The war over words

We are living in an era of verbal purification, where certain words and ideas are not allowed.

Frank Furedi

The issue of language is becoming more and more acrimonious and controversial. Politicians are attacked not so much for their views and policies as for the words they use. And this new policing of language is not confined to politically motivated censors. Even the actual police have become involved in the unfolding cultural conflict over language.

There is little doubt that the language used in public and political life has become debased. Political rhetoric often lacks substance these days. It can be bombastic and evasive. It is rarely about encouraging engagement. Indeed, politicians now use words in such a way that they self-consciously avoid communicating a clear outlook. So, yes, it is legitimate to be concerned about the quality of the language used by politicians, on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, the key motivation behind today’s controversies over political language is not a concern with the quality of the language – it is a desire to limit what may be said in public debate. Recent controversies in the UK illustrate this well. Attacks on the ‘toxic’ or ‘vitriolic’ language used by politicians are often accompanied by a censorious demand that certain words should not be used, and certain ideas should not be expressed.

Last month, former prime minister John Major laid into pro-Brexit members of parliament and current prime minister Boris Johnson for using the language of ‘hate’. Major was very precise in his outline of what words should not be used in public debate. He said that words like ‘saboteur’, ‘traitor’, ‘enemy’, ‘surrender’ and betrayal’, had ‘no place’ in the Conservative Party, in ‘our politics’, or in ‘our society’.

Numerous opponents of Brexit share Major’s view that certain words should be expunged from the political vocabulary. In particular, they take exception to the term ‘surrender’, which politicians in the Leave camp have used to describe the behaviour and policies of the pro-EU lobby. Remainer MPs claim that using the word ‘surrender’ could incite violence on the streets of the UK.

Throughout September, the campaign against the supposed toxic language of Brexiteers was widely covered in the media. Typically, the denunciation of Brexiteers’ language would be followed by a demand for linguistic policing. Even the police got involved. Senior police officers warned about the effect of using highly charged language to discuss Brexit. Charlie Hall, the chief constable of Hertfordshire Police, who heads Brexit operations planning for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, linked the tone of the political debate with an alleged rise in hate crime. ‘In the past few weeks… we did see a couple of spikes that seemed to coincide with some of the debates that have taken place’, he said.

It is a sign of the times that the intervention of the police in the debate about political language was not viewed as unusual by media commentators. Thankfully, Britain is not a police state, so it is still rare for the police to lecture parliamentarians about the language they use and the ideas they express. And yet no one asked the question, ‘When did the police assume responsibility for telling politicians what they should and should not say?’. Nor was the supposed link between the tone of political debate and hate crime seriously interrogated. Indeed, many in the media treated this new, literal policing of political language as a welcome development.

The principal objective of the new policing of words is not to moderate political language but to control what can be said

Also, very few questions have been asked about the one-sided character of this campaign against ‘toxic’ speech. So, the tendency to hurl loaded words like xenophobe, fascist and racist at supporters of Brexit is rarely questioned by the crusaders against hateful language. The casual manner in which anti-Brexiteers use words like fascist to describe their opponents suggests they are not really interested in linguistic moderation.

But leaving aside Remainers’ clear double standards, the real issue here is not people’s rhetorical tone but rather the insidious growth of linguistic policing. For if Brexiteers really must avoid using the word ‘surrender’, then how are they meant to draw attention to what they perceive as the willingness of some politicians to kowtow to the EU? They could use the word ‘capitulate’ or ‘yield’, I suppose – but it is likely that these terms would be denounced as toxic, too.

The principal objective of the new policing of words is not to moderate political language but to control what can be said. Because if words like traitor, surrender or betrayal cannot be used in political discourse, then it actually becomes very difficult to express a particular idea — that certain forms of behaviour seem, to some people, to contradict Britain’s national and democratic interests. The elimination of these words would diminish the ideas that could be expressed in public life, especially in relation to Brexit. The call to modify public language is motivated by a desire to achieve a political aim.

This is what Orwell meant when he said that those who control language are able to determine what is considered to be true, what we are allowed to think.

One of the key features of the language wars is to make a link between certain words and the rise of hate crimes. This is done through labelling certain words and ideas as forms of ‘hate speech’. Once a word is rebranded as an act of hate, it can be discredited on the basis that it encourages violence.

It isn’t only anti-Brexit ideologues who use the label ‘hate speech’ to delegitimise certain forms of expression and certain views. Anyone who questions the views promoted by trans activists risks being accused of ‘transphobia’ and denounced as a hate-speaker.

Recently, Zayna Ratty, the chair of Oxford Pride, said that stickers dotted around Oxford city centre were ‘inducing hate crime’. The stickers merely expressed the dictionary definition of the word woman. They said: ‘Woman: noun. Adult human female.’ Other stickers said, ‘Women don’t have penises’. The Thames Valley Police joined the fray and warned that those responsible for putting the stickers on lampposts could be charged with public-order offences. In this instance, the police and groups of trans activists merged together to eliminate the right of people to say something that would have been considered completely uncontroversial for thousands of years. The attempt to criminalise the view that women do not have penises logically leads to the next step in this cultural conflict – the attempt to alter the way people think about issues of sex and biology, and about what is a man and what is a woman.

The growing efforts to eliminate certain words and ideas from public life represent a form of verbal purification. Through turning words like ‘surrender’ or even ‘woman’ into taboo words, this verbal purification creates a climate in which certain ideas come to be marginalised. This demonstrates that the war on words is fundamentally an attempt to re-engineer thought itself and transform how individuals look at the world.

Outside of totalitarian settings – such as Stalinist Russia – the goal of verbal purification was first introduced in Anglo-American societies, especially in higher education, in the 1980s. Over the past three decades, the practice of ‘watching your words’ has been internalised by many academics and students on campuses across the US and the UK.

One of the consequences of verbal purification is to change the meaning of words. Consider the word ‘controversial’ itself. In recent years, campus culture warriors have turned this into a negative word. Why? Because genuine controversy provokes serious debates, and the outcome of a serious debate cannot be controlled in advance by censorious moral entrepreneurs. Rather than welcoming controversy, the new linguistic police think it is best avoided. Numerous universities have introduced rules to vet so-called controversial speakers. The transformation of the word ‘controversial’ into a negative euphemism highlights the ability of verbal purifiers to influence people’s thoughts.

By turning words like ‘surrender’ or even ‘woman’ into taboo words, this verbal purification creates a climate in which certain ideas come to be marginalised

Fundamentally, the goal of verbal purification is to develop conventions about what can and what cannot be said and thought. Right now, this desire to overhaul language is most systematically expressed by the advocates of trans culture. Almost overnight, they won the support of officialdom for the introduction of laws and rules to govern the language around sex and gender. The elimination of binary language in relation to sex, and the introduction of an ever-growing range of pronouns, is a testimony to the influence of language purification.

In their book, Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language, Keith Allan and Kate Burridge argued that, unlike normal censoring activities, which are aimed at the maintenance of the status quo, the culture of political correctness sought to promote actual political and social change. In other words, changing the way people speak became an instrument for achieving a political objective. In the case of PC, the attempt to change language was motivated by the aim of altering how people behave and how they identify themselves. It was also about changing the process of socialisation itself in relation to young people.

For example, in 1995 the day-care centre at La Trobe University in Australia banned the use of around 20 words, including the gender-related terms of girl and boy (1). It did this in order to promote its social-engineering mission of altering traditional sex roles. Anyone who violated this code was ‘made to pay a fine into a kind of swear box for using a dirty word’. And that was in 1995! Today, far more than 20 words have been banned. The practice of gender-neutral socialising and parenting has become increasingly entrenched in certain sections of society and the establishment.

