My contention is that all modern states are tyrannical, aspiring to become totalitarian. The difference between the two types is that of degree: a merely tyrannical state has some residual checks on its power, while a totalitarian one doesn’t.
Both types strive to increase their sway over their flock, but they do vary in the mechanisms they activate to that end. These fall into two groups: physically coercive and what I call glossocratic.
The former group is one most commonly associated in people’s mind with tyranny, either totalitarian or not quite yet. It includes arbitrary arrests, trials on trumped-up charges, draconian sentences including the death penalty, criminalisation of free thought, police control over people’s movements.
The glossocratic methods are subtler but just as essential and no less effective. These have to do with exercising control over language and therefore over thought. For words aren’t just free combinations of sounds and syllables. They designate concepts, attitudes, sensations – constituents of cognition.
Thus, whoever controls language controls the populace. Hence glossocracy: government of the word, for the word, by the word.
All modern states use both groups of power mechanisms, and they differ only in the composition of the mix. States relying principally on physical coercion, with glossocracy playing a subservient if important role, are widely called tyrannical or totalitarian.
Others change the make-up of the mix: glossocracy is their main tool, with physical coercion bringing up the rear and picking up the pieces falling through the glossocratic mesh. Such states are usually called liberal democratic.
The important thing to realise is that both types of states are tyrannical. They just impose their tyranny in different ways.
The BBC is perhaps the most powerful glossocratic tool employed by our powers that be; it’s the loudspeaker through which our ruling elite shouts its diktats. And being a glossocratic tool, the BBC is mainly in charge of reshaping English into a language of slaves overseen by their masters.
The other day the BBC managers cast their eagle eye over their staff and calculated that some 400 of them, two per cent of the total, ‘identify’ as transgender.
That’s twice the national proportion, but then this ratio is typical of the Corporation when it comes to enforcing woke edicts: ethnic minorities account for 23 per cent of BBC screen time, but only for 14 per cent of the population. And the proportion of LGBT employees on the BBC production staff is twice that in the population at large.
Making gender-benders feel at home has moved to the top of the broadcaster’s desiderata. As part of that drive, they should be protected from the egregious insult of being addressed by the wrong personal pronoun.
This grammatical category is the sharpest burr under the glossocrats’ blankets. Masculine personal pronouns have already been outlawed for all practical purposes. BBC sports commentators, for example, may talk about a “ManU striker who left their shooting boots at home” – this, though one can safely assume that every player in the Premier League is male.
That this tyrannical obsession makes the language ugly, jarring to anyone with a modicum of an ear for mellifluousness, doesn’t bother the glossocrats one iota. On the contrary, they welcome ugly distortions because they enforce their power to dictate. Ugly is the new beautiful.
Hence the BBC is ‘encouraging’ (in effect, commanding) all staff to add their preferred pronouns to their e-mail signatures, such as ‘he/him/’, ‘they/their’ and so forth. For some inexplicable reason ‘it/its’ hasn’t yet been recommended, although one would think it has an irresistible gender-neutral appeal.
That, according to the BBC official intranet, constitutes a “small, proactive step that we can all take to help create a more inclusive workplace”, making sure that trans and non-binary people don’t feel marginalised.
“It lets colleagues know your pronouns and shows that you respect other people’s too. It’s really simple,” the document states. This way BBC staff will “help to create a culture where everyone feels comfortable introducing themselves with pronouns”.
Just to think that for a century or so millions of people around the world (including me, in times antediluvian), learned English from the BBC World Service, then considered as the faraway star to reach up for. What will they learn now? How to follow the singular antecedent ‘everyone’ with the plural pronoun ‘themselves’? I used to mark my students down for that sort of thing, in times slightly less antediluvian.
However, we must understand that this has nothing to do with grammar or style and everything to do with glossocratic tyranny, with the glossocrats putting their foot down yet again. Ordering people how to speak is a way of telling them how to think and, eventually, how to act.
Like any other glossocracy, the current one is backed up by punitive coercion. The ruling elite, of which the government proper is but a subset, blows zeitgeist into any direction it wishes and mercilessly punishes those who refuse to be swept along.
A writer suggesting that a woman is born, not made, or a scholar pointing out that black slavery wasn’t genocide aren’t yet shot or thrown into a re-education camp. But they are still punished professionally by losing their livelihood and – even worse – being forced to recant.
At first glance, mentioning the BBC in the same breath as the SS or the KGB sounds far-fetched. But only at first glance. They are all instruments of tyranny. They just work in different ways, although in time the differences may well disappear.