25 Sep 2011

Common Era: A Marxist Plot, Apparently

If you're bored, fancy a laugh, and don't mind giving MailOnline a hit, I humbly suggest you read this article by James Delingpole from today, entitled "How the BBC fell for a Marxist Plot to destroy civilization from within". This isn't some kind of joke, or an exaggeration, that's the actual title of the article.If you don't want to give the Mail hits, go here (thank you @LudditeWebDev) and don't tell them I sent you.
It's about the decision made by them to swap to using "Common Era" instead of "Anno Domini" and to use "Before Common Era" instead of "Before Christ" on the BBC website, with it citing that it intends to keep in with modern practice.*

And if you think that's bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. Indeed there are some real 'gems' in this thing.
Starting with, um, the start "When you mention to a Muslim or Hindu that the year is 2011, do you ever feel a twinge of guilt about your closet religious chauvinism?"He asks, rhetorically and ridiculously since the whole argument is about the suffix, not saying that they year is 2011 (which it is in both CE and AD). And why on Earth would anyone need to go round asking what year it is? It's a crap example really.
He then asks similarly ridiculous and rhetorical questions about the opening sequence of One Million Years BC and what you would if you were to catch your child reading 2000AD.
Skipping ahead a few paragraphs (in which he claims that only members of the Left-Wing academe have ever heard of CE (which is annoying, since I knew of it long before I was lefty, and I know that at least one of my older (not left-wing) relatives on my mum's side occasionally uses it (either my grandad or my great-uncle) since the the two terms are basically the same thing, not to mention that I keep thinking it's "Amino Domini") and generally moans about the weasellyness of the reason allegedly given*) we get this lovely thing: "And so yet another small part of our tradition, language and culture takes a step closer to extinction. We didn't ask for it; we didn't want it; yet still it's happening because a tiny minority of politically correct busybodies have wormed their way into institutions such as the BBC and taken control. 
Their goal is to create a world where Left-wing thinking – on 'fairness', on race, on sexual equality, on the role of government – becomes the norm. So far, they are doing brilliantly.
This capture of the language for political ends was exactly what George Orwell warned us of more than 60 years ago in his book 1984. In the appendix he described how Big Brother devised its language Newspeak to make it impossible for people to think in the 'wrong' way."
Where do I start? Well, first of all the implication that 'fairness' and sexual equality being the norm is bad, as is left-wing thought on race (i.e. going off his lovely little A-Z of political correctness, not being a racist) My personal favourite bit, however, has to be the invocation of 1984 to describe something a right-winger (who is writing for The Mail of all things) doesn't like. Really, it should be a corollary to Godwin's law: "As a writing by a right-winger grows longer, the probability that someone will be compared to The Party nears 1". let's call it Smith's law or something.

Of course, it could be argued that this whole thing is censorship, shaping the language to make us unable to articulate concepts which people don't like. Such as the first year of Our Lord being the 5th year of Our Lord. Okay, the whole AD vs CE thing is petty. The two terms are all but interchangeable. People don't think of "Anno Domini" as being inherently Christian (well, I don't at least), we just think of it as "AD" as opposed to "BC". We essentially use it as "CE" but without actually calling it that. Thus trying to make changing between two perfectly interchangeable terms to what is held up to be the high point of authoritarian language changing just makes Delingpole look like a ninnyhammer. Not least because he bemoans left-wing thought almost in the same breath - doesn't he realise that Orwell was a socialist?

A couple of skipped paragraphs later, and Delingpole elaborates on what he means by the capture of language for political ends, citing a series of alleged redefinitions:
"So it was, for example, that a traditionally free market cap¬italist word such as 'investment' was suddenly being hijacked to mean 'government spending'. 'Diversity' no longer meant 'plentiful variety' but 'an excuse to nurture grievance at tax¬payers' expense'. 'Discrimin¬ation', formerly used to mean 'discernment', now meant 'yet another excuse to nurture grievance at taxpayers' expense'." (NB: The weird dashes are actually in the article, not sure if it's a glitch, or actually meant to be there)
So, one word had a slight shift in usage so it could also be used to refer to public sector spending and two words happen to apply to people now as well, something not actually precluded in their definitions. Got it.

Also, elitism has got its more pejorative definition because, all to often, it is only society's "elite" (read: rich) who can afford the best schools, the best opportunities.People call the Free Schools scheme elitist because it is seen as being predominantly utilised by the middle class. In fact, "elitism" tends to refer to the social elites valuing themselves and being valued as better than others, or being granted better opportunities due to class-based discrimination. 

