Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Short Thought on Political Correctness

I’ve been thinking about the ugliness of the recent presidential campaign and one of the underlying themes of the Trump crusade: the attack on what he and his followers referred to as political correctness. This has been a rallying cry for a certain faction in the Republican Party for some time now, but with the rise of Trump, this faction has become increasingly vocal. The complaint, as I understand it, is that it has become socially inappropriate to say certain things. This was attacked as a restriction on free speech. But what we have seen, as “political correctness” has been summarily dispatched, is simply that some people, including Donald Trump, have felt free to say demeaning and offensive things about certain groups of people.
The result is that what was formerly known as “hate speech” is now simply “free speech.” And as a society, we have taken several steps backward, in terms of what we understand to be common decency. It is now acceptable among a much larger portion of the population to speak openly and cruelly about certain ethnic groups, races, religions, and sexual orientations. We used to call this bigotry, but by labeling common decency “political correctness,” the bigots have opened the flood gates to a level of ugliness that we ought to have put behind us long ago. As a society, we have regressed in some unfortunate ways, and it is largely due to the man who has just been elected president. What Trump is discovering is that it’s awfully hard to put the genie back in the bottle.


  1. I won't defend bigotry (and there is a great deal of it out there), but in your defense of political correctness, I think you miss the point. The problem arises when too much is labeled as racist. Against affirmative action? Racist. Against illegal immigration? Racist. Against gay marriage? Homophobe. Against abortion? Sexist. Wearing a sombrero in a Halloween costume? Racist.

    There is a dramatic problem when the above items are attacked with the same language as those who hold despicable views about, say, one race being superior or inferior. You are seeing many on the left begin to recognize this issue. For example, several have come out and apologized (albeit belatedly) to Romney, and admitted that by crying wolf at him, it ensured that their legitimate criticisms of Trump were ignored.

    Thus political correctness is not synonymous with politeness. Rather, it is the attempt to avoid discussing legitimate issues belonging to the political sphere by falsely declaring them beyond the pale. To a Conservative, this behavior indicates that the tactic is used because the left cannot defend certain positions, and therefore must shut down debate.

    So long as the claim of racist, sexist, bigot, or homophobe are used to shut down legitimate debate, the words will continue to lose their power to restrict truly objectionable behavior. I didn't vote for Trump, and I'm disappointed that so many did (including being disappointed by many on the Right for not adhering to their stared principles), but politics correctness and the Left must accept a great deal of ownership for him being elected.

    1. Good points. We probably need a larger vocabulary in this arena.