What Does the Fed Have Against the Founding Fathers?

Well, nothing of course.

In its report “Federal Reserve tells employees to avoid ‘biased terms’ like ‘Founding Fathers’Fox News has the exclusive (since regurgitated by numerous other outlets) breaking report that a government agency is issuing internal writing guidelines for its employees.

The Federal Reserve has instructed employees to adopt “bias-free language” and avoid using biased terms like “Founding Fathers,” according to an internal webpage obtained by Fox News.

The Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors issued the guidance for all employees nationwide on April 29, a former Fed staffer with knowledge of the matter told Fox News.

“Bias-free language recognizes diversity and avoids stereotyping, demeaning, or excluding people on the basis of gender, race, ethnic group, religion, age, ability/disability, or sexual orientation,” the guidance states.

“Try to avoid words and phrases that may be considered offensive, pejorative, or prejudiced (whether consciously or unconsciously), as these can distract your audience from the ideas/information you’re trying to convey,” it continues.

The guidance contains a list of “biased terms” to avoid, including “blacklist,” “grandfathered,” and “Founding Fathers.” Employees are instructed to use terms like “denied,” “legacy,” and “Founders” instead.

The Fed also said the terms “whitelisted, “manpower,” “manmade,” and “singular generic pronouns” – such as “he,” she,” “his,” and “hers” – should be replaced with more “bias-free” alternatives like “allowed,” “artificial,” and pronouns such as “they,” “their” and “theirs.”

I could not independently find the page in question, so it has either been taken down or was literally an internal page from the agency intranet or the like. Regardless, some brave whistleblower apparently notified Fox News. They are not happy.

Such speech codes are more frequently found on college campuses, where they have caused controversy, though they have become more common at government entities. 

San Diego officials in 2016 had to walk back similar guidance, which instructed city employees not to use the term “Founding Fathers,” before it was scrapped. 

In a statement, a Federal Reserve spokesman said: “The Federal Reserve has no language directives for employees.”

I tend to find umbrage over longstanding words that have long since been disassociated from their original meaning rather silly. But, for those in historically discriminated-against groups, they can sometimes be a reminder that they are still viewed as lesser citizens. Given that there is no obvious harm in substituting “artificial” for “manmade” or “legacy” for “grandfathered,” it seems reasonable enough to issue editorial guidance in that direction.

As to “Founding Fathers,” it’s true that the names most of us know are almost exclusively male. But there are enough women in the group that the shorter “Founders” is hardly problematic. And it more neatly contrasts with “Framers,” the narrower group of men who wrote the Constitution.

The only example given in the report that’s conceivably objectionable is the directive to avoid “singular generic pronouns.” But that objection would come from misunderstanding. It doesn’t preclude referring to Jim as “he” but rather the use of male pronouns to refer to non-specific persons. While that’s how I was taught to write nearly half a century ago, that norm started changing at least thirty years ago and the old way is, well, a legacy.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Federalist Papers, Gender Issues, Government, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The need for producers at FNC to stoke the outrage machine has got to be exhausting.

    (FWIW, I have long used the term “Founders” to describe that generation rather than “Founding Fathers” simply because “Founders” is less ponderous. And, of course, use “Framers” when speaking, as you note, about the Philapdelphia conventioneers).

    14
  2. Kathy says:

    The question should be what do they have against Founding Fathers Fetish Worship.

    5
  3. Another thing, having now seen that NRO felt the need to amplify the FNC report: it is exhausting to me that attempts to be more inclusive are so often met with such outsized derision.

    Apart from the minor inconvenience of self-editing for employees at the Fed, exactly whom does it hurt to use more gender-inclusive language?

    Clearly these critics are acknowledging that language has power, else they wouldn’t even notice any of this, and they are arguing that the current power arrangements of language are to be preferred to ones that might make some small step towards inclusivity. And that is a telling stance.

    (And, of course, outrage sells).

    14
  4. drj says:

    Regardless, some brave whistleblower apparently notified Fox News. They are not happy.

    “Don’t forget to get angry about it, otherwise you might start noticing what’s going on under your nose.”

    Same shit (more or less) happening in the UK.

    1
  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    S/He will be happy. (that would be the generic s/he)

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I think it’s obvious why this kind of thing irritates people. It forces a hierarchical, teacher-pupil relationship on people. What you said is wrong, allow me to correct you, here’s the words you should, er, must use. And should you fail to use the correct words, you’ll be a bad person. It feels like an attempt to edit people’s memories and beliefs. It feels like the kids at the Advanced Placement table just keep coming up with new ways to say old things and then laughing at the kids at the jock table when they don’t keep up. OMG, you’re still saying baller? That is so, like, 2019.

    How much do you enjoy being corrected, Dr. Taylor?

    People don’t like being told what to say. Duh. And the right wing media exploits that irritation. Also, duh. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we provoke, they erupt and we’re outraged at their eruption. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they provoke and we erupt and then they’re outraged at our eruption. (On Sundays we unite to hate Chuck Todd.) You might almost think we’ve built a perfect perpetual motion machine whose product is outrage. An outrage machine that keeps both sides well-supplied. And none of it does a single thing for people living in their cars, or struggling to feed their kids, or trans kids forced onto the streets, or a Black man with a cop’s knee on his neck, or an Asian-American on the receiving end of racist threats.

