It therefore came as a shock to me when I realised that I was not totally displeased with his victory and in one important area he has already done us all a great service: he said things one is not supposed to say and still won. In a world where the concept of freedom of speech has been eroded by a kind of campus consensus, this is no insignificant victory. Over the last forty years the once intelligent Left and Centre have gradually become more totalitarian on a range of issues, with only one view permitted in ‘progressive’ circles. Worse, they have sought to impose those views on the wider population, supinely allowing bigoted and quite extreme groups to govern our vocabulary and even attempting to alter the meaning of words. This has resulted in an Orwellian atmosphere where perfectly good people are called nasty names if they don’t tow the decreed line. ‘Misogyny’ is the latest abused buzzword, stripped of its original meaning and turned into an all-purpose insult to be used like a scatter-gun. Trump has stuck up two fingers at the little gods who think they are the only ones who can decide such things. For that he deserves our gratitude. Having said that, I still can’t yet like him much, and I doubt if he would think he has much in common with me, either.
One reason for this restriction (intended or unintended) on freedom of speech may well be the growth in in the politics of offence. Even that wouldn’t be so bad if those who claim to speak for the offended really did represent them, but often they don’t. I remember when Michael Heseltine haplessly used the word ‘handicapped’ on a BBC programme (itself once considered polite compared to the words that went before. Remember when The Spastics’ Society represented the disabled?). Some very irate people wrote in to complain that nobody had challenged him for saying ‘handicapped’ and not ‘disabled’ which, for the moment, is the word one is supposed to use. I found this complaint bizarre, not least because I work in a hospital where parents still often refer to their children as being handicapped. I know the hospital tends to use ‘disabled’, but it is a preference, not a rule. It’s frightening the way a preference for a word can become a strict rule to be imposed on everyone. Nobody really has the authority to do any such thing. Besides, looking at it logically, ‘handicapped’ is the more benign word. If something is disabled it’s utterly useless, but a handicap is, well, just a handicap.
In any case it will all change round again in a few years. Those who engage in the politics of offence have to keep changing the ‘correct’ word so that everyone else is always in the wrong. In my lifetime ‘black’ became ‘coloured’, then ‘black’ again, then ‘people of colour’, and recently someone in The Guardian complained all of them were racist and proposed something else again. This will, of course, give the passive-aggressive even more scope to see themselves as saints and everyone else as sinners. And I’m not even going to start on the words used in gender politics, other than to point out that the decision about words we can and cannot use originated from pressure groups with absolutely no authority to decide any such thing.
Of course, not everyone is supposed to take offence. As a gay man I’m allowed to, but straight men generally aren’t (unless they want to dress in women's clothes and use ladies' toilets, in which case they too can become a persecuted minority complete with TV and radio interviews and long boring articles in The Guardian). It doesn’t matter too much, as so many of them are now Stepford husbands that they haven’t noticed. But perhaps that’s now changing…
I cannot let Armistice Day pass unmarked, so here is a picture of the 'Patriarchy' living the high life.