The language wars have acquired their most insidious form in nurseries. In principle, politicians can kick back when they are accused of using toxic words. Such an option is not open to children who have become the targets of today’s social-engineering zeal. In Sweden, in 2012, the gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’ was introduced. This word and others have been widely adopted throughout Swedish society. Children are explicitly indoctrinated into a worldview in which girls and boys, and men and women, are seen as the same thing. The aim of this pedagogy of gender-neutrality is to challenge ‘traditional gender roles and gender patterns’. In their place, they want to introduce a new non-traditional ideology – one in which all boys and girls, and men and women, think of themselves as ‘hen’.

The campaign to police language has undoubtedly had a significant impact on attitudes and behaviour in Western societies. As Allan and Burridge observed, it has ‘been extremely successful in getting people to change their linguistic behaviour’. Society has become increasingly sensitive and hesitant about which words are appropriate, and which are not.

One of the consequences of the language wars is that many people who do not share the social-engineering outlook often struggle to give voice to their views. It is increasingly common to encounter people who say, ‘I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this’… In the current climate, where there is little cultural support for the robust exchange of competing views, many people self-censor and allow the language police to intimidate them. That is a dangerous development; people who self-censor may soon forget the beliefs and sentiments that they held in the first place.

The stakes are high in the culture war over words. Those who take their freedom seriously must refuse to yield to the policing of language. History shows that the attempt to control citizens’ language inevitably leads to a diminishing of democracy itself.

Frank Furedi’s How Fear Works: the Culture of Fear in the 21st Century is published by Bloomsbury Press.

Picture by: Getty Images

(1) See Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language, by K Allan and K Burridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p18

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Gerard Barry

28th October 2019 at 3:23 pm

At work, I recently had to sit through a two-hour presentation from a female colleague about the need for us all to use “gender-neutral” language. It was the most painful two hours I have spent in a long time. To have to listen to some authoritarian feminazi (she’s German!) telling us what words to use in future was quite chilling. Her presentation (I should probably call it a lecture really) was based on a talk she had attended by a German group calling itself “Fair Language” (https://fairlanguage.com/), which, in its own words “supports people and companies to communicate in a non-discriminatory, inclusive and gender-neutral manner”. I really feel like I’m now working in a company that is doing its best to resemble a communist or fascist dictatorship. The worst thing is many of my colleagues seemed to be on board with the whole thing. After she had given her speech, my colleague forced us to do an exercise (in pairs) that involved reading different magazine articles about this issue and then explain afterwards how we could use “better” language to ensure nobody ever feels discriminated against. The article my colleague and I had was from the Cambridge Law Journal I believe and included some nonsense about how, in future, we might no longer be able to assume that the person who gives birth to a child is the child’s mother. When I said to my colleague how absurd I found all this to be, my colleague (who happens to be a man, but a pretty weak, nerdy, Beta one) said “Well, that’s the way the world is now”. In other words, he was unable to think critically about what he was reading and was willing to just accept it, all for peace’s sake I presume. We were also told during the presentation that terms like “career woman” are problematic and that when using a word like “soldier”, one could possibly put the words “both the men and the women” after it in case the reader assumes that all the soldiers in question were male.

Nearly two weeks on from the event, I’m still reeling from it. If you feel as strongly as I do about this issue, please contact the group “Fair Language” (https://fairlanguage.com/kontakt/) and tell them how you feel about their attempts to force companies and their employees to change their use of language.

Jonnie Henly

21st October 2019 at 11:03 pm

“It is increasingly common to encounter people who say, ‘I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this’…”

Yeah, those people are usually either dishonest or cowardly. Often both.

Jonnie Henly

21st October 2019 at 10:53 pm

“the goal of verbal purification was first introduced in Anglo-American societies, especially in higher education, in the 1980s”

Well that’s just plain not true.

Gerry Delasel

22nd October 2019 at 12:29 pm

I was thinking the same thing. This author seems to be trying to tick some essay boxes rather than produce an original thought.

Neil McCaughan

21st October 2019 at 11:27 am

[Major] said that words like ‘saboteur’, ‘traitor’, ‘enemy’, ‘surrender’ and betrayal’, had ‘no place’ in the Conservative Party, in ‘our politics’, or in ‘our society’

What did he say about “cheap provincial little adulterer”?

Marvin Jones

22nd October 2019 at 12:59 pm

Always the one’s that are the worst offenders. He looks like he would faint if he had an erection.

Roman Quail

21st October 2019 at 10:40 am

Swedish gender neutral pronoun ‘ Hen’ ,, translates – : WEIRD in Japanese

Jack Enright

20th October 2019 at 11:25 pm

‘Woman’: noun. Adult human female. ‘Man’: adult human male. Women don’t have penises. Men don’t have vaginas. There are only two sexes – male and female. As predicted by Churchill, decades ago, “the next fascists will say they are anti-fascists” – as with Antifa; latter day Brownshirts.
μολὼν λαβέ, copper.

Mieke H

20th October 2019 at 11:11 am

George Orwell’s 1984 has finally arrived. How long before the MET has an official division of the Thought Police?’ Freedom of Speech’ will soon be a thing of the past, when the use words such as ‘surrender’ and ‘humbug’ are being classed as a hate crime. APPALLING!

Jack Enright

20th October 2019 at 11:29 pm

As long as I’m alive, I will continue to exercise the right to free speech for which one of my uncles paid with his life, and for which two other uncles and my father had their mental / physical health permanently wrecked.
The snowflakes do, of course, have every right to be as offended as they wish – but I do NOT take orders from hysterical toddlers.

Puddy Cat

19th October 2019 at 9:48 am

This is rather like that heinous act of the Nazis burning books. Today we virtually destroy books whose ideas are cogent but whose language is of another day and by so doing invalidate sense, history and the variability of human kind. I almost had a cardiac arrest when Paxman uttered those fatal words Modern Era and still struggle with the rejection I received when using a word of Scandinavian origin that referred to a shamefully small amount but which sounds like a racist taboo.

Words, their definition or usage, have changed over time but the words themselves have not been expunged. Sophistication now means the direct opposite of its original conception. Forsooth, the natural decay of words is fashion. The intentional destruction of words is detestable, a tyranny. There is a word that once described the feeling of happiness and light heartedness which now belong to a sect of intense political attachment, people who have acquired the power to change usage and acceptance. The word gay is a sad loss to our vocabulary and even that word is now be buried in a mountain of pronouns and may be lost to us all.

It is such a difficult path to tread. There are parts of London that have turned into Communes and have what amounts to their own law and their own system of censorship and condemnation. There are words that you might use with people whom you know and socialise with which when uttered will have them look about themselves in such a way as have you think that the secret police may be listening. We are twitchy and desperate to know the latest non sequitur.

We see paintings and know that some people view the world, thankfully, differently. Yet you have artists, presumably brought to the stage by love of the language, aspire to acting out the often complex and mind stretching plot lines, as in Shakespeare, and then you have Mark Rylance who believes that he has an entrée to the minds of others and can presume what it is that others will think to enable him to impose what is acceptable about Shakespeare. The fore knowledge of those whom you think you could offend is an easy method of banning and redacting for who are we to claim their ability to see in such a way? If someone can conjure Winterval then we know we are nudging ever closer to being stuck behind the eight ball.

We have a debt that should be paid to Sally Wainright the polymath. In her play, that has homosexuality at its core, she looks upon her female lead as an eccentric (which is not to suggest stupidity). She is someone meeting life on her own terms and so confirmed in her ways that she is willing to stick to her guns primarily because she knows no other. What is wrong with eccentricity? That people can at variance to the norm seems exciting, alluring. She suggests that people of stereotypical views do not know how society works and the higher one moves in those circles the more that difference is found to be of interest. We are so serious about ourselves that we can no longer be eccentric and rather than ploughing our own furrow we want to be imbued not with understanding or adventure but that irksome characteristic of toddlers who will not be gainsaid.