    The Left is losing the plot. Our job is not to obsessively correct word choice, our job is to do something about the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans are living in tents under freeways. Oh, I’m sorry, we did do something for the people living in tents: we’ve stopped calling them ‘homeless’ and started calling them ‘the un-housed.’ So that’s all fixed.

    23
  7. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Do you know when I get most upset when being corrected? It’s those times when, with a little bit of self-reflection, I realize I was wrong. I was comfortable and confident in my correctness, but now I’m uncomfortable.

    The Left isn’t losing the plot. The outrage is the plot. Chafing against what Dr. Taylor is calling “the current power arrangements” – of language, of system racism, of minority rule – is the first, prerequisite step in the effort to undo the current power arrangements.

    It’s true what we call the multitudes living under bridges is immaterial. but now we’re talking about them when so, so many would rather pretend they are not there. Next we have to get the newly uncomfortable people to agree that homelessness or un-housing is their problem. And then, we can go about trying to fix it.

    10
  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think it’s obvious why this kind of thing irritates people. It forces a hierarchical, teacher-pupil relationship on people. What you said is wrong, allow me to correct you, here’s the words you should, er, must use. And should you fail to use the correct words, you’ll be a bad person. It feels like an attempt to edit people’s memories and beliefs. It feels like the kids at the Advanced Placement table just keep coming up with new ways to say old things and then laughing at the kids at the jock table when they don’t keep up. OMG, you’re still saying baller? That is so, like, 2019.

    , he said, telling people they were wrong, correcting them, and telling them what words they should use.

    15
  9. Mister Bluster says:

    …dwelling challenged…

    1
  10. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “I think it’s obvious why this kind of thing irritates people. It forces a hierarchical, teacher-pupil relationship on people. ”

    Except that it isn’t forcing any kind of relationship on anyone. It is an arm of the government telling its employees what kind of language their official communications will contain.

    They’re not instructing anyone else. They’re not saying Michael Reynolds is a bad person for using the “wrong” words. That’s Fox News bullshit — which you fall for every single time.

    Honestly, Michael, you act like “you’re not the boss of me” is a sublime statement of intellectual freedom instead of what it is — the whine of a petulant child who wants to do what he wants when he wants and never ever ever ever ever be criticized for it no matter what.

    14
  11. wr says:

    And I know I’m getting old, but when I was growing up my parents taught me that not offending people for no reason is a positive good, even if it means I can’t always say exactly what’s on my mind the instant it crosses it no matter who is around. Maybe that’s just too big a sacrifice for Republicans, libertarians — and apparently MR. I’ve never really found it all that onerous.

    10
  12. @Michael Reynolds: Sigh.

    The notion that writers (and students and professors and any number of other people) aren’t corrected on a regular basis is just silly. I know you have editors (and they are sometimes correct to correct, yes?). I would find it stunning if you told me your co-author has never suggested you were wrong about how you said something.

    Do I like being corrected? I am not fan, as most people aren’t, but by the same token sometimes correction is useful and instructive.

    I do, ultimately, appreciate being corrected if I am wrong.

    Also: I would hasten to add that having a style guide is not really a “correction” as much as it is, well, a guide to what style to use.

    I am frequently a bit amazed by your views on these kinds of discussions, as you seem to dismiss the power of language (and its political significance).

    I would argue, for example, a movement in written English away from using the male as the assumed universal representation of humanity was a positive. As such, I might speak about “humanity” rather than “mankind” and I was the “Chair” of Political Science and not the “Chairman.”

    How is all of that a travesty? (Because, to me, that is the kind of thing we are talking about here).

    7
  13. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    False dichotomy, word choice and actions taken are not either/or, both are simultaneously possible.

  14. drj says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think it’s obvious why this kind of thing irritates people. It forces a hierarchical, teacher-pupil relationship on people challenges the status quo.

    FTFY

    Nobody at the Fed will be bitching at you if you mention the “Founding Fathers.” It’s just that they have an internal style guide that is meant to promote a certain (not unreasonable IMO) level of inclusiveness. “Employer imposes reasonable language and style guide on its employees” ≠ the next incarnation of newspeak. (I assume you’re OK with the fact that government agencies currently no longer refer to “coloreds?” – which was perfectly fine language at some point, see “NAACP.”)

    Even more importantly, the people whining about this don’t object to the principle of language police. They are unhapppy that THEY are no longer the language police.

    Don’t fall for their bullshit – this is perfectly reasonable, not some over-the-top KidLit language crusade.

    6
  15. Mimai says:

    There seem to be several things going on here. A few that occur to me:
    1) Language changes. People dislike change, especially when they get {corrected, punished, etc.} for not keeping up.
    2) Language is powerful. It expresses (speaker) and programs (speaker and audience).
    3) Language is power. Norms are set by those with power. Power is contextual. The internet has disrupted this (paging Martin Gurri).
    4) Language is signal. It communicates and reinforces tribal affiliations (a specific instance of #2).
    5) Language is imprecise. This is a feature and a bug. People often don’t know when, why, how. This is cause for much confusion and division….sometimes motivated, sometimes not [meta awareness, meta-meta awareness,….turtles all the way down].