In fact, dictionary.reference.com defines elitism as: "1. Practice or belief in rule by an elite 2. Consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favoured group" Two of the definitions of elite (probably the ones used, going off word choice ("an elite" rather than "the elite") are: "...2.  persons of the highest class <example> 3. a group of persons excersising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group" With a 5th adjectival definition: "representing the most choice or select"  The term "elitist" itself is defined in the adjectival form as either "1. (of a person or a class of persons) considered superior by others or by themselves, as in intellect, talent, power, wealth or position in society" or "2. Catering to or associated with an elite class, its ideologies, or its institutions" and in the noun form as either "3. a person having, thought to have, or professing superior intellect or talent, power, wealth or membership in the upper echelons in society" or "4. a person who believes in the superiority of an elite class"

So, going off the second definition of "elitist" anything the Tories do is elitist. It's not really a redefinition of the word. Also, only by a stretch of a couple of all the definitions here can Delingpole's definition (the best) not be a redefinition and claiming of a word for his own political ends.What's wrong with using the words "the best" to connote the best of something anyway?

Mr. Delingpole does some weird rhetorical "does it matter" thing, in which the words "isn't it only fair that we should be a bit more considerate to the sensitivities of other races, religions and creeds?" actually and astonishingly appear. Followed by him calling such an undertaking "cultural suicide" and thus abusing the English language to his own political ends. Tut tut.

And this is where it suddenly shoots past Illuminati conspiracy theories on the WTFometer:  

"Most of us may not realise this but the ideological Left certainly does, for it has long been part of its grand plan to destroy Western civilisation from within. The plan's prime instigator was the influential German Marxist thinker ('the father of the New Left') Herbert Marcuse. A Jewish academic who fled Germany for the US in the Thirties, he became the darling of the Sixties and Seventies 'radical chic' set.
He deliberately set out to dismantle every last pillar of society – tradition, hierarchy, order – and key to victory, he argued, would be a Leftist takeover of the language, including 'the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care etc'. 
In other words, those of us who believe in smaller government or other 'Right-wing' heresies should be for ever silenced." 

It kind of speaks for itself, but there are a couple of things that I want to pick out: First off, "leftist grand plan to destroy Western civilisation from within" (emphasis mine)? So, all civilisation is Western civilisation? And "plan to destroy Western Civilisation from within"? What is this, the Cold War?! (admittedly, said war was in recent history and in Marcuse's time, so it could be, but it seems a bit of a stretch for 2011, plus I'll probably end up re-reading this after studying it for GCSE History and end up feeling like a knobhead, ah well). Anyway, what has Herbert Marcuse's race got to do with it? I digress, but was it really necessary information?

Anyhoo, Delingpole claims that he wanted to dismantle society and take over the language by... "the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care etc'". Delingpole correctly points out that the last part applies to right-wing thought (although the stuff the first bit is opposed to is better translated to "not being a dickhead"), and I'm not saying I think Marcuse was right (unless 'removal of tolerance' refers to counter assemblies and speeches the whole thing is very authoritarian and ungood and moral high ground giving), but, at the same time, I'm not sure how this tallies in with the "OMG, this will lead to Newspeak!" rhetoric of the rest of the piece. Nor am I sure how this will dismantle society and/or lead to total chaos. Really, if we're heading straight for the world of 1984 it's clear that there is some vestige of order there. This not even taking into account the fact that he's bemoaning disapproval of people who are opposed to free healthcare. We only need to point to the USA for why Marcuse might have been half-right there.

Of course, that Macuse's teachings formed the basis for "every revolutionary group, from the Black Panthers to the Baader-Meinhof gang". Which is probably true if we only count groups which follow Marcuse's teachings, and even then the groups mentioned had a wider influence than just one man, and I have yet to see evidence of some connection with the BBC, which is what Delingpole is supposedly writing about. Really, revolutionary state television? How does that work?!

The whole thing is wrapped up by the old "baa baa rainbow sheep" thing being brought up (and the lack of response to such things today being complained about, since it's not like that was one particularly egregious example or something) and this:
"This complacency is fatal. Great civilisations do not die from the sudden arrival of the barbarians at the gates. They succumb much more slowly than that, from the death-by-a-thousand-cuts permitted from within by those who have forgotten why their traditions and cultural values are worth defending." 
Which is a deep warning, but slightly over the top. And possibly inaccurate; in my opinion, the problem isn't people who decide that their traditions and cultural values aren't worth defending who are the downfalls of civilisations (if so, explain all the changes in society in the past century); it's the people who start to think of the thousands of cuts as worth keeping open since doing so is the done thing, even when it makes no sense. The people who've been charging for a cliff for years, but won't stop because they won't see the evidence arrayed of their impending doom. Which is also a bit over the top for this context, but there you go.

To conclude, if there really is a left-wing dictatorship in the vein of 1984 (or the many actual ones there's been (e.g. China, the USSR)) on the way (which there isn't), or even the principles Marcuse espoused being enshrined in law, I would be dead set against it. But there isn't, and to suggest that there is based off the BBC switching to CE* is somewhat ludicrous.Well, I say "somewhat", I mean "so very incredibly"...

 *On some Q and A I can't find. I might have been accidentally putting "Amino Domini" into the search box when I was trying to find it though. This being one reason why I don't mind the alleged switch to the easier to spell "common era", despite the actual reason they gave being a really crap one. It's also worth considering that Christ being born circa 5BC according to most estimates is a far better reason ("Before Christ" fundamentally makes no sense). All this said, commenters on FailOnline appear to also be unable to track down the Q and A, making this a bit fishy.

