Mendonca vs Paxman: what the actress said to the bigot…
Christmas University Challenge has a bit of a dingdong going on; not the scraps between graduates of Warwick, UCL and a dozen other British universities, but the regular opening squabble between Warwick’s Carla Mendonca, and Jeremy Paxman. She’s an actor, says PC Jezza in his introduction, complying with the BBC’s politically correct style guide, I’m an actress, says Mendonca, star of ‘My parents are aliens’, complying with the English language.
As I’ve suggested before, one explanation for the spreading idiocy of political correctness is that it’s the BBC that’s aliens, but it’s far far worse than that. The drive to replace ‘actress’ with ‘actor’ is, like all Gramsci/Fabian incremental socialist authoritarianism, superficially reasonable, and even desirable – who’d want to belittle Ms Mendonca’s craft, as using the assumed diminutive ‘actress’ is said to do? But she clearly doesn’t feel offended by it, and I doubt the 83 winners of the Best Actress Oscar feel offended either. Damn, 80, Katherine Hepburn won four times.. and Ingrid Bergman won…. Oh you get my point. And if anything illustrates the stupidity of this butchering of language, it’s the Guardian’s regular announcement that the actor so and so has won the best actress Oscar..
The BBC is, as usual, following the Guardian’s style guide – they are two cheeks of the same arse – and University Challenge, although independently produced, is zimply followink orderz. UC has form too – as noted elsewhere, they routinely switched BC and AD for BCE and CE, imposing some ‘common era’ on us to avoid any suggestion of non-universality in our history – but common with what? Marx? Trilobites? This is my gripe – it’s not just that political correct language is a Newspeak, designed to subtly control our expression, and thus our thinking, dooming us to a grey servile future, forever looking at a Vibram sole heading towards our face. Nope, it’s that, all political interpretation and speculation aside, it diminishes the language. It reduces content and clarity.
Now, the apologists will whine that language always changes – and so it does. But that change is organic; bottom-up. If a new concept or new device comes about, or a new generation needs new slang terms, then SHAZAM! (oh yeah, and language grows from fiction too), new words come into being. Political correctness is authoritarian, top-down – and nowhere is this more evident than in the arrogant shouting down of a guest on a TV programme by the host, that NO, she doesn’t know what she does for a living, HE DOES. He, by god, the great god BBC, is right, her opinions as to her own self count for nothing. Couldn’t get more bigoted than that eh? Their squabble is entertaining – and I wonder if it will continue into the final tonight – Mendonca’s stress on the last syllable of actress a couple of minutes in here is a treat, but this is merely the public face of an inch by inch diminution of our language. Not the expansion of language, but it’s curtailment, the grinding out of forbidden inequalities or other verboten concepts, the gradual introduction of vast swathes of ignorance or uncertainty to cover up the incorrect areas. Me, I happen to like the English language; that breadth of communication, infinite flexibility, that familiar telepathy we all manage every day via speech or text, this is something I’m not prepared to abandon myself, nor will I stand by and watch while my fellow Britons are gagged.
It is, of course, profoundly Orwellian. He wrote in precise terms of the goals of Newspeak – to limit thought, to make politically awkward themes unsayable, and thus unthinkable. As Wittgenstein had it, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”. Not that University Challenge would go anywhere near Witty, mostly because their questions genuinely are getting piss-easy…. But I can’t help feeling that this arrogant, inflexible confrontational manner may be the undoing of political correctness. The march of socialism is characterised by many things but nothing stands out so much as the fragile rigidity of the imposed system. The melange of centralised control and the peer-pressure that authoritarianism depends on cannot help but be inflexible – one of the most intriguing aspects of the fall of the old GDR was just how fast the thing fell apart once the borders opened – when the GDR wasn’t a prison, it was nothing at all. Judging by her tweets, Carla is as kneejerk lefty as any in the media, but I wonder if seeing the Beast slap her full in the face might open her eyes a little?
Wear a carnation in the final, Carla.