Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds

Michael Knowles, Regnery Publishing, 2022

If there is one book to help conservatives understand the tactics of the enemy and win the political fight for restoration of goodness, truth, and beauty in their country, it is Michael Knowles’ Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds. The Daily Wire talk-show host and graduate of Yale, originally known for his satirical bestseller, Reasons to Vote for Democrats, now impresses Americans with his extensive use of vocabulary as he explains the reason behind the hypocrisy that has permeated every aspect of American life.

Knowles exposes the intentional misuse of language employed by liberals over the past century in order to manipulate society. Political correctness (PC) is, per the dictionary, “a conformity to a body of liberal or radical opinion on social matter, characterized by the advocacy of approved views and the rejection of language and behavior considered discriminatory or offensive.” The author, however, proves the definition of PC to be much more precise and concise, calling it speech that “contradicts the underlying meaning of words.” He documents how this misuse of language is even more alarming than passing bad legislation or rioting in city streets, because it is the root cause of these problems and more.

Knowles’ emphasis on the power of speech is derived from two positive and negative examples, which he lays out at the beginning of his book. He cites the words of the ancient philosopher, Aristotle, and the text of the influential author, George Orwell. Aristotle uttered the famous truth that man is “a political animal,” meaning that at the most fundamental level of his nature, man needs to function within and as a society. Orwell put this truth to theory in his novel, Nineteen-Eighty-Four with the invention of the “politically correct lexicon” called Newspeak.

Speechless shows that political correctness today is an echo of Orwell’s dystopian society, whose government sought to control the way people think and act by controlling what they say. In chapter three, Knowles explains the roots of political correctness in cultural Marxism, which denies moral principles and seeks to breed revolution through “the concrete action of men...[to] transform reality.” He cites the philosophies of Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist imprisoned by Mussolini, and Niccoló Machiavelli, an Enlightenment thinker whom Knowles calls “the prince of political immorality,” as the foundations of political correctness. They emphasized Marxist revolution not so much by physical but cultural force, which Gramsci called, “cultural hegemony.” They understood the wisdom of Aristotle and the foresight of Orwell: since man naturally needs to commune with others, seek to control the most fundamental way in which he does that — speech — and you control him.

Words do change over time, but there is a difference between the natural evolution of a word and the deliberate changing of a word to hide its true meaning, which is what political correctness does. Knowles explains the natural evolution of language using the word “literally,” “which once meant the use of a word in its most basic sense without recourse to metaphor, but now also describes the use of words metaphorically, which is the opposite of literally.” The word “literally” now means something more than it did originally, yet it does not have any biased agenda attached to its modern meaning.

In contrast, the meaning of the word “gender” underwent an unnatural evolution. In the chapter entitled, “Battle for the sexes,” Knowles states that for 600 years the word “gender” referred to “the kinds and classes of people and things,” as anyone who has ever learned a Romance language can confirm. But in the late 20th century, Feminists began using the word as “a euphemism for the sex of a human being, often intended to emphasize the social and cultural, as opposed to the biological distinctions between the sexes.” This new definition might be acceptable if there was no morally evil intention behind the act of redefining the word.

A euphemism, as such, is a stylistic word choice used to soften the reality of a situation: “I’m sorry that your mother passed away,” for example, is much more sympathetic than “I’m sorry your mother died.” However, as Knowles points out, PC does not use euphemisms to soften reality; it uses them to “conceal reality.” Redefining gender, consequentially, opens the door to allowing biological castrations, murder of the unborn (and in some cases, the born), and deconstruction of the nuclear family. Even today, new horrors once considered illegal are slowly becoming more socially licit through the rampant confusion of what sex is, starting by its misuse in everyday speech.

The radical speed at which words are changing is alarming. As Knowles writes, “Conservatives never seem to fight back. They can’t even seem to keep up. Just as soon as they learnt “eh newly” coined term or definition, jargon mutates again.” This raises the question: how is PC able to permeate the speech of every American so effectively if it is so fundamentally wrong? The answer is twofold: education and censorship.

