David Thompson
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August 12, 2013

Comments

rjmadden

Thank goodness lefties never try to influence language.

sk60

Be a user, not a consumer.

Er, can't 'user' have exploitative connotations too?
We're doomed, obviously.

jones

I understand that the new edition of the Oxford Dictionary will only have 120 pages.

The one after that should be down to less than a hundred.

Doubleplusgood.

Rob

A Marxist complaining about altering the meaning of words. Go him. The OED should have as its entry for 'hypocrisy' "see Hatherley".

Rob

Ha. Spell checker changed "ho hum" to "go him".

David

It’s an odd one. Mr Hatherley takes a statement of the obvious – that free market societies will tend to have words to describe the various aspects of a free market society, some of which may be tendentious – and views this as profound, as if free market societies were aberrant in this regard and utterly unlike the communist societies of which he, a self-described “Marxist of some sort,” pretends to be a fan. Then there’s his bizarre framing of “individual” and “choose” as “particularly acquisitive words” – and therefore, by his reckoning, loaded with corruption and “pernicious assumptions.” Unlike, say, “social justice” or “false consciousness.”

It’s especially odd given the tendency of Mr Hatherley and his readers to use the term “neoliberal” to describe pretty much anything they happen not to like. See also, “hate speech,” “racism,” “microaggressions,” “identity,” “bedroom tax,” etc. Even the word “violence” has been casually redefined by many Guardian contributors. And of course there’s the term “liberal,” which now, apparently, means anything but. Nevertheless, Mr Hatherley’s article has been greeted with many appreciative tweets. It’s a “thoughtful” piece, apparently.

[ Edited.]

sk60

Spell checker changed "ho hum" to "go him".

I blame capitalism.

Greg

"The pattern was only broken briefly in the relatively egalitarian years between the 40s and 70s."

A touch of teary-eyed nostalgia for two rather miserable decades. Do all Guardianistas regard these periods as the good old days?

My computer reported that: 'The Guardian website is not responding due to a long running script'. My computer is rather perceptive.

rxc

Complaints about corrupting the language - from progressives, whose very name is a corruption of the language. They only want to move forward and make progress with those ideas that they support. Otherwise, they want to stop, or even better, return to a quiet, bucolic past, where all the women are strong, the men good looking, and the children are all above average.

Jacob

Be a user, not a consumer.

Interesting that he doesn't use the word 'customer'...

Mr Grumpy

But Comrade David, we will never succeed in abolishing capitalism while we have a language which enables the thinking of capitalist thoughts. Don't you know your 1984?

David

Interesting that he doesn’t use the word ‘customer’…

Ah, but that very common term wouldn’t suit his argument, chiefly because customer has more agreeable connotations. It sounds preferable to user, doesn’t it? The customer, unlike the patient or passenger, is supposedly always right. And, insofar as I’m bothered one way or the other, I suppose I’d rather be thought of as a customer than a patient. The latter implies a certain passivity, one is receiving treatment, etc. The former is a reminder of a more reciprocal arrangement and, at least ideally, an obligation to provide whatever has been paid for and to a satisfactory standard. Which may help explain the difference in ethos between, say, private and state healthcare. A while ago I described a first-hand experience of the NHS – one that made a big impression for all the wrong reasons. More recently I visited my father-in-law in a private hospital. Despite the fact that both systems often use the same pool of staff, what struck me was the marked difference in ethos – a difference in the relationship - one based in large part on an understanding that the person being treated is a customer.

Torquil Macneil

Oddly, if you check the Telegraph article linked to by Hatherley, you will see that greaterr use of the word 'child' is one of the examples that is taken to indicate an increase in individualism in society. Wouldn't it be more natural to assume that we are just more interested in talking about children than we were 200 years ago?

R. Sherman

And the next front is battling to eliminate all first person pronouns, because "I" et al. demonstrate the pinnacle of ownership: that of self.

dicentra

I interlocuted with a similar fellow on Twitter, whose mental machinations were at once fascinating and alarming: http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=50490

AC1

What a load of juvenile crap.

