I’m not quite sure why the “equity” in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) has suddenly become a hot topic in the conservative punditry. It seems to have erupted in the last 72 hours.
But the eruption is a nice opportunity to drop a few observations on the use of language entailed in the DEI formulation. I had occasion to tweet this weekend about the same use of language with the term “disinformation,” as it is deployed by Western cultural planners today, so I’m including that in the discussion.
I commend to you the discussions of others. It never hurts to think about these topics and get our ideas in order.
But rather than taking anyone else’s commentary as a starting point, I will just make my own points and leave it at that.
Equity – let’s start there, as it’s the term being kicked around at the moment – is an indefinable, wholly subjective, and inevitably relative and situational term, in the context of DEI.
In one of its contexts, the noun “equity” has the meaning of invested interest in an enterprise. Home equity or equity in a business or investment scheme is the best-known form of this.
What we’re talking about with DEI is the noun “equity” as linked to the adjective “equitable.” Equity and equitable have a longstanding sense in the English language of justice or fairness among parties – but, crucially, an undefined one, without objective, reliable, or commonly agreed-on means of measurement. (Unlike equality, which can be measured by commonly-agreed methods.)
And that’s the point. Without an objective means of measurement, held in common by everyone, there’s no way to hold “equity” itself to a good-faith, predictable meaning.
The same is true of diversity and inclusion. Indeed, the ordinary meanings of those terms are routinely turned on their heads in DEI orthodoxy, such that if white people are included, that’s actually exclusionary because it traumatizes other races; and if “cisgender” people are involved in something, it’s non-diverse, because diversity can be proclaimed at any time to be a matter of getting rid of as many cisgender people as possible, or ensuring that supposed cisgender perspectives are not just minimized but silenced entirely.
Determining whether there is diversity, equity, and inclusion is wholly subjective. That’s by prescription, not just in effect. If observers or participants – either one – are in particular, assumed categories in a matrix, their subjective perception of diversity, equity, and inclusion is controlling. If observers or participants are in other categories, they have no independent say in perceiving or defining diversity, equity, and inclusion. There’s no higher appeal to a standard that can be referenced and used as a guide.
Don’t slow down here and stop listening, because it’s this next part that’s important.
Using DEI this way is intentional, because it puts everyone at perpetual, unending risk of violating “DEI.”
With DEI, there’s no way to achieve a defined set of improved conditions and put the complaint-and-punishment regime of DEI behind us. The purpose of DEI isn’t to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s to ensure that the putatively malevolent absence of them is being endlessly identified.
We can never graduate from DEI reeducation. The whole purpose of DEI is to ensure a perpetual pretext for complaint, by some against others.
It’s about holding everyone at risk – mostly of intimidation and shakedown.
It’s another form of weaponizing language to alter culture and expectations, similar in both intent and effect to referring to the appeal for freedom of conscience and religious belief as “anti-LGBT bigotry.” Objectively, freedom of conscience and thought isn’t “anti-” anyone, and isn’t bigotry in and of itself. (For many, it’s foremost a sensible objection to government agencies being enlisted to dictate the people’s thoughts and ideas to them.)
But eliding freedom into bigotry prioritizes the elider’s prejudice and hostility over truthful definitions and careful, open-minded discussion. Without explicitly doing so, it implicitly denies that there is any such thinking space as that in which freedom of thought does not produce bigotry. Wanting to think freely and not be constrained to behave as if one thinks un-freely is, inherently, bigotry.
DEI is deployed with similar intent: using language to incorporate accusation and vilification into routine communication. The intended effect of DEI, as with the trope of “anti-LGBT bigotry,” is to make it impossible to talk about a lengthening list of topics without vilifying one group of our fellow human beings or another.
As Rush Limbaugh used to say, don’t doubt me on this. DEI is meant to have the stature of a permanent cultural institution because it’s a tool of vilification, and it can be turned on anyone. It has no limits of definition or foundational expectation that can forestall that. You may be on the “right” side of it today, but woe unto you tomorrow.
