The Lexicon of the Left

Daniel Hannan has one. Below are some definitions (with an occasional edit to bring it to the American Left).

RIGHT-WING: Baddie. Vladimir Putin, a lifelong KGB man who regrets the break-up of the USSR, is invading neighboring countries. This is a bad thing, so he must be “right-wing.” The mullahs in Iran abolished the monarchy, nationalized industry, and drove most of the middle classes into exile. But they’re also nasty, so they, too, must be “right-wing.” A crazed gunman goes into a school and…. [O]h, you get the picture. [Ed: Republicans oppose the Left; this is a Bad Thing, and so “right-wing.” Conservatives want to shrink government. This is a Very Bad Thing, and so “far right-wing.”]

DIVERSITY: People who look different but think the same way. Diversity applies to race, sex, disability, and sexual orientation. It emphatically does not apply to opinion. Indeed, when it comes to political views, it has taken on more or less the opposite of its Oldspeak meaning. [Ed: It’s good to have diversity from the presence of blacks and women. But when these worthies are Republicans or Conservatives, it’s a Doubly Very Bad Thing. These folks aren’t “right-wing;” they’re traitors to their race and/or gender.]

GREED: Wanting to keep your own money.

NEED: Wanting to be given someone else’s.

COMPASSION: A politician arranging the transfer.

DISCRIMINATION: Being unpleasant to women or black people. Literally, of course, discrimination simply means discernment. It is something we practice every time we decide between alternatives. But its political undertones have spilled over into every usage of the word, so that discrimination, in any context, becomes discreditable. A firm that discriminates in favor of properly qualified applicants, or a university that insists on good exam results, cannot wholly escape the sense that it is doing something shameful. [Ed: Hurting the feelings of a fellow student or of one’s professor.]

POVERTY: Inequality. Poverty is officially defined in the UK as having an income less than 60% of the mean. A few people get rich and, even if you’re better off in absolute terms, you’re suddenly “poor.” Funnily enough, the recent recession, which saw incomes drop at every level, caused a fall in “poverty” by this definition, but Lefties were more upset than ever. There really is no pleasing some people. [Ed: See the Federal Poverty Guideline. American poverty, far from being an intellectual characteristic of our Left, starts (depending on the favored program) anywhere from 100% to 200% above the Guideline.]

PREJUDICE: Hating other people. In its literal sense, prejudice simply means pre-judging a new situation on the basis of past experience. If you see an expensively dressed man, your prejudice tells you that he is likely to be well off. If a politician rings your doorbell, your prejudice tells you that he is probably after your vote. As Edmund Burke argued in his Reflections, life would become intolerable if we had to think everything through from first principles. But the anathematization of the word also touches its original meaning. If your common sense tells you that longer sentences would cut crime, or that there is a limit to how much immigration a country can absorb, it’s because you are prejudiced. [Ed: Prejudice—hating other people—is a contextual thing, though. It’s OK to hate Republicans.]

TAX CUTS: Squalid public services. For some reason, talk of tax cuts makes us think not of our tax returns but of our local amenities. It’s not so much that we believe that there is a direct link between spending and performance; it’s just that the phrase “tax cuts” automatically conjures up a series of images in our minds: leaky school roofs, bodies lying on trolleys in corridors, and pin-striped Tory spivs selling off school playing fields to their friends in the City…. [Ed: because it’s the Left’s absolute right to spend our money for us; we’re just too stupid to be trusted with that. So we’re taxed.]

FREE SPEECH: Support for racists. We have been told so often that “free speech can never be used as an excuse for racism” that the two things have become conflated in our minds. Arguing for the first automatically opens you to the accusation of supporting the second. If you think that I exaggerate, cast your mind back to the case of the pensioner in Liverpool who was charged with “racially aggravated criminal damage” after scrawling “Free speech for England” on a condemned wall. [Ed: This, too, is contextual. What the Left says is free speech; what Republicans or Conservatives say is Hate Speech.]

CONSERVATIVE: Neanderthal. Like “right-wing” (q.v.), but with the added bonus that it can be applied to both sides in the same conflict. Islamist “conservatives” want to impose headscarves while Western “conservatives” want to ban them. Hardline Israeli settlers and hardline Hamas terrorists are both “conservatives.” And so on. [Ed: Also: not Left.]

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