Oh sorry wrong article!

;)

JeremiadBullfrog

This is nasty, nasty passive-aggressively manipulative stuff, this overweening "concern" with "immoral" speech. As I've seen the game played, the key is selection bias sprinkled every now and again with examples from "the other side" as a talisman to be invoked against accusations of tendentious choice of examples. No overt accusations are made; in fact, it is protested that one is merely concerned with the language, nothing else. But rather the strategy is to let the viciousness of the condemnation of language attach itself to the predominant group represented among the examples and become firmly identified with it as a fundamental characteristic. If you try to argue with this strategy, it is suggested that you agree with the use of "immoral" speech and that you're just a nit-picker looking to destroy rather than to find common ground.

Again, nasty, nasty passive-aggressively manipulative stuff.

tempdog

In today's breaking news, we no longer write about the same things in the same way as we did 200 years ago. The evil, invisible hand of capitalism strikes another again.

Steve 2

Words haven't only been corrupted by dastardly capitalism, they're also sexist.

Words like MANager, HIStory, FELLOWship seek to appropriate authority, scholarship, and solidarity as masculine norms, violently excluding women and people of indeterminate gender. And why isn't there a place called Womanchester?

Words like HERpes, HERetic, and SHEep constitute acts of microaggression against the feminine.

Bart

In the article about little girl's poo sizes, we learned that our capitalist patriarchal culture was evilly forcing conformity upon us. And now we learn it's also evilly forcing individualism upon us.

Conformity is bad. Individualism is also bad. What exactly are you supposed to do, then?

John D

What exactly are you supposed to do, then?

Whatever leftists say.

David

Whatever leftists say.

Assuming that would save an awful lot of time spent parsing bad Guardian articles.

That said, Mr Hatherley’s offering may be woolly and sophomoric, but some of the comments are illuminating. One Guardian reader claims that the fact some people use the word “consumers” instead of “users” (or “comrades”) is “making it more difficult to think differently.” Which is to say, to think like a loyal socialist. Like him, in fact. Another claims that “language has been manipulated by the capitalist class” – in some unspecified way - and therefore – for some equally unspecified reason – “meaningful political discussion” is now “almost impossible.” Like so many articles of this kind, it boils down to an implicit assumption of “false consciousness,” one that flatters resentful and needy socialists. People – those other people – simply don’t know what they want and have been bamboozled into thinking they actually like choice, individualism, capitalism, bourgeois values and all those other beastly things. Because, obviously, nobody could like those things if they weren’t being hoodwinked.

By the use of the word “consumer.”


[ Added: ]

More of Mr Hatherley’s ponderings – on the virtues of communal living and the glorious hammer and sickle - can be found here.

Snowman

Tossers. There's a word.

wordsworth

i can see where this man Hatherley is coming from with this. For example, K Marx was unique in the world for being an absolutely idiotic individual, and anyone who would choose to follow his burblings must be a consumer of idiotic ideas.

Yep, works for me.

sackcloth and ashes

Talking about 'rapaciousness', I'd be interested to hear Owen Hatherley's opinions on the 'Comrade Delta' scandal, and in particular the 'acquisitiveness' which one senior member of the SWP is alleged to have demonstrated when seeking sexual favours from a 17 year old girl - repeatedly, and without her consent.

Andrew Zalotocky

OT for this post but definitely not OT for this blog, you might be interested in PooterGeek's posts on the concept of femi-narcissism.

David

Andrew,

Your comment there is worth reading too. For some reason, it reminded me of this.

Joan

Communes are a good thing and “increasingly sensible,” according to Mr Hatherley… though he doesn’t disclose whether this morally improving arrangement is good enough for him.

He thinks like a first year student so maybe he lives like one too.

David

He thinks like a first year student so maybe he lives like one too.