Andrew Leonard

19th October 2019 at 6:13 am

We have a strong habit of thinking of the political world as being an eternal war between the right and the left. We have modifications on the simple left-right spectrum, of course, but we almost always frame things from within this conception.

What is common about left and right is that they are sets of political philosophies & ideologies, which derive from private individuals. For example, Karl Marx was a private individual when he wrote Das Kapital, and most of the best known and influential responses to Marx were from private individuals.

The problem with the left-right conception, is that it ignores the elephant in the room, and that elephant is government. Governments spend from a third to a half of their economies (I believe the Soviet Union states spent around three-fifths of their GDP’s), generate enormous amounts of regulation, own some of the means of production, manage the macro-economy, and have a legal monopoly on the use of force. How is something that powerful and encompassing, not going to have input into political thinking?

A more accurate view of the political world states: There are three primary entities contributing to political life; left and right, which are private, and government, which is public. Each of these entities can be considered a culture in its own right, with its own political style and general approach to establishing political positions and ideologies.

Where does the push to neuter the differences between the sexes come from, or at least to redefine gender as subjective and therefore alterable, rather than biological, and therefore immutable? It seems to mostly come from the same place that was mostly responsible for pushing gay marriage – government. Government itself, is the third ‘wing’ of political life, and not just a consumer of private thinking.

This new thinking about sex and marriage does not always seem to be a particularly strong fit with either right or left. The left did not support gay marriage in the 20th century, as this was seen as a bourgeois institution, and therefore irrelevant to gay rights. Gay marriage is an idea that comes directly from government. No group in society seems to be pushing harder the idea of self-assigned gender, as is the police force – that is, an arm of the state.

I would suggest that terms such as ‘populism’ can best be understood within this triadic conception of politics. As the left – at least as things stand currently – is the more statist-oriented of the two private wings, it is a more natural fit with government culture and its political thinking, and on the other hand, the right is much less compatible with government thinking. This creates a sort of two versus one situation, which tends to drag politics in one direction, albeit a somewhat incoherent one. Consequently, when the right has a relatively rare victory, we ironically refer to it as populism.

Dominic Straiton

18th October 2019 at 7:30 pm

Just think. In 200 years your great, great, great, great children will know two things about you. What you looked up on pornhub and what you do anything for their freedom.

Mister Joshua

19th October 2019 at 12:42 am

Don’t forget multiple generations of grown men who watch Star Wars, debate the deep philosophical meaning of comic book movies, and acquire their worldview from idiot rock stars. All the modern man needs is a pacifier to suck on and the disintegration of the West shall be complete.

Jonnie Henly

21st October 2019 at 11:02 pm

Who knew the West could be disintegrated so easily.

Was the whole thing built on sand?

James Knight

18th October 2019 at 5:49 pm

If we stop using words because they are used by people to make threats then that itself is an act or moral capitulation. We are giving the power to regulate speech to every nut case who makes threats.

This is a bigger capitulation than the Benn Act.

Jane 70

18th October 2019 at 4:38 pm

Cognitive dissonance is emblematic of much of the pc speak which now dominates our discourse.

Pondering this yet again, it seems to me that the fashionable claims and demands for the reality of gender as a matter of personal choice, rather than a biological fact, will eventually result in a widespread and comparable psychic/ emotional dissonance.

In other words, if anyone in possession of male sex organs and the 46XY karyotype can identify as female- no questions asked, nor evidence required- then ultimately this masquerade will cause a deep seated split in the psyche’s integrity, since biology, development, physical attributes will always be at odds with the self identified persona.

Thus it might be predicted that a significant increase in mental and emotional disorders will manifest in the near future , since individuals will lose sight of their true selves and foundations.

That young children and teenagers are encouraged to join this bandwagon is particularly disturbing, as is the fact that normal females are now being hounded.

Andrew Leonard

19th October 2019 at 6:27 am

Jane, I started replying to this comment of yours, but it got a bit long for a reply, so I made it a standalone comment (above). Consider it reply to you, regardless.

Jane 70

19th October 2019 at 7:55 am

I’ve read your post Andrew, but it doesn’t really address my concerns about the emotional and mental disorders which might well materialise in years to come.

Not sure either, that I entirely agree about government being the prime mover in much of this social transmutation: it seems to me that the government has been caught on the back foot and that its role, while dominant in many other areas of public life, has been essentially reactive.
These particular pressure groups seem to have assumed an enormous influence and I’m not entirely sure why this should be so: fear of losing votes? being out of touch?

Andrew Leonard

19th October 2019 at 9:06 am

Jane, to sum up the current political era, I would say:

Governments set the agenda, and both left and right do what they can to stay relevant, but most of the time they just squabble on the Internet.

The Internet is a wasteland on which we fight to be heard, but only end up talking or shouting at each other. The Internet is also like the wild west – it is governed by unaccountable gangs that take out anyone they don’t like. There are no rules. Nor does government care that there are no rules, or indeed what happens at all. They have their own agenda and are happy to ignore the public.

Both left and right have been ‘crowded out’ of the political space by government, and its own thinking. A critical feature of government’s political thinking is a belief in the homogenisation of society. Homogenisation of inputs increases efficiency and simplifies management. As an example; the existence of two genders complicates things like education, so gender now has nothing to do with X & Y chromosomes. The needs and complaints of the public are irrelevant. This is all very similar to the story of Brasilia, decades ago.

“These particular pressure groups seem to have assumed an enormous influence …”

How much of this influence is ultimately due to what is being taught in government schools and universities? Also, don’t forget that the biggest pressure group in world history is the IPCC – funded and managed by governments.

Claire D

19th October 2019 at 10:40 am

I agree with you. My theory/explanation:

I think it is a direct result of Feminism, which has encouraged women to be more like men, not in the clothes they wear or any superficial expression but what society expects of them, have a ‘ career ‘, work to earn money and pay taxes, compete with men, even adopt laddish behaviour on the razzle (putting themselves in danger from both alcohol and sexual assault). Apart from the last bit which is all beastly men’s fault the more mannish a woman is the more she is held up as an example and applauded. Women who prefer the domestic arena and are content to play a supporting role to their men are told they are old fashioned if not obsolete.
At the same time the law and employment regulations increasingly favour women for Equality and Diversity’s sake.
Vulnerable, troubled boys and men will increasingly succumb to the idea that actually becoming a woman is the answer to their problems. At the opposite end of the spectrum girls, under pressure to be like boys and young men, to look forward, not to motherhood but to a successful career, while at the same time being told that men will obstruct, bully and harass them, and exactly the same thing happens to them; unhappy, fearful, confused girls imagine becoming a man is the answer.
These unfortunate people are the symptoms of our society’s malaise.
In a way it’s pointless to blame Feminism because that was a direct result of the market and economic forces as well, way beyond our individual control.

The only way to make happy children is to give them steadiness, security, commitment (time) and love, which would require a complete overhaul of our society, except at the personal level. The personal is political is still a powerful maxim.

Jane 70

19th October 2019 at 12:17 pm

Interesting Claire,as always, and taking this further, I wonder whether this might be some kind of subliminal-or even conscious-revenge by certain males against the changes which you allude to.

