Political Correctness: A Proposed Definition

by John Holbo on May 1, 2014

For the last month or so ‘political correctness’ – the term – has been bugging me. Perhaps there’s been a slight uptick in usage on conservative sites and blogs, due to some combination of Cliven Bundy, Brendan Eich and Donald Sterling. But really the problem is chronic.

Why did ‘political correctness’, which is so … Dinesh D’Souza circa 1991 … become an evergreen right-wing complaint?

Conservatives might say: because Bundy, Eich, Sterling – plus Paula Deen and that Duck Dynasty guy. There is one grain of truth to this. A couple posts back I remarked that, if MLK came back from the dead, he would find it weird that that there is – oh, for example: lots of school segregation. Yet rich old white people can get in a ton of trouble just for using the n-word in private. What a crazy old world it’s shaped up to be. This situation is so crazy that you get conservatives deducing the non-existence of racism, generally, from Sterling’s case: “His ugly remarks are proof, as I’ve said before, not that racism is alive and well in America, but rather that racism is on its last leg. The man has been publicly branded a pariah. The American people have made him an outcast. You think any of that would have happened if we really were a racist nation, as some would have us believe?”

But the obvious upside-down and backwards character of this argument just goes to show why these sorts of cases don’t work at all for purposes of alleging a climate of ‘political correctness’. Reason: even the people who are arguing that these sorts of cases are ‘political correctness’ run amok don’t think it’s acceptable to be racist or even homophobic, these days. The real puzzle, then, isn’t why using the n-word is considered unacceptable, given the consensus that being racist is unacceptable. The puzzle is why school segregation is considered fine. Or maybe the puzzle is even: why is racism still considered unacceptable, if school segregation is fine?

In general, there will always be things it is considered unacceptable to say, not for some weird, arbitrary, linguistic reason, but because it is always considered unacceptably bad to be an unacceptably bad person. If you say or do things that make people believe you are a horrible person, people will believe you are a horrible person. (People are illogical, sure, but not usually that illogical.) There is no society in which being an unacceptably unacceptable person is considered perfectly acceptable, hence politically and socially acceptable. Of course, what is considered acceptable changes … but being unacceptable is always unacceptable. It doesn’t seem like we need the term ‘political correctness’ to label the fact that there’s a little Lemongrab in everyone who isn’t a strict moral relativist.

The puzzle, with regard to conservatives, is not that liberals are tying their tongues with arbitrary linguistic bans. The puzzle is why they voluntarily wear an Overton Straightjacket. Conservatives are almost always about one inch from saying something that conservatives themselves agree is totally unacceptable to say. That’s why they often end up saying totally unacceptable stuff. I have my own theories about that. Let’s stick with political correctness.

The problem with the term – ‘political correctness’ – is that, at least since it was born as a right-wing term of abuse, it’s never had to do a day’s honest work in its life. (It’s the semantic equivalent of wingnut welfare.)

So I’m thinking: maybe we could offer it an honest job? Then maybe the good could drive out the bad, in time? (It’s a dream.)

‘Political correctness’ is, in fact, a pretty good name for a highly specific form of fallacious, motivated reasoning that has no accepted name. It’s not, per se, partisan thinking, or tribalism (although these feed it.) Kahneman writes about the general phenomenon of ‘substituting questions’ (not a very snappy name) when we confront a question or problem that’s just too complex or hard.

If a satisfactory answer to a hard question is not found quickly, System 1 [fast thought] will find a related question that is easier and will answer it. I call the operation of answering one question in place of another substitution.

I also adopt the following terms:

The target question is the assessment you intend to produce.

The heuristic question is the simpler question that you answer instead.

Thinking, Fast and Slow
(p. 97)

Anyway, let ‘political correctness’ name the following slip. You are asked to judge the likelihood that P is true. You have no way to do that, with anything like epistemic responsibility, so you substitute: what is the prospect of getting some class of people (possibly your tribe, but perhaps a larger set) to proceed, politically, on the basis that P. You thus get a slider of possible degrees of political acceptability of P, which you fallaciously read as degrees of probability that P. Anything politically unacceptable is treated as false; anything it is politically obligatory to accept is treated as true; anything somewhere in between is treated as some degree of maybe, per its degree of likely acceptability.

This might seem circular, because it effectively reduces ‘political correctness’ to ‘political acceptability’, which might be a synonym. But I hope it’s clear that I’m getting at something non-circular. You are treating the likelihood of being able to induce belief in P, and action on the basis of P, in some group Q, as an index of the probability that P, independent of all that.

Political partisans engage in this sort of thinking all the time, of course. If their side isn’t prepared to act on the basis of the truth that P, it can’t be true. But not all partisan thinking is irrational in this way. You may refuse to give P the time of day, not because you don’t think it is possibly true, but to avoid offending someone in your coalition. Pragmatism is not always irrationality, even though it often involves tolerance for irrationality – or at least touchiness – in others.

Even some irrational partisan thinking is not irrational in quite this way. Not all partisan irrationality is so sensitively crowd-minded as the fallacy I am outlining. Mine is a fallacy for those who think they can pick winners in political horseraces, and mistake this for a more fundamental attunement to reality.

From which it follows: some not especially partisan political thinking will be highly ‘politically correct’.

Politics is the art of the possible. My fallacy is the inadvertent art of mistaking degrees of political possibility for degrees of truth. Not all artful politicians are party loyalists. Hence, moderates and trimmers are just as likely to commit the fallacy of political correctness as fanatics and partisans. Punditry as a whole will have an innate weakness for political correctness.

Just to get us started, here is a piece by Ryan Cooper, arguing that Clive Crook is blinded by political correctness. Crook has no way of judging the degree of risk posed by the threat of global warming. He’s no expert. But he has a way of judging the degree of likelihood that belief that global warming will have serious consequences can be made the basis for political action. The answer is: the likelihood is low. Crook, not noticing that he has bait-and-switched his own question, downplays the risks of global warming, in effect on the grounds that the risks of anyone doing anything about the problem, whether it is serious or not, is low. Which obviously makes no sense.

As Cooper puts it:

Any position called “moderate” with respect to climate science would, at a minimum, engage with the evidence and predictions, which leads straightforwardly to a need for extremely aggressive action as soon as possible. But Crook’s position is political moderation — that is, simply picking a point somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum.

Political moderation on climate change is many things, but perhaps the most important one is that, as we’ve seen, it is incredibly risky.