What’s striking – other than his dislike of the “rightwing determinist urban planning orthodoxy” - is that, like his colleague George Monbiot, Mr Hatherley doesn’t seem to grasp why adults might not wish to share a toilet and kitchen with people they don’t know, don’t like or don’t trust. He bemoans the fact that communes and “collective living” aren’t “taken seriously” as “living arrangements for the majority of the population.” “For some reason,” he says, people on the whole prefer a space of their own or of their family’s own. One that’s, in his words, “inviolable.”

And then of course he tries to pathologise that preference by claiming, based on nothing, that having one’s own personal territory necessarily makes us – that word again – “insular.” Well, I for one am on friendly, first name terms with most of my neighbours; I’m no more “insular” than I wish to be. I’d just rather not have them cluttering up my bathroom every morning or leaving their unwashed pots in my sink. I’m funny that way. You could almost imagine that Mr Hatherley is so addled by Marxist theorising and ideological chest-puffing he can’t quite remember what human beings are actually like.

Rafi

He bemoans the fact that communes and "collective living" aren’t "taken seriously" as "living arrangements for the majority of the population."

So his socialist paradise is everyone living in a B&B?

David

So his socialist paradise is everyone living in a B&B?

Oh, the mental image of a B&B seems much too tidy. B&Bs have landladies, many of whom have standards. I’m picturing something more along the lines of a typical student house, six months in after several heavy parties. You know, “Where’s all the cutlery gone? Whose turn is it to buy toilet paper? Why are there underpants in the sink?” That kind of thing.

Joan

LOL

rjmadden

Why are there underpants in the sink?

Not wanting strangers' underpants in your sink is a sign of bourgeois conformism.

WTP

Likely OT, and possibly fodder for Friday Ephemera, but thinking of the socialist utopia B&B, a friend of mine stayed at a B&B on Cape Cod, MA this weekend. The reviews of this place are, shall we say, interesting:

The only good thing I can recall about Howard's End was that it is super close to everything, about a block away from commercial street.... which is where you want to be.
Being inside this "guest house," makes you feel like your living with some rude grandfather. The decor is from the 50's, the bedding was old, ripped and stained. The owner "Howard" comes into your bedroom whenever he wants... sitting on the patio you can hear him yelling at his partner... and lets not get started on the house rules! Oh man! No showers after 11pm, no more than 2 people in the room, no sleeping on the bedspread, No bags on the bed, there where even rules on when to flush the toilet! I felt like I was more of an inconvenience than a guest. I have never blogged before, and after my stay there... I had to let people know how bad it was.

and...
However, I would NOT recommend staying here. Howard, the owner, gives you a 20 minute listing of rules. No one else allowed in the room, nothing on the bed, no irons in the room, don't slam the door, lock the front door at all times, towles on the rack not on the bed or left in the bathroom and worst of all, don't flush the toilet unless you have a bowel movement!

My stay felt like a prison sentance and I barely stayed in the room.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/howards-end-guest-house-provincetown

dicentra

For some reason,” he says, people on the whole prefer a space of their own or of their family’s own. One that’s, in his words, “inviolable.”

The violation of the person — personal space, personal issues, personal hygiene — is part of the collectivist project. Which always reminds me of this important article:

Those of us who came of age before the 1980s, when the Judeo-Christian, Western tradition, though battered, was still ascendant, view our sexuality as a private matter. We believe that our bodies are our own property, which means that we should not be touched or controlled sexually without our consent. A person raised with this worldview inevitably believes as well that his ability to control his body is the essence of his individuality. This physical individuality is the antithesis of slavery, which represents a person's ultimate lack of control over his body.

Statist regimes, of course, cannot tolerate self-ownership, which is the natural enemy of government control over the individual.

This control comes about because the Left works assiduously to decouple sex from a person's own sense of bodily privacy and, by extension, self-ownership. If a person has no sense of autonomy, that person is a ready-made cog for the statist machinery.

