Inigo Wilson: A Lefty Lexicon
A few days ago in the Telegraph, journalist Simon Heffer expressed the hope that someone would, "write a book on the language of the Third Way, outlining the abuse of words - and with it the abuse of truth - that this administration has either implemented or condoned."
A while before, during a meeting at the company where I work, I heard someone from personnel remark that we were facing "issues around our diversity target implementation plan". It struck me that if this curious Lefty-inspired patois can be used - with a straight face - in a large modern business then the trenches in the language sector of the 'culture wars' must be all but overrun.
And there is evidence to be found in official communications not only of the changed language but also the altered priorities it attempts to mask. You can find some particularly rich hunting grounds among the well-stocked leaflet displays of Metropolitan Police stations. No one yet has formally announced that the Met doesn’t 'do' ordinary crime, but each flyer makes it clear that if you are one of the large range of very modern sounding 'victim' types, then you are the priority for modern policing. See here for more of what's on offer.
Equally, almost anything from central Government or the 'education establishment' contain examples in abundance. We discover, to take an example at random, in the recent Home Office 'Respect Action Plan' that, "Key departments will work together to develop a cross-Government strategy to drive an improved service response to problem households. These departments, and their local service partners, have important roles to play in ensuring that mainstream adult and children’s services respond more quickly and effectively to these families and address gaps in provision." This means something like, "we must sound like we are doing things - but not too much because they probably vote for us".
Even the military have taken to expressions with rather diffuse meaning. 'Network-centric, effects-based warfare', for example, apparently means they put lap-tops in their tanks. It also probably also means that the MoD think we can be persuaded that, this way, we need less of them.
So why are our rulers and administrators resorting to this verbal equivalent of an artillery smoke barrage? The answer can be separated into the influences and motives that permeate New Labour.
The influences are largely consultants, academia and the 'rights industry'. Consultants infest modern government departments and quangos in large numbers and they use the same opaque, almost self-parodic jargon that they inflict on us in the private sector. Working for a quango a few years ago, I noticed that, perhaps due to a lack of confidence, state employees often tried to mimic 'consultantese', despite their understandably hesitant grasp of its original meaning.
There is also little doubt that academia has influenced - via the cod-philosophy of 'post-modernism' – the thought habits of many of the graduates exposed to this nonsense at university. Thus New Labour pioneered the view that the electorate can be persuaded by 'narratives' rather than, say, doing anything. Disappointingly, they so far seem to have been proved right.
Finally, there is the language of race and rights activists, part of the rainbow coalition of charities, pressure groups and human-rights lawyers. Between them, these contributors have built a whole new linguistic system to communicate with each other - and us.
As for the motive, well, if you want to hide some things and advance others while relatively undetected, then what better way to do it than by using language that has slipped the moorings of any tangible meaning. And every day is now 'a good day to bury bad news'.
If we want to limit the spread of this grating, euphemistic and deeply political language in our national life, the first thing to do is recognise it for what it is. So, in the list below, I've brought together some of my favourites - a compilation of 'key learnings' if you will - and tried to describe their usage and meaning as I've encountered them. Welcome to the 'Lefty lexicon'.
Agenda - describes any collection of policies: 'equality agenda' for instance. Invariably needs to be ‘taken forward’.
Aggressive outreach - the process of actively soliciting trade for social workers. Generally employed when 'customers' fail to show required enthusiasm for services on offer.
Beacon of excellence - archaism: any organ of state that achieved - or 'delivered' - what it was supposed to.
Best practice - normally 'established' when a Lefty wants to saddle a process with more complexity. Replaces 'working it out yourself'.
Child-centred - education: "we can't be bothered to teach them… perhaps they’ll do it themselves".
Class - grouping people by the contents of their wallet rather than, say, how they think, feel or behave as individuals.
Consultation - a formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time. London's Congestion Charge for instance.
Community leader - someone plucked from obscurity to represent ‘the views of the community’ for the purposes of ‘consultation’. NB never elected to this position.
Critique - media, academia: same as 'rebuttal'. When a Lefty alleges that someone's writing is 'riddled with factual inaccuracies' then mysteriously fails to identify any.
Delivery - as in "delivered against targets". Means 'achieve'.
Disproportionate - foreign affairs: Describes any act by USA or Israel.
Delegitimise - what we do if we suggest that a favoured Lefty client group may contain members who are not wholly beyond criticism as individuals.
Diversity - creating a workforce based on how people look rather than on their skills or aptitude
Equal - as in ‘opportunities’: describes the desire to have a workforce resemble the population it comes from, rather than matched to the task in hand. See 'diversity'.
Egalitarian - “if I can’t have one, then neither can you”. Shared misery much better than unevenly scattered joy.
Fascism/Nazism - apparently the 'opposite' of Socialism - despite sharing party members, ideology and - in National Socialism - the name.
Gender issues - grouping people by their sex rather than how they think, feel or behave as individuals.
