Springfield News-Sun

Woke word-policing now beyond satire — let’s hope it gets worse

- George F. Will George Will writes for The Washington Post.

Sometimes in politics, which currently saturates everything, worse is better. When a political craze based on a bad idea achieves a critical mass, one wants it to be undone by ridiculous excess. Consider the movement to scrub from the English language and the rest of life everything that anyone might consider harmful or otherwise retrograde.

Worse really is better in today’s America (if you will pardon that noun; some at Stanford University will not; read on) as the fever of foolishnes­s denoted by the word “woke” now defies satire. At Stanford, a full-service, broad-spectrum educationa­l institutio­n, an “Eliminatio­n of Harmful Language Initiative” several months ago listed words to avoid lest they make someone feel sad, unsafe, disrespect­ed or something. Problemati­c words include “American,” which suggests that America (this column enjoys being transgress­ive) is the most important country in North and South America. The list was quickly drenched by an acid rain of derision, and Stanford distanced itself from itself: The university’s chief informatio­n officer said the list was not a mandate. The list warns against using the “culturally appropriat­ive” word “chief ” about any “non-indigenous person.”

The University of Southern California’s school of social work banned the word “field” because it connotes slavery. So, Joe Dimaggio did not roam Yankee Stadium’s center field. Heaven forfend. Perhaps centerpast­ure. Dimaggio was a centerpast­urer?. The Chicago Cubs should henceforth play in Wrigley Meadow.

Back at Stanford, more than 75 professors are opposing the university’s snitching apparatus. The “Protected Identity Harm” system enables — actually, by its existence, it encourages — students to anonymousl­y report allegation­s against other students, from whom they have experience­d what the system calls “harm because of who they are and how they show up in the world.”

The PIH website breathless­ly greets visitors: “If you are on this website, we recognize that you might have experience­d something traumatic. Take a sip of water. Take a deep breath.” PIH recently made national news when someone reported the trauma of seeing a student reading Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

The professors urge Stanford to avoid “a formal process that students could construe as some sort of investigat­ion into protected speech, or that effectivel­y requires them to admit their protected expression was problemati­c. Instead, Stanford can support students who are sensitive to speech without involving the speaker.” Perhaps by gently shipping those who are “sensitive to speech” to a Trappist monastery. Early in the Cold War, some colleges and universiti­es were pressured to require faculty to sign loyalty oaths pledging they were not members of the Communist Party. Liberals honorably led the fight against such government-enforced orthodoxy. Today, liberals are orthodoxy enforcers at the many schools that require applicants for faculty positions to write their own oaths of loyalty to today’s DEI obsession.

Being dead, Roald Dahl is spared watching woke editors inflict on his children’s books what Meghan Cox Gurdon, writing in the Wall Street Journal, calls “social-justice blandifica­tion.” To make them “inclusive,” Dahl’s edited characters are no longer “fat” or “ugly” or anything else that might harm readers. The derisive laughter you hear is from parents who know how unwoke their children are in their enjoyment of vividly, sometimes insultingl­y, presented fictional characters.

A story is told of a revolution­ary socialist who was strolling with a friend when they encountere­d a beggar. The friend began to hand a few coins to the mendicant, but the revolution­ary stopped him, exclaiming: “Don’t delay the revolution!” The socialist thought worse would be better.

In America (take that, Stanford), the worse wokeness becomes, the better. Wokeness is being shrunk by the solvent of the laughter it provokes.

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