To conclude: ‘politically correct’ is currently a term with no meaning, but regular use. I propose my definition as a meaning that will enable the term, henceforth, to acquire at least occasional, more respectable employment. Conservatives are, of course, perfectly free to seek and find examples of leftists engaging in politically correct thinking, on this new, solider semantic basis. I’m quite sure it’s quite common. People are often inclined to conflate judgments of the factual likelihood of P with the likelihood that some political faction, or coalition, could be induced to proceed on the basis that the factually of P is likely.

{ 74 comments }

1

maidhc 05.01.14 at 9:10 am

I think “political correctness” was originally a left-wing joke. Like something out of reading The Nation.

2

John Holbo 05.01.14 at 9:13 am

I think it was originally a left-wing complaint against doctrinaire communist party-line thinking.

3

Tim Chambers 05.01.14 at 9:17 am

I have a socially conservative sister who believes that racism no longer exists in America and that nothing her Conservative brethren say could possibly be construed as racist. Yet she rants about multiculturalism and political correctness all the time. The term may constitute a Conservative slur towards the vilification of offensive language, but to me it is simply the denial of the sociopath at the dinner table. Many would equate speaking no evil with the absence of evil, as though evil only existed in speech. We suppress such offensive language out of fear of the thinking behind it, both in ourselves and in others.

4

chris y 05.01.14 at 9:36 am

maidh and John Holbo are certainly right. I’m old enough to remember it as a left wing joke. Some versions were actually quite funny. I have no idea of the process whereby the right appropriated it, but it might make an interesting study.

5

JPL 05.01.14 at 10:59 am

The term ‘politically correct’ (This should be the basic term.) is used to refer to or describe a property of the content of public acts of language use such that what is said does not give rise to conventional reactions of taking offense on the part of the speech community, where the speech community whose sensibility is in question is roughly regarded as delimited by, for example, the audience of “mainstream” media.

There is thus an appeal to the notion of accepted, perhaps recently revised, social conventions. Some social groups may feel that they were not in on the conversations whereby the ideas in question became accepted, and the expressions complained about as “politically correct” are out of line with the established conventional language use of these groups. There may or may not be good reasons for the complaint that ideas have become conventionally accepted without what would be regarded by the complainers as adequate argument.

That’s my first- pass stab at a general definition. I’m sure it could be expressed more elegantly, but I was trying to get a precise idea of what (or what kind of thing) we’re talking about. In the complaints of the right there sometimes seems to be an element of resemblance to their refusal to go along with the latest trends, such as using energy- saving light bulbs or eating arugula.

This notion, of “political correctness”, should not, however, be applied to the Sterling case. The sentiments expressed by Sterling, which are reflective of conventional expressions shared by his in-group, should be condemned in no uncertain terms as absolutely unacceptable and wrong, with reasons given. It should be made clear, especially to people who share Sterling’s conventional views, that it is ethically unacceptable to talk of others in these terms (when it has negative social effects) and especially ethically unacceptable for a political party (the Republicans in this case) to appeal to voters, even covertly, as supporting the persistence of such views. I emphasize that the problematic expressions should be focused and explicit reasons given for their harmfulness. The Republicans need to be made to abandon their appeal to voters on this basis, and any objections or denials from them should be rejected. Condemnation of the sentiments expressed by Sterling can not be waved away as mere “political correctness”.

6

David 05.01.14 at 11:04 am

It is not that complex. The term “politically correct” is mostly just a way for white men to frame their unreformed bigotry as rebellion against an imaginary liberal social hegemony.

7

Yeah, what David wrote 05.01.14 at 11:33 am

Excuses mean something bad happen but I didn’t do it. Justification is something happened, I did it, but it wasn’t bad. Politically correct is something happened, it may be bad, but its not fair for you to complain about it.

8

Barry 05.01.14 at 11:33 am

John: “…Reason: even the people who are arguing that these sorts of cases are ‘political correctness’ run amok don’t think it’s acceptable to be racist or even homophobic, these days. The real puzzle, then, isn’t why using the n-word is considered unacceptable, given the consensus that being racist is unacceptable. The puzzle is why school segregation is considered fine. Or maybe the puzzle is even: why is racism still considered unacceptable, if school segregation is fine?”

I disagree strongly. Many, if not most of these people are racist, and are happy to act as racist as they can get away with. They have to keep plausible deniability, and resent it quite a bit.

Look at their actions, and the limitations they act under.

9

Barry 05.01.14 at 11:36 am

John: “Just to get us started, here is a piece by Ryan Cook, arguing that Clive Crook is blinded by political correctness. Crook has no way of judging the degree of risk posed by the threat of global warming. He’s no expert. But he has a way of judging the degree of likelihood that belief that global warming will have serious consequences can be made the basis for political action. The answer is: the likelihood is low. Crook, not noticing that he has bait-and-switched his own question, downplays the risks of global warming, in effect on the grounds that the risks of anyone doing anything about the problem, whether it is serious or not, is low. Which obviously makes no sense.”

You are assuming honesty on Crook’s part. John, please think about these things. You are likely aware of methods of deception and propaganda, such as ‘splitting the difference’ between a more fact-based position and a purely fraudulent position.

10

politicalfootball 05.01.14 at 12:39 pm

1 & 2 are correct, and I am as old as chris in 4.

11

Steve Reilly 05.01.14 at 12:43 pm

Since no one but you would you describe Clive Crook’s article as “politically correct”, you aren’t defining the term. You’re trying to redefine it. I propose we use the term “global hegemony” to describe such redescriptions.

12

Peter Glavodevedhzhe 05.01.14 at 12:52 pm

My folk understanding of “PC” is that it started in 1970s and 80s as a straightfaced, official term for the “correct” party line for tiny Marxist labor parties (& RCP specifically I think). In response, other leftists gave it a sarcastic turn. By the early 90s, the word had migrated to the right, which made it famous.

I bet Scott McLemee has the straight dope on this.

13

Ronan(rf) 05.01.14 at 12:55 pm

And don’t forget, as Stewart Lee noted, that there’s an entire generation over the age of 60-5 who have confused political correctness with health and safety legislation.

14

mdc 05.01.14 at 1:08 pm

“Or maybe the puzzle is even: why is racism still considered unacceptable, if school segregation is fine?”

One is used to justify the other. The highly ideological reasoning is:

1) Racism is the sum of all evils.
2) Normal political life is carried out by perfectly respectable people.
3) School segregation is widespread.

Therefore (and this is the whole point):

4) School segregation is not racist.

15

alkali 05.01.14 at 1:12 pm

The real puzzle, then, isn’t why using the n-word is considered unacceptable, given the consensus that being racist is unacceptable. The puzzle is why school segregation is considered fine.