‘Green’ issues - “if we can’t control the means of production then we’ll close it down”. NB. the US is the ‘biggest polluter in the world’ which is wholly unrelated to the fact it’s the world’s most productive economy.
Hate-crime - same as 'normal' crime as far as victims are concerned - but much more distressing for Lefties.
Hate-speech - "shut up!".
Human rights - using the legal system to pursue political ends.
Inclusive - Means 'drop entry standards until anyone can get in'.
Impartial - media, BBC: the balance achieved by attacking the Opposition for being Conservative and attacking the Government for being insufficiently Lefty.
In partnership with… - Government: "this way, none of us get the blame when nothing happens!".
Inappropriate - "I don't like this" - no explanation for what or whom must ever be given.
Intolerance - Intolerance can only committed against certain defined groups of people. These do not include, Americans, the middle class, white manual workers, rural people, business and Christians obviously.
Institutional racism - 'racism' in a workforce that is achieved unknowingly and in ways that cannot be specifically defined.
Islamophobic - anyone who objects to having their transport blown up on the way to work.
Israel - see 'disproportionate' and 'legitimate grievances'. Country the size of Wales, with 5m inhabitants, that is entirely responsible for any and all delinquent Islamist behaviour the world over.
Issues around… - "I may be out of my depth here".
Justice - Government: as in ‘social justice’. Means taking money earned by the general public to give to particular groups that Lefties approve of. Replaces market economics.
Key - Government: most things are ‘key’, in particular ‘drivers’, ‘learnings’, ‘deliverables’. In education, all school ‘stages’ are 'key'.
Legitimate grievances - foreign affairs: why we're all to blame for deranged Islamists murdering people in the developed world.
Liaise - the day-to-day process of Lefty Government. Replaces 'work'.
Learnings - means 'lessons'.
Marx - a Victorian gentleman whose theories cannot be disproved by observation, experience or factual evidence. See 'religion' and 'post-modernism'.
Multi-cultural - All culture is valid - unless Western in some way. Usually to be 'celebrated' and always found to be 'vibrant'. See 'diversity'.
Nazi - informal: describes non-Lefty views and useful to link with people Lefties don’t like. Thus Germany’s Nazi period is the only noteworthy formative experience of Pope Benedict.
NGO - Non Governmental Organisation – the repository of all moral authority in Lefty World and whose words and motives may never be questioned.
Organised labour - what Lefties used to be interested in.
Palestinians - archetype 'victims' no matter how many teenagers they murder in bars and fast food outlets. Never responsible for anything they do – or done in their name - because of 'root causes' or ‘legitimate grievances’.
Post-modern - modern French 'philosophical': literature claiming that no account of events can be trusted. 'Texts' must be 'deconstructed' for their hidden meanings - except those by post-modernists, to be taken at face value.
Progressive - describes ideas generally thought up around 40 years ago – that still don't work.
al Qaeda - Muslim 'militants' who for some reason or other continue to kill far more Muslims than people of any other faith.
Race issues - grouping people by their skin colour as opposed to how they think, feel or behave as individuals.
Racist - means "shut up!" - and is much, much worse than being violent, thoughtless or unkind. In fact, easily the worst crime ever conceived of.
Relevant - education: something badly written, with references to sex and full of swear-words. Always better than literature by 'dead white people'.
- Christianity: irrational, dangerous belief that material things may not be the principal motive behind human behaviour.
- Judaism: most Israelis are Jewish, so probably 'intolerant'.
- Islam: always needs to be 'understood'.
Root causes - foreign affairs: Usually need to be 'examined'. Belief in 'root causes' reflects dogged Lefty habit of trying to see contemporary religious issues through the prism of ‘class analysis’.
Skills-based - education: "teach the little ba**ards Microsoft Word or something. They don't actually need to know anything…".
Social exclusion - where bad people, behaving badly, somehow became our fault.
South Africa - a national showcase for Lefty policies with a one-party state, some of the worst crime levels in the world, tragic AIDS mortality and declining economy.
Stereotype - any attempt to describe the general characteristics of a group favoured by Lefties.
Stigmatise - what we do to anti-social people if we ask them to stop.
Subsidised art - art no one would buy.
Take forward - use instead of 'do'.
Terrorist - no such thing. Only people suffering from ‘root causes’ and ‘legitimate grievances’.
Transgressive - term of approval for anything 'challenging established values' - but generally puerile, annoying and dumb.
Unilateral - media, BBC: used to describe any act by the United States in furtherance of its national interest.
United Nations - the NGO of NGOs. All foreign policy has to be 'in partnership with the UN and our European Allies', unless bombing Serbia - which requires neither.
Victim - see ‘Terrorist’, ‘Palestinians’, ‘gender issues’, ‘race issues’ and ‘social exclusion’.
Workers - notional ‘class’ of people that Lefties once claimed to represent. Now replaced by college lecturers, human rights lawyers, pressure group employees, civil servants with 'liaise' in their job title - and other people you would probably not want over for supper.
17th August: Inigo has now been suspended from his job because of this article. Read ConservativeHome's response to this news.