    What else can be added to this list?

    3
  16. @wr: This is my attempted baseline about this kind of stuff, TBH.

    1
  17. CSK says:

    I will say I find it irritating to be corrected by someone who writes: “Your wrong.”

    Not that anyone here has ever done that.

    8
  18. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..“Your wrong.”

    Should be “You’re wrong.”

    8
  19. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Uh, I know. That’s why I find it irritating to be corrected by someone with so pathetically little grasp of English.

    2
  20. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..pathetically little grasp of English.

    Or, like me, has no understanding of context…

    2
  21. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mister Bluster:..

    @CSK:..“Your wrong.”
    Should be “You’re wrong.”

    How do I get 3 upvotes for my error?

    4
  22. Mister Bluster says:

    test to see if I can find EDIT key.
    …..
    ETA: there it is

    1
  23. Mimai says:

    First, a disclosure: This is a simplified model. All models are wrong. We’ll see if this is useful (mostly to me, the rest of you are a distant second).

    Second, an apology: So many words. I did this to hopefully express my (ever-evolving) thoughts on this. I also did it to hopefully pre-empt a certain type of misunderstanding. Seems to be a lot of that around here lately (see #5 in my list above).

    There are (at least) two ways to think about social enlightenment, liberalism, wokeness, [insert your preferred term here]. (1) It is destination – something you achieve and thus ARE from henceforth. (2) It is process – something you strive for and that requires adaptation as context, culture, etc. changes.

    My perception is that a lot of people understand this on an intellectual level. And still their implicit take is much more aligned with destination.

    This does not prevent them from engaging in process. They read the books, alter consumption habits, put signs in yards and banners in windows, etc. Some even march, protest, have listening groups, etc. These are “doings” – they are process.

    And yet the destination consciousness is still there. Sometimes these process engagements are used to signal/reinforce a destination mentality. Sometimes destination mentality lurks beneath the surface, to be brought out in certain circumstances. What are those circumstances? Depends on the person. What are your hot buttons? Your other identities and tribes?

    For some, words are very important. VERY IMPORTANT! So when process involves changing language, which is impossible for anyone to keep up with (ie, to never make “mistakes”), this hits very close to home. And when they are corrected, called out (in), noted to be on the other side of the social enlightenment line, etc….this is felt as an assault on their other identity(ies).

    Sometimes destination and process consciousnesses live in harmony – explicitly and implicitly. Often they do not. Seems to me that many of the internal clashes among the social enlightenment tribe are rooted in this conflict.

  24. Teve says:

    @Mister Bluster: I thought you were making a joke.

    4
  25. wr says:

    @Mister Bluster: I’m not one of the upvoters, but only because I’m too lazy to upvote — I’d guess that the ones who did thought that you were making a snarky meta-joke…

  26. Mister Bluster says:

    @Teve: @wr:..joke
    I am just not that clever or perceptive it seems.
    I honestly did not understand the context of CSK’s remark.
    Could be that I’ve always been this slow on the uptake or it’s certified brain rot. In the future I will try to think harder before I criticize the remarks of others.

    3
  27. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am frequently a bit amazed by your views on these kinds of discussions, as you seem to dismiss the power of language (and its political significance).

    I happen to mostly agree with Michael on this and my take is that the power of language is exactly what he’s talking about.

    Even though this and similar policy changes in other large organizations are small stakes and more performative than anything else, the context is still about power. And that’s why certain people want to change word usage and meaning to terms and meanings that they want to promote, all from a position of authority whether that is a self-selected moral authority or more formal organizational authority. So yes, it’s not about supposed fairness to the tiny number of people who actually get outraged, it’s a contest for power over language, its meaning, and our broader culture. This is a battle where I don’t really take sides because I think the outrage is mostly a dumb, performative fad.

    But digging into this case a bit, notice how the directive/guidance (or whatever it is) preemptively declares that some words are “biased” words while other words are “bias-free.”

    Well, the obvious question is: who gets to decide which words are or aren’t biased? What are the specific, objective criteria that show one word to be biased while another word is not?

    Of course, no one really has answers to these questions because answers don’t exist. Language is inherently contextual and context changes with time and the situation, so the whole idea that some words are inherently “biased” while other words are “bias-free” is sophistry, especially when the contemporary meaning of words have evolved far beyond their original origins (and continue to evolve).

    Take “blacklist” which does not have a racist origin and was popularized in WWI by England in the context of enforcing blockades against the Central Powers. Its first known use was by an English bishop in the early 1600’s. Yet bureaucrats at the Fed have declared that the term is “biased” but we are left to wonder why.

    Personally, I’m not offended by any of this – I find the outrage and counter-outrage to be tiresome and stupid because neither side can control language and neither side can really enforce their desired cultural norms outside of their own bubbles either. So these attempts are about power, but they are also futile because soon enough a new generation will come along and change it all up again.

