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The New Newspeak
And Other Noxious Nuttery
Happy almost solstice everyone! It will soon be the darkest day in the northern hemisphere. It is also, for many of us, a festive season, marked by family and food, reminiscences of the past, and hopes for the future.
My hopes for the future include that ever more people become capable and confident of assessing for themselves what they are being told, and decide their own course of action even when it runs counter to the dominant narrative. This, of course, is one of the roles of education. In contrast, getting everyone to go along with the mainstream because everyone else is doing it has, historically, been one of the roles of organized religion. And yet it’s mostly the religion-debasing, #FollowTheScience crowd who are in lockstep now, following orders, and calling for the debasement and exclusion of those who don’t comply. Mostly, these are people who understand neither science nor religion, although they have chosen as their new god the one that feels the least like the old ones.
This week we saw all sorts of noxious nuttery, including the pushing of a new study that “found” that, in the United States alone, over three million lives were saved by the Covid vaccines. Stephen Colbert pushed the finding, but maybe he doesn’t know any better. Anthony Fauci pushed it too, and he does know better. Or maybe they both know exactly what they’re doing, as they spread fictional conclusions that are meant to convince and coerce. I don’t know. I do know that the research in question is not yet written up in scientific form, so under normal circumstances nobody would be talking about it at all yet, as its integrity, rigor, and accuracy cannot be assessed.
Two things that are clear from the write-up that exists is that no new data were collected for this study, and this work included no assessment of vaccine efficacy. Specifically, the authors base their conclusion, now spreading like wildfire—millions of lives were saved by Covid vaccines—entirely on “published estimates” of vaccine efficacies. What are those published estimates, you might ask. Were those estimates based on empirical data, and if so, how were those data generated? Or were those estimates also created with models, the assumptions stacking up like so many turtles? Alas for us, another thing that this science-ish write-up lacks is any references at all. The sources of the estimates on which this entire study hinges are, apparently, on a need-to-know basis, and we, the public, do not need to know.
It is hard not to conclude that the “published estimates” on which the entire house of cards is being built are being hidden intentionally, so that they do not undergo careful scientific scrutiny.
While credentialed authorities in science and medicine continue to spread misinformation and disinformation, Stanford University launched the “Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative.” This was announced several months ago, but I was only made aware of it this week. It has a remarkable site, which I planned to spend time reading through, but in the two days between discovering it and going back to it, it has been made private—now it’s for Stanford eyes only.
There will no doubt be claims that having internet randos like me feel free to look through such a rarified and technical document would do no service to the underserved and historically oppressed people that Stanford is hoping to uplift. Knowing precisely how Stanford intends to police language is, apparently, on a need-to-know basis, and we, the public, do not need to know.
I am reminded of the three slogans of the Party in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Oddly, I can’t say that having Newspeak initiatives launched by elite and powerful institutions, and then made private, is making me feel any stronger, but maybe that’s just me.
Winston, the hero of Nineteen Eighty-Four, finds himself at one point lectured on the wonders of Newspeak by another employee of the Ministry of Truth: “Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?” Syme asks him. “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?”
What Stanford has left open to the public includes the following:
This is seriously low-hanging fruit, and for that I feel a little silly for giving this any of my—or your—attention at all. But given the extensive “advice” that they have now hidden, it’s worth taking a few minutes to consider what Stanford isn’t bothering to hide:
Walk-in Office Hours or Walk Up Support Hours? - A person who uses a wheelchair can’t walk in or walk up, so consider using “open office hours” or “onsite support hours.”
Green or red traffic lights? A person who is fully color-blind can’t see those colors, so consider using “lights that encourage movement” and “lights that encourage stopping” instead. Oh but wait—a person who is quadriplegic can’t move, so this could be discouraging for them. It’s probably better not to have traffic lights at all, lest someone feel oppressed by them. I’m sure it will be fine. Once everyone has been handicapped equally, traffic laws will be unnecessary! We’ll live in a fantasyland where the handouts grow on bushes…and the sun shines every day!...with a lake of stew, and of whiskey too, and you can paddle all around ‘em in a big canoe...
