BMO Harris’ Failed, Orwellian Effort to Censor Dictionaries

orwell
Where have you gone George Orwell? Liberals turn their lonely eyes to you... (Roy Katzenberg via Flickr)
The BMO Harris bank claims it wants to "remove gender bias from dictionaries" in an Orwellian ad campaign that, so far, appears to be a colossal flop.

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about BMO Harris Bank‘s recent, bizarre ad campaign aimed at removing “gender bias” in dictionaries is that it has, so far, been a massive, PC belly flop, on par with ongoing efforts by lefty activists to force Hispanic Americans to refer to themselves as Latinx.

At least the latter effort has been arguably organic, driven by sincere-but-delusional social justice warriors. By contrast, BMO Harris Bank is a mid-level Chicago-based financial institution with more than 500 branches in various states across the country and an obvious profit motive. Why would it want to get in the business of telling dictionaries how to define words?

Change.org
Going viral, this BMO Harris petition is not… (Screenshot via Change.org)

And yet, that’s precisely what BMO Harris’ latest media campaign has done via Twitter ads, YouTube videos and a Change.org petition, demanding the lexicographers at Mirriam-Webster and other such outlets drop supposedly-troublesome terms like “gold digger,” “shopaholic” and “trophy wife,” which, according to BMO, “signal to girls and women” that they’re “incompetent” with money.

“These sexist labels are still in many dictionaries today,” the BMO Harris petition reads.

It continues:

Dictionary.com defines a gold digger as “Informal. a woman who associates with or marries a man chiefly for material gain.”

When even the simple words we use suggest to girls that they are bad with money, it undermines their financial confidence.

So, we’re going to change these terms that permeate our language and persistently hold women back from financial empowerment. Let’s urge every dictionary to remove gendered language from the definitions of these harmful terms.

The petition sends mixed messages on whether BMO Harris wants to eliminate these words completely, or just redefine them. Nor does the petition seem to get straight why it wants these terms on the chopping block.

For instance, the petition states that these words “persistently hold women back from financial empowerment,” which seems potentially at odds with the definition of a “gold digger.”

The puritanical may wiggle their nostrils at it, but “gold digger” certainly can convey financial empowerment, albeit not in a manner approved by mainstream mores. (First Lady Melania Trump comes to mind.)

Mirriam-Webster defines “shopaholic” as “a person who likes to shop very much.” How this renowned lexicon could “correct” that term to BMO Harris’ liking, short of deleting it, is unclear.  Nor is the term exclusive to women.

“Trophy wife”? Miriam-Webster and the other online dictionaries targeted by the petition all note that word is used as a pejorative for an attractive, often young woman who marries a rich or powerful geezer.

Does BMO Harris want the term redefined in a positive way?

Hard to know. BMO Harris’ PR flacks declined to comment when Front Page Confidential contacted them.

Can’t blame them. Who would want to decipher this poorly-thought out propaganda for the media?

Unsurprisingly, the bank’s Change.org petition has failed to go viral, garnering about 1,100 signatures as this article goes to press, meaning BMO apparently couldn’t get all of its U.S.-based employees to sign on.

Retail Absurdity

The BMO Harris campaign features variations on a two-and-a-half-minute YouTube video, “Jane’s story,” which depicts its white female protagonist as a perpetual victim: not called on in math class, too timid to run for student treasurer, and subject to microaggressions from friends, society at large and even from her husband.

(Note: Posted in March, the original video has hardly gone gangbusters, garnering a little over 53,000 views to date.)

As an adolescent, Jane’s fragile self-image is defined by terms such as “retail therapy,” which she comes across while shopping with her mom.

Studies have shown that “retail therapy” — buying something in order to make yourself feel good — is an actual phenomenon and not necessarily a negative one. Both men and women do it.

But somehow the term helps transform little Jane into a wallflower for life.

Essentially, the video’s tale is that of a white woman whose fate and personality are inextricably intertwined with materialism, almost as if BMO Harris is buying into the same sexist cliches and tropes that it says it wants to eradicate.

Or is this just a matter of marketing: a supposedly progressive message of empowerment and diversity aimed at attracting upper-middle class Caucasian gals with financial anxiety and low self-esteem?

Interestingly, the Change.org petition offers the following checkbox for potential signers: “Please share my name and email address with BMO Financial Group, so that I can receive updates on this campaign and others.”

Because empowerment and online sales pitches go hand in hand.

A word of advice: be careful what you click on if you visit the BMO Harris petition site. Should you sign yourself up by accident, getting your name removed is a pain in the tuchis, as this writer can attest.

Alls Well That’s Orwell

BMO is shorthand for Banque de Montréal, which is BMO Harris’ parent institution.  Given that progressive politics are as common as back bacon and moose drool in the Great White North, the following Orwellian ad campaign makes perfect sense for the land known as “America’s hat.” In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, less so.

In an October 6 press release from its offices in Chicago and Toronto, BMO Harris trumpeted its efforts to celebrate International Day of the Girl, (aka, International Day of the Girl Child), which falls on October 11 and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 “to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.”

Reportedly, the resolution was presented by the Canadian delegation to the U.N., and many of its goals seem laudable. Who can be against fighting violence, hunger, discrimination, etc. among girls worldwide?

BMO Harris’ feel-good embrace of world girls’ day seems anodyne for the most part, save for this ill-fated attempt at pressuring dictionary editors.

Actual dictionaries ain’t what they used to be. Most people prefer to GTS (Google That Shit) these days. Kanye West and Niki Minaj have more influence on the culture than some dead ofay pencil-pusher like  Noah Webster.

Still, any attempt at “cleansing” dictionaries should be anathema in an open society.

BMO’s ad campaign is no outlier, but one of several, troubling harbingers of a rise in censorship by an ascendent left, from Lara Bazelon’s recent cover story in The New York Times Magazine on the “problem” of freedom of speech, to none other than Mirriam-Webster altering its definition of the word “preference” in response to comments made by a U.S. Senator.

So-called progressives have long been enamored of the idea of regulating thought and behavior through the control of language.

George Orwell observed this phenomena in his dystopian classic 1984,  in which the invented language of “Newspeak” becomes an instrument of totalitarianism no less horrifying than torture or mutilation.

In one passage, a philologist named Syme schools the novel’s narrator, Winston Smith, on the beauty of Newspeak.

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” Syme asks. “In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

Syme tells Smith, in words progressives might now find pleasurable, “‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Granted, in the novel, a Stalinist, one-party system inflicts Newspeak on the masses.

BMO Harris has only the power of persuasion, which the company wields with all the efficacy of a praying mantis playing a plastic ocarina.

And ICYMI, please read:
Lacey/Larkin Trial Rescheduled to Start Almost Exactly Three Years After 2018 Arrests
and
Federal Prosecutors Guilty of Widespread Misconduct in White-Collar Exonerations

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About Stephen Lemons

Stephen Lemons is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering everything from government corruption to white-supremacist gangs. In addition to Front Page Confidential, his work has appeared in Phoenix New Times, the Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report magazine.

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