Thursday, August 13, 2015

More on Political Correctness

It almost seemed as though the usage of the phrases "politically correct" and "political correctness" was starting to fade. But Donald Trump, in his usual blithering fashion, has brought them back to a new level.

I've written before about these terms and why I hate them (yes, hate), but to sum it up, I'll quote Philip Agre as I did in that post:

It is true that movements of conscience have piled demands onto people faster than the culture can absorb them. That is an unfortunate side-effect of social progress. Conservatism, however, twists language to make the inconvenience of conscience sound like a kind of oppression.
My favorite recent way of showing the wrong-headedness of the terms? The programmer who set his browser to replace the phrase "political correctness" with "treating people with respect." That sounds about like it, as seen in these examples:

Here are a couple of other articles I've recently discovered that explain why accusations of "P.C. policing" are only a tactic and not a truth claim. First, Amanda Taub, writing for Vox, put it this way:
I, personally, think that the name of the Washington Redskins is racist and hurtful to Native Americans, and should be changed. So if someone asks me what I think of the debate about the team, that's what I say. By contrast, Virginia legislator Del Jackson Miller likes the name and wants the team to keep it. But rather than making an argument on the merits of the name, he referred to the entire debate as "political correctness on overdrive." In other words, he's saying, this is a false debate — just another example of "political correctness" — so I don't have to even acknowledge concerns about racism. 
As in Trump's example during the debate, the phrase is used to dismiss a (usually valid) criticism without having to address it.

Education writer Alfie Kohn calls P.C. "the lazy bully's label of choice":
In addition to defending a conservative status quo from inconvenient challenges — again, without one’s having to offer a substantive defense — the term serves another important function: self-congratulation. To say that x is PC is to praise oneself for having the courage to see things otherwise. And to warn that something isn’t PC is to commend it — or, in many cases, oneself — as bold and refreshing. “Now I know what I’m about to say is politically incorrect, but...” sounds like a cautionary preface, but it actually invites us to view the speaker as daring even though what follows may be merely conservative. Or offensive.
Which is exactly what Donald Trump did in the debate when he tried to make himself sound heroic for calling women fat slobs who should be down on their knees.

Kohn also points out that the use of "P.C." only cuts one way:
If “PC” were just a neutral pin for puncturing any balloon thought to be overinflated, then it might be applied to, say, the view that when the U.S. invades or occupies other countries, it is doing so in the interest of spreading democracy — or that soldiers who participate in these military adventures around the world are “defending our country.” But when did you last hear someone say with a smirk, “I know, I know. It’s politically correct to ‘Support Our Troops.’ But I happen to believe…”?
The things that it's actually not politically correct to say -- like the idea that one can support the troops by not sending them to die in stupid wars, that all wars are stupid, that U.S. foreign policy is implicated in the rise of violent terrorism exemplified in 9/11 -- are instead called wimpy pacifism or even subversion.

The bounds of what can be said are limited, but not in the way the critics of political correctness want us to think.

1 comment:

Gina said...

Hear, hear. I'm posting to Facebook. I've written also about "political correctness" in the past. Maybe it's time for another go at it..... Thanks for the post.