The quote in my chosen title for this piece comes from George Orwell’s 1984, specifically from a character by the name of Syme, a lexicographer and colleague of the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith at the Ministry of Truth. Syme is the key developer of the new language of Big Brother/Ingsoc totalitarian society, a bastardization of the English language known as Newspeak.
As Syme elaborates to Winston, “‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.’” In an ironic twist of fate, in spite of his sycophantic loyalty as a word soldier the Party, Syme nonetheless gets vaporized for his troubles anyway, thus becoming an unperson, just as Winston had predicted, because, after all, Syme “is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly.”
Mr. Orwell may have been technically 36 years off the mark, but welcome to 1984…in 2020. In lieu of the Thought Police, Junior Anti-Sex League, and Junior Spies of the novel, we have Antifa, the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), and Cancel Culture, all of whom have the same objective as their fictitious counterparts of yesteryear the destruction of words, and I refer to them collectively as the PC Thought Police.
I’m contending with the double-whammy of learning that: 1) my beloved, beleaguered NFL team, the Washington Redskins, has surrendered to the PC Thought Police and retired its longstanding team name and logo after being browbeaten to death ad nauseam with accusations of racism; and 2) The Daily Signal has just published an op-ed piece by David Harsanyi titled “Here Come the Speech Police,” wherein the author discusses the latest examples of the PC Thought Police running amok. Harsanyi informs readers that The Philadelphia Inquirer has declared four particular words and phrases as being racist and ergo deserving of banishment from Newspeak, er, I mean the English language: 1) Peanut gallery; (2) Eenie meanie miney moe; 3) Gyp; and 4) No can do.
I can’t help but think to myself: “Where and when does this madness all end?”
Regarding the former Redskins, head coach Ron Rivera — himself a military brat — has suggested a nickname that honors our military veterans, and I’m cool with that. As a former U.S. Air Force officer in my own right, I’m kind of partial to Red Tails. Problem is, if the Redskins nickname is indeed replaced with moniker honoring the military, whether Red Tails, Warriors, Veterans, or what have you…the PC Thought Police will still hate it. After all, these SJWs utterly despise our military and America in general, so if a pro-military nickname is chosen for my beloved NFL team, these snowflakes will undoubtedly kvetch about the promotion of warmongering.
After all, look at Washington’s NBA franchise. Back when I first fell in love with DC sports in particular and the DC area in general whilst I was a student in the USC Washington Semester program in the spring of 1996, then-team owner Abe Pollin decided to drop the franchise nickname of Bullets because he thought it was too reminiscent of the violence in southeast Washington (back then our Nation’s Capital was also the Murder Capital in spite of the handgun that was finally overturned by the Supreme Court’s Heller decision in 2008), so Pollin decided on Wizards instead. Lo and behold, some members of the PC Thought Police kvetched that the new nickname sounded too much like the grand wizard of the KKK.
Seriously, if these people didn’t have something to whine and moan about they’d probably spontaneously combust. So again, I think to myself, “Where and when does this madness all end?”
“Ah,” the Thought Police will say to me, “but you’re not qualified to comment on those words, as you’re not African-American.” Okay, fine then, so let me comment on words that do apply to my ancestral background. My surname is Scots-Irish and I take great pride in my Celtic roots, the Scottish and Irish portions alike. Mick is a common nickname for people with the legal name Michael; famous Micks include rock stars Mick Fleetwood and Mick Jagger, and WWE professional wrestler and bestselling author Mick Foley. However, when that same nickname is spelled in lowercase, it’s considered a derogatory name for an Irish person. So then, should I publicly demand that all those famous Micks change their name because they’re “triggering” my ancestral sensitivities?
Likewise, I suppose that as a proud American of partial Irish descent, I should demand that Notre Dame drop its “Fighting Irish” nickname and logo because, after all, it implies that we’re all a bunch of violent, pugilistic leprechauns.
In addition, I do in fact have partial Filipino ancestry from my mother’s side. And the derogatory term for a Filipino is “flip.” Now, mind you, the primary Dictionary.Com definition of flip reads as follows: “to toss or put in motion with a sudden impulse, as with a snap of a finger and thumb, especially so as to cause to turn over in the air.” Meanwhile, there was the late great comedian Flip Wilson, and one of my Air Force colleagues during my nuclear missile security days at Minot AFB, ND went by the nickname “Flip” as a wordplay on her surname De Filippo. So then, should I demand that “flip” be excised from the English language because it’s offensive to Filipinos, ergo no more “flip-flop” (gee, what new term would we use instead to refer to politicians’ 180-degree turns on policy issues?) and no more coin flips? And should I go ahead and sue both my former colleague and the estate of Mr. Wilson for defamation? Oh wait, that’s right, I can’t sue Flip Wilson’s estate because, after all, he was African-American, and therefore, to file such a lawsuit would be racist!
Where and when does this madness all end? And WWSD (What Would Syme Do)?
Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and overseas private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, Japan, Kosovo, and the United Arab Emirates).