From a male point of view-and I know I’m guessing but bear with me: ‘The feminists have taken away our traditional roles, and rendered us either irrelevant or,conversely, brutalising oppressors who cannot be trusted; result we’ll adopt their roles–while maintaining our physical attributes- and invade their spaces; we’ll beat them in sporting events; we’ll manipulate gullible authorities into allowing us into female only prisons; we’ll wear their clothes and we’ll insist that all our actions are beyond criticism. We’ll have the elite and the useful idiots in government and the media to promote our cause, employing the double speak which now renders dissent off limits.’

What do you think Claire?

Finally, on the removal of acceptable words, and ,by extension, historical fact, I receommend the following novel:

‘To Kill The Truth’ by Sam Bourne -( Jonathan Freedland’s nom de plume).

Jane 70

19th October 2019 at 1:07 pm

I’ve sent you a reply Claire, but once more it is stuck in mod limbo. This is starting to become excessive. The software seems to pick up perfectly innocuous phrases.

Jane 70

19th October 2019 at 1:39 pm


This is worth reading as well. Another incisive analysis of the west’s social and cultural malaise.

Claire D

20th October 2019 at 5:26 am

Thanks Jane, yes that’s precisely what I mean re: the men. I think for the girls it’s different, more to do with fear and nerves, more susceptible to self harm.

Claire D

20th October 2019 at 5:49 am

I do wish there was an edit button sometimes. The above is not quite right, what I would have preferred to have said is that, yes Jane I think you are right, the men who are doing this do it predominantly out of anger, whereas girls are different etc, as above. Hope that makes sense.

Jane 70

20th October 2019 at 12:12 pm

Your reply Claire : yes indeed it does make sense, anger on the part of resentful marginalised men, and insecure confused young women,more prone, as you say, to harming themselves.
What a sad state of affairs this is turning out to be.
One wonders where it will end.

Jane 70

20th October 2019 at 12:27 pm

Yesterday I had to cry,
My DNA is still XY,
But I proclaim that I’m XX,
To hell with facts, they make me vexed.

steve moxon

18th October 2019 at 3:47 pm

So where, Frank does it all come from?! Stop being in denial about the political-Left origins.
THE ORIGIN OF ‘IDENTITY POLITICS’ & ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS’: Not Consideration for Minorities but Hatred Towards the Mass of Ordinary People; Specifically ‘the Workers’ — Tracing the Roots of Why and How it Arose and Developed Reveals the Greatest Political Fraud in History.
SUMMARY: ‘Identity politics’ (often or even usually dubbed ‘political correctness’) is the result of a political-Left major backlash against the mass of ordinary people (in Europe and ‘the West’), beginning in the 1920s/30s, in the wake of the persistent failure of Marxist theory to be realised in European ‘revolution’ or any real change through democracy. In shifting the blame away from Marxist theory and its adherents, and on to those the theory had prescribed and predicted would have been the beneficiaries — the workers — if only they had responded accordingly; then the cognitive-dissonance within the political-left mindset caused by this crisis to an extent was salved. [It is NOT at all the same as what the Left mistakenly term ‘the politics of identity’ to tag the new movements against the elite, on the false assumption that they are essentially nationalistic and ‘white backlash’. Trump and Brexit triumphed because the general populace have come to realise that the government-media-education uber-class has an unwarranted profound contempt for and visceral hatred towards them; and, therefore hardly is liable to act in their interests.]
The intellectual rationalisation was first by invoking Freud’s now comprehensively discredited notion of ‘repression’ to attempt to explain a supposed impact on ‘the workers’ of ‘capitalism’ acting within the context of the family. With most workers (the group considered the principal ‘agents of social change’ in a ‘revolution’) being male, then the theoreticians had in mind the male as ‘head’ of the family. It was a simple extension in political-Left imagination for ‘the worker’ to change from being the putative conduit of the impact of ‘capitalism’ to its embodiment, leaving women to be deemed a replacement supposed ‘oppressed’ and ‘disadvantaged’ ‘group’.
This implausible and unfalsifiable non-scientific nonsense mainly festered within academia until the co-option after 1968 by the political-Left of a movement which appeared to be akin to the revolutionary activity predicted by Marxism: the US ‘civil rights’ movement. This added to the ‘new oppressed’ the category ‘non-white’, which like that of women could be envisaged as an inversion of a retrospective stereotype of ‘the worker’. In the wake of the similarly seeming revolutionary Stonewall riots of 1969, the ‘gay rights’ lobby was also co-opted to further add to the abstract demonised aspects of ‘the worker’, thereafter retrospectively stereotyped as male plus ‘white’ plus heterosexual.
The strands of the ‘new oppressed’ combined in a new (neo-Marxist) conceptualisation to account for these political shifts after the fact, which came to be termed ‘identity politics’ (or more pejoratively but accurately, ‘cultural Marxism’, and latterly dubbed ‘modernising’ [sic] in political parties). The deemed ‘groups’ replacing ‘the workers’ – subsequently expanded to embrace the disabled, the elderly, trans-sexuals and the obese – are abstractions rather than groups per se, and in any case far too heterogeneous to be in reality ‘oppressed’ or ‘disadvantaged’; providing a window on the sophistry and origin of this politics as other than it purports.
For example, the category of ‘non-white’ / ‘ethnic minority’ includes such as migrant Indians and Chinese, who by no criteria are ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘oppressed’; ditto the category ‘homosexual’ in encompassing lesbians. By any objective, non-ideological analysis, women are privileged — certainly, as has been regularly pointed out, Western middle-class women are privileged; the most privileged large ‘group’ in all history.
This absurd situation arose through the political-Left’s forcing of specific conflicts to be considered as emblematic of Marxist struggle, rendering them as generalisable, with their participants abstractions. US Afro-Americans became generic ‘ethnic minorities’, and ‘gays’ became ‘homosexuals’. The history of feminism — not just of the ‘third wave’ — is of upper-class or upper-middle-class women demanding to somehow to be the same as their very high-status husbands and males within their rarefied social milieu; which even if it could make any sense given profound sex difference, hardly was a basis of anything comparable for the great majority of either women or men. The upshot is that ‘identity politics’ is a ‘gravy train’ for the already privileged. Worse, it is an instrument of oppression against the very ‘group’ perennially disadvantaged and the victim of prejudice, which formerly had been identified as worthy of the liberation Marxism promised: the vast majority of (necessarily lower-status) men.
The pretence to egalitarianism is perfect cover for what ‘identity politics’ actually is: the very perennial and ubiquitous elitist-separatism the political-Left ethos attacks and denies; rendered a quasi-religion, being an ideology in the wake of the Christian notion of ‘the promised land’ in the utopia/dystopia of equality-of-outcome. This represents a continuation of the process of a shift in religiosity from envisaging a ‘god’ as being in man’s image, through the humanist deification of mankind, to worship of a supposed dynamic of teleological social change (originally understood in Marxism as a form of explicit cognition known as ‘the dialectic’). ‘Identity politics’, in being both not what it pretends to be and now so widespread and entrenched across the whole and every facet of the establishment in Anglophone nations and ‘the West’ generally, can properly be regarded as the greatest political fraud in history.

Jane 70

18th October 2019 at 2:39 pm

‘The War Over Words’: my first comment is awaiting moderation . The word karyotype seems to have fallen foul of the mod software.


18th October 2019 at 1:17 pm

This article is the scholarly, academic equivalent of the tired ‘political correctness gone mad’ trope.

Neil McCaughan

21st October 2019 at 11:29 am

Nothing tired about ridiculing political correctness, petal.

Jonnie Henly

21st October 2019 at 11:01 pm

If this were still the 1980s, you might have a point Neil.

But 30 years down the line? Yes, it’s become very tired indeed.

