Apple’s famed countercultural libertarianism turns into hyper PC—as countercultural libertarianism is destined to do
After upgrading her Apple computer to the latest operating system, called OS X or Lion, columnist Mona Charen found that Apple no longer supports Microsoft Word. Instead, Apple provides its own word processor, called Pages, which customers need to buy for a modest sum. Charen thought Pages was all right, until she tried its proofreader:
In a column about Rick Santorum, I had used the word “spokesman.” The proofreader flagged it: “Gender specific expression. Consider replacing with ‘speaker,’ ‘representative’ or ‘advocate.’” Hmm. How would that work? The sentence read, “A spokesman said ‘there is little daylight between Ryan and Gingrich on Medicare.’” None of the suggested words would accurately convey who was talking. Every one would have changed the meaning and confused the reader.Similarly, when Charen wrote an article about Bashir Assad, with a reference to a “fawning profile of the dictator’s wife,” Apple’s proofreader told her, “Gender specific expression. A gender neutral word such as ‘spouse’ may be appropriate.”
And that’s just the start. Read the whole column. While Apple’s proofreader is risible and ridiculous, it also offers a horrifying glimpse into the future. Imagine when every reference book, every dictionary, every encyclopedia, starts to reflect the same hyper-feminist political correctness.
But why, as I said in the title, must libertarianism, including the hip libertarianism that has always been touted by Apple, turn into PC? How does the belief that we are all free individuals, with no higher entity or authority telling us what do or how to be, mutate into a mad leftist authoritarianism that seeks to banish ordinary words from our language?
It’s not hard to understand, but few conservatives and even fewer libertarians understand it. If we are all free individuals, with no authority above us, belonging to no collective categories to which we must conform, then any attribution to us of features or qualities that do not come from our individual choice, such as our sex, is an imposition on us. It violates the core liberal and libertarian principle that we are free, undetermined individuals who choose our own values. In order to be truly free, we must be equally free. And in order to be equally free, we must all become, insofar as possible, sex-neutral beings. Thus Apple’s hyper feminist proofreader (which Charen ruefully calls “Proofreadress”).
Ok, you may reply, sex-neutrality is in. But how does this get carried to so extreme a position as objecting to the very use of the word “wife”?
As I’ve pointed out before, now that we have homosexual “marriage” (which is itself a prime expression of the belief that we are all non-determined individuals freely choosing our own values), it is no longer acceptable to refer to heterosexual married couples as “husband” and “wife,” because that means giving them traditional, resonant titles which are not applicable to homosexual “married” couples. It thus grants to heterosexual married couples a privileged status denied to homosexual “married” couples. Therefore both heterosexual and homosexual couples must be referred to by the same, sex-neutral titles, such as “spouses” or “partners.”
Again, if you believe that individual freedom is the highest value, then you must also believe that there is nothing higher than individual choice, which in turn means that any larger cultural, biological, or spiritual categories to which we may belong are illegitimate and unjust, because they place limits on our individual choice.
A final point. It is a truism in the realm of economics that there is a trade-off between freedom and equality: the more freedom, the less equality; the more equality, the less freedom. But this truism does not apply to the non-economic realms of personal identity and desire, of moral values and cultural diversity. There, the more freedom you have, the more forced equality you must also end up having.
On the plus side, Apple probably paid some otherwise unemployable Women’s Studies major to provide the hyper-feminist rules for the Apple proofreading software. Her degree, at least, was not a complete waste of time!LA replies:
Sorry, you can’t do that. Since equal freedom requires sex-neutral jargon, your desire to use non-sex-neutral jargon means limiting the freedom of others.James N. writes:
Mona Charen is incorrect. Apple has never provided a word processor with any version of the Mac OS, and they don’t now. MS Office and Pages are both applications you must purchase, it’s a free choice and both install and run well under OS 10.7 (I have and use them both).LA replies:
The mistake was mine, not hers. She said that Mac no longer “supports” Word, not that—as I incorrectly put it—Mac no longer uses Word as its Word processor. I’ll change the entry to reflect that.M. Jose writes:
One little quibble: from what Ms. Charen says in her column, it appears that the issue is not so much that OS 10.7.3 doesn’t support Microsoft Word as it is that it does not support older versions. She indicates that one could buy a newer version of Word, but it would be expensive.LA replies:
That’s just what I said (or guessed) in my last comment.LA writes:
Another confusion in Charen’s piece, pointed out by James N. in an e-mail, is her use of “support.” The correct meaning of “Apple no longer supports Word,” is that it no longer provides technical support, updates, etc. I understood her more colloquially to mean that Apple is no longer compatible with Word, that Word (i.e., the older versions of Word) no longer runs on the Apple computer.Jim Kalb writes:
She’s such a clever writer!Gintas writes:
Someone needs to run Laura Wood’s site through that thing. It’d blow out the CPU.Hannon writes:
Thanks for the entry on Mona Charen’s delightful article. One of your recent best and a very good take-down of the notion that “PC is the problem.”Timothy A. writes:
I recently read this article about a demonstration by French feminists at the French Academy demanding that French grammar be changed to make it less sexist.LA replies:
Here’s the one example the article gives of the kind of rule the protesters want to change:Robert C. writes:
I am reminded of when a gender harassment complaint was made against me about an email I had sent.. My boss sat down with me and showed me my offending email. It said, as I recall (names changed), “Joe Smith in our _______ section and the woman in our _________ program [whom I had not met] will get back to me soon and I will be able to make you an offer.”LA replies:
If you had said, “the man in our _______ program,” there would have been no problem.Nik S. writes:
Great bit on Apple, libertarianism, and liberalism.LA replies:
No, I don’t remember that I’ve ever spoken before about countercultural libertarianism. The idea came to me in reference to Apple, because that’s the image of itself and its customer base that it is always pushing. In any case, what I said about countercultural libertarianism applies equally to libertarianism in general. But it occurred to me as I was writing the post that countercultural libertarianism in turning to leftist authoritarianism represents even more of an ironic contrast than regular libertarianism doing the same thing, and so demonstrates even more vividly the point that libertarianism is a form of liberalism.Nik replies:
It seems to me that essentially you are grouping all libertarians,LA replies:
It’s like any other generalization. Of course there are shades and variations, and of course contemporary people, being nominalists, will react against the very idea of any generalization. But the fact that there may be variations and exceptions to the generalization doesn’t mean that the generalization is not true.March 10
Alexis Zarkov writes:
I run the Apple Macintosh operating system, Lion version (10.7.3). I have Office 2008 installed and it works under Lion. I also have Apple Pages installed and it indeed flags “spokesman” as a gender-specific word. But so does Microsoft Word (part of the Office package) if you set it to do that. Go to Word’s preferences menu, then select spelling and grammar, then the settings menu for writing style. Then you will see a check box for gender-specific words. If the user checks this box, you will get the same message from Word as from Pages for “spokesman.” Now it’s true that in my 2008 version of Pages you can’t turn off flagging gender-specific words in the proofer. Word is a much larger and more expensive application with more options.LA replies:
You have a point. Gender neutral language is already established in certain professions and areas of society, and it’s understandable that popular word processors would include it as an option. Yet most people, especially when they are not forced to use gender-neutral language, don’t use it. Apple, the corporation that supposedly symbolizes freedom and creativity, chose to make this brutally deadening gender-neutral usage its default usage, and to impose it (or at least hectoring messages promoting it) on its users. Wasn’t Steve Jobs’s message always that Apple was for individualists, while Microsoft was for dull, conformist corporate types? So I think you are being a little too dismissive of the significance of this.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 09, 2012 01:56 PM | Send