The Politically Correct Phenomenon

Posted on December 28, 2013


Sometime back in the 1970s and 1980s I discovered myself using some of the newest jargon on the street. “Political correctness” had come into existence

Today it passes for common reference to…to what? So, in the interest of being precise in our language, I did a little research on this phrase, most often used by conservatives being critical of a political fashion, statement, or ideology of the left.

It first came into use in the arcane ideological wars between socialists and hard core communists sixty or seventy years ago. Socialists accused communists of being wedded to the “party line,” unwilling to flex a bit and think for themselves. What came out from communist central was thus “politically correct,” and socialists flung the charge at communists for their slavish obedience to the party.

The term was adapted into mainstream American argot in the 1970s and 1980s to mean something different than referring to some remote ideological debate among socialists and communists.

A dictionary definition helps here.

Political correctness is relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress perceived historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. And, secondarily, political correctness is being or perceived as being overly concerned with such changes, often to the exclusion of other matters.

The communists were obviously inflexible dogmatists, the perfect politically correct ideologues, come hell or high water.

From mid-twentieth century onward, a number of new social and political agendas drove through American life, including the rise of feminism (gender), the civil rights movement (race), sexual orientation (homosexuality), immigration (more race), multiculturalism, affirmative action, and others.

Remember, among those who claim to be pc, usually with a very liberal agenda, and those who fling the charge of being pc at them, usually from a conservative point of view, the goal is to gain the high ground, to demonstrate that your agenda or set of values or principles are correct. The other guy is just spewing venom and ignorance. So the p.c. wars have grown pretty divisive.

Language often defines the p. c. battles, and as the p.c. warriors strive to include all minorities and interest groups in their camp, the debates sometimes take ludicrous turns as one observer on the Internet commented.

“Someone shouted at me today for making fun of Jews. He said it was politically incorrect. That was before he found out that I was Jewish, and making fun of ourselves is a part of Jewish culture.”

In their effort to offend no one and be totally inclusive of minorities and those formerly outside the mainstream, ideologues have invented a new vocabulary. I extracted the following from the Wikipedia entry on political correctness as examples.

·      Intellectually disabled” in place of mentally retarded

·      African American” in place of Black and Negro, in the United States

·      Native American” in place of Indian, in the United States

·      First Nations” in place of Indian, in Canada

·      Gender-neutral terms such as “firefighter” in place of fireman and firewoman, “police officer” in place of policeman and policewoman

·      Value-free terms describing physical disabilities, such as “visually impaired” in place of blind and “hearing impaired” in place of deaf

·      Value-free cultural terms, such as “Holiday season” and “Winter holiday”, in place of Christmas.

The extreme expressions of pc have usually taken place in a very liberal academic culture.

It is now incorrect to refer to men in history for example. Try something neutral, like humanity.

I don’t know if pc has replaced the “Founding Fathers,” but I suspect there is a term that is more gender-neutral. I shudder to think what it may be.

As you may have guessed, I am not a p.c. enthusiast, largely because p.c. activists are, ironically, intolerant of criticisms and insist on the truth of the matter, as they see it. In other words, the very attempt to spread the new multiculturalism with regard to race, gender, minorities, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and so create a more tolerant, open-minded, and one supposes just society, is intolerant of any points of view that contradict p.c. principles.

If, for example, you are critical of the LGBT community, then you are homophobic. If you are critical of an African American, stand by, you are a racist. If you mention that there are elements in the Koran (now Qur’an) which encourage killing the enemies of Islam, you are a Christian fanatic and Islamophobe.

And so it goes. Labels replace thinking and rationale discourse, and in the public debates, like the talking heads of major media networks for example, pro and anti-p.c. epithets fly like wasps knocked out of their nests.

I can guarantee that I will be dinged for this column, both in public and private communications, because someone is offended.

As a WASP (remember, white Anglo Saxon Protestant) I will no doubt be associated with the old traditional order that ruled the country and needs to be held to account for discrimination, racism, Gay bashing, and America for Americans who want to purify the country of so many immigrants.

Alas, I am not only a WASP, but also an Hispanic. I am, like all of us, a child of many different threads. Maybe someday we will move past p.c. and think as did our grandfathers and great grandmothers did, that we live in a land of liberty and opportunity where what defines us is what we do, not who we are.

That’s not very p.c. That’s a good start.

Published in my blog, The Port Rail as The Origins of Political Correctness in The Tuscaloosa News Sunday January 5, 2014.