In chapters eight and nine, Knowles shows how the next generations are being groomed in academics not to observe so much what is written on the paper, but, rather, the agendas the teacher wishes to enforce. “Black Studies,” “Women’s Studies,” “Queer Studies” are now pushed to the forefront of the syllabus to replace classic Western cultural literature — the culture of the United States.

In the classroom, one cannot study basic world history or read a Shakespearean sonnet without focusing on critical race theory or the sexual orientation of the author. As Knowles puts it, “the radicals revel in castigating the Bard or his stereotypical portrayal of Shylock as a greedy Jew in The Merchant of Venice, but they never get around to praising his profound description of ‘the quality of mercy’ that ‘droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.’”

More than attempting to destroy a student’s ability to objectively analyze a text, however, radical PC enforcers follow up their actions by “Locking Down Dissent” and enforcing “The Purge.” In chapter 14, Knowles exposes the infiltration of politics into the medical field, when, during the 2020 Covid lockdowns, the World Health Organization redefined “herd immunity” in order to make it conform to their wishes that everyone be vaccinated. The “experts” into whose hands Americans have put their lives, also declared “white supremacy a lethal public health issue that...contributes to COVID-19” during the BLM riots of 2021.

In chapter 15, the author lists many examples of how those who try to speak their mind are censored from social media, or worse, lose their jobs. The fact that an organization can consider itself so powerful as to change fundamental meanings of medical terms or make up diseases, daring to dupe those with a modicum of common sense, is no less than insulting. Yet more than that, preventing the truth from being known is even more alarming and is why many conservatives demand their right to “free speech.”

Knowles’ solution to the problem of PC, however, is not free speech. He writes: “Conservatives have wasted decades attempting to thwart political correctness through dime-store philosophizing over ‘free speech’. Speech is pointed and always has been. All cultures have taboos...[they] make clear what a culture worships and what it abhors.”

He continues by describing how every religion has a set of rules for its followers: Jews of the Old Testament were forbidden to utter the name of God, and Catholics “for millennia...have refrained from eating meat on Fridays.” Any institution that is looking out for its people puts down the law and lays out conditions for the common good. Standards are put in place to unite people and help them live their best lives. Liberals know this. “The social engineers who developed political correctness set out with the explicit goal of destroying traditional standards and establishing new standards of speech in their place,” writes Knowles.

The author believes free speech is not the balanced solution, but the opposite extreme because it would allow any opinion to be publicized, be it to the detriment of the common good. When conservatives advocate for free speech, they might fancy that they allow themselves more speaking room, but equally they allow the spread of those same false ideas they seek to condemn. “We give our ideological foes free rein to define and enforce their opposite vision of the good, to which everyone will ultimately be forced to submit or else face censorship and ostracism,” writes Knowles. He insists that it is not enough to call out liberals, but that one must ban the publicizing of bad ideas altogether, and then reinstate moral codes and traditional standards in order for the good, true, and beautiful to flourish.

In sum, a careful read of Speechless will enlighten readers as to why society’s standards have been so lowered over time and why so many misconceptions of the truth are now accepted as “the norm.” Explaining the malicious birth of political correctness and its successful instigation of unspeakable hypocrisy and madness, Speechless will encourage readers to develop a fresh, steady habit of thinking before they speak.

As Knowles points out, conservatives “must not merely demand the right to speak; more importantly, [they] must have something to say. Both men and beasts make sounds. The latter can only make noise, but the former is capable of speech, a distinction that separates and elevates him above the rest of creation.” Take away this distinction, and a man becomes no more free-thinking than a sheep.

This review was written by Theresa Kallal, a senior at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s Kansas, majoring in Liberal Arts. She developed her love of seeking the truth through literature from the excellent teachers who have influenced her life, especially the Dominican Sisters who taught her in high school. After college, she hopes to share her love for the classics through writing and teaching.

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