In the PC world, every word can hurt us
I’m big with criminals.
Occasionally I get letters from prison. Sometimes a letter will come from the county clink and sometimes I get mail from one of California’s popular state penitentiaries. So this might be a case of biting the hand that feeds me.
Last week, Karol Mason, the Assistant U.S. Attorney General told The Washington Post that the Justice Department would no longer use the terms “felon” and “convict” when referring to felons and convicts.
In speeches, social media posts, solicitations or on the Justice Department’s website, felons and convicts will be referred to as “individuals who have been incarcerated” or “persons who committed a crime.”
“The labels we affix to those who have served time can drain their sense of self-worth,” reasoned Mason as she tried to explain this latest plunge down the Orwellian rabbit hole. “We, all of us, can help them by dispensing with useless and demeaning labels that freeze people in a moment of time.”
In this same spirit I propose “we,” as in, “all of us,” also stop calling murder victims, “murder victims”, using instead the less stigmatizing “persons formerly alive.”
It’s unclear if the entire U.S. Department of Justice will be obligated to follow these new language directives or just Mason’s Office of Justice Programs, the subagency tasked with helping law enforcement implement re-entry programs for freshly sprung inmates.
Either way, this is just the latest case of the Language Gestapo’s blitzkrieg across American society, bulldozing the vernacular, obfuscating instead of clarifying, while trampling the truth and the First Amendment in the process.
In this column we’ve previously catalogued the chilling speech codes implemented on so many college and university campuses under the guise of racial, gender and class sensitivity.
Last year the University of California faculty training sessions instructed department chairs to steer professors away from using words or phrases that could offend minorities, including any reference to the United States as “the land of opportunity.” This frightening phrase is said to be harmful because it advances the “myth of meritocracy.”
Based on the likely 2016 presidential nominees they might have a point. Still …
It’s not just pointy-headed beard-scratchers living in ivory towers trying to placate hypersensitive snowflakes masquerading as scholars. The relentless assault on clarity and truth in language has infected corporate America, which employs battalions of damage-control experts to spin its way out of responsibility when a faulty product poisons or slaughters customers.
It goes without saying that politicians and preachers of every ilk are the grandmasters of twisting language into word pretzels so “up” can be “down” and “down” can be “up.”
Journalists are equally guilty.
The guardians of the civic hen house often allow fear of racial insensitivity or personal political agendas to shape the language they use — and worse — allow to be used.
Infamously, The Associated Press banned the use of the terms “illegal alien” and even “illegal immigrant” to describe someone in the country illegally!
The Los Angeles Times famously refuses to include the term “illegal” when headlining a story about illegal immigration. It’s a safe bet when any person, public or private, objects to our current loosey-goosey border they’ll be described as “anti-immigration” rather than anti-ILLEGAL immigration.
When academics and journalists redefine words to fit current fads and fashions, they’re guilty of professional malpractice that’s not only a disservice to their students or readers/viewers/listeners, but also deals a chilling blow to the very point of language itself.
It is precisely this kind of agenda-driven mumbo-jumbo George Orwell warned about in “1984.”
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.