    But there is one thing I am a bit excited about, and that is to see a future Samuel L. Jackson movie where he changes his signature tagline to “birthing-person fucker.”

    7
  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yeah. That’s why at sentence 2, I scrolled down to the next comment fully confident that if I needed to know what Reynolds was ranting about today someone would bring it up.

    1
  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: 3 people liked the irony of correcting a comment that was offered as sarcasm? (Just a wild guess.)–

    1
  30. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    S/He will be happy.

    Why are you excluding non-binary folk?

    At one of the companies I worked for, a couple of the lefty-on-their-sleeve bigwigs started using she/her as the generic, rather than he/him in all their writing. It was incredibly jarring. It was kind of great.

  31. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    On Sundays we unite to hate Chuck Todd.

    Like Tom Waits, Chuck Todd has a name that is a complete sentence. That’s kind of cool.

    Cooler, though, is that Chuck Todd’s name contains the solution to Chuck Todd — NBC should chuck Todd.

    2
  32. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Take “blacklist” which does not have a racist origin and was popularized in WWI by England in the context of enforcing blockades against the Central Powers. Its first known use was by an English bishop in the early 1600’s. Yet bureaucrats at the Fed have declared that the term is “biased” but we are left to wonder why.

    Many people believe that we should be niggardly with our easily misinterpreted words.

    4
  33. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think it’s obvious why this kind of thing irritates people. It forces a hierarchical, teacher-pupil relationship on people.

    Let’s keep in mind that this is a government agency. It speaks for all of us. It has a stronger obligation to use inclusive language than does, say, a kid-lit author.

    Further, a word like “grandfathered” has a stronger meaning coming from a government agency when it was used by southern state governments to justify denying the vote to black folks.

    3
  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: Because it made me laugh. Is there a better reason?

  35. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Oh, I’m sorry, we did do something for the people living in tents: we’ve stopped calling them ‘homeless’ and started calling them ‘the un-housed.’ So that’s all fixed.

    You should use “People experiencing homelessness.” People-first language reduces the stigma.

    2
  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Whenever I come across one of these culture war issues, I always ask myself, “Do I care?” 99.99% of the time the answer is, “No.” and then I move on to something really important, like sorting my belly button lint collection. Besides, I’m not gonna be around all that much longer and I’d hate to spend the last few years of my life shaking my fist at the clouds.

    5
  37. Michael Reynolds says:

    So many people so sure they’re right and I’m wrong.

    We barely have the Senate. We barely have the House, and will likely lose it. The blue wave died aborning, probably because we were so amazingly right about Defund. We’re still on the precipice of literally losing our democracy. But no, we’re not unnecessarily making enemies with our incessant pedantry, everything is great, and the unwashed will just have to adjust.

    You’re all wrong. In time you’ll realize it. Not ready yet? OK. Whatever, people. I get bored arguing points when I know the people I’m arguing with will get it in a couple years, while never (of course) acknowledging that they were wrong. Arrogant? Yes, it is. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m right, or the fact that 12 months or 24 months from now you’ll all be nodding along sagely to the conclusion that we made enemies through sheer, irrelevant pedantry.

    16
  38. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..Because it made me laugh. Is there a better reason?

    Can’t think of one…

    1
  39. Mister Bluster says:

    I’ll tell you what made me laugh yesterday.
    Anthony Rizzo fouling off 12 pitches by Ponce de Leon in the 6th inning and then hitting the next pitch out of the park to tie the game!

  40. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Love the arrogance and certainty….mostly because you express them clearly and without hedges. I also love the bold prediction. A couple (honest) questions for further clarity:

    1) What is it exactly that will be realized by your current combatants?

    2) What do you think will be the tipping point for people to come to this realization?

    1
  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    1) That virtue signaling via synonym is counterproductive, alienating people we can’t afford to alienate.
    2) Losing the House in 2022.

    We’re supposed to be the fun, easy-going, optimistic party, not the party of scolds and tiresome pedants. If people don’t like you they don’t vote for you. There is no reason to like Democrats except that Republicans are worse. That’s not a great place to be if you’re hoping to pass an agenda that will help actual people.

    What’s the Left’s vision of the future? More word substitutions? Brilliant. That’ll get people to the polls.

    6
  42. drj says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But no, we’re not unnecessarily making enemies with our incessant pedantry, , everything is great, and the unwashed will just have to adjust..

    Dude, there is absolutely nothing Democrats can do to prevent Fox News from telling their viewers that the evil libtards hate them and want to introduce communist sharia law.

    If it wasn’t this, it would be something else.

    This isn’t about pointy-headed pedants, this is about a propaganda network that will stir shit up regardless. This is not about Democrats being too progressive, this is about a minority rule-supporting propaganda network manufacturing outrage.

    And you are advocating appeasement without even realizing it. Because whatever Democrats do or not do – it will never, ever be enough.

    Fox News and assorted scum will never rest until the sluts, coloreds, and sexual deviants shut up and let the decent, Christian men tell them what’s good for them.