Privacy permits you to do things that Our Overlords don't control. It therefore must be shredded, pierced, violated, and dismantled.

David

Not wanting strangers' underpants in your sink is a sign of bourgeois conformism.

I denounce myself, obviously. Maybe one day I’ll realise that George Monbiot knows best and I just “don’t need” that bit of space, that freedom from the tribe. With guidance from my betters, betters like George and Owen, I may then come to realise that I shouldn’t even want my own territory, either physically or psychologically. Because that would be selfish and unfair.

Remember, these people are only funny when they don’t have the means to coerce you.

AC1

Not THAT OT,

http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/94052-aging-chinese-apologise-for-cultural-revolution-evil

Sam

With guidance from my betters, betters like George and Owen, I may then come to realise that I shouldn’t even want my own territory, either physically or psychologically. Because that would be selfish and unfair.

And wanting to control other people is 'social justice'.

#socialistlogic.

David

And wanting to control other people is ‘social justice’.

One of my favourites was when George Monbiot claimed we should be more like the peasants of Southern Ethiopia, who “smile more often” than we do and whose fields “crackle with laughter.” Yes, these noble, laughing peasants may live in homes constructed from leaves and packing cases, and they may have Stone Age sanitation and alarming child mortality, but at least they’re not being “isolated” by sinful material trappings, like dentistry, double glazing and TV remote controls. You see, “wealth causes misery” and is therefore bad for “us” – by which of course he means, bad for you. And George, being heroic, wants to do something about it. And George isn’t alone in his purifying mission. His Guardian colleague Edward Skidelsky, a sociology lecturer, wants the state to make “us” embrace “less acquisitive modes of living,” thereby saving us from the morally corrupting horror of pre-washed salad.

As logical arguments go, these things are laughable. But as expressions of a subset of leftist psychology, they tell us quite a lot.

Pablito

David, thanks for linking to the article where our George rails against the sheer evil of having too much unused space in one's house. I needed a laugh today

Having read that and Hatherley's article though, I have a problem.

I can only presume that both of these writers are strongly in favour of the coalitions so-called 'bedroom tax', but I cannot find either of them writing in support of it.

Surely such articles exist?

Dr Cromarty

Pablito. It cannot be repeated too often: The 'Bedroom Tax' is not a tax. It is not paying someone money, coerced from me,for bedrooms that they otherwise could not afford. It is not, I repeat, a tax.

Pablito

Well yes. Which is exactly why I wrote 'so-called'

Jack DeGaulle Bodger Gillins

The Bedroom Non-Tax was an adaptation of one of little Georgies Marxist wet dreams anyway:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/jan/04/take-housing-fight-wealthy

David

Jack,

George isn’t known for his consistency. For instance, he’s vehemently opposed to austerity, except when he’s vehemently in favour of it. That he’s taken seriously by anyone, about anything, ever, is a wonder of the age.

sackcloth and ashes

'George Monbiot claimed we should be more like the peasants of Southern Ethiopia, who “smile more often” than we do and whose fields “crackle with laughter.” Yes, these noble, laughing peasants may live in homes constructed from leaves and packing cases, and they may have Stone Age sanitation and alarming child mortality, but at least they’re not being “isolated” by sinful material trappings, like dentistry, double glazing and TV remote controls'.

I would pay good money to send Moonbat out to Southern Ethiopia so he can put his money where his mouth is. The Ogaden would be an ideal place, given the insurgencies taking place there and the proximity to the Somali border. Lots to smile and laugh about our there.

David Gillies

Friedrich Hayek wrote on the normative aspects of Leftspeak in an appendix to The Constitution of Liberty. He pointed out that the simple insertion of the word 'social' before another word inverted its meaning (q.v. social work, social justice, etc. ad libertam.) So Hatherley's not only late to the game, he's pegged the wrong culprits. But that's a capsule summary of CiF's modus operandi. Motes and beams...

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