The tyranny of “PC culture” is real — and a threat to liberal society
Political correctness is simple idea everyone should be treated with equal dignity & respect. It’s not cause of terrorism. It’s antidote.
Yet only a few days earlier, there had been a flurry of reports on a very different kind of political correctness. Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, had been subjected to vicious harassment for objecting to a Day of Absence, in which white people were asked to stay off campus for a day. Amid calls for his firing, Weinstein was surrounded and berated by student protesters and finally informed by the police that it was not safe for him to be on campus. There was very little dignity or respect in the way he and his supporters were treated.
So which is the real political correctness?
.. culture critic Alyssa Rosenberg, who argued that attempts to create “bias-free language” — such as “person of size” instead of “obese” — not only leads to “impoverished and clunky” newspeak but also encourages avoidance rather than examination of difficult issues.
.. Muslim Haseeb Ahmed as saying that fear of causing offense made it difficult to talk honestly about Islamist fanaticism and terror groups
.. “PC” generally refers to over-the-top outrage at things no one but a hypersensitive fringe actually finds disrespectful, or rigid taboos on opinions and facts that could be construed as offensive, or extreme and punitive intolerance toward any deviation from the one true faith
.. Yes, there definitely is such a thing as political correctness or PC culture, built around identity politics and intersectionality — an ideology that views life in modern liberal societies as shaped entirely by an entrenched system of intersecting oppressions and sees all human interaction in terms of oppression and privilege.
Because this ideology is intensely focused on changing attitudes and eliminating subtle, deeply embedded biases, speech- and thought-policing are not just unfortunate excesses of zeal but an essential part of the “social justice” project.
2. While critics of the concept of political correctness often assert that PC doesn’t limit freedom of speech but merely exposes the privileged to criticism from the marginalized, many PC incidents are likely to have a very real chilling effect on speech and expression.
.. PC also threatens free debate and exchange of ideas by defining heretical opinions as harmful and violent. The effects are particularly baneful when it comes to discussion of contentious issues related to race, gender, and sexual identity.
.. Tuvel, who fully supports transgender rights, was accused of “enact[ing] violence” and causing “harm” by, among other things, using the term “transgenderism,” referring to “male genitalia” and “biological sex,” and mentioning Caitlyn Jenner’s pretransition name, Bruce
.. 3. The “crimes” targeted by the PC police are not about deliberate or even subconscious bigotry but about violations of ideological taboos (such as cultural appropriation) and/or far-fetched, paranoid interpretations of innocent words and actions (such as the Confederacy allusion in the slogan “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave”).
.. Since one of the tenets of PC orthodoxy is that questioning the validity of grievances expressed by the marginalized is itself a harmful microaggression, the accusations come with a built-in presumption of guilt. It doesn’t matter if most members of the same disadvantaged group see no offense.
.. What’s more, PC has nothing to do with actual social justice: Stopping white people from wearing dreadlocks will not, in any appreciable way, help with the real problems facing the black community, just as banishing the word “crazy” will do nothing to improve the situation of the mentally ill.
.. In some cases, intersectional PC actively prevents confronting oppression. For instance, since Muslims are defined as marginalized, feminists who speak out against the misogyny of Islamic fundamentalism can be accused of promoting Islamophobia.
.. First of all, political correctness by itself is destructive to the liberal project — to reasoned discourse, free exchange of ideas, culture and community. What makes it uniquely injurious is its rising dominance in spheres of society traditionally associated with intellectual openness and pluralism: the academy, quality journalism, literature, and the arts.
.. Secondly, PC culture also invites an equally or more toxic backlash
.. Political correctness enables bigotry both by trivializing it — if you can be called a racist for wearing a sombrero on Halloween or a misogynist for admiring sexy women, the words lose much of their bite — and by green-lighting it when it’s directed at “privileged” groups. When comments like “yet another opinion from an old white man” become weapons of choice in what passes for debate in PC culture, the principle that people should not be attacked or demeaned on the basis of race, gender, or other aspects of who they are becomes increasingly difficult to defend.