This is not all that puzzling: one is an easy problem, and one is a hard problem. The modern form of school segregation does not arise from present-day expressly racial barriers. It arises from a combination of things, some of which are good (parents’ desire to place their children in schools of high academic quality), and some of which are bad (racial fears), and some of which are exceedingly hard to change (American home ownership patterns; a more-than-two-century old tradition of local school funding). Compared to solving that problem, deciding that people should not use the n-word is easy.

16

John Holbo 05.01.14 at 1:26 pm

Barry: “You are assuming honesty on Crook’s part. John, please think about these things. You are likely aware of methods of deception and propaganda, such as ‘splitting the difference’ between a more fact-based position and a purely fraudulent position.”

Actually, it’s even worse, Barry. Sometimes people don’t even split the difference. They just say stuff that they think is totally false.One must be on the lookout.

Steve Reilly: “Since no one but you would you describe Clive Crook’s article as “politically correct”, you aren’t defining the term. You’re trying to redefine it. I propose we use the term “global hegemony” to describe such redescriptions.”

Nah, that’s no good, Steve. The problem is that ‘global hegemony’ already has an accepted meaning, so we would create confusion by using it in this new way. I’m not redefining the term ‘political correctness’. It currently has a use but no meaning, hence no existing definition. I’m giving it a meaning and a definition. So I think, technically, it’s not a redefinition. Just like if you define a nonsense word like ‘brillig’ to mean something whereas before it didn’t really mean anything, you aren’t really RE-defining it.

17

John Holbo 05.01.14 at 1:27 pm

“Compared to solving that problem, deciding that people should not use the n-word is easy.”

Just for the record: I was being sarcastic in suggesting that there’s a mystery.

18

cs 05.01.14 at 1:31 pm

I remember in the late ’80s hearing “politically correct” used sincerely by left wingers. I don’t know if this was before it became a joke/put-down or simultaneous.

19

Donald Johnson 05.01.14 at 1:41 pm

I used “political correctness” as a joke in the late 80’s, having seen it used that way in some lefty magazine or other–nobody else had heard the term and I got some laughs. By around 1991-92 it had become a topic in the NYT, an alleged Stalinist scourge on college campuses that was destroying their intellectual integrity. I did try pointing out to a liberal NYT-worshipping friend at the time that the tendency–rigid dogmatic thinking–was found across the political spectrum, but he was having none of it. It had become politically correct to denounce far left political correctness and only far left political correctness.

20

P O'Neill 05.01.14 at 1:54 pm

I think Jonathan Chait is providing you with an example of political correctness by your definition here.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/04/americas-most-powerful-conspiracy-theorists.html

21

Bloix 05.01.14 at 2:19 pm

Doctrinaire Marxism, as developed in Russia under the name Marxism-Leninism, teaches us that history is a science, the science of dialectical materialism. The course of future events can be predicted and shaped by application of this scientific theory.

Therefore, communist theory holds, it is a primitive mistake to speak of political ideas as being “right” or “wrong,” “moral” or “immoral,” “just” or “unjust.” The scientific way to evaluate ideas is that they are either correct or incorrect, just as the scientific explanation of any other event or process is either correct or incorrect.

Wikipedia has a pretty good discussion of the origins of the phrase and its use by Communists, then by socialists to attack Communists (for being overly committed to doctrine even where the effects were inhumane), then picked up by feminists, then used self-mockingly by leftists, and finally adopted by right-wingers to attack liberals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

22

fn 05.01.14 at 2:25 pm

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

-Theodore Dalrymple/Anthony Daniels, Jewish psychiatrist and immigration advocate

23

William Berry 05.01.14 at 2:25 pm

Ditto 1, 2, 4, 10, etc. I am an old codger myself and remember this usage quite well. The rather hippieish crowd I ran with in my college days were into “consciousness-raising”, almost as a general proposition, and didn’t care much for the ideological hard line. The doctrinaire of any stripe was “too p.c.”

I am not offended by being called “politically correct”. The hoary comeback, “Yes, I am. And the operational word is correct”, is still pertinent.

It’s a little like being called a “bleeding heart”. I am not ashamed of being accused of compassion.

24

J Thomas 05.01.14 at 2:29 pm

Political correctness is a real thing, the way the conservatives use it. They try to use it themselves.

Here’s an example. A conservative says “You know that there are genetic differences in intelligence, so there’s every reason to think there are racial differences in intelligence. Shouldn’t we do scientific studies on that and find out useful information that can then be used however it’s most useful?” And people then shout him down and call him a racist.

Of course he is a racist, and he’s saying that because he’s a racist. But he’s also right. There are surely genetic components to intelligence that are worth scientific study, and there are surely differences between populations. Africans have the bulk of the genetic variation in the world — in prehistory a few african groups left africa to spread across the world, getting trapped in small enclaves by ice ages and then spreading again, and while those limited samples did that the bulk of the population stayed home. Africans have the bulk of the genetic wealth, and so probably the bulk of the genetic variation that can create special intelligences, and we would benefit by finding out about that and using it. But in the short run we can’t, because of racism.

People refuse to look at the evidence because they rightly think the bad guys will mis-use that evidence. And so they let their tactical judgement interfere with finding the truth.

Similarly, conservatives have tried hard to get the general public to stop listening whenever somebody says something that sounds “liberal”. If somebody’s a liberal that’s reason to ignore him because he’s going to say liberal things that decent people shouldn’t listen to. Like that. It’s exactly PC, they just don’t give it the name.

25

Bloix 05.01.14 at 2:37 pm

So to continue, the right’s adoption of “politically correct” is red-baiting. The meaning is that any idea or language prevalent among liberals is not truly what they think – it’s a cult-like adoption of the Party Line, handed down from – well, not the Kremlin, but from some murky place that generates The Left’s conspiratorial Wars on this or that – Christmas, Coal, Marriage, the Unborn, whatever (George Soros’s house?)

Points to John for trying, but there just isn’t any way to make infuse the term with a neutral, useful content that could be applied to either side.

26

Emily68 05.01.14 at 2:44 pm

The old term for “politically correct” was “polite,” as in “it’s not polite to use the n-word.” Or “it’s not polite to call attention to someone’s weight.”

