've written often about how the nature of revolutionaries necessitates that they eventually, given time, will turn on each other. The woke will inevitably eat the woke as they wage a war of attrition, seeing who can withstand their worldview's relentless, pitiless judgmentalism the longest.
But even I am amazed to see them castigate and condemn concepts like "trigger warning" that they themselves originated just a few short years ago. Amazing.
It makes it tough to determine what is the most odious element of this current cultural moment: the movement's self-righteous, artificial piety, or its anti-intellectualism. Consider, Brandeis markets itself as a "research university" yet couldn't be bothered to conduct even a simple Google search of some of their ridiculous assertions.
But while the majority of commentary was focused on that preposterous list of insensitive words and phrases, I found myself drawn to two other statements in the school's directive. First, this ominous admission:
"This list will grow and change all the time."
Of course it will. As the need for new victim classes and categories grows, the language will be adopted and adapted to provide for that. Because, of course, none of this is about truth, sensitivity, or objective concern for individuals. It's about politics and power – a reality that made the second statement that caught my eye all the more jarring:
"PARC recognizes that language is a powerful tool that can be used to perpetrate and perpetuate oppression."
Indeed, they do recognize that. Progressive leftism, the lifeblood of America's university system, has exercised tyrannical manipulation of language for years now, using the power of words to strategically influence public perception and civic dialogue.
From sexual license (xi, xer, cisgender, trans-exclusionary radical feminist) to the Second Amendment (assault rifle, universal background checks, gun show loophole), healthcare (affordable care act, pro-choice) to race (anti-racism, systemic racism, Latinx, white supremacy), the left's adroit linguistic activism has brought us to the precipice of Orwell's "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength."
Unfortunately, fewer young people than ever are exposed to the prudent caution of "1984." Places like Brandeis University make sure of that.
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