Learn to navigate the elite’s new PC-speak – or else

Learn to navigate the elite’s new PC-speak – or else, by Claire Fox.

If 62 per cent of Britons … now say Britain ‘sometimes feels like a foreign country’, it’s not anti-foreigner prejudice so much as a feeling that people in authority are speaking at them in a foreign language. Not Polish or Punjabi but PC-speak, that opaque code that connotes whether you are ‘on message’ and one of ‘our kind of people’ or one of those racist lizard-brained Leaver oiks.

Look at the new language of diversity that is now being prescribed in much of the public sector. The British Medical Association recently sent all its employees a 12-page booklet, ‘A Guide to Effective Communication: Inclusive Language in the Workplace’. This tells staff how to change their language to suit ‘an increasingly diverse society’, for example replacing ‘manpower’ with ‘staff, workforce, personnel, workers’. Ludicrously, pregnant women should no longer be called ‘expectant mothers’ but ‘pregnant people’.

The Times reported in April that UK universities are forcing students to conform to new codes restricting the use of gendered language. The University of Hull warns students that ‘failure to use gender-sensitive language will impact your mark’; common terms such as ‘mankind’, ‘forefathers’ and ‘manpower’ should be replaced by ‘humankind’, ‘ancestors’ and ‘human resources’.

Another layer of complexity is the demand for non-binary, gender-neutral pronouns and honorifics like ‘they’, ‘xe’, ‘ze’ and ‘Mx’. I was recently sent a code of conduct warning me of the cost of misgendering: ‘It is very important to note that any attempts to undermine pronoun introductions will not be tolerated’. … I immediately became tongue-tied. Can you imagine then what it feels like to the uninitiated? The problem for most people is that they are not ‘educated’ in these linguistic niceties. I don’t mean educated as in qualifications. I mean trained in the cultural literacy now required to survive modern Britain without failing the language test and being castigated as transphobic or xxxphobic or whatever for using the wrong words. …

University life initiates almost half of tomorrow’s opinion formers into the rhetoric of identity and inclusivity, into the rules about which combination of words can get you into trouble, into the parameters of what is considered offensive. It is this ever-growing army of graduates, well versed in the acceptable discourse, who now populate local government. They are often members of a new professional class of expert, trained to detect offensive speech and re-educate the public mind, and all the while making their way to commanding positions in public sector organisations.

Look at how the Equalities Act 2010 has been used to wage a full-scale culture war … One fashionable target … is to disparage banter, so ‘mate speech’ is demonised as ‘hate speech’. For example, the Local Government Association’s report … declares the need to ‘change the culture of the service… historically dominated by white males’ by targeting workplace ‘banter’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines banter as ‘the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks’. More colloquially, it is understood to be the informal, jokey letting off steam, so important for camaraderie. But for the LGA, this unregulated speech is depicted misanthropically as an expression of ‘thinly disguised’ sexism, dangerous ‘macho culture’, bigoted small talk that needs to be stamped out.

Such assaults on people’s free speech among friends are justified in the name of tackling bigotry. In fact, they reveal the bigotry of the ‘educated’ diversity enforcers, who remain unaware that their target culprits are not the ignorant, prejudiced Neanderthals they assume them to be, but just people who do not spout the correct jargon or share their ‘I Find That Offensive!’ thin-skinned mentality.

PC big government. I think this is what George Orwell was trying to warn us about.