.. Donald Trump’s election victory, itself almost certainly aided by the anti-PC backlash, has made it clear that we need to heal our dysfunctional political culture. One necessary step toward such healing is to restore the classical liberal norms of free thought and free speech. That does not preclude rejecting real bigotry and hate, but respect does not require political correctness. In fact, political correctness is the opposite of respect.
Trump himself is the offense. Everything that springs from him, every person who supports him, every staffer who shields him, every legislator who defends him, is an offense. Every partisan who uses him — against all he or she has ever claimed to champion — to advance a political agenda and, in so doing, places party over country, is an offense.
.. We must remind ourselves that Trump’s very presence in the White House defiles it and the institution of the presidency. Rather than rising to the honor of the office, Trump has lowered the office with his whiny, fragile, vindictive pettiness.
.. This latest episode is simply part of a body of work demonstrating the man’s utter contempt for decency.
.. [Republicans] have surrendered any moral authority to which they once laid claim — rightly or not. If Trump goes down, they all do.
.. A madman and his legislative minions are holding America hostage.
.. It is what it is and has been from day one: The most extraordinary and profound electoral mistake America has made in our lifetimes and possibly ever.
.. We must always remember that although individual Americans made the choice to vote affirmatively for him or actively withhold their support from his opponent, those decisions were influenced, in ways we cannot calculate, by Russian interference in our election, designed to privilege Trump.
.. We must remember that we now have a president exerting power to which he may only have access because a foreign power hostile to our interests wanted him installed.
.. Trump simply lied when he said that he would have won the popular vote were it not for millions of illegal votes.
.. He is banking on your becoming overwhelmed by his never-ending antics.
.. Trump is an abomination, and a cancer on the country, and none of us can rest until he is no longer holding the reins of power.
The paradox of Trump’s insisting on his own niceness even while engaging in distinctly nasty conduct (political and otherwise) has a long history in the United States.
Trump epitomizes the conventional version of American niceness, which assumes that Americans are fundamentally decent and benevolent people with the best of intentions, whose acts of aggression are reluctant and defensive necessities designed to protect us.
.. This is the kind of amiability that obscures the shadowy side of American life.
.. Americans have also historically attempted to transform our niceness into a national attitude rooted in justice and mutual respect by acknowledging American cruelty and using it as an impetus to live up to an ideal of moral integrity based on the courage to tell the truth.
.. Since the 19th century, Americans’ belief in our own niceness has never wavered. Yet even then, American niceness obscured a tendency to refuse accountability for aggression and offense — and even unspeakable cruelty.
.. In 1814, Gen. Andrew Jackson supervised the mutilation of the corpses of more than 800 Creek Native Americans killed at Horseshoe Bend in Alabama during the Creek War. The desecration of the bodies involved cutting off the tip of each Indian’s nose to count the number of victims, and taking long strips of skin from the dead to use as bridle reins.
.. Thus the mistreatment of Indians wasn’t only a political problem but a profound failure on white Americans’ part to live up to their Christian reputation for courtesy, respect and kindness.
.. This same conflict could be seen in the issue of slavery.
.. If kindness were the rule in the master-slave relationship, Douglass argued, then Southern newspapers would not be filled with runaway-slave notices describing branding with irons and scarring from whips.
.. One is based on historical forgetting, on empty gestures and cliches, on refusing to own up to American errors; the other connects niceness with ethics and justice by recognizing Americans’ failures to be the kind people we imagine ourselves to be
Now the city is leaving its bruising mark on him, with the same astonishing swiftness that has been a hallmark of his lightning-strike political career.
.. all meant to disrupt American politics as usual.
.. Ten days of shocks, kicking off with Mr. Trump’s surprise ouster of James B. Comey .. have left the West Wing reeling.
.. dread of “5 o’clock,” marking the arrival of the daily dump of damaging leaks or fresh reports of staff infighting.