Linda Payne

18th October 2019 at 12:56 pm

Its about time we showed some bottle and defended people on the wrong side of PC. At the moment it seems to be ‘hang them out to dry’; where are the movements and marches for free speech and an end to censorship in what ever form it takes? The workplace is becoming toxic with people cowering rather than standing up for what it right, be careful if we start to self censor we start losing our freedoms and when that happens it will be a long hard road fighting to get them back

Andrew Leonard

18th October 2019 at 2:01 pm

Linda, agree with you, but we may have traded-off social cohesion for multiculturalism.
Or at least, governments did the trading-off for us.

James Chilton

18th October 2019 at 12:49 pm

John Major is the most egregious ninny in modern politics – though he has a lot of competition for the title.

Andrew Leonard

18th October 2019 at 11:51 am

Suppose we divide the political world into two camps; progressive left, and conservative right.
In any era, we could ask members of each camp a crucial question:

Left: How much better would things have to be for you to decide to be a conservative?
Right: How much worse would things have to be for you to decide to become a progressive?

Of course, life isn’t that simple; we have near constant progress in some areas, stagnation in others, etc, so we cannot simply answer on the basis of a snapshot in time. However, I think this is fine as a hypothetical.

So for the conservative, if the social or economic situation deteriorated to the point that draconian measures might become necessary, the decision to jump ship to the progressive side could perhaps be made.
For the progressive, what happens when things become good enough that progressivism seems pointless? Do they then mellow into conservatives?

I think this could be where we now have a problem. If the left weren’t policing language and flogging climate catastrophe, what would they be doing instead? Is the left so short of real social and economic issues to focus on, that they have been forced into a choice of giving up their political identity, or just making stuff up?

Andrew Leonard

18th October 2019 at 1:00 pm

By the way, which question – left or right – would it make most sense to ask someone of the hard/far/alt-right? What does that suggest?

Winston Stanley

18th October 2019 at 11:51 am

Well explained Frank, thanks.

The right of individuals to think and to express themselves as they see fit limits the right of the state and the community to control what the ppl think and say for themselves. It is a conflict of prerogatives, which of course are entirely made up though with some basis in the cultural and political development of the society.

Our society increasingly leans toward the prerogatives of the state over the individual. It is almost like living in a church community where the hierarchy thinks that it is its prerogative to tell people what to think, and even what to feel, to control experience in its subjectivity and thus “reality”. The state/ church defines dogmas and all must submit under threat of excommunication, stigmatisation, isolation and damnation.

It is perhaps almost like a picture book approach to the life and to the world, in the dominant role given to approved symbols through which the story is read. Thus quite appropriate that the brainwashing starts in the nurseries but the sad thing is that the citizen is expected to remain in that nursery throughout adult life.

The epistemological power relationship between the state and the community infantilises the citizen. It makes them an object, rather then a subject, controlled almost mechanically by the state – not just in their external behaviour but in their inner life. It negates the free subjectivity that is essential to personhood.

As such it is tempting to say that, in an important sense, the dogmatically determined citizen does not exist as a human being in the full and proper sense, any more than they would if they had their brain removed. Control over one’s own thoughts and experiences is just a part of what it is to be an autonomous human.

One could say that it is a flight from human evolution. It has taken hundreds of thousands of years for humans to gradually attain our level of consciousness, intelligence and free use of symbolism. Humans have brains that are physically very complex, much more so than other species. It is what we are.

We could look to culturally consolidate those biological gains by encouraging free thought and expression. Rather we have an uptight society in which the state tries to revert us back, in our behaviour, to a less intelligent, less free species that simply mimics the crowd as controlled by the state. “Monkey see monkey do.” As FN says, “they would rather go back to the apes.”

I would suggest that the problem of freedom has a material, social basis. We live under capitalist states that are orientated in their view of the world around a demographic-economic perspective. We are basically cogs in the economy. Our place is to do what we are told, when we are told. That is how everyday life is largely organised in our society, as work.

That fundamental unfreedom, that power relationship that defines everyday life finds its more general social and cultural expression in the state control of moral, cultural and political thought. Our place is to think what we are told to think, and to say what we are told to say, or else to be punished and ostracised. As if we were at work, b/c in the view of the state, we are essentially employees, wage labourers under the control of the capitalist state.

I would suggest that the capitalist state is using PC, the control of our subjective experience, and in its external expression, cynically for its own material interests. For instance, the reformulation of gender ideology reflects the inclusion of women as workers to expand the labour force in the era of low productivity growth since the oil embargo of the 1970s. (Workers are part of the material base.)

More generally the internalisation of diversity as identity, in abstract legal and moral commonality, reflects the expansion of the workforce through mass immigration in the post-imperial, post-colonial period of capitalist development. There has been a shift in the material base of capitalist society and the capitalist state is forcing through a reformulated general ideology to firm up the transformed material base.

It is a power relationship between the capitalist state and the citizen, in which internalised, socially constructed identity, subjective experience, conceptual interpretation of the world, and the communicative behaviour of the citizen are all cynically and pragmatically manipulated and determined by the capitalist state ultimately, and simply, so that capital can make more profits and money.

The state wants to control the story, that is social reality, and to control the characters and the roles that we play in that story. The state wants to tell us who we are, what we think, what we say and what we do. The state wants to be the Author and us the story book characters. Our place is to know our place, to be who we are told we are, to experience what we are told we experience, to think and say what we are told.

It is ironic that gays and t rans are so eager to reinforce and to perpetuate that scenario of state power over the individual, when they have been excluded for so long. It seems that they really only care about themselves having a privileged, protected place in that scenario, in the name of “equality”.

The gay liberation movement has completely lost the plot, “liberation” is now a euphemism for state control over the subjectivity and expression of the citizen, the complete opposite of what liberation should be about.

What to do? That is hard one. It would be perhaps corny to say that we need to overturn the material power relations of capitalism if we are going to overthrow the more general social power relations of the capitalist state over citizens. Obviously that has been tried before and to honest it is asking a lot. So I suppose we just have to keep talking about the problems, if only superficially, in the hope that some good may come of it.


Andrew Leonard

18th October 2019 at 1:52 pm

Interesting essay.

To differentiate N@z!sm from Socialism, AH said (paraphrasing): “Why bother nationalising the means of production and exchange? We have nationalised the German people.”

The modern states says, implicitly: “Why bother nationalising the people? We have nationalised the truth.”

It’s just the logical next stage in the development of statism.

Re references to the Capitalist state. Governments spend at least a third and sometimes a half of modern economies. There is regulation and state ownership to consider. Plus the effects of culture, outside of the state and commercial arenas. The term ‘Capitalist state’ maybe shorthand for all the above, but I still find it misleading. We had Capitalist states in the 19th century – not since.

Winston Stanley

18th October 2019 at 4:41 pm

The first half, that is a good way of putting it, I like that, thanks.

aidan maconachy

20th October 2019 at 4:14 am

Winston said: “Our society increasingly leans toward the prerogatives of the state over the individual. It is almost like living in a church community where the hierarchy thinks that it is its prerogative to tell people what to think, and even what to feel, to control experience in its subjectivity and thus “reality”.”

This is precisely what is going on.

As an example, in the run-up to the Canadian federal election it has come to light that the so-called Conservatives secretly contracted a consulting firm, Daisy Group, to run a smear campaign targeting the new fledgling party, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC). This included targeting the PPC as a source of racism, even though the PPC has members and candidates from a wide array ethnic minorities… including Muslim representation… and a platform that is inclusive of all Canadians.

The PPC is headed up by Maxime Bernier, a former federal cabinet minister with a track record at the highest levels of Canadian politics. Bernier has raised valid questions about radical multiculturalism and immigration. But when you openly question the catechism of the congregants they will use every dirty tactic to tag and marginalize these challenges as racist, unCanadian etc. Attacks of this sort are not merely anti-democratic, but show a willingness to smear and even destroy those who challenge their orthodoxies.