    Until you let them do that, they will find some reason, any reason to tell their viewers that you hate America. (I mean, who gets really, genuinely offended by the future use of “Founders” instead of “Founding Fathers?”)

    Good luck with that.

    9
  43. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    This is helpful, thanks. A few follow-ups if you’ll indulge me:

    1) Is the language issue always and only virtue signaling? Is there room for genuine belief that this is actually important.

    2) Assuming this happens, are you confident that people will attribute this (entirely or partially) to the language issue? That assumption is central to your prediction, no?

  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @drj:
    So your view of politics is Fox News vs. us and there’s no one else who might be influenced.

    Let me tell you why you’re wrong. Fox News has tried desperately to make Joe Biden over as a communist. That effort has failed, and Fox is left to cast about for another attack line. Why? Because Joe Biden is not remotely a communist. So the charge doesn’t stick.

    For an attack, even an unreasonable one, to work, it needs a kernel of truth. So, yes, it does matter what we say, and serving up red meat for the enemy is fucking stupid. Especially since it accomplishes absolutely nothing for real voters.

    The battle is over about 5% of voters. 95% is baked in. But that 5% is the difference between a democracy and an authoritarian state. What are we telling the 5%? You’re using the wrong words, we will tell you what words to use, and if you don’t use our magic words you’re a bad person.

    I vote D, I give money to D candidates, I’m a hardcore bleeding heart liberal. If I can’t stand this faculty lounge bullshit, who the fuck do you think it attracts? We’re preaching solely to the choir, and we’re doing it in the faulty belief that demographics will save us. Except that it won’t, because Blacks are stuck at 13% and Hispanics – the growing demo – don’t seem to really buy into our brand of scolding pedantry, a fact we should probably have figured out around the time Hispanics told us to shove ‘LatinX’ up our fundaments.

    We keep saying we have a crisis of democracy, and our solution is more synonyms.

    9
  45. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    1) a- Nothing is always anything. b- The genuineness of a belief is irrelevant. Jeffery Dahmer genuinely believed cooked penis was tasty.
    2) I’m not confident people will think anything. Or think at all. But I think it likely that the people here will eventually see the truth. It’s a smart bunch of people, just perhaps too heavy on academics and engineers, neither group being notable for being able to communicate with the hoi polloi.

    1
  46. drj says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    So your view of politics is Fox News vs. us and there’s no one else who might be influenced.

    That’s not what I am saying at all. I’m not even saying that shit like LatinX can’t be off-putting.

    But “Founders” instead of “Founding Fathers?” Really, come on.

    And what do you think would happen if Dems would shut up about language? It would be straight back to trans people in sports/bathrooms (or whatever).

    Dems stay completely silent on culture war stuff? Then it’s back to bridge maintenance being socialist and the ACA’s so-called death panels.

    There is no point in trying to appease a bunch of lying sociopaths.

    You want to argue against too much focus on using the “correct” language? Fine. But save it for an occasion when it’s actually warranted.

    4
  47. drj says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    and our solution is more synonyms.

    I should add, the Democrats’ solutions are actually things like HR1 and the infrastructure bill.

    But Fox News isn’t really talking about stuff like that, is it?

    This entire discussion shows that you are quite nicely falling for their trap.

    4
  48. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The genuineness of a belief is irrelevant.

    Hmmm… Let’s unpack that a bit. Hypothetical D voter/advocate genuinely believes that language is powerful. Eg, that referring to people as schizophrenic or homeless or disabled etc does harm – to the referent and to society.

    Should (must!) this person keep quiet about this, not advocate for better (from their perspective) language, etc.? Because it might be poorly portrayed/understood by their political rivals? Which might (might!) impact the voting behavior of a small group of “undecideds”?

    That seems to be one implication of your position.

    2
  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: So many people so sure they’re right and I’m wrong.

    and yet you never ask yourself why.

    You’re all wrong.

    Heh, hubris, thy name is Michael Reynolds. Michael, you could very well end up being right here, but if you do, it’s pure luck.

    You are a smart guy. Really you are, but you have been reading way too many of your press clippings. A time is coming when reality is going to say “No, no, you are wrong. Fck off.”

    And you will.

    3
  50. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Actually, I just wanted to take a moment towards the end of the day to thank everyone for what is turned out to be the best laugh I’ve had in. well, forever. Obviously this is an issue that many people (not just Michael) feel passionately about. Unfortunately from my perspective, it’s all an argument about vanilla ice cream flavors. But then again, I am Flat Earth Luddite, and I’m not allowed to play with the nice children on the monkey bars.

    2
  51. Gustopher says:

    @drj:

    This entire discussion shows that you are quite nicely falling for their trap.

    If Michael falls for the trap that so many other people fall for, while shouting “it’s a trap!”, is he wrong?

    Not entirely.

    Republicans will do anything to keep the subject on bullshit — because they are not a party of ideas. We should be a bit more reluctant to engage at that level.

    I don’t think a style guide at the Fed is outrageous. The moral outrage over the Founding Fathers being Founders is ridiculous and should be met with “we’re trying to rebuild the economy so everyone is included in prosperity, and this is what you complain about? Why do you hate Betsy Ross? Why do you want to exclude the women of today?” Any version of “you’re being an idiot while there are real problems in America.”