Seriously, though: When I was a professor, creating and leading study abroad courses to remote places, I was told an amazing thing by a Title IX compliance officer. Thankfully, she did not work at my school, so I easily evaded her injunctions. She informed me that if, after I had spent years creating a program to go to the Amazon (as I had), someone in a wheelchair wanted to take my program, I would either need to figure out how to make that happen, or cancel the trip for everyone.
“The Amazon is not ADA compliant,” I told the confused young authoritarian. “If it were, it wouldn’t be the Amazon.”
“Then,” she announced with some relish, “you would have to cancel the class.”
That is the endpoint of this ideology. Life has to be made equally awful for everyone. Anything else would be unfair.
That was insane! - This term trivializes the experiences of people living with mental health conditions, so consider using words such as surprising or wild.
Hey Stanford intellectuals—ever heard of metaphor? English is so rife with metaphor—presumably all languages are—that we would lose access to most modern tools of communication if we were to be robbed of metaphor. That would be insane!
Also, stop being asses, all of you, and no, I’m not going to apologize to donkeys for saying that, either.
“X” holds the Tribal Knowledge around here. - This term trivializes the ancestral knowledge handed down through generations of indigenous peoples, so consider using the phrase institutional knowledge.
This is just dumb, and by that I mean I wish that the people who wrote this would sit down and shut up already. What do they think “tribal” means that is better communicated with the word “institutional”? How is “tribal knowledge” not reflective of the generations of people who have shaped it?
An email domain or IP address being whitelisted or blacklisted? - These terms assign value connotations based on color (white = good and black = bad), an act which is subconsciously racialized; consider using the words allowlist and denylist.
Okay you petty tyrants and narcissists, guess what: not everything is about race.
Lightness and darkness, which are most simply described by the colors white and black, exist without humans around to name them.
Furthermore, we are Primates, the clade of mammals that has evolved in how we navigate our sensory world from being largely olfactory (smell-based), as most other mammals are, to being largely visual. We assess our world in myriad ways, but first and foremost, for most of us, we do so by sight. In darkness, we cannot see, and so darkness is more fraught. It is actually more dangerous to attempt to navigate in the darkness. Everyone knows this. You know it. Stop making everything about your particular grievance, and you might find that the world is a more expansive and fantastic place to live in.
Finally, I grabbed a single screenshot of one of the recommendations on the site before access was restricted. Here it is:
I’ve got some bad news for the people at Stanford.
“Non-binary gender identity” IS a choice and a preference. It is also a total fiction.
I’ve said it over and over and over again, but here we go once more: sex is not assigned at birth. Sex is observed at (or before) birth. Pronouns describe sex, not gender. This matters because women, children, and homosexuals are being directly harmed by trans ideology. And “non-binary” is a complete fabrication that is used by people who would surely be better off if they learned how to do something real in the physical world.
This whole initiative is indicative of collective mental health issues, a mass psychosis that has gripped so many, so fiercely, for so long, that letting go of it would feel like dropping into the abyss.
To them I say: Please consider dropping into the abyss. There are people over here in reality land who won’t shame you if you arrive with honesty and humility. You fell for a fiction. A series of fictions. You can see that now. We’ve all been gullible at times. Get out before you fall for anymore. Out here we do real things in the physical universe like ride fast and laugh out loud and have ecstatic sex and build things and grow things and create things and spread our arms wide to embrace the sun and the wind and the snow, the messiness of all of it, us big-brained apes living on a beautiful blue planet that still has much that is wild on it, many of whose mysteries are yet unplumbed. It’s really quite marvelous. Come check it out. We’ll be here.
From the blog post where this research is announced, the full sentence in the section titled “How We Conducted This Study” reads: “Vaccine efficacies against infection, and symptomatic and severe disease for different vaccine types — for each variant and by time since vaccination — were drawn from published estimates.”
We discussed the “three million lives saved” claim, as well as Fauci’s and Colbert’s use of it, on DarkHorse this week.
Later on the same page Stanford says: “We will also scan code we have written at Stanford for harmful language (e.g., terms containing master/slave or black/white, among others).”
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