General

Those damned 'elites'

It's not clear who the 'elites' are, but they sure do make life miserable

As a new columnist, I understand the compulsion to repeat yourself. There are only so many segues and qualifiers, and I’ve probably exhausted all of them already. In fact, “in fact,” takes first place on my list of most recycled phrases—it appears in half the columns I’ve written for Maclean’s so far—with “The truth is” and “After all” competing for second place. I have yet to find other words for “In other words” and, contrary to the advice of my high school English teacher, all of my paragraphs begin with “and” or “but.” But, I like to think that my word choice—no matter how repetitive—doesn’t muddy the point I’m trying to make. It’s one thing to repeat words for the sake of clarity. It’s another to use repetition to blur distinctions in the service of your politics.

This is exactly what National Post columnist Barbara Kay has been doing for years.  In true Orwellian fashion (think Politics and the English Language), Kay forever enjoys railing against the same ambiguous enemy, ever ambiguously. I suspect, as George Orwell once argued about another obfuscator, she “either has a meaning and cannot express it, or inadvertently says something else, or is almost indifferent as to whether [her] words mean anything or not.” In the world according to Barbara Kay, every problem big and small is consistently blamed on anonymous elites.

I now present you with a list of Kay’s favourite word, in no particular order (emphasis mine):

On abortion, Aug. 31, 2011:

“In fact, abortion for any reason has become banalized amongst elites: Some Indian women abort over such trivial matters as an unwanted zodiacal sign.”

On prostitution, Aug. 3rd ,2011:

“Those championing the rights of  ‘sex workers’ base their arguments on theory, and the word of a small minority of confident, articulate, happy or heart-of-gold hookers who know how to manipulate credulous elites.”

On why Montreal kids should speak French (apparently sometimes it’s okay to be an elite), Nov. 25, 2011:

“Over the years I have applied myself with real rigour to French acquisition at an elite level.”

On Francis Bacon, May 27, 2009:

“What nonsense. For if it is moral to find aesthetic inspiration in humiliation, filth, disease, deformity and sadism, what, pray tell, would be immoral in the topsy-turvy world of today’s art world elites? Lakes, mountains and the Mona Lisa? No, Francis Bacon and his ilk are holding up a mirror to their own perverted selves.

This so-called art is degenerate; the so-called cultural elites‘ fascination with it is indecent. Degeneracy and indecency are, of course, quaintly archaic concepts, still understood by philistines, that have coprophilic artists and their enablers rolling on the floor laughing.”

(What’s most disturbing about the passage above isn’t Kay’s usual obfuscation of language but her reference to “degenerate art”—a direct translation of the German, entartete Kunst, a term used by the Nazi regime to disparage modern art. Interesting choice of words for a self proclaimed Zionist.)

On foul language, January 7, 2004:

“I blame elites for our uncivil society.”

On AIDS, July 9th, 2008:

“The barrier to progress, in his view, is resistance among AIDS-industry elites to acknowledging unpalatable epidemiological truths.”

On Quebec’s apparent likeness to Israel, Oct. 11, 2011:

“This book is sure to spark interest and discussion amongst Quebec’s cultural and political elites.”

On gender-bending in the classroom, July 20th, 2011:

“That dad may well be taking in by osmosis a certain fascination amongst our sociological and feminist elites with sex merging, the darling of gender-equality activism now that gay rights have all been achieved in law.”

On religious daycare, April 23, 2010:

“Quebec is the most militantly secular of all Canada’s provinces. Its intellectuals and cultural elites are resolutely committed to the ideal of a lay society.”

On feminism, Oct. 9, 2010:

“The feminism I take exception to today is not the mild and blameless right of a woman to self-actualize that all women absorb by osmosis from the cultural air we breathe, but the radical ideology that has come to dominate the movement’s academic and institutional elites over the last 40 years.”

On honour killings, Jan 26, 2011:

“All such practices are anathema to Western culture, and in particular to our values of individualism and gender equality. Yet few influential elites are willing to speak out against them.”

On Rob Ford and the Pride parade, June 23 2011:

“The knives that are out for Mr. Ford have nothing to do with this particular decision, though. The exaltation of homosexuality is second only to the reverence paid to unfettered abortion as a litmus test for political correctness amongst our cognitive and cultural elites.”

On why we should “clone” Tarek Fatah, Oct. 13, 2010:

“The real solution to the problem is to clone Tarek Fatah, a Muslim who really does count Jews as ‘some of my best friends,’ and who would prove to be a billion Muslims’ best friend, if their elites would give this frank, humble and courageous book the time of day.”

On Norway’s “faux humanitarianism,” January 14, 2009:

“Never acknowledging Hamas and Hezbollah’s exterminationist motivation, both Norway’s politicians and cultural elites project virulent anti-Zionism. Norwegian unions remain the world’s most relentless Israeli trade and academic boycott obsessives.”

On gay marriage and Judaism, July 21, 2003:

“The pressure comes not only from synagogue activists, but from the Reconstructionist movement’s strongly feminist academic elites.”