    But words have meaning and impact — there are black folks bothered by blacklist/whitelist (whether this is a result of systemic racism in the schools resulting in a poor understanding of etymology is a separe issue), and grandfathering things. Given Black vaccine hesitancy because of racist institutions in medicine, it’s probably worth it to accommodate them — not immediately worth it, but being inclusive helps them feel included and like part of America. So maybe they will be less hesitant to take the covid-23 vaccine because they will trust the institutions a bit more.

    But we don’t have to be scolds about it. A style guide for government agencies to use inclusive language is good. Correcting someone who uses last years word… eh, just use the current word around them and they will likely pick it up. If what they are saying is so awful to be actually hurtful, do it gently, possibly with an eye roll. “It turns out that word is now offensive, they like to be called X now (eye roll of solidarity)”

    The eye roll of solidarity works wonders.

    Meanwhile, LatinX is dumb. Wait until Latinos, Latinas and Latines have something to say about the problem, and use what they generally settle on.

    2
  52. Gustopher says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:

    But then again, I am Flat Earth Luddite, and I’m not allowed to play with the nice children on the monkey bars.

    Terms of your parole?

    1
  53. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Gustopher:
    I have to keep my raincoat closed. Also, I’m forbidden from teaching explosives manufacturing or recreational pharmaceutics. Other than them taking my passport, I’m free as a bird!

    1
  54. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:
    Oh,before Cracker reminds me, I’m also not allowed to teach them the odds on filling an inside straight.

  55. Ken_L says:

    How did this thread, about Fox engaging in one of the endless manufactured culture war “disputes” they specialize in, turn into an attack on Democrats? Are they supposed to run the Fed now, just like they ran the Mueller investigation and the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic?

    The use of “Founding Fathers” instead of “Founders” is (intentionally or not) a means of reaffirming the stereotypical conservative belief that men are the natural wielders of authority in the world, just as the father is the head of the household, reflecting the Christian hierarchy headed by God the Father. It’s a classic instance of language subtly reinforcing a contentestable cultural value, which Fox clearly recognized. That’s why they got viewers agitated about it. Good on the Fed for issuing its directive.

    7
  56. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    So many people so sure they’re right and I’m wrong.

    You’ve turned unintentional self-parody into an art form.

    The problem with your posts on some of these topics isn’t arrogance, but arrogance combined with ignorance of the topic at hand.

    Are there plenty of reasons to question the focus on language? Yes.

    Are you making them? No.

    And uh, by the way, Jerome Powell was nominated to the Fed by Obama. But he is a Republican and Trump nominated him for chair.

    So you’re blaming Lefties for a decision made by a body chaired by a Republican, and that has all of one Democrat on it.

    So… Uh… Okay, I guess.

    3
  57. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: No reminders from this corner. I’ll just stick with my observation from yesterday that some of us here aren’t anywhere near as liberal as we imagine we are. Some of us aren’t even as liberal as I imagine that I am–and I don’t imagine that. At all.

    2
  58. Kurtz says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:

    After the flop or the turn? Or are we talking about Stud? What street?

    😉

  59. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Kurtz:
    The game I learned was 5 card draw. 5 at the table including dealer. IIRC, I was pre kindergarten when grandma started my math lessons…with a deck of cards.

    @Ken_L:
    Yeah, we took a hard bump coming out of the 3rd turn at Talladega and wound up in the stands, didn’t we?

  60. drj says:

    @Gustopher:

    But we don’t have to be scolds about it.

    Apart from some people on left-Twitter, we aren’t scolds about it. That’s just another Fox News myth.

    “Faculty lounge language” is the “coastal elites” of 2021.

    Don’t let the bad actors set the terms of the debate.

    3
  61. @Michael Reynolds:

    We barely have the Senate. We barely have the House, and will likely lose it. The blue wave died aborning, probably because we were so amazingly right about Defund.

    We barely have the Senate because of the way the Senate is structured, not because of style guides or even “defund the police.”

    Most House seats are not competitive for reason that has zero to do with what word the Fed uses to describe the dudes who founded the country. It has to do with the chamber being too small, the way lines are drawn, geographic sorting the population into urban and rural, and inherent flaws of systems that elect using single-seat districts.

    I could go one (and I have). If we are going to pretend like a style guide at the Fed (as well as what is clearly a long-term evolution of usage of language towards more inclusivity) is the reason the Democrats lose elections, well, good grief. That is absurd.

    I think that thing that gets me the most about the didactic nature of your position is that this kind of language shifts (on race and gender, etc) have been ongoing for decades. This is not new and much of it (like more gender neutral language and what we call different groups of people) have become the norm.

    I get bored arguing points when I know the people I’m arguing with will get it in a couple years, while never (of course) acknowledging that they were wrong. Arrogant? Yes, it is. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m right, or the fact that 12 months or 24 months from now you’ll all be nodding along sagely to the conclusion that we made enemies through sheer, irrelevant pedantry.