Max Bernier has filed a complaint to the Commissioner of Elections Canada.

fret slider

18th October 2019 at 11:51 am

Doubtless, pointing out that any transgender woman still has a very male genome is a hate crime. That 23rd chromosomal pair must be a real embarrassment and they can’t get rid of it.

Jim Lawrie

18th October 2019 at 10:41 am

“people who self-censor may soon forget the beliefs and sentiments that they held in the first place”. Or they only associate and socialises with the people who share their views, further dividing our society. But they are aware that for their children to advance, they may have to censor them.

But economic reality bites, and it bites hard. It has no respect for political correctness, and refuses to be censored into submission. Awarding jobs and contracts on the basis of ideology is weakening the West. Sweden is suffering from this more than anywhere else, as women and ethnics are given jobs they are not up to, and the workload is transferred onto the fewer every year who can.
In IT, envious of the rates paid to freelancers, the placeholders spend their whole time finding fault with the speech of these guys. One guy I know who was on the receiving end of this decided to call a 15 minute project meeting every single morning at eight. It was interesting who did not attend. Or submit a progress report. He put a huge progress chart on the back wall of his office so everyone could see who had not done what. The lead swingers tried to get rid of him on the basis that he was a foreigner, and not doing things the Swedish way. It cost weak management, whose language was strident and action “swift and decisive”, a few hundred thousand to oust him, but quite a few followed. The share price fell 65% over the next 3yrs, as their online retail plans disintegrated. It had risen 25% over the previous 2yrs as this project started to come to fruition.

Amelia Cantor

18th October 2019 at 9:52 am

Dr Furedi is Jewish. It is therefore v. puzzling that he fails to recognize the greatest lesson of history:

* Hate that begins with words ends in genocide.

If the nazis had been locked up in sufficient numbers and for long enough after beginning to spew their hate, there would have been no Holocaust.

Most other Jews, being sane, recognize this fact and support tough laws against hate speech. That is why, for example, the ADL is at the forefront of the fight against hate.

Hate speech is not free speech.

Free speech celebrates our common humanity and points us towards a brighter future.

Hate speech divides, degrades and paves the way for genocide.

It should be banned and hate-speakers should be stopped by any means necessary.

Andrew Leonard

18th October 2019 at 1:09 pm

Amelia hates cis white men, and says so.
Shall we throw her in jail, to prevent a genocide?

Ven Oods

18th October 2019 at 9:29 am

It’s all supremely illogical, too.
A standard riposte to ‘My pronouns are they, them, their’ should be “Really? So how many of you are there?”

Jim Lawrie

18th October 2019 at 11:33 am

The point is that any questioning of their demands and dictats is to be criminalised.

fret slider

18th October 2019 at 11:52 am

The best [most accurate] gender neutral pronoun is…


Geoff Cox

18th October 2019 at 8:51 am

This subject infuriates me so much and I’ve noticed when arguing about this down the pub, that speech control takes another form also. When defending some “contoversial” comment, I come across the argument “well he’s right, but was stupid to say it”. So a politician can make a good point, but still be classed as stupid.

Cody Bailey

18th October 2019 at 8:46 am

“One of the consequences of verbal purification is to change the meaning of words.”

Mr. Furedi, words do not have meanings. Meanings have words.

We have ideas and we designate them by tagging them with specific arbitrary sounds. The sleight of hand the left is using is to take a word tagged to an idea that they approve of and tag it over onto an idea they do not approve of, or to take a word tagged to an idea you approve of and tag it over onto one you do not approve of. This is an important distinction. It is a shell game strategy the left uses to peddle their bullshit.

Of course the problem they face is that making words disappear does not make ideas disappear. The natural cycle is for new terms used to sanitize offensive ideas to eventually take on the offensiveness of the idea. For example here in the US the term ‘illegal alien’ was strongly discouraged in favor of the new phrase ‘undocumented alien’, a term which quickly became offensive itself not because of any inherent quality of the words but because of its proximity to the offensive idea. Because ‘invaders’ (even illegal alien was originally an attempt to avoid offense) is such an offensive idea to a national consciousness the cycle has gone at break-neck speed. Undocumented alien had to be replaced with undocumented immigrant, then that with just immigrant, then that with migrant, then that with…I am not even sure. Who can keep up? But whatever word the idea is tagged with they are still invaders and everyone knows it. The ideas don’t just evaporate.

This works the other way about too. We see it on a generational time scale with expletives. Each new generation finds that their parents expletives have lost their sting so they create a new lexicon for themselves.

Great article, but frightening. Y’all better get out the pitchforks very soon or you are gonna wake up one day and ask yourself “What is that yoke doing on my back and where did it come from?”

Winston Stanley

18th October 2019 at 12:50 pm

They are “invaders” under a legal aspect, obviously humans cannot be entirely reduced to legal definitions. White Americans are originally descended from literal invaders, when there was no dominant legal framework to control who entered the continent (any laws of the natives on that matter were obviously ignored).

The legal framework is at base a power relationship, about who can do what, where, when and under what conditions, expressed as “rights” and justified as “morality”. Beyond the legal definitions, ppl remain aspirational and needful and they are attributed some dignity. The USA has always been built on immigration, and it continues to be, so it is intuitive that Americans are not entirely comfortable with the reduction of aspiration citizens, or of humans generally, to negative legal definitions.

They are “illegal” and “aliens” under those legal aspects but that is not all that they are. Legal conditions come and go, ppl remain what they are. It always remains an option for the society to afford them naturalisation, especially when the economic society relies on the constant expansion of the workforce through immigration anyway. Thus they are also “potential citizens” as well as “illegal aliens”. And beyond that they are humans, the same as the rest of us. One might term them “potential fellow citizens with a possibly legally impaired potentiality”, which would be legally accurate if somewhat longwinded.

Andrew Leonard

18th October 2019 at 2:24 pm

A few years back I watched a TED video about the founding fathers of the USA, deciding on a designation for the head of state. They wanted a term that did not convey too much power or grandeur, so they decided on President – someone who merely presides over the overall operation of government. This attempt to downplay the status of the head of state by choosing an appropriate name, failed miserably. ‘President’, now and for a long time, has sounded … presidential.

Engineering reality by careful choice and promotion of words is a short-term strategy at best. However, the idea that words alone can shape our reality, seems to be very strong in Western culture, and perhaps in most others, and it has been that way since at least 1776.

Claire D

18th October 2019 at 8:36 am

I think this panic stricken, authoritarian attitude towards language runs alongside Identity Politics and social media as relatively new phenomena. Not only do we live in real time now but many (not all) have adopted a virtual existence also, which, depending on where you spend your time, can be an anarchic, lawless place (or was until recently). Words are everything, there is no other way of ‘ being ‘ on social media other than by using words, though images can be used to some extent. So words have become much more important and powerful; virtual mob violence on social media is common, moral panics erupt and can sweep thousands into a maelstrom of emotion and delusion. I think it was inevitable that a new authoritarian approach to language would develop.
That’s not to say that there is not the other more sinister, social engineering aspect that Furedi talks about. The historical parallel which springs to my mind is the English Reformation when Catholicism was virtually outlawed, but of course that was in the realm of religion not biology, nevertheless it would have felt fundamental to people at the time.
The question that must be asked is, is society pursuing neutering of the sexes of it’s own volition or is it being imposed upon us by those in power, either financial or political ?

There is some comfort in that the biological imperative of being human will always ultimately override ideologically forced behaviour.

+ Catholics survived and Catholicism persisted despite the Reformation, not an ideal comparison I know, but interesting.