27

Watson Ladd 05.01.14 at 2:53 pm

Remember the ‘Water Buffalo’ incident? Far right political correctness doesn’t result in attempting to expel a student for saying that he told a group of rowdy people to shut up during finals week. When used by the right wing in the 90’s it was used to refer to left-wing attacks on Rushdie, etc: their rights were being trampled in the name of being nice. FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, was started in a response to this. But it was very much a 90’s political phenomenon

28

Stephenson quoter-kun 05.01.14 at 3:12 pm

On segregation and racism, this can depend a lot on what you take as the definition of racism. If you think that racism as something that people do, perhaps especially as something that the state does, then you can clearly observe a decline in racism over the last 50 years. You might even argue that since the civil rights movement there is no real racism any more, because there are no self-evidently racist laws – we stopped doing that kind of thing! Political correctness has vanquished most racism because it pretty effectively prevents people from “doing racism”, and any time they do then they get publicly castigated for it. We can still talk about the distribution of ethnicities in schools, but since nobody is forcing the schools to be segregated, then surely we can’t blame non-existent racism!

On the other hand, you may define racism as “a configuration of the world in which ethnicity determines outcomes”. Under this definition, we can divine the existence of racism simply by observing reality. We don’t need to identify any actual racists in white hoods, we just need to know that some hidden variables are causing racially-biased outcomes. It would seem absurd to claim that racism is over, when racial inequality remains so obvious.

Of course, both points of view are kinda right. We aren’t using the law to segregate schools any more, and overt racism has declined. However, this is rather like telling someone whose house has been flooded that it’s not raining any more. It’s true but it’s not really very helpful, as the main issue is how to repair the flood damage. The problem here is that when the flood victim reiterates this point, their interlocutor hears “it’s still raining”, which they know to be untrue. (In other words, the interlocutor believes that the argument “these people are suffering from racism” is false because we got rid of the racist laws and overt racism some time ago). They might think “OK, I understand this person is upset about their flooded house, but claiming it’s still raining is just crazy talk!”. They will identify a politically correct demand to acknowledge the racism as a demand that they recognise that it’s raining when it’s not, which just goes to prove the perversity of political correctness. This can spiral into some neo-Galilean (ironic, huh?) fantasy about how they’re the only ones who can see reality as it is. If I were some kind of mainstream media columnist, this is where I’d tell the left to stop saying “racism” because it just confuses the right too much.

If the right has a point here, it might go like this: de facto segregation by race isn’t inherently harmful. The world is segregated – look at China, all those Chinese people going to school with only other Chinese people! And, hey, that’s not really wrong. But in the American context, there’s the fact that black people are much poorer than white people on average, and clustering poor people together is bad for a variety of reasons. At this point, you could stop seeing it as a race problem and start seeing it as a poverty problem. This really doesn’t help you at all when dealing with the right, because they’re just about as disinterested in helping the poor as they are in helping ethnic minorities. However, the right is much more comfortable resisting anti-poverty initiatives than it is resisting anti-racism initiatives.

I think people on the right correctly detect that there’s a choice between using the racism frame and the poverty frame. Further, they regard the choice of the racism frame as being unfair, made solely to inconvenience the right. This enables the quite awesome rhetorical comeback of “you only care about racism for political point-scoring – if you really cared about these people, you’d want to help them”, where the standard conservative assumptions about what help looks like – tax cuts, tough love and family values – apply. The thing is, they might not be entirely wrong – it is easier to beat a conservative in an argument by invoking racism than it is by invoking poverty, and I’m sure some people use it for that reason (this is the internet, people will use pretty much anything to get one-up on someone).

My point (I suppose I ought to have one that relates to the OP, rather than just rambling) is that the right’s dislike of political correctness isn’t just a dislike of being told how to think. It’s a genuine belief that they’re being told to believe something that isn’t true or face ostracism, like we’re in Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Sure, my contention that this can all be traced back to a semantic disagreement about what “racism” is might seem like a vast over-simplification, but I think it has explanatory power. Real people really do argue about this stuff, based on precisely these misconceptions. I don’t argue with many racists, I must admit, but I’ve seen the analogous debate about “sexism” play out far more times than is good for my faith in humanity; two sides not even arguing about anything because it doesn’t occur to them to agree on what the word they’re arguing about means.

29

Chris Mealy 05.01.14 at 3:13 pm

I had an anthro prof who said the term was an in-joke among China scholars in the 70s and 80s.

30

Thornton Hall 05.01.14 at 3:42 pm

BIG problem. What Crook does there already has a name: High Broderism.

http://pressthink.org/2010/06/clowns-to-the-left-of-me-jokers-to-the-right-on-the-actual-ideology-of-the-american-press/

This belief—that political sense, as well as reality, as well as the winning strategy in most elections resides in the center, while “the extremes” on both sides are equally extreme, deluded and irresponsible—has come to be called High Broderism, after the famous Washington Post reporter and sage, David Broder, for many years the “dean” of the capital press corps. And since High Broderism is a belief, there are true believers for it within the press corps. But this is one case where fundamentalism is perfectly acceptable.

31

Thornton Hall 05.01.14 at 4:12 pm

In my Original Oratory speech in high school, I argued against political correctness, with D’Souza as a source. I was young and uniformed. Nonetheless, Antioch College had a policy against “inappropriately directed laughter”.

Also, lefty use of the term came from Mike Royko. A man who put out smart columns FIVE DAYS A WEEK and had a high school diploma. He was the anti-Tom Friedman. He was also the best American opinion writer that has ever lived.

32

stevenjohnson 05.01.14 at 4:38 pm

Agree that “political correctness” is red-baiting. Nowadays it is never used to describe upholding any conservative or right-wing position, ever. It is always used to describe any practice or phrase the user wishes to insinuate is left-wing, even Communist. And the implication is always that the opponent thus insulted is mindlessly parroting propaganda and enforcing the party line. The use of the phrase is always posing as a bold defier of repressive convention. Nobody ever uses non-PC to refer to dissident positions, like “Arguing for the labor theory of value is certainly non-PC!”

33

Random Lurker 05.01.14 at 5:02 pm

@J Thomas 24
“There are surely genetic components to intelligence”

I know that this wasn’t your point at all, however I want to splell this clearly for future reference:

We DON’T know that there are genetic components to intelligence, in facts, WE DON’T EVEN KNOW IF SOMETHING LIKE INTELLIGENCE EXISTS, and/or what it looks like, or if it is just a social construction.
Pratical example:

I use my neurones to understand a mathematical function, another guy to change a lightbulb, the third to kick a ball in a football match.
But since traditionally understanding mathematical functions was an activity of the high classes, whereas manual work like changing a lightbulb or kicking a ball was low class stuff.
As a consequence, mathematical thinking is called “intelligence” and is highly valued, while changing bulbs or kicking balls isn’t.
Since a lot of previously “intellectual jobs” are becoming lower class, white collar working class job, I expect much of what was previously known as “intelligence” to be devalued, whreas new “social” skills will become the new intelligence (“emotional intelligence, leadership” etc.).