    This is parody, right?

    Because we didn’t stop called Blacks “colored” and “negro” (and other terms) some years ago.

    And we didn’t shift from the first person male as inclusive of all genders.

    We never stopped using certain terms for homosexuals.

    And there was not outcry at the time about how we were ruining the language, right? (This is the part that gets me. We have done all of this before).

    6
  62. @Andy:

    some words are “biased” words while other words are “bias-free.”

    That is, of course, a silly formulation.

  63. @Michael Reynolds:

    2) Losing the House in 2022.

    Are you fucking kidding me? That is going to be your proof?

    I hate to tell you, but the Ds are likely to lose to House regardless of any of this.

    The notion that a Fed style guide, or even this general discussion, is a tipping point for losing or retaining the House is utterly absurd.

    Truly, unequivocally absurd.

    2
  64. @Michael Reynolds:

    just perhaps too heavy on academics and engineers, neither group being notable for being able to communicate with the hoi polloi.

    I should not be campaigning for office, this is true. I shouldn’t be running a campaign.

    But, I know enough about politics to know that elections don’t boil down to issues like this, not in the least.

    2
  65. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The Left is losing the plot. Our job is not to obsessively correct word choice, our job is to do something about the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans are living in tents under freeways. Oh, I’m sorry, we did do something for the people living in tents: we’ve stopped calling them ‘homeless’ and started calling them ‘the un-housed.’ So that’s all fixed.

    Interesting this provoked the predictable Lefty reaction here, the academic Lefty culture as it were.

    @Andy:

    Even though this and similar policy changes in other large organizations are small stakes and more performative than anything else, the context is still about power. And that’s why certain people want to change word usage and meaning to terms and meanings that they want to promote, all from a position of authority whether that is a self-selected moral authority or more formal organizational authority. So yes, it’s not about supposed fairness to the tiny number of people who actually get outraged, it’s a contest for power over language, its meaning, and our broader culture. This is a battle where I don’t really take sides because I think the outrage is mostly a dumb, performative fad.

    Performative fad seems correct.

  66. lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Not merely Defund (ICE, Police) but how the BLM protests evolved with degeneration in too many instances into decredibilising looting and violence.

    When people, including you as me memory goes, were all charged up there was assertive general denial of negative effect but post-election information all point to a material effect on tipping points.

    I guess it is the moralising instinct, leading to blindness to self-harm.

  67. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Oh for God’s sake, Steven, obviously I’m broadening the issue out beyond the specifics of this particular style decision. I’m looking at this as part of a continuum, as it is seen by voters, regular people. What they see is, ‘Here they go again.’ The intention is not the point in politics, the perception is. We are telling a story. What is that story? What story are we telling average voters as we scold and lecture and invent linguistic tropes we insist they adopt before the end of the day? We’re telling them again and again that we are smarter, they are dumber – which happens to be true, but is not a winning message. Why on earth should they vote for us?

    As for the deleterious effect of ‘Defund’ I’m relying on Charlie Cook and on the party’s own autopsy, two respectable perspectives, no? Nothing is inevitable so long as humans are in the picture, so no, structural issues alone are not why we barely hold the Senate, though they are an important part of that picture. We hold the Senate because a tiny margin of voters in Arizona and Georgia decided they disliked us less than they disliked Trump.

    You and many of the people upstream in comments think this kind of hectoring is fine because that’s what academics do. You’re a teacher. Teacher’s correct people. I am not a teacher, I dislike that condescending teacherly voice, and a great many people feel the same.

    Here’s a thought experiment. You give a lecture, but with me standing beside you interrupting every time I think of a better word choice or a better analogy. How long would that go on before you stab me in the neck?

    Now, if I thought the Language Police were actually accomplishing something useful, I’d accept it. But they aren’t. They’re interrupting the story to no purpose. I’ve been instructed repeatedly that I ‘must’ use ‘LatinX.’ I objected that it seemed like linguistic imperialism, a pointless intrusion into another linguistic culture. But I tried to be a good little boy and play along. Until it turned out that actual Spanish speakers made clear they think the whole thing is linguistic imperialism. You know, what I said to begin with.

    So we have this whole absurd and insulting effort to ‘instruct’ speakers of Spanish (572,000,000 people FFS) complete with all the usual social media coercion, which is clearly rejected by everyone not currently employed by a university, and to what end? To demonstrate our moral disapproval of gendered nouns? Screw you, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, some anglo college kids in America say you must change.

    Nah, that wouldn’t annoy a voter.

    But, I know enough about politics to know that elections don’t boil down to issues like this, not in the least.

    People don’t vote for people they don’t like. That’s what this issue is. The issue is we come off like privileged, overeducated assholes and very few voters warm to that. And that is exactly how elections are won or lost.