Claire D

18th October 2019 at 9:35 am

Also worth noting that the English Reformation was as much about market forces and consequent social change, as it was a political and religious/intellectual development. Perhaps that is relevant to what we are witnessing now, I don’t know.


18th October 2019 at 8:39 pm

The English Reformation was about theology, and the madness of King Henry VIII.

Winston Stanley

18th October 2019 at 10:08 pm

Claire, yes that is so. Engels wrote about that in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. The RCC had become aligned ideologically with the feudal order and with the dominance of the class of the landed aristocracy. Protestantism originated in the emerging cities of the burghers and it expressed a challenge to the settle order, an ideology of freedom from the old ideas and from the old social power relationships. Protestant-Catholicism became the state religion of the British state but that was supplanted by Calvinism. Eventually Protestantism was replaced with rationalism.

> … The state presents itself to us as the first ideological power over man. Society creates for itself an organ for the safeguarding of its common interests against internal and external attacks. This organ is the state power. Hardly come into being, this organ makes itself independent vis-a-vis society; and, indeed, the more so, the more it becomes the organ of a particular class, the more it directly enforces the supremacy of that class. The fight of the oppressed class against the ruling class becomes necessarily a political fight, a fight first of all against the political dominance of this class…

Still higher ideologies, that is, such as are still further removed from the material, economic basis, take the form of philosophy and religion. Here the interconnection between conceptions and their material conditions of existence becomes more and more complicated, more and more obscured by intermediate links. But the interconnection exists. Just as the whole Renaissance period, from the middle of the 15th century, was an essential product of the towns and, therefore, of the burghers, so also was the subsequently newly-awakened philosophy. Its content was in essence only the philosophical expression of the thoughts corresponding to the development of the small and middle burghers into a big bourgeoisie. Among last century’s Englishmen and Frenchmen who in many cases were just as much political economists as philosophers, this is clearly evident; and we have proved it above in regard to the Hegelian school…

We will now in addition deal only briefly with religion, since the latter stands further away from material life and seems to be most alien to it… Every ideology, however, once it has arisen, develops in connection with the given concept-material, and develops this material further; otherwise, it would not be an ideology, that is, occupation with thoughts as with independent entities, developing independently and subject only to their own laws. In the last analysis, the material life conditions of the persons inside whose heads this thought process goes on determine the course of the process, which of necessity remains unknown to these persons, for otherwise there would be an end to all ideology…

In the Middle Ages, in the same measure as feudalism developed, Christianity grew into the religious counterpart to it, with a corresponding feudal hierarchy. And when the burghers began to thrive, there developed, in opposition to feudal Catholicism, the Protestant heresy, which first appeared in Southern France among the Albigenses, at the time the cities there reached the highest point of their florescence. The Middle Ages had attached to theology all the other forms of ideology — philosophy, politics, jurisprudence — and made them subdivision of theology. It thereby constrained every social and political movement to take on a theological form. The sentiments of the masses were fed with religion to the exclusion of all else; it was therefore necessary to put forward their own interests in a religious guise in order to produce a great tempest. And just as the burghers from the beginning brought into being an appendage of propertyless urban plebeians, day laborers and servants of all kinds, belonging to no recognized social estate, precursors of the later proletariat, so likewise heresy soon became divided into a burgher-moderate heresy and a plebeian-revolutionary one, the latter an abomination to the burgher heretics themselves.

The ineradicability of the Protestant heresy corresponded to the invincibility of the rising burghers. When these burghers had become sufficiently strengthened, their struggle against the feudal nobility, which till then had been predominantly local, began to assume national dimensions. The first great action occurred in Germany — the so-called reformation. The burghers were neither powerful enough nor sufficiently developed to be able to unite under their banner the remaining rebellious estates — the plebeians of the towns, the lower nobility, and the peasants on the land. At first, the nobles were defeated; the peasants rose in a revolt which formed the peak of the whole revolutionary struggle; the cities left them in the lurch, and thus the revolution succumbed to the armies of the secular princes who reaped the whole profit. Thenceforward, Germany disappears for three centuries from the ranks of countries playing an independent active part in history. But, beside the German Luther appeared the Frenchman Calvin. With true French acuity, he put the bourgeois character of the Reformation in the forefront, republicanized and democratized the Church. While the Lutheran Reformation in Germany degenerated and reduced the country to rack and ruin, the Calvinist Reformation served as a banner for the republicans in Geneva, in Holland, and in Scotland, freed Holland from Spain and from the German Empire, and provided the ideological costume for the second act of the bourgeois revolution, which was taking place in England. Here, Calvinism justified itself as the true religious disguise of the interests of the bourgeoisie of that time, and on this account did not attain full recognition when the revolution ended in 1689 in a compromise between one part of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. The English state Church was re-established; but not in its earlier form of a Catholicism which had the king for its pope, being, instead, strongly Calvinized. The old state Church had celebrated the merry Catholic Sunday and had fought against the dull Calvinist one. The new, bourgeoisified Church introduced the latter, which adorns England to this day.

In France, the Calvinist minority was suppressed in 1685 and either Catholized or driven out of the country. But what was the good? Already at that time the freethinker Pierre Bayle was at the height of his activity, and in 1694 Voltaire was born. The forcible measures of Louis XIV only made it easier for the French bourgeoisie to carry through its revolution in the irreligious, exclusively political form which alone was suited to a developed bourgeoisie. Instead of Protestants, freethinkers took their seats in the national assemblies. Thereby Christianity entered into its final stage. It was incapable of doing any future service to any progressive class as the ideological garb of its aspirations. It became more and more the exclusive possession of the ruling classes; they apply it as a mere means of government, to keep the lower classes within bounds. Moreover, each of the different classes uses its own appropriate religion: the landed nobility — Catholic Jesuitism, or Protestant orthodoxy; the liberal and radical bourgeoisie — rationalism; and it makes little difference whether these gentlemen themselves believe in their respective religions or not.

We see, therefore: religion, once formed, always contains traditional material, just as in all ideological domains tradition forms a great conservative force. But the transformations which this material undergoes spring from class relations — that is to say, out of the economic relations of the people who execute these transformations. And here that is sufficient.


Claire D

19th October 2019 at 5:19 am

Thank you Winston.

Zenobia, don’t rely on popular media for an understanding of history.

Claire D

19th October 2019 at 6:25 am

Powerful agents in history like Henry VIII do not act in isolation though they may appear to do so. Henry was not that keen on reform except in that it enabled him to get what he wanted; a new wife and the wealth held by the monasteries. It was his children, first Edward VI and later Elizabeth I who really instigated and ruthlessly imposed the Reformation on the population. See Winston’s post above for some of the social and political reasons that lay behind it.

Claire D

19th October 2019 at 6:27 am

That’s in answer to Zenobia.

Andrew Leonard

18th October 2019 at 3:20 pm

“The question that must be asked is, is society pursuing neutering of the sexes of it’s own volition or is it being imposed upon us by those in power, either financial or political ?”

Great question. The concept of hate speech must presuppose one of two things:

1. The producer of the speech agrees with the assumptions that the concept of hate speech is based on. For example, that gender is subjective, and not biological in nature. In spite of agreeing with this premise, the speaker continues to promote or imply that the reverse is true, out of hate.

2. The producer of the speech genuinely believes that another individual is incorrect about some fundamental feature of their human identity, but refuses to accept that their personal assessment is to be regarded as null and void, if it contradicts the subjective understanding of the other individual, in regards to said feature. This refusal constitutes hate.

Case 1 is about lying, and being incorrect in terms of the science of sex differences.
Case 2 is about telling the truth, being correct in terms of the science, but refusing to change ones position when contradicted by an individuals subjective self-assessment.