.. It is as if some unseen adversary has copied Mr. Trump’s own velocity and ferocity in an attempt to destroy him
.. Sources are shuttling all kinds of information about Mr. Trump to reporters at a pace the White House cannot match.
.. “Washington feels like a kiddie soccer game — tons of frenzy but no strategy,” said Senator Ben Sasse
.. members of Mr. Trump’s team are hoping to slow the tempo set by the president and his hard-charging chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.
They have suggested that he calm down, spend less time on Twitter, and avoid making decisions too quickly.
.. Brian Ott, a Texas Tech professor who has analyzed Mr. Trump’s use of social media, said: “The velocity at which this is happening right now is absolutely unprecedented. News is breaking so fast the stories are stepping on each other.”
such a “storm of outraged ego” is an increasingly common phenomenon among students who, having been taught to regard themselves as peers of their teachers, “take correction as an insult.” Nichols relates this to myriad intellectual viruses thriving in academia. Carried by undereducated graduates, these viruses infect the nation’s civic culture.
.. “College, in an earlier time,” Nichols writes, “was supposed to be an uncomfortable experience because growth is always a challenge,” replacing youthful simplicities with adult complexities. Today, college involves the “pampering of students as customers,”
.. “Rather than disabuse students of their intellectual solipsism,” Nichols writes, “the modern university reinforces it,” producing students given to “taking offense at everything while believing anything.”
.. Much attention has been given to the non-college-educated voters who rallied to President Trump. Insufficient attention is given to the role of the college miseducated. They, too, are complicit in our current condition because they emerged from their expensive “college experiences” neither disposed nor able to conduct civil, informed arguments.
.. Soon, presidential enablers, when challenged about their employer’s promiscuous use of “alternative facts,” will routinely use last week’s “justification” of the illegal voting factoid: It is the president’s “long-standing belief,” so there.
In his intellectual solipsism, he, too, takes correction as an insult. He resembles many of his cultured despisers in the academy more than he or they realize.
.. My advisers are telling me exactly that, Rush, they’re telling me to ignore it. But I can’t. I’m not gonna sit here and let my family be dishonored. I’m not gonna let myself, my family be lied about and I’m not gonna let those lies take root and become established as truth. I don’t care. I don’t care what they say is the right way to do this, I’m not gonna let it happen. When people lie about me, when people wound me, when people attack me, I’m gonna fire right back at ’em, I don’t care. And my advisers are trying to get me to stop, and I just can’t.”
That’s why he continues to tweet, and his tweets are effectively going around a dishonest media to inform and connect with everyday Americans. He’s also conducting negotiations with his tweets by informing people what he’s doing. And by doing this, by tweeting in this unpresidential way, not seen anything like this, it’s just not how it’s done, Trump is also capturing the whole idea of unpredictability, which makes Trump a never ending top-line news story and has his adversaries always on defense.
.. “our side,” I mean, conservatives, some Republicans — admit it, folks, we’ve grown tired and weary of being on defense all the time. We’re tired of getting up every morning and looking at either a person or an idea, something that we hold dear under assault, like marriage, or who can use whatever bathrooms, we’re tired of being on defense, we’re tired having to defend things that shouldn’t need to be defended because they’re under assault.
.. And that’s one of the big invisible unspoken reasons why he has such loyalty is because people who support him are just like a lot of you in this audience, fed up with being on defense and being on a team that never fought back, much less went on offense. But these tweets and this erratic or unpredictable behavior keeps Trump’s opponents on defense, and, believe me, it is a delight to see it.
.. Another thing that Trump is doing with these tweets, he’s leading. And because he’s leading, he’s holding everybody’s attention. What will Trump do next? What will Trump do next? Nobody’s asking, what’s Pelosi gonna do next, what’s Harry Reid? You know, we’re not steeling ourselves for what assault is coming at us next. We’re all looking on eagerly: What’s Trump gonna do next? How’s he gonna bamboozle ’em next? How’s Trump gonna end-run ’em next? That’s what’s everybody excited about here.