See also: The Angry Mob: Mail on Sunday becomes the Daily Star
Tabloid Watch: AD and BC not 'jettisoned' by BBC

EDITS: Fixed the formatting, added an extra sentence which just occurred to me and added this as an explanation of the edits.

22 Sep 2011

Recession? What's one of them?

Today when I was round my (maternal) grandparents, I found myself perusing a copy of The Daily Mail, like I usually end up doing since always reading stuff you agree with is probably a bit polarising and ungood. Anyway, whilst skimming it and being immensely thankful that Littlejohn wasn't in today's edition, I stumbled upon this little brainfart (not direct link, credit to @uponnothing) from Liz Jones, in which she implies that the recession can't exist because she personally hasn't been affected positively by it.

If I was forced to pick the most blindingly ridiculous paragraphs, it would have to be these two anti-gems in something considerably worse than "the rough":
"I brought a brand new land Rover Defender the other day for use on my farm. I went to pick it up. 'Are you throwing in a tank of diesel?' I asked, not unreasonably. 'Oh no,' said the salesman. 'We can't do that as we'd have to do it for everybody'
I thought the motor industry had been the worst affected by the recession?"

Weird grammar aside (speech is meant to have a separate line to indicate a new speaker, and why the hell is that question mark there?), I really don't think Liz Jones knows what a recession is. Or why the motor industry is struggling. Really, she likes to moan, she surely must have noticed the price of a little something going up.

Oil prices? Ring a bell? If so, you're doing better than she is. Honestly, does anyone really think that a struggling industry is going to shell out any more than it absolutely needs to? Oh, right, Liz Jones, apparently (if you can afford a brand new Land Rover Defender, you can probably afford a tank of diesel, whilst the dealership might be comparatively less lucky).

Other "gems" from her amazing brainfart include her bemoaning her treatment at some fancy bar (pro tip: vote with your wallet you ninnyhammer, if you don't like it, leave, don't stay just because it charges a lot) and her overreacting over someone apparently not knowing where something is kept (and maybe being a bit bemused at her trying patronising sign language of the sort we Brits stereotypically use when abroad), and the three anecdotal examples meaning that nobody cares about customer service and/or gives 'journalists' special treatment, so the recession can't be happening. All wrapped up by her pondering whether it's just her who gets treated so horribly by everyone as typified by 3 examples which are clearly so comprehensive /sarcasm.

The fact that unemployment is rising, the economy is shrinking (or growing so little that it might as well be, and even said growth is mucked up by stuff like a fricking wedding) and we're presently being cut to death by the Tories mean precisely nought (okay, the last one is expecting a bit much from the Mail, but come on).

I'd ask why the Mail pays her so much but, uh, yeah. People talk about her. Like I've just wasted quite a bit of my time doing. Oops.

1 Sep 2011

We aren't out of the metaphorical woods yet

Last night the Guardian ran a story online with the headline "Downing Street forces U-turn on Nadine Dorries abortion proposals". What it should have read was "Downing Street withdraws support from Nadine Dorries abortion proposals", since that's what the PM actually did, presumably because his party is viewed as being Conservative enough as is (since they're, y'know, the Conservative party, and they do tend to live up to the name if you're talking US-style "Conservatism" (just not really to the extent that they do it, actually some US Conservatives probably think our Tories are socialists)) and he knows the way the political winds blow (i.e. most people support abortion).

The proposals could still go ahead. Heck, the Grauniad even states:
"...a combination of the unpredictable intake of new Tory MPs, split between social conservatives and modernisers, the number of Roman Catholic Labour MPs, and the high degree of nuance of the amendment make it extremely unclear which way the vote will go."

Whilst I'm not exactly sure what  "high degree of nuance of the amendment" means, that it's "extremely unclear" as to whether it will pass means we're probably not quite out the woods yet. 

This is, of course, the bit where I tell you to write to your MP. I have very little faith in the democratic system, and even less in my MP (he's a Tory in a really safe seat), but it's still worth a shot, I suppose (I am aware of the Abortion Rights letter, but chances are, writing it yourself may be better). Heck, get everyone you know to write to them. MPs aren't going to let a ton of votes pass them by, and they are meant to work for us.

This said, if you happen to possess an uterus, it might also be worth telling Nadine Dorries about it. We ought to stretch that out to Frank Field as well, since he doesn't even have an uterus and he's trying to control what we do with ours (and even who we go to for advice). Although, it'd probably be better to (politely) inform our MPs who do vote in favour of the Amendment of what our uteri (I think that's the plural of "uterus") are doing, since they are more required to listen to us, and more likely to (I reckon Dorries is likely to make sure it isn't something she can report us to the police for and then bin f you aren't a constituent, to be frank). Still, the blogging thing is a brilliant idea, and since Nadine Dorries does have an unhealthy interest in what we do with our uteri we might as well spread the word.

Oh and, Guardian, please stop with the misleading headlines. As of last time I checked, you aren't the Daily Mail.