My friends, 1984 is upon us.  Not to sound caustic or alarmist but for a country that touts high concepts such as “freedom of speech,” we certainly are becoming more fascist in our thinking about what others are allowed to say and how they say it.

In the aforementioned George Orwell novel, “1984,” the author tells us about a future where the language of the day is “Newspeak.”

Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar (e.g., ‘good’ means ‘to love Big Brother’; ‘bad’ is deleted from the language because ‘ungood’ means ‘bad’; therefore there is now no literal concept to express the term, ‘Big Brother is bad’). This suited the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim was to make any alternative thinking (“thoughtcrime”) or speech impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Now I do not think that the government per se is taking people off the street and placing them in re-education dungeons like our visitor from Iran does, but as a culture; as everyday people, we seemed to have embraced fascism in this country with relish.

In my office and I’m sure yours as well, there  are speech codes (formal or informal) that dictate what can and cannot be said.  Political and religious casual opinions are monitored and sometimes cited as reasons for a workers termination.  Sometimes just having an opinion at all that does not jive with the local collective is enough to have you branded a heretic and someone to be shunned or fired (though they’ll find a different reason for doing so).

Context and nuance are dead.  God forbid you say something that even remotely upsets a co-worker or anyone else within earshot, you are guilty of committing a hate crime simply because you’ve been accused and before you have the right to defend yourself.  This usually happens with reckless disregard for the context in which it was said, to whom it was intended, the intent of the author, the point the author was intending to make and while conveniently forgetting any history regarding that person in the first place.

Those who are not mindless lemmings or on drugs have difficulty navigating the pitfalls of political correctness because to be politically correct is to be devoid of critical thinking skills, patience, thoughtfulness, logic, reason and individuality.  It is the art of blindly accepting any and all cockamamie ideas put before you so as not to create the slightest bit of controversy.

If you are in your heart not a racist but you say something provocative about race in the course of a discussion (or heaven forbid in the context of making a joke) of its various nuances, you are guilty of being racist simply because you are accused by those dimmer than you (or those with an agenda against you).  This follows for gender, sexual preference and religion as well.  It seems that only some comics can get away with provocative language so long as they are of the right political persuasion or are the right ethnicity with respect to the comment they made.

The latest victim of the PC police is once again Bill O’Reilly.  O’Reilly gets called every name in the book because he stands for something…anything…and does not bow before the god of conventional wisdom and political correctness.  If you watch his show long enough or hear his daily radio program you will know that the man is for the most part fair.  He can be sensationalist (Chris Benoit), at times or over-the-top, (flat buns) but on average I believe that he is a social crusader trying to bring important stories to light that would otherwise be ignored in the mainstream media.  I don’t always agree with him but I think he is an important voice in the national conversation.

When he is not commentating on hard news of the day, he will pose a philosophical or social question that is relevant to modern society.  Recently he dealt with the unnecessarily sticky widget that is race relations.  He attempted to make the argument that false perceptions of people different than you can lead to fear, which ultimately leads to hatred and violence.  Racism is the belief and/or practice that your race is superior to all others or a certain other and that the inferior races should be treated as such with specific actions to intimidate or control said inferior race.  Racism is perpetuated by myths and stereotypes that are played to and broadcasted by a power structure that seeks to maintain the status quo; for example, whites should be in charge and have lots of money that the government can’t have, blacks should serve and entertain.

On his radio show he sought to introduce this topic of discussion by telling his story about how he and race baiter par excellence Rev. Al Sharpton went to a famous soul food restaurant in Harlem.  This appears to be the damning comment he made in the entire 10 minute monologue, “I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.”

And with the words, “I couldn’t get over…” Bill O’Reilly, who dines with Al Sharpton and converses with Juan Williams (both black liberals), metamorphoses into Bill O’Racist hater of the black man far and wide.  I’ve actually seen real racists before and have experienced real racism.  Those folks don’t treat Al Sharpton for dinner in a Harlem soul food restaurant…ever.

These charges of racism by Media Matters and other venues are completely without context.  By assigning that tag to him it negates truly racist behavior.  Even if you will not give O’Reilly the benefit of the doubt by virtue of his association and history with ACTUAL BLACK PEOPLE,  then you must at least use the word properly.  If there is no action to back up the feeling or thought then there is no racism.  O’Reilly made an observation.  It was arguably a bit obtuse but that is the vernacular of talk radio.  If he were too professorial he’d lose the majority of his audience and more importantly, his advertisers.

He did not utter the words, “I couldn’t get over…” and then add, “So I think what needs to happen here is a good hanging from the nearest Central Park tree.”  I believe that O’Reilly is suffering from a social disease but it’s not racism.  The social disease in question is assuming the worst about others.  This hypersensitiveness that seeks to choke the life out of meaningful discourse comes from people with a lynch mob mentality who, to cover their own failings and weaknesses, accuse others of the most vile things possible.  If you truly believe that what O’Reilly said, in the context he was saying it, in all of its nuance, was that hurtful and intentionally racist, one must wonder what baggage you are carrying yourself.  How do you get up in the morning and make it out the front door being that raw and easily wounded?

Much like my commentary on Spears, for me this is not about Bill O’Reilly per se.  I’m on about what I perceive to be an attack on language and culture.  I’m afraid that it is stupid debates like this one that will lead to the very real death of true free speech in this country.  And it’s not the government that frightens me.  It’s the Media Matters people with an acute agenda to the exclusion of all else that are threatening my right to free speech without being hassled Iranian style.  And I’m also just plain angry with those everyday folks in offices across the country with years of dysfunction culminating in a desire to disempower everything and everyone so they, the weak amongst us, are never challenged to get better.  That is the real problem, not a meandering news commentator and his radio show.

If you want to hear the entire segment without commentary visit Bill O’Reilly.com for the audio of the now defamed segment in it’s entirety.

We will be talking about this topic and more Sunday at 10:00 AM on PC Live.

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