Brandeis 'Word Police' Highlights the Absurdity of Modern Progressivism | Opinion

The Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC) website at Brandeis University reads like a parody.

PARC compiled a list of words it deemed too offensive to utter, which includes "rule of thumb," "killing it," "freshman" and, somewhat ironically, "trigger warning." The list is making the rounds on social media, eliciting general mockery from the political Right. And these social justice warriors deserve to be mocked: Their list is ridiculous.

But conservatives, moderates and anyone interested in an open and honest exchange of ideas shouldn't dismiss PARC as merely a joke. This level of word-policing is quite dangerous.

The "student-centered" resource plays into absolutely every stereotype you might have about hypersensitive, self-preening progressives who are offended by everything but claim to be brave enough to fight for the marginalized. They see the world through a social justice lens, focusing on the tenets of critical race theory and intersectionality.

PARC staffers compiled a list of examples of supposedly "violent language." All examples are ridiculous; a few are even condemned based on outright erroneous claims.

Progressive activists believe words are violence (when they're not claiming silence is violence). Everything they do not like is considered violence, including the "oppressive" phrase, "killing it." Rather than adopt the understood meaning of the phrase, they argue it should be replaced because "if someone is doing well, there are other ways to say so without equating it to murder."

The phrase "rule of thumb" apparently also can't be used. PARC claims the expression "allegedly comes from an old British law allowing men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb." This is simply untrue.

PARC demands you stop using the word "picnic" because it claims the word was "often associated with lynchings of Black people in the United States, during which white spectators were said to have watched while eating, referring to them as picnics." This also is simply not true, and PARC ended up deleting this entry.

The phrase "go off the reservation" apparently has a "harmful history rooted in the violent removal of indigenous people from their land." So you better stop using it. And if you were expecting a trigger warning ahead of their word-policing, think again. "Trigger warning" will have "connections to guns for many people," and it is thus banned. Similarly banned is "take a shot at" because it uses "imagery of hurting someone or something."

Look, I don't want to go too far off the reservation here, but I generally have a rule of thumb when looking at stories like this. So allow me to take a shot and explain why we should not merely laugh at this word-policing.

Dr Samuel Johnson's (1709-1784) dictionary, which was
Dr Samuel Johnson's (1709-1784) dictionary, which was first published in 1755, on display in London, circa 1990. RDImages/Epics/Getty Images

Progressive activists routinely seek to control language so that they can win arguments by reframing debates. Whether the strategy is intentional or not, the result is always the same: redefining words and taking away commonly understood meanings ends up redounding to the Left's interests. Sometimes this is done explicitly; other times, it's subtler.

For example, the Portland City Council replacing gendered pronouns in the city charter with gender-neutral alternatives. Mayor Ted Wheeler called it an "important step" toward being "more inclusive of all gender identities."

On the one hand, it was self-serving virtue-signaling, much like what PARC staffers are now doing. But it was also a strategic attempt to force societal change. As progressives redefine gender to forward their radical views, creating new victimized classes to pander to in order to stay in office, changing words in official documents helps legitimize their moves. It's invoked as "proof" that the issue of gender fluidity is "settled"—after all, even official city documents have made the shift!

If words are forms of "violence," it means that people will not express some ideas or use certain words. Bad-faith activists can of course abuse this very easily. Indeed, it's already being abused, and is already often used to silence opposition.

The very concept that words are abusive—even dangerous "hate speech"—is constantly used to try and censor Abigail Shrier's journalistic quest to answer the so-called "trans-craze" among young women. Similarly, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) sinned by expressing a mainstream political view last year in The New York Times: He said the military should quell nationwide riots by Black Lives Matter and Antifa radicals. Staffers at the paper erupted in anger, claiming the editorial quite literally put the newspaper's black staff members' lives in danger.

It makes sense that most of us laugh at the PARC word-policing. It is undoubtedly funny and driven, in part, by the narcissism of its authors. In reality, there is no one offended by any of the words on the list. They enjoy feigning outrage so they can come up with linguistic alternatives, hoping we'll praise them for holding such woke views.

PARC staffers think of themselves as heroes, protecting the delicate sensibilities of marginalized communities they believe need their help. But they're not heroes. They're villains. Their stunt—whether or not they realize it—would kill the marketplace of ideas. Anyone trying to ban or redefine words to suit a political worldview should not be given any power. So don't just laugh at these self-preening ninnies; be sure not to give in.

Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons. You can subscribe to his podcast here and follow him on Twitter: @jasonrantz.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.