So the real problem of the idea that genes influence intelligence isn’t racism, but the fact that what we call intelligence is most likely just a social construct, the projection of a social mith.

34

TM 05.01.14 at 5:31 pm

Why waste so much time paying attention to silly right-wing talking points?

35

Sean M 05.01.14 at 5:41 pm

36

David 05.01.14 at 6:29 pm

As a number of people have already pointed out, the origins of political correctness lie in small Marxist groups in the 1970s (I was there), for whom a “line” was “correct” because it was laid down by Moscow or some other source of wisdom. As Marxism (and conventional left-wing thinking) declined, it became transferred as a habit to other groups which collectively comprised what the French call the “social left” with much the same ideological habits: anti-racialism, feminism, homosexual liberation etc, all of whom had their own vicious internal disputes.
I agree the phrase “political correctness” is a bit of a joke, but the reality is very much alive, and much more so on the Left than the Right. This is because PC is essentially a compensation device for those with little power and influence. It represents both a mechanism for identifying other members of the same group (a kind of ideological masonic handshake if you like) and also a mechanism for disciplining others and winning battles. It certainly existed as early as the nineteen-thirties, as George Orwell noted (“sniff sniff are you a good anti-Fascist?”)
PC is essentially a left-wing phenomenon, because the Left is interested in correctness, whilst the Right is interested in power. The Right uses power to enforce discourses, which in turn reinforce power, whilst the Left compensates for its lack of power by enforcing discourses on its own adherents. And the Right is quite happy to let the Left play with its PC toys: who really cares, in the end, if a University committee is headed by a chairperson rather than a chairman, provided it imposes a market-style regime on the teaching staff? As Robert Hughes argued long ago in “The Culture of Complaint,” PC is essentially a wonderful gift to all the forces of reaction and general nastiness.
For this reason, it’s not really accurate to compare PC with protestations of disbelief in global warming, evolution etc, because the nut-cases who say those sorts of things do actually believe them to some extent. The difference is that PC speech (and it is speech rather than action) is generally adopted by people without enthusiasm, and in order to remain part of a group which might otherwise reject them.

37

J Thomas 05.01.14 at 6:43 pm

“We DON’T know that there are genetic components to intelligence, in facts, WE DON’T EVEN KNOW IF SOMETHING LIKE INTELLIGENCE EXISTS, and/or what it looks like, or if it is just a social construction.”

I don’t begrudge you that. But to my way of thinking, intelligence is what lets people create and solve problems. If your concept of intelligence is just a social construction, it’s intelligence that lets you construct that social construction.

So yes, there is such a thing and it has a genetic component, and it’s well within your capabilities to use your intelligence to argue that there’s no such thing to help solve your social problems. That’s fine.

And since we have far more than one way to create and solve problems, we have far more than one sort of intelligence. Different approaches are good for creating and solving different problems. Ideally we would learn to match people to the situations they are good at dealing with, but these days there’s a tendency to think about intelligence mostly as a way to argue that some people are more deserving than others. This is not very efficient for solving our bigger problems but perhaps useful for the people who need to claim they deserve more….

38

Ze Kraggash 05.01.14 at 6:44 pm

“…because the Left is interested in correctness, whilst the Right is interested in power”

I don’t think this dichotomy really exists. Both are interested in power; in this case: in enforcing the discipline. And when, once in a while, the left does have power, it get even more zealous in controlling the message and punishing deviationists.

39

David 05.01.14 at 6:57 pm

@38 Fair point, but it depends what you mean by “power.” Historically, the Left has always been much more vicious to its internal enemies than its external ones (even Stalin’s purges, if we must disinter that episode, were directed against dissident or potentially dangerous members of his own party). By contrast, the Right has generally sought power by destroying its external enemies. I think my point still applies – PC is the opium of the powerless part of the Left.

40

roy belmont 05.01.14 at 7:20 pm

It was the 70’s. And time is important here. Because of changing.
That it’s a continuum of use and meaning.
Starts here, goes there, now this.
Wherever it started, whatever jargon-filled basement saw its birth, the use of “politically correct” then “pc” as pejorative began with those many who were tired of doctrinaire bots of righteousness spewing jerky learned behaviors and attitudes that were too often shallow and insincere.
But the more sinister utility of it, that it could be used to neutralize genuine ethical criticism, bifurcated the usage, once it caught on.
Desacralizing is I think the term there.
So it was soon being hurled at both phony revo-wannabes and real-life valiant instigators of change, depending on the hurler.
The prevalence and tonal ballistic of use is more a function of how many of the ones or the others there were/are in any given milieu.
In California, then, there were at first way more pseudos on the receiving end, tiresome prattle of the thoughtless given comeuppance, but that shifted slowly toward it being an effective blunt instrument to knock back advocates of real social change with, wielded by the morally discomfited. A guilt-destroying snark cathartic.
It’s like all that “hippy” shit. The youngs get the established historical use of it without any real sense of its origin in the MSM as a rejecting derogatory, adopted by a fearful culture to contain and dominate a wtf mystery phenomena, a term that was repudiated fully by its describees, to no avail because of the power of the describers, and today it’s so indelible that even some of its original targets will use it, now and again, for convenience.

41

Nick 05.01.14 at 7:31 pm

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest column is (as usual) eloquent and perceptive on the political correctness vs. de facto segregation issue:
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/This-Town-Needs-A-Better-Class-Of-Racist/361443/

42

Bloix 05.01.14 at 7:39 pm

#36 – as David says, there were many communist factions buzzing around and trying to take over different progressive organizations and movements in the 70’s (anti-war, anti-nuke, feminist, civil rights, even consumer) and they used the jargon of political correctness.

But I disagree that the language was used as a compensation device for those without power. To the contrary, it was used in the US by marginal groups who were aping Soviet and Chinese patterns of thought adopted by regimes that had unlimited power.

In a place like China, if you harbored incorrect thought you were committing error and the place for you was a reeducation camp. Being accused of incorrect thought must have been a terrifying event, a precursor to abject confession of mistakes in an effort to avoid having your life destroyed.

