Ed Kilgore wrote an interesting article earlier this week, A Whole New Brand of “Political Correctness.” It is about how the coverage of Obama’s low approval ratings, and how they affect Hillary Clinton’s campaign, never discuss racism. He mentioned the Republican “Southern Strategy” is known — from statements by its own proponents — to be racist. “I’d suggest that we are now in an era where ‘political correctness’ has been turned on its head.” I’d suggest that it isn’t turned on its head. I would suggest that the idea of political correctness as some kind of liberal thing was always wrong.
You may remember back a few days, I wrote, Robert M Price and the Limits of Brilliance. In that, I talked about Price’s argument in favor of Mike Huckabee for president was based upon the fact that he would “stand against PC and Islamo-fascism.” Forget the “Islamo-fascism” — the idea that the president would take a stand against PC is just ridiculous. It is impossible in the sense that “PC” is not something legislated, but rather socially enforced. And it is such a trivial issue. Price, after all, was arguing that we don’t need to worry about Huckabee’s homophobia, because we get in return his bold stand against people looking down on Rush Limbaugh calling women whores.
But the truth of the matter is that “political correctness” is just a name for any form of speech codes that the speaker doesn’t like. I don’t ever remember as big a bout of PC as after 9/11 and the way that almost everyone came down on any person who tried to explain why we were attacked other than with the simplistic, “They hate us for our freedom.” But this is never the kind of PC that conservatives complain about. And that’s fine. But to think that they don’t have their own speech codes is just madness.
This idea is not new. Rational Wiki even has a name for it, Conservative Correctness. It provides a classic example, “The rebranding of ‘French fries’ as ‘Freedom fries’ in the Congressional cafeteria after the French refused to support the Invasion of Iraq in 2003.” And to take it to a more official level, there is the still common use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” instead of “torture.” Or “private military contractor” instead of “mercenary.” And, of course, “pro-life” instead of “anti-choice.” There are also concerted efforts at negative PC like “pro-abortion” for “pro-choice” and “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party.”
Now I assume that a lot of people would just say that these are euphemisms. But that is all that PC is. What are the non-offensive words that a group uses for contentious or disturbing subjects. For example, almost everyone uses the term “passed away” instead of “died.” That is language meant to spare the feelings of sensitive people. Can it be taken too far? Like anything else, yes. But the intention is usually good. The truth is that there are very few conservatives today who actually think it is acceptable to use the term “nigger” rather than “African American.” Everyone understands that the former term is offensive to pretty much everyone — but especially African Americans.
But here’s the thing. Since when did being polite become contentious? When it comes to our political correctness, it isn’t contentious. It is, in fact, just being polite. It is only when it is their political correctness that it becomes a bad thing. But I don’t recall scores of liberal books decrying conservative political correctness. For liberals, conservative correctness is just silly — not a threat to freedom. But for conservatives like Price, it is very serious indeed. They whine about it even while coming up with new pejoratives to call us.
Remember how Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect was canceled because of right wing outrage over him saying something that wasn’t politically correct — as the right wing defined it? In the time since then, left wing political correctness has only waned. But right wing political correctness (largely because it isn’t seen as political correctness) has flourished.