It seems to me, that case 2 is what hate speech laws are all about, in regards to sex/gender. This is quite fascinating, as it means the subjective now has greater status at the level of law and its enforcement, than does science. What has caused this sudden change in our culture, and who benefits from it?

As I’ve said elsewhere on Spiked, I think what we now have in the West, is runaway cure culture. The promotion of the subjective is more about enabling the expansion of cure culture, than it is about some philosophical trend that favours subjectivity, explicitly. That is why the change appears sudden, but is actually part of a long-term trend.

Andrew Leonard

19th October 2019 at 12:35 am

‘Care culture’ – not ‘cure culture’.

Need sleep 🙂

Claire D

20th October 2019 at 6:24 am

I did read your ‘ care culture ‘ comment elsewhere Andrew though I cannot remember the argument exactly. I wonder if ‘ care culture ‘ (if it exists) does not signify the need to feel morally superior, despite being a big fat lie and the complete opposite of what is honest and good. And back we come to words, language and the abuse of.

Claire D

20th October 2019 at 6:27 am

It’s interesting, thank you.

Claire D

20th October 2019 at 1:50 pm

Sorry Andrew, that sounds as if I mean your words ‘ care culture ‘ are the big fat lie, I don’t. I mean the trend itself.

A Game

18th October 2019 at 8:32 am

Exactly. All of this for a political end. That is what makes it so absolutely vile.

Well, the Swedish don’t make matches like they used to. Things have obviously gone down hill in Sweden. Be curious to know which hens end up attracted to sitting on the nest and buying cusions and which hens have a deep, genetic attachment to beer and tinkering with caulk guns. As a majority, of course. Obviously individual hens will prove the rightness of the experiment by being different hens. Hang on. If all the hens are the same… then there is no longer any failure to get women into engineering. Oh, I see.

The politicisation of the police… as FF illustrates, the surreal territory to have a copper opining about bog standard language in a parliament, the copper not questioning that right, the media not questioning the strangeness of it. This love affair the police have to be all over “soft crime”… its alarming. If they want this stuff to be their jurisdiction, whilst they absolve themselves of policing the daily battle with the ill-intended… will the military end up having to fill the gap? They are basically begging for vigilante-ism to rise up. Not an intended consequence of their new woke ways?
That the law is participating heavily in criminalising speech… it is now forcing people to make the decision to become criminals. Enough of the New Crim… will that force the turn around?
Post Brexit, there is so much misdirection that needs undoing.
You notice how people are being overwhelmed with wrongdoings that need righting? Enforcing a democratic mandate. Language control pushing more and more into more and more facets of life. The fascist coup of “environmentalists”. The Law setting themselves up as the new monarchy. The criminalising of certain political viewpoints. The attempt to broaden it, more and more – see Tony Blair’s Trotskyite efforts. (Pity his revolution is to oppress the masses and hand more power and wealth to the top percentile. Shame, Tony, you evil f**k, shame.)

Dig deep… sanity must prevail.

Jim Lawrie

18th October 2019 at 11:31 am

“They are basically begging for vigilante-ism to rise up.” It already is in terms of private security patrols in well heeled areas. Further down the scale, many middle class people feel abandoned by the police. This is at its most acute in the newly gentrified areas, where white flight that had been thrown into reverse is picking up again, and in areas where affluent tourists abound and cocaine dealers have become active and violent.

Jane 70

18th October 2019 at 2:18 pm

I don’t fancy living in a Swedish hen house!

And , at the risk of upsetting the thought police :

Human karyotype

The normal human karyotypes contain 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes (allosomes). Normal karyotypes for females contain two X chromosomes and are denoted 46,XX; males have both an X and a Y chromosome denoted 46,XY. Any variation from the standard karyotype may lead to developmental abnormalities.

Being a member of the 46, XX part of humanity, I should like this basic fact to be acknowledged and accepted, along with 46, XY for our male counterparts.

That this is now subject to interpretation and mounting challenge signifies that magical thinking trumps reality.

Jane 70

18th October 2019 at 4:23 pm

The cops used to be known for flying squads, fraud squads, tactical support, major incident teams , counter terrorism and special branch.
Now it seems, we shall have hate crime squads and gender protection teams. A mad, mad world.

Jonnie Henly

21st October 2019 at 10:57 pm

“Things have obviously gone down hill in Sweden”

Have they? Think you need to back that up with proof.

Stephen J

18th October 2019 at 8:10 am

Whilst I hold no brief for the chimera that is Johnson, his words are not only not unusual when conducting a war of words, which is what politics IS, but he has a fulsome vocabulary and is a delight to listen to when in full flow.

Those that want to control the language would have far more influence if their arguments were well founded, regardless of their lexicon. Instead, they merely impede human progress.

Jonathan Yonge

18th October 2019 at 10:24 am

Please explain what you mean by Johnson being a chimera.

Philip Humphrey

18th October 2019 at 7:33 am

If you debate with leftists often enough, you’ll notice that instead of getting rational and logical answers, they soon start arguing about which words can and cannot be used. They even object to terms that they themselves invented like “woke” because conservatives have adopted and used them. (P.S. they also object to “leftists”.)

Cody Bailey

18th October 2019 at 8:50 am

“(P.S. they also object to “leftists”.)”

Try “Pinko Shitweasels” and see how that goes over.

steve moxon

19th October 2019 at 10:17 am

Love it!
Mind you, plain old ‘fascist’ continues as ever to send the groupthink dishonest dumbos apoplectic, especially as it becomes ever clearer that fascism is a political-Left ethos and has nothing to do with the political-right.

Jonnie Henly

21st October 2019 at 10:56 pm

If you want rational and logical answers, then maybe start by asking rational and logical questions.

Because so often, right winger’s only debating strategy is to repeat meaningless buzzwords like “woke” over and over again.

You could almost make a drinking game out of it, so predictable and repetitive right wingers are.

Andrew Rowlinson

18th October 2019 at 3:51 am

“The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning”
Sir Terry Pratchett.

Mister Joshua

18th October 2019 at 2:23 am

We know what needs to happen.

Those who attack free speech are products of our universities. For at least five decades now students have learned that only certain words, ideas, or beliefs can be spoken or spoken of. As each generation graduates it becomes increasingly open to outright censorship and totalitarianism. After all, it’s all they know. They’ve never seen anyone stand up to the high priests and win. They no longer believe it’s possible.

The left knows it has a monopoly on speech under the guise of “political correctness”. Both the centre and right have learned only that it must kowtow to the narrative dictated by the political correctness authoritarians. The end result is a campus which is a one party state, and incrementally, regardless of who wins increasingly meaningless elections, the real state has become a one-party state, too.

Stop this rot at the source. Defund the campuses. Then defund the bureaucracies, and put the police back under the control of the public. Demand it of your politicians today, otherwise tomorrow will make Orwell look like an optimist.

A Game

18th October 2019 at 8:41 am

M Joshua:
Yes, massive cull of Universities and the public sector has to happen. Its so bloated, like a corpse in water for a week… and the rot is more putrid and extensive for it.
And then politicians… on the hook, as they always should have been. They’ve luxuriated in it being a one party state, all of them… life’s easier on the green benches, that way, and everything else is just tweaking.

Jim Lawrie

18th October 2019 at 11:21 am

Unfortunately it has spread well beyond those sectors.

Its debilitating effects and the economic overhead of carrying these people make EU protectionism ever more necessary.

Jonnie Henly

21st October 2019 at 10:54 pm

“The left knows it has a monopoly on speech under the guise of “political correctness””

No it doesn’t. What you’re saying will come as news to most left wingers. They’ll wonder what kind of fantasy land you’re living in.

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