This is the kind of thing people had to live with:
‘Mao Tse-tung thought is the only correct thought… if a person at any time whatever, in any place whatever, regarding any question whatever, manifests wavering in his attitude towards Mao Tse-tung thought, then, no matter if this wavering is only momentary and slight, it means in reality that the waverer departs from Marxist-Leninist truth, and will lose his bearings and commit political errors….Forward, following a hundred per cent and without the slightest reservation the way of Mao Tse-tung.’

or this, from Mao himself:
“At present the contradiction between correct and incorrect thinking in our Party does not manifest itself in an antagonistic form, and if comrades who have committed mistakes can correct them, it will not develop into antagonism. Therefore, the Party must wage a serious struggle against erroneous thinking, and give the comrades who have committed errors ample opportunity to wake up… But if the people who have committed errors persist in them … this contradiction will develop into antagonism.”

Bad enough to be someone who found himself being given “ample opportunity to wake up.” You certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be one of the people whose persistence in error developed into “antagonism.”

43

adam.smith 05.01.14 at 7:45 pm

next up: John Holbo re-defines “poopy-head” because it lacks a clear semantic meaning.

44

John Holbo 05.01.14 at 11:17 pm

“Ryan Cooper wrote the piece you cite, not Ryan Cook.”

Corrected.

45

John Holbo 05.01.14 at 11:24 pm

“BIG problem. What Crook does there already has a name: High Broderism. “

Yes, but I’m pointing out that Broderism is a form of political correctness and lumping them in with the fanatics. Don’t you have a sense of fun? How can you like Mike Royko and yet lack a sense of fun?

46

shah8 05.02.14 at 12:26 am

Okay, I’d have to say that I like this sort of formulation, however much it makes me feel like Homer when he tells Lisa he’d like to buy that rock. My dubious cleverness would be based being unsure whether Holbo is merely being funny or not.

At the base level, the conservative conception of “PC” is as a consumer ideological product meant for people with limited internal lives, too intellectually lazy to spruce it up, and with a congenital hatred of being wrong or out of step. “PC” allows them to acknowledge that their opinion is controversial rather than be incorrect. It has limited use for finding like-minded people to associate with, but it isn’t really shibboleth-glue. Nobody who really likes that sort of thing only has one unacceptable opinion. Heavy reliance of “PC” as an in-group detector is liable to put people with incompatible opinions together.

I do not think that Holbo’s revitalized concept of “PC” translates into High Broderism, for the simple reason that High Broderism has affirmative policy goals, no matter how temporary and contextual those goals might be. A doctrine of centrism. However, remember centrism, however it might be defined has its own set of what is in bounds and out of bounds. This is true Bircherites as well as Naderites, or Perorites, or whatever. I think Holbo’s definition has a clear implicit conditional element, which has to do with: The difference between the speaker’s stated beliefs of what is politically possible vs What are the politically possible policy/political moves

He’s clearly talking about people who make politically incorrect judgments in the absence of any evidence whatsoever about what the political markers are. High Broderism, as foul as it is, probably speaks with *some* degree of understanding what is possible–it’s trying to determine social and political coalitions, after all, usually peeling off a Democratic official to a solid Republican block. The better example is the closely related Green Lantern fallacy. That’s definitely politically incorrect! Now, see how useful it is as a catch all terms for *everything* like Green Lantern? That’s why I like it.

47

Chris M 05.02.14 at 12:50 am

The problem with your example of segregation is that uses statistics about differences as evidence of racism. Liberals do this only it suits their purposes, and they right-censor the data. To quote Thomas Sowell:

“There has been much indignant outcry in the media when statistics have shown that black applicants for mortgage loans were turned down more often than white applicants…. Yet statistical data on Asian Americans have been conspicuous by their absence…. If such data are included, it turns out that, in 2000, black applicants were turned down for primary mortgage loans twice as often as white applicants—and white applicants were turned down nearly twice as often as Asian American applicants.”

To put it differently, you can use the word “segregation” as a nominalization of an active verb: The state government segregated the schools. In this there is an actor who can clearly stop segregating the schools. Or you can use “segregation” as the description of a statistical disparity, in which there is no subject to the verb–thus no nominalization and no actor who can desegregate the schools.

If you slide from one definition to the other, you can cause confusion.

And for the record, I do think that racism is one of the contributing factors to the isolation of African Americans in fixed areas, which then creates African American schools. However, in theory, you could have segregation without racism.

48

Palindrome 05.02.14 at 1:14 am

@28: “The world is segregated – look at China, all those Chinese people going to school with only other Chinese people!”

This is totally off-topic, but I couldn’t resist. My wife does research on education policy in China, and school equity is her area of focus. One of the big topics in reform there right now is how to handle school segregation that prevents children of migrant workers (who lack the proper residence permits) from going to school with “local” urban children. Until quite recently, if you didn’t have a residency permit (and almost no migrants do), you couldn’t access public facilities like schools. Migrants come from many different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and though all concerned are Chinese citizens, local legal residents frequently discriminate against them.

Again, totally off-topic, just found it interesting.

49

shah8 05.02.14 at 1:23 am

Yeah Palindrome, just ask the Henanese!

Then again, Henan stories tend to be like Louisiana stories.

50

Bloix 05.02.14 at 1:43 am

Also, too, wingnuts love sticking it to the liberals. Nothing makes them happier than being against something they think liberals like. So being “politically incorrect” makes the right happy happy happy. Doesn’t really play that way on the left.

51

Bloix 05.02.14 at 1:48 am

BTW, could there being anything worse than Palin’s “waterboarding is the way we baptize terrorists”? Let’s see, we Christians torture Muslims with water in order to forcibly convert them to our religion.

The Taliban and the Christian right have exactly the same view: there is an all-out holy war going on between Christendom and Islam, and the fate of the world is at stake.

Palin: the poster-girl for Al Qaeda recruitment.

52

Seth 05.02.14 at 4:29 am

“Or maybe the puzzle is even: why is racism still considered unacceptable, if school segregation is fine?”

Because ‘racism’ has been defined as a personal vice. There’s a strong social consensus that it’s bad to be the kind of person who treats other people badly because of a personal characteristic like skin color. Something institutional like school segregation, by contrast, might plausibly be attributed to all sorts of other factors. So it doesn’t count as ‘racist’ in that icky, reflexively-denied, “what, ME racist?!” sense.

Thus do we rationalize all sorts of bad things going on around us every day.

53

David 05.02.14 at 5:00 am

“Why waste so much time paying attention to silly right-wing talking points?”

What would the Center Left do if not spend its time kowtowing to the Right?

