Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Sir, you need to get back".

There is an item on the New York Times about a demonstration taking place at the University of Missouri. In the clip a student journalist is surrounded and jostled by members of the crowd who try to stop him taking pictures.

What interests me is the form of words that they used to do this. They don't say "get back". They say,  "you need to get back". They say it repeatedly. They seem to like the "you need to" formulation. It seems to suggest that this is somehow a universal imperative the man should obey rather than the instructions of a gang with their particular agenda. I find it pretty ugly. The weasel pretence at politeness makes it more so.

Even uglier at the end of the clip is an assistant professor of mass media, no less, calling for "some muscle" to help remove a troublesome journalist. I sincerely hope she's embarrassed.


  1. Melissa Click, for it is she, is what is disparagingly referred to as a social justice warrior, and is part of an on-campus trend, both in the US and in the UK, towards left-wing authoritarianism. A warping of language and diction in a manner that enshrines self-entitlement and that often implies that those in disagreement are somehow racist, sexist, or homophobic, is a key weapon in their arsenal.

    I am on the political left myself and have always associated authoritarianism with the extreme right, so it's been a shock, this past year and a half, to see it espoused by those with whom I share ideological DNA.

    There is more that could be said about Click and he ilk, but this is not the forum. In any case she has resigned her courtesy appointment to the Journalism Department, although she still teaches in the Communications Department.

  2. The other forms of this kind of imperative include "You're going to have to...(stop that/put that back/move away etc.)"

    Or, worse still, "I'm going to have to ask you to..."

    Pretty sure these phrases are being taught in some kind of conflict management - by making the injunction impersonal, it is no longer seen as a demand made by an individual, but rather as an explanation of the "rules", and so less likely to provoke a personal physical response to the individual reluctantly "quoting" them.

  3. its a ripple effect from the form of social compact that is utilised in such a violent society no? like the southern Californian policeman who suggested he could punch me in the face with impunity because nobody was around - he still called me 'sir' while he did so...

  4. A link for more information on Click's resignation and apology offered with no comment