Political Correctness Is Not Partisan

Politically CorrectEd 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.

Afterword

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.

9 thoughts on “Political Correctness Is Not Partisan

  1. Well, thanks, Chait, for making this fake talking point a deal again. It was almost gone. Chait, you are a total pigfucking shitbucket for bringing this back up. I want invading Martians to scour your eyeballs with their silicone-based E.T. semen.

    I mean, Chait could have had the conscience God gave navel lint, and in his diatribe against “Stuff I Don’t Like” specified certain Internet thingys (there are always varied Internet thingys anyone will like or dislike, and they change with the hour). Nope. He brought back the bugaboo of “Political Correctness,” and now we’ll have to hear that term again for five years (should we live so long, Elvis willing.)

    He could have put his thinky-brain to use, and realized that what was called “political correctness” back in, say, 1991 was a deeply good thing which almost nobody disagrees with today; essentially, common courtesy. As a staunch liberal and proto-socialist, I have no problem with anyone hating me, you, this race or that. I simply demand we be treated equally. If a co-worker named Richard bristles at the nickname “Dick,” it’s a total jerk move to insist on my right to call him “Dick” just because I should have the right to make co-workers bristle should I choose.

    Seriously. Don’t right-wingers insist government be run “like a business?” (God forbid, but let’s go with it.) Well, no business is going to tolerate openly bigoted spew from employees for more than five seconds. This has nothing to do with PC or keeping the White Man down. It simply has to do with toxic environments.

    I’m poor, so I’ve worked with neo-Nazi skinheads and a plethora of crazy Christians, and my only rule has ever been “if this topic of discussion makes us feel uncomfortable at work, let’s agree to drop it.” Sometimes people are so far gone, you have to hope life brings them around to a different perspective. There’s no point in them converting you or you converting them, and, once those boundaries are established, you might work perfectly well together. (Generally, most Nazis and crazy Christians agree with this; only a few insist on their right to poison the workplace.)

    Not to say I don’t proselytize! Of course, I do! I simply back off the instant it seems to make someone uncomfortable instead of curious. I hate rudeness, except when I’m over-posting on some poor bastard’s blogsite.

    I hope I scored a few points yesterday. Norm Coleman, former senator from Minnesota, had a horrid essay in the Opinion pages about how some young Somali twenty-ish-ers leaving to join various civil wars and ISIS made Minnesota the “Land Of 10,000 Terrorists.” Seriously.

    In the same paper, it announced that Comcast’s bid to merge with Time Warner was tabled for now, largely due to government interference. One of the major interferers was Al Franken. He beat Norm Coleman for that Senate spot by a few hundred votes, it was recounted a few times.

    I pointed this out at work (nobody likes cable companies, and everybody likes our Somali co-worker, she’s a treasure) and simply said, “this is why we vote.”

    But if we had any Nazis or crazy Christians, I would have avoided saying that out of what you accurately call politeness.

    • I wouldn’t say it was Chait’s fault. The conservatives have never stopped talking about PC. It is one of their main issues. It is part of this ridiculous cultural conservatism where they are just hitting back at the cool kids who think the conservatives are drips. It is this simmering resentment that makes Rush Limbaugh a star. Similarly, there are people like Chait who still hold grudges from every time someone complained about them being rude. In Maher’s case, I understand: he got fired because of it. But when has Chait suffered?!

      You are right: it is all about simple politeness. But to take your workplace example. So imagine that there was a Christian at work who wouldn’t shut up about Jesus. You ask her to stop. She goes crying to the boss about you trying to stifle her speech. So you started talking openly about your atheism. She goes crying to the boss about your insensitivity. That’s the conservatives.

      What amazes me is just how trivial it all is. I understand this coming from conservatives. But coming from Chait, it is just so pathetic. Of course, I’ve come to think that Chait is kind of a bully. Just last week, he slammed this conservative over a bit of climate change denial. That’s great! But when the guy came back with an article that tried to save face, Chait went after him again — very successfully. Chait does this all the time. And sometimes (as in his arguments with Ta-Nehisi Coates) he is the one with the worse argument. But especially when not: let it go. It isn’t necessary to psychically destroy everyone.

      • Good Lord, do you win the “Remove The Log From One’s Own Eye” niceness award this week. It is a good award to win! I’m just surprised that in this day/age, anyone strives for it anymore.

        • Wait a sec: when was I nice? Do you mean about Chait’s unrelenting attacks? Maybe I’ll think the opposite tomorrow. But it seems to me that just on a pragmatic level, it is better to move on to the next battle. But an argument can be made for pounding these people into the ground. In the most recent Chait case, we are talking about a highly paid lobbyist. So maybe it is the wrong time to be nice.

          • I haven’t heard of “PC” for ages. And now suddenly it’s back. Certifiable paramecium Coleman went apeshit in his editorial about being “PC” when it came to harassing Minnesota Somalis for, basically, no point whatsoever. (Oops, some signed up for a civil war. Let’s hope they aren’t terrorists like the Americans who loved Dukes Of Hazzard.)

            I’m thanking Chait for this.

            And you’re kind. To enemies and blog annoyances both. It’s not a crime.

  2. JMF – Good point about running government “like a business.” Conservatives would go crazy if the Federal Government acted like a business. The Federal government could divest itself from Arizona and Indiana, it could have mandatory sensitivity training, it could demand that no one carry a gun onto its premises (the whole United States), it could have all of its services in 52 different languages, it could liquidate the DoD because it was deadweight, it could discharge veterans’ pensions and benefits in bankruptcy, Chinese and Saudi billionaires could hold stock in USA Inc. and Barack Obama could get a 600 million dollar golden parachute at the end of his term.

    • Wow, that was great. If you had written that in a blog somewhere, I would probably use it for a Quotations post.

    • Thanks, Colin!

      Our dear and good friend, former Senator Norm Coleman, now works for a lobbying firm that, among its other charms, pimps for the lovely human-rights record of Saudi Arabia.

      Like I said — this is why we vote.

      Keep writing here!

  3. @JMF – Certain among the people we pay attention to, Chait brought PC back in a big way. But even he had complained about it from time to time before he wrote his big article.

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