54

Palindrome 05.02.14 at 10:52 am

@49: I think I get what you’re saying, though I don’t know what “Louisiana stories” are. Henan has a probably unjustified reputation for being backwood-sy and boorish. The book that came out awhile back, 河南人惹谁了, was like the Chinese equivalent of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”, only less about politics and more about how everyone in big city-China looks down on Henan.

55

Jacob H. 05.02.14 at 1:36 pm

To quote a text close to John’s heart:

“Soc. But what differences are there which cannot be thus decided, and which therefore make us angry and set us at enmity with one another? I dare say the answer does not occur to you at the moment, and therefore I will suggest that these enmities arise when the matters of difference are the just and unjust, good and evil, honourable and dishonourable. Are not these the points about which men differ, and about which when we are unable satisfactorily to decide our differences, you and I and all of us quarrel, when we do quarrel? “

Conservatives are angry over “political correctness” because they see it as a redrawing of the lines between good and evil, honourable and dishonourable. Of course, giving $1000 to a voter referendum that millions of people voted for could not be dishonourable. Of course, complaining jealously to your girlfriend about the guys she takes pictures with could not be evil.

Arguments about zoning, even if they are in fact the means by which racism asserts itself, are not as easy to turn into arguments about good and evil. And perhaps more importantly, zoning is adjudicated through a political and legal system created for the protection of men of property, while the discourse through which questions of political correctness are decided is largely open to all comers, not just the old and rich and male.
It is the contrast between those two battlefields– one in which they enjoy an enormous advantage in the preservation of privilege, one in which privilege appears to slipping away faster than wine drunk at the symposium, that makes political correctness feel so salient, and conservatives so mad.

56

Tom West 05.02.14 at 3:25 pm

The old term for “politically correct” was “polite,” as in “it’s not polite to use the n-word.” Or “it’s not polite to call attention to someone’s weight.”

I think Emily68 nailed what political correctness has meant for the vast majority – a generally more pleasant, less hate-filled society (at least among the middle-class where the hold of p.c. is strongest).

I’m a big fan of p.c. as I’ve watched it make it considerably harder for the polite, middle-class to spread casual racism to their children. Just as most parents try to refrain from swearing in front of their children, my observation has been that whole swathes of racist epithets have nearly disappeared among primary school children because parents don’t want to disgust their children (at least in the Canadian urban neighbourhoods that I grew up in and in which I am now raising my children).

It’s subtle social engineering, but among the middle class, it has worked pretty well.

However, as p.c. is extended to avoid offending smaller and smaller groups of people, it’s pretty natural that opponents of the whole affair try to equate the whole movement with its extremities. It’s an odious tactic used by almost any group hoping to move public opinion.

And sadly, the tactic can be pretty successful – it’s got to be very difficult for those who worked so hard for feminism to watch the next generation take their hard fought gains for granted and then reject the term because it’s been so thoroughly tarred by the right.

57

Dr. S 05.02.14 at 5:05 pm

As a public school teacher in the late 80’s, I remember coming upon the notion of PC in a Newsweek column by John Leo, and considering it a good description of the faculty meetings I was attending. I considered myself as progressive as any other staff member, but I saw them using what seemed to me to be thoughtless formulas, however well intentioned, to avoid thinking about real solutions.

58

Dan 05.02.14 at 8:27 pm

Americans have a legitimate complaint, which is that important policy topics are avoided because discussion causes offense.

It is almost impossible to talk substantively and interestingly about almost many topics, from immigration to taxation to crime to demographic trends to religion without offending someone. And guess what: these are among the topics that matter most to people. All of these these topics matter a great deal in terms of the future.

It should not be the case that angry and extremist websites have the most interesting policy observations and discussions on these things. It is not that these people are so brilliant. It is that on so many of these crucial topics, the mainstream just avoids substance. How can you talk about immigration without talking about who is coming and how America is changing and what effects this will have? How can you talk about crime without talking about where it is a problem? How can you talk about religion without comparing different ones?

I know of an anthropology professor who is seeking to study womens’ rights in Islamic parts of the world and has obtained outside funding but is getting no support from her University. She will not be permitted to take a sabbatical for this and will need to leave her school of many years. The reason? This work supposedly offends some Muslims. But it is not Muslims resisting her work — it is the illiberal administration of her University who fear being associated with the causing of offense much more than they value legitimate and important work. This anthropology professor is herself a secular liberal.

59

Dan 05.02.14 at 8:48 pm

It seems to me that the term ‘politically correct’ refers to the phenomon of saying, ‘that is offensive’ to stifle debate.

I learned about the term from ‘Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher’ — and he is a leftist. His show rocketed to the top as one of the smartest and most insightful shows around because he was willing to dig deeply and interestingly into topics that were avoided because someone would be offended.

That show ended in 2002. Could Maher have a show like that today? What do you think?

60

Thornton Hall 05.02.14 at 10:57 pm

@45 No sense of fun? Is that a reference I’m not getting? Because just the other day I was talking to Slats Grobnik about fun…

61

Ronan(rf) 05.03.14 at 12:27 am

@57

what’ll i do
when you
are far away
and I
am blue
what’ll I do

when I’m alone
with ooonl..y
dreams of you
that won’t
come true
what’ll i do

guess the refernence

62

John Holbo 05.03.14 at 3:11 am

“Is that a reference I’m not getting? Because just the other day I was talking to Slats Grobnik about fun…”

Oh yeah, well I want you to know that I knew Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun-Times. That is, I knew a guy at the University of Chicago, in 1987 (I think) who legally changed his name to ‘Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun-Times’ for a week so he could get points in a treasure hunt by signing an autograph, ‘Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun-Times’ (because it was well-known that the real Mike Royko hated U of C students so much he would never sign an autograph for one of our kind.) I can’t remember what this guy’s name was – before and after he was Mike Royko – but you, Thornton Hall, are no Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun-Times. (Unless you actually ARE that guy who changed his name. You could be. In which case: good for you! It was a bold move.)

On a more serious note, my point was simply that I thought it was odd that you didn’t notice I was joking.

Now that I think about it: that guy probably changed his name to Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune, because Royko changed jobs around that time. It’s all a bit hazy.

