The Index of Forbidden Words

In truly Orwellian fashion, Stanford University has created an ever-expanding compilation of proscribed speech...all in the name of inclusivism.

“There are some ideas so absurd,” wrote George Orwell back in the 1930s, when among the educated classes many had gone mad with Marxism, “that only an intellectual could believe them.” Orwell died in 1950, so he could hardly have had in mind the people who currently run Stanford University, an elite West Coast institution attended only by intellectuals, where less than four percent actually get accepted.  

Ah, but how their ideas wonderfully confirm his point! Indeed, they confirm it to an extent that, by equal measure, is both hilarious and sinister. 

For instance, the idea, which some of the brightest bulbs have lately proposed, that the time has come for issuing an “Index of Forbidden Words,” applicable to everyone on campus. I mean, how else is Stanford to protect its oppressed minorities? Without institutional support aimed at suppressing the very language used to oppress them, how can they feel safe? And so, in truly Orwellian fashion, they’ve gone ahead and created this ever-expanding compilation of proscribed speech.

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To protect people of color, right? Well, not exclusively so. It seems that certain categories of animals require equal protection as well. Take the phrase, beating a dead horse. Did you know that, too, has been banned? Why, you ask, would that be a problem? Well, just think about it. Doesn’t the use of the phrase tend to normalize violence against horses?  

Then there is this killer phrase about people doing what’s called a blind study, which may seem innocuous enough on the surface; but that’s only because you’re not blind. Think how hurtful it must be to those who are blind!

Or take the expression walk-in hours. All right. Maybe you think it entirely harmless; but isn’t that because you are fortunate enough to be able to walk? Consider all those who cannot. Try and imagine their state. Now perhaps you’ll want to thank the people at Stanford for having found the perfect substitute, which is to say open-hours instead. Isn’t that progress?

When I first heard about this latest lunacy from the woke Left, I began to wonder how many graduates from Stanford University are now working for the government, performing perhaps at the highest levels of the Biden White House. Try and picture the sort of policy decisions they’ll try and make. Nothing less, one would think, than the unmaking of the country.   

Consider, for example, the sneak preview we were given as recently as last week. On December 13th, which was the feast of St. Lucy, patroness of light, Joe Biden signed into law a bill that would federally mandate same-sex marriage, thus edging us closer to an age of darkness from which even the least civilized of societies would have recoiled in horror. And what did he call it? The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), an exercise in Newspeak which only a reader of George Orwell could appreciate.  

We have come to a place where not just words but reality itself has been suppressed. In other words, to avoid giving offense to same-sex couples who wish to marry, we’ve decided to simply empty marriage of its meaning, thus erasing with a single stroke of the pen what had been the truth about human love since the creation of Adam and Eve. As Chesterton would say, “We don’t know what we’re doing, because we don’t know what we’re undoing.”      

And what exactly is it that we’re undoing? Only the oldest institution in the world, inscribed by nature and nature’s God. That’s all. Just a day’s work for a few politicians to set about unravelling the constitution of being. How it has pleased the usual suspects who’ve been kept so awfully busy these past couple of years dismantling things. 

“An historic step forward,” said an exultant Nancy Pelosi; a step which she and other Democrats have long been urging us to take. Not a few Republicans went along with her, too, like eager lemmings going over the same cliff. “Today we stand up,” she continued, reaching for the high note of sanctimony, “for the values the vast majority of Americans hold dear, a belief in the dignity, beauty, and divinity—divinity, a special spark of divinity in every person—and abiding respect for love so powerful that it binds two people together.” 

Pretty sick-making, I should think. But suppose we just set aside for the moment the question of why that particular “spark of divinity” hasn’t yet reached into the womb where unborn children lie. Or why it is that God, who, after all, invented marriage, failed to include gay people in the equation. And let’s ask about the rest of us. Is it really true, as Pelosi insists, that because we all believe in that “spark of divinity in every person,” we cannot, therefore, object when two sodomites decide to get married? And that in order to ensure that right, the federal government must now be empowered to enforce it upon the rest of the country?

There is a word for this, and it isn’t one that only readers of Orwell can understand. Tyranny.  Not a nice word, to be sure. But the reality it signifies is not particularly nice either. Yet it precisely defines what’s going on, what’s happening to a once-free people, who were never entirely virtuous but at least knew what it was—and understood that certain behaviors would undermine the effort to uphold it in the public life.

In other words, as a free people under God, we recognized that while the state had no business telling us whom to marry, it nevertheless had a stake in the maintenance and defense of the marriages we made. Provided, of course, they were consummated along traditional lines of one man and one woman, enjoying, therefore, the sanction of nature and the blessing of God. If that is no longer the case, then maybe we need to take a vote among ourselves to confirm it. That way, if we choose to lapse into complete moral apostasy, at least we can be honest about it.


  • Regis Martin

    Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and The Beggar’s Banquet (Emmaus Road). His most recent book, published by Scepter, is called Looking for Lazarus: A Preview of the Resurrection.

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