Note, incidentally, that DEI hasn’t been introduced as a basis for or element of law. America is still too pragmatic a nation for that, in terms of our understanding of what law is supposed to be.
It’s been introduced via academic and corporate workplace culture. Significantly, it’s hacking a path into government agency regulations for personnel and work space interactions, increasingly a twilight zone hovering penumbra-like over the actual content of statute law.
If left to run its course, DEI will poison the whole culture, and at that point, law, fatally corrupted by the people’s altered expectations, can follow.
Not that it’s likely to matter much. Societal institutions are well capable now of holding people at risk: of their opportunities, options, freedom, livelihoods. All law has to do is invoke – however disingenuously, and regardless of double standard – principles like the freedom of private institutions to adopt their own rules, and the sanctity of contractual obligations, and there will be no protection for those vilified by the DEI regime.
With this in mind, it doesn’t take much to lay out why the concept of “disinformation” fits the same weaponization of language and its cultural impact.
Urging a concept of menacing “disinformation” on the public isn’t about striving for good, valid information. In its current use in Western culture (the volcanic ooze started ca. 2016), it never was.*
It’s about having the concept of “disinformation” to accuse other people of. As with “equity” in DEI, there’s no reliable, commonly-agreed way to identify or measure disinformation. What matters is conditioning the people to think it’s a category of threat they have to be protected from. Once the people are so conditioned, they will mostly agree by default that it originates with malevolent actors, who are the parties to be vilified.
It’s the vilification, and a perpetual shorthand method of alerting people to it, that are at work here. There’s no payoff in stopping short of that understanding, and getting stuck on things like what “equity” is or what “disinformation” means. The whole point is that those quantities will never be settled on. Meanwhile, the division, vilification, intimidation, silencing, de-platforming, and un-personing can accelerate.
* Note: the Soviet concept of dezinformatsiya wasn’t (and still isn’t) the same thing. It was by definition a method of political warfare intended to plant false information and themes in a target society’s communications, in order to confuse, disrupt, deceive, and divide. Accusing elements in the target society of malevolent falsehood was a subset of that aggressive attack form, but not its main intent.
The main intent of NBC “covering disinformation” is, however, precisely to accuse elements of society of malevolent falsehood.
I’m making this point to save us all time. One more: the category of “misinformation” isn’t intended to have the same vilifying effect – i.e., the malevolence isn’t implied – but it is intended to result in instant dismissal of the speaker and his point. In social media “moderation,” we’ve seen that it’s also intended to justify cutting the speaker and his point off from the societal commons of speech and debate.
Feature image: The Thinker; Auguste Rodin, 1904. Wikipedia
2 thoughts on “Brief meditation on weaponized use of language: “DEI” and “disinformation””
It reminds me of a (horrible) experiment on dogs. Some would get shocked if they moved to a certain area of a room. So they learned to avoid that area. Others got shocked at random times, no matter what they did. So they became depressed. That is what DEI does, you can never be sure you aren’t on the “wrong side,” so you become depressed and more compliant.
Interesting to note that Deus is the singular for God. DEI is the plural for many gods.
The interesting thing is that there is enough definition in DEI practices to bring the whole thing crashing down on itself. Of course the next GOP administration if it is run by the right person will make all of it a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That will reign in the EEOC and DOJ. But I believe there has been a case filed somewhere within the 7th Circuit which essentially says recognizing subgroups of employees by characteristics noted in the CRA of 64 is a prima facie violation of the Act. Employers who have recognized any group of employees based upon this distinction are at risk. Realize most businesses do DEI as a means to keep the baying leftists surrounding them happy and content. And off their back.
Now employees who have been discriminated against because they weren’t a part of these favored groups have cause. So we will see how this case weaves its way through – I would assume SCOTUS review will be more than a year out but it will eventually end up destroying DEI, and a bunch of shady huckster businesses picking the bones dry of people just trying to make a living. And there will also be a large group of HR professionals who have pushed this crap hopefully too radioactive to ever work in the field again.
Some red states are moving in that direction – but we need to kill it all off.
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