An ideology that views certain traits or tendencies even in a weak, attenuated form, even in the form of a private belief, as violent extremism in embryo — and therefore deserving preemptive attack as if it were already violent — is itself an actualized extremist ideology.
Such ideologies call many things “violent”: harboring detestable beliefs attitudes or feelings; tolerating detestable beliefs, attitudes or feelings; using words it doesn’t like; using words it does like but using them improperly; refraining from doing and saying what it believes ought to be done or said (aka “silence”); and, increasingly, failing to cooperate with attempts to expurgate unconscious beliefs and biases lurking undetected in one’s soul. A typical example of this use of the word “violence”:
“There’s this anxiety over saying the wrong thing,” says deandre miles-hercules, a PhD linguistics student who focuses on sociocultural linguistic research on race, gender, and sexuality. “And so instead of maybe doing a little research, understanding the history and the different semantic valences of a particular term to decide for yourself, or to understand the appropriateness of a use in a particular context, people generally go, ‘Tell me the word, and I will use the word.’ They’re not interested in learning things about the history of the term, or the context in which it’s appropriate.”
But miles-hercules argues that while people may not intend harm when they use identity labels inaccurately, their inaccuracy is still harmful. “People tune in to this, ‘What is the word? Do I call you African American? Do I call you Black? What is the word that people are preferring these days? I know I can’t call you Negro anymore! So just tell me the word so I can use it and we can go on from there,’” they say. “But that lacks in nuance. And that lack of nuance is a violence.”
Does it occur to miles-hercules that forcing a non-linguist to do research on other people’s latest linguistic research and understanding its theory and practice in order to acquire the skills to satisfy the requirements of one particular school of linguists (and whatever form of “accountability” or “consequences” is deemed appropriate by this group if their requirements are not met) — is itself violent? Are such questions ever asked?
Where do beliefs like these lead — beliefs which do not hesitate to take real social, physical, technological, economic and legislative action, to prevent others from doing the same in the future?
Recall the progression from 1) being expected to conceal one’s own thoughts, 2) to being required (usually by people with power) to act according to ideological dictates, 3) to being required to make modifications to one’s own soul, even at the unconscious level — again by people with power.
The sphere of control an ideology of this kind claims has no logical limits.
It is time to call it what it is. It is a strain of totalitarianism.