This story is truly nuts. Not much surprises me any more, but this quite literally Orwellian story—in which a dictionary changed the definition of a phrase to align with a Democrat senator’s misuse of it in an attack on a conservative female judge—is almost precisely the sort of thing Winston Smith was assigned to do in the Ministry of Truth. If the evidence for the claim doesn’t exist, simply invent it, and pretend that this is the way it was all along. From The Federalist:
The online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary changed the definition of “sexual preference” on the same day that senators scolded Judge Amy Coney Barrett for her use of the word during day two of her confirmation hearings.
When questioned by Democratic senators on the judiciary committee on Obergefell v. Hodges, which decreed a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Sens. Mazie Hirono and Cory Booker reprimanded Barrett for using the term “sexual preference,” claiming that is was outdated and offensive.
“You use the term sexual preference to describe those in the LGBTQ community,” Hirono said. “Let me make clear: ‘sexual preference’ is an offensive, an outdated term. It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not.”
While Barrett apologized for the alleged error, saying that she meant no harm to anyone by using the widely adopted terminology, the leftist senators complained that Barrett’s use of the word indicates her personal beliefs about the case ruling.
“I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community. If I did, I greatly apologize,” Barrett clarified.
It was shortly after this public scolding that internet archives show Webster’s made a change to the page for the definition of “preference,” adding that when used as “sexual preference” the word is “offensive.”
Despite Democrats’ claims that Barrett gravely misspoke and that her words warranted an apology, many Democratic politicians including Presidential Nominee Joe Biden and Senate Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin and Richard Blumenthal recently used the word in public settings and received no pushback.
Many news outlets also recently published stories using the term “sexual preference” and did not qualify or label it as offensive.
While this Orwellian addition shocked some on Twitter, it follows a pattern of the institutions guarding the language guidelines in society backtracking on their definitions to match what the mob is demanding.
In late September, the Associated Press Stylebook which guides most newsrooms’ grammar, punctuation, and terminology, exercised its authority in the journalism world to qualify the term “riot” and discouraged media outlets from using it, despite the apparent violence in many cities across the nation.
“Use care in deciding which term best applies: A riot is a wild or violent disturbance of the peace involving a group of people. The term riot suggests uncontrolled chaos and pandemonium,” said the AP Stylebook.
“Focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s,” the announcement continued.
Incidentally, it turns out that the late and sainted Ruth Bader Ginsberg, abortion queen and progressive hero, also used the phrase “sexual preference”—as recently as 2017. The very woman Amy Coney Barrett has been compared to by Democrat senators over the three-day marathon hearings in which she calmly parried the verbal assaults of progressive politicians (without notes!) used the very phrase that Hirono pounced on to create one of the week’s only “gotcha” moments. And to ensure that this non-event was actually seen as problematic, staff members at the dictionary had to literally change the definition to ensure that the attack would stick.
This, by the way, is exactly why Jordan Peterson was willing to die on the “transgender pronouns” hill. It wasn’t that he cared specifically about that issue so much. It was the fact that as a researcher of totalitarianism, he recognized that if you control the language, you control the conversation. If you have the ability to excise words and create words and change the definitions of others, you force your ideological opponents to debate on your terms—because your terms are literally the only ones they can use. If you accuse someone of using a bigoted phrase, and the phrase turns out to not be “bigoted,” your Ministry of Truth helpers can simply change the definition in the dictionary for them. It’s gotten cliche to refer to Orwell’s 1984 all the time, but seriously–go read the book.
As Dr. Charles Camosy mused on Twitter: “The kind of cultural power necessary to push institutions like Webster to make instachanges like this is stunning to think about. An absolutely massive cultural shift has taken place over a historically-tiny period of time.”