63

Belle Waring 05.03.14 at 12:13 pm

Let’s think of a new name for your proposed definition of a fallacious mode of reasoning. On account of people will just get all confused if we use a term that–really though–already means some other thing, even if the thing it means is incoherent and dumb and intended as a childish provocative statement of contrarianism, something like the light-saber kid from the dawn of the meme saying “I’m coming for your politically correct ass next, Darth Vader!” And then light-sabering around the basement in an ungracile way. Even though the tin-foil sword bravery of the “politically incorrect” can always be sliced through by the unforgiving tamahagane katana of “being polite,” lo that very thing which my grandmother Nan Parsons Wainwright advocated in such strict fashion. Good manners invariably demand such things as: “calling people by the name they wish to be called,” and “not using vulgar language,” and “apologizing when you have hurt someone’s feelings, even if it was an accident,” and “welcoming guests to your home even when they fail to grasp some aspect of politesse, by ignoring or playing down their difficulty,” and so on. (You are also meant to have excellent posture, cross your legs in a ladylike fashion when you sit down, eat asparagus spears with your fingers, not rest your elbows on the the table, and quite a few other things which can’t plausibly be drafted to combat racism in any way.) The thread can be a contest, and the winner will have named a previously indistinct but common fallacy of the partisan mind! OK I’ll start: Eugenie. TOP THAT, SUCKERS! After I win I’m going to prance around like Deion Sanders, because there’s (pretty obviously) no rule against excessive celebration in the endzone on CT.

64

Ronan(rf) 05.03.14 at 3:18 pm

Dr.S – sorry, my 61 wasnt directed at you (there must have been some comments left in from moderation that skewed the numbering. The reference is 90s british comedy ‘birds of a feather’ though, fwiw)

65

stevenjohnson 05.03.14 at 10:39 pm

If somebody boasts of non-PC humor, you know exactly what they mean, and it has nothing to be with being “left.” It is a sure sign the comedian either relies on outright stereotyping and meanness, or on the pleasure of flirting with it. The myth of PC is cousin to the myth of the rightwing media and liberal Hollyweird. It’s only valid use is diagnostic for sleaze.

66

bob mcmanus 05.03.14 at 11:00 pm

Most of the above is pointless and useless, just another excuse to bash your enemies.

LGM

Lemieux: “Yup — it’s really well past time to rename the Jefferson-Jackson dinners.”

There really are some kinds of active discourse policing going out there in the left, and the reality-based community loses credibility in denying it.

67

shah8 05.03.14 at 11:09 pm

Belle, surely you can’t be dated by dear old Deon. Surely you know the dirty bird?!

And I’m allowed my puns.

68

Belle Waring 05.04.14 at 3:49 am

shah8, in my juvenile mind, it’s ALL PRIME TIME, ALL THE TIME. I showed my daughters highlights on YouTube and they said, “it’s like he’s got the invincibility star in Mario. That guy just fell down ahead of him for no reason.” Indeed. I hated him before he came to the 49ers, loved him briefly, and then went back to respectful hating when he joined America’s Most Loathed Football Team. Then I moved to Singapore and have never been able to be a US professional sports fan again, because I’m not awake when the games are played and watching recorded games is a mug’s…um…game. So yeah. The Niners and the Redskins [I know, but I lived between DC and SC from when I was 9-18 and my mom lives there, in Takoma Park, MD] have both sucked during this whole time so it’s been less painful than it might have.

69

stevenjohnson 05.04.14 at 2:26 pm

@66, “There really are some kinds of active discourse policing going out there in the left, and the reality-based community loses credibility in denying it.”

There really are some kinds of active discourse policing going on out there by the right, and it includes discourse in television, movies, even print, as well as what is jocularly called political discussion. The reality-based community that only finds a problem on the “left,” wherever that is imagined to be, isn’t.

You don’t even need to wear your “Fuck ME, pronto!” tee. Just wear your hammer&sickle to your next faculty meeting.

70

bob mcmanus 05.04.14 at 2:34 pm

69: I never said I found it problematic, I don’t really give a shit. Rename the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Harriet Tubman or Homer Simpson.

But a lot of the comments above treat the discourse policing as if it were a hallucination of the right.

71

robotslave 05.04.14 at 3:55 pm

This piece is cute, but it is based entirely on the tongue-in-cheek assertion that “politically correct” has no discernible meaning in contemporary partisan shouting discourse.

This is, of course, completely untrue.

The existing definition is understood and exercised primarily by your opponents. Which is irritating, of course. But it also means you’ll have to do a lot more than declare its existing meaning “nonexistent,” if you want to make any headway with a new way to use and understand the phrase.

At the very least, it means “dogmatic.” If you want The Left to start throwing it around (why, I can’t fathom) you might start with pointing it at, say, that thing where you get shouted down by “serious” economists if you suggest the top graduated tax rate on income ought to be more than 60%. Or even contemplate a wealth tax, god help you.

72

Sancho 05.05.14 at 10:20 am

Political correctness is A Thing. There really are factions on the Left that would slather road signs with trigger warnings and make it punishable by law to identify a human with “he” or “she”.

As the Holboid describes in the linked piece, though, those factions are laughably weak and unrepresentative.

In most cases, the term “political correctness” is used by conservatives (interchangeably with “censorship”) to mean that someone disagrees with a particular partisan assertion: if a claim that Negros are fundamentally criminal is met with derision, it’s political correctness gone mad; if the argument that climate change is caused by unicorn farts is mocked, the fartists are being censored Pravda-style.

In any case it’s a sure sign that we’re on the brink of communism or Nazism, which are the same thing, or, in the case of complex issues, evidence of cultural Marxism, which is anything Ronald Reagan would disagree with.

73

Dan 05.05.14 at 1:15 pm

Political correctness as status whoring:

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/edwest/2014/05/political-correctness-gone-mad-and-madder-and-even-madder/

“It has long been clear that expressing certain views has been a form of social signaling, although social media has made this far more explicit.
….

Unlike with music, however, the trend is always in one direction and there is no re-centering; it would be as if the mainstream of elite taste in music went from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath to Metallica to Slayer and onto Napalm Death. “

74

lupita 05.06.14 at 2:11 am

I think political correctness was born in the bowels of the US Census Bureau when it tried to classify all persons in the US as belonging to one of an official list of “race/ethnicities”. For example, as a Mexican, I become a “Hispanic” upon crossing the border even when I have never heard a Mexican self-identify as such. Furthermore, Mexicans are considered a subcategory of “Hispanic” meaning that a 120 million foreign nationality is turned into a subcategory of a 30 million American “ethic group”. In order to navigate all this absurdity, PC is used to fill in the void left by the non-definition of “ethnic group” by the US Census Bureau and American sociologists and to be able to speak about the history and culture of a non-existent ethnic group .

Another void PC is used to blow air into is the left which is almost universally regarded as un-PC in the US. Instead of class analysis, we get “people of color”, “minorities”, and “ethnics” used as euphemisms for poor. Even “foreign” seems to be considered an insult and is substituted by “international” which seems to be regarded as more genteel.

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