    2
  68. Mary Furr says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    The style guide changes seem in sync with the historic movement in our country to reckon with and tell the truth about the the suppression of women, indigenous people, people of color, and various gender identities. That said, I have expressed similar cautions to my local Democrats in the wording they choose to express views to our conservative friends and neighbors. To those who aren’t paying close attention to language, the use of new terms and acronyms can seem (1) confounding, (2) silly, (3) shaming, (4) elitist. If the goal is to change hearts and minds, then gently writing , speaking–and doing–by example can be more powerful than coercion. By the way, I was recently corrected for using the terms “slaves” and “slaveholders.” The preferred terms are “enslaved” and “enslavers.” When it was explained–gently–why the terms have been deprecated, I chose to change my language.

    2
  69. Kurtz says:

    @lounsbury:

    Not merely Defund (ICE, Police) but how the BLM protests evolved with degeneration in too many instances into decredibilising looting and violence.

    This is dumb. Those protests had tens of thousands of people participating. The amount of damage that could and would have been done if even half, hell even a quarter, of them were bent on “violence and destruction” would have resulted in more than a few buildings burning to the ground.

    Quite frankly, the fact that you still choose this frame is what licenses right-wingers to kill police in the hopes of delegitimizing the protests.

  70. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I am not a teacher, I dislike that condescending teacherly voice, and a great many people feel the same.

    Yes, I’m sure they prefer asshole ex-con kid-lit author with a TV show in development hectoring them about the stupidity of religion and bankruptcy of conservatism.

    Let’s look at modern society:

    Law: language based
    Computer software: language based
    Rules specifying behavior at sporting events: language based
    Rules specifying determination of valedictorian: language based
    Journalism: language based

    Politics: language based, so much so that parties and candidates pay top dollar running focus groups trying to figure out the precise wording to use. Ever hear of Frank Luntz?

    Your profession: language based

    If you actually tried to understand the background of the arguments you’re railing against, you would be able to make actual arguments against it rather than relying on silly electoral analysis disproven by mountains of data.

    1
  71. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: ” I’m looking at this as part of a continuum, as it is seen by voters, regular people. ”

    There’s a point where I always know it’s not worth continuing a discussion, because the other party is not arguing in good faith. That point is when the person in question claims that he is the one who understands “regular people,” and that all said regular people agree with him.

    It’s hard to say who said speaker holds in greater contempt — all the masses he classifies as “regular,” or the person he’s talking to who is so up his own ass he can’t even connect with them.

    3
  72. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “I’m looking at this as part of a continuum, as it is seen by voters, regular people. ”

    By the way, are Blacks regular? Hispanics? Asian-Americans? Gays? Trans? Liberals? Homeless?

    Basically you are joining in with every bad political reporter in the country and deciding that the only people who count are old white guys in midwestern diners.

    And in your massive desire to “win,” you have decided that even you and your family don’t count as “regular people.”

    Thanks, I live in a bigger America.

    1
  73. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    People don’t vote for people they don’t like. That’s what this issue is. The issue is we come off like privileged, overeducated assholes and very few voters warm to that. And that is exactly how elections are won or lost.

    Thank G-d somebody finally said this out loud. I get why those who believe in these exercises in language would, but they fall into the trap of thinking that the majority of people are similarly situated political nerds or social activists who agree with them / value what they value. That isn’t remotely the case. The majority of voters, the vast majority in fact, make their ballot decisions either on a single issue or narrow range of issues that directly affects them or they make the decision on likeability. They are not, and never will be, policy wonks and they tend to be hypersensitive to being patronized about it. Joe Regular Voter might not know as much as they do, but he’s well aware of when he’s being talked down to.

    It’s been said that most people do not see the world as it is. They see it as they are. I suspect our friends here fall into that.

    3
  74. Ken_L says:

    I had quite a lucrative consulting contract in 1991 to remove and replace gender-specific language in a bunch of official documents. It’s infinitely depressing to read the same arguments against it still being peddled 30 years later.

    2
  75. @Michael Reynolds:

    obviously I’m broadening the issue out beyond the specifics of this particular style decision.

    Indeed. You know that the narrow issue of the style guide isn’t that big of a deal and you don’t want to engage on the more subtle question of how language matters (and how usage evolves), not to mention that this has been going on for decades. Instead, you want to make it about the Language Police and “Defund.”

    You and many of the people upstream in comments think this kind of hectoring is fine because that’s what academics do. You’re a teacher. Teacher’s correct people. I am not a teacher, I dislike that condescending teacherly voice, and a great many people feel the same.

    TBH, if we are going to match up which of us is more likely to straight-up tell others they are right or wrong with an authoritative voice, it is you and not me. (Just look at this thread, for crying out loud). Readers can correct me if I am allowing self-delusion to come into play here.

    And I say that knowing full well I get professorial.

    But, my friend, when it comes to condescending voices, you frequently are the leader in the clubhouse.

    Here’s a thought experiment. You give a lecture, but with me standing beside you interrupting every time I think of a better word choice or a better analogy. How long would that go on before you stab me in the neck?

    This is, of course, a ridiculous example and really is a classic example of a straw man argument.

    Of course that would be annoying–it couldn’t be anything other than annoying. It is, definitionally annoying.

    Michael, I know you know how a style guide works, and it doesn’t work like a guy off to the side interrupting a lecture.

  76. @Ken_L: Indeed—and that is part of my point: this is hardly new.