The main thing wrong with so-called ‘P.C.’

In October 2001, shortly after America invaded Afghanistan, some of its Navy personnel were preparing missiles that were going to be fired at al-Qaeda and Taliban strongholds.  One of the Navy men … … wrote the following message on his missile: ‘Hijack this, you faggots.’

… … When they heard about what had happened, the upper echelons of the Navy were outraged. They expressed ‘official disapproval’ of the homophobic message. … … Some unofficial guidelines were issued … …

… … What these Navy people were effectively saying is that it is okay to kill people, but not to offend them. … …

This really captures the warping of morality that is inherent in political correctness, where one becomes so myopically focused on speech codes, on linguistic representation, that everything else, even matters of life and death, can become subordinate to that.

via Brendan O’Neill | spiked.

The main thing that is wrong with so-called “political correctness” is that its goals are compatible with gross inequality and injustice.

It is imaginable that a future society may have conquered racism, misogyny, homophobia, able-ism and even class-ism and still be a police state committed to endless war on behalf of a tiny financial oligarchy.

That is why elite universities that have hate speech codes and teach “oppression theory” can pay sweatshop wages to their adjunct instructors and raise tuition as high as the traffic will bear, and why Fortune 500 companies and big Wall Street banks can “honor diversity” and still work against the interests of the vast majority of the American people.

I got a taste of this when I worked for a Gannett newspaper when Allen Neuharth was CEO of Gannett Co. Inc.  Under his management, Gannett made a good-faith effort to recruit and promote women, ethnic minorities and also people from diverse backgrounds—not just members of the Ivy League elite.

I think this was good for Gannett’s newspapers because a newsroom (unlike, say, an air traffic control tower) needs to be open to diverse viewpoints and backgrounds.

But “diversity” also gave Neuharth cover for paying wages below the standard for the industry and for being extremely anti-union, far beyond what devotion to the corporate bottom line would justify.

I remember what a waste of time the newspaper’s “diversity training” sessions were.   They seemed more like an exercise in divide-and-rule than anything else.

The extreme example of the contradiction I’m talking about is the celebration of Martin Luther King Day by the staff the Guantanamo Bay base, whose inmates are denied basic human rights.

I honor the struggle for equal rights for African-Americans, for women, for gays and for all the other groups who’ve been unfairly marginalized.  I see these struggles as part of an overall struggle for equal justice for all, which also is the struggle on behalf of the majority of the population for economic justice and basic civil liberties.

Without a vision of the common good and equal rights for all, and without a realistic strategy for achieving it, the disparate groups with their separate grievances will be played off against each other, and the powers that be will win.

sensitivity training

Source: Barry Deutsch Lefty Cartoons

Many of the flaws attributed to “political correctness” are widespread through society.  Or, to put it another way, “political correctness” is not limited to liberals, progressives or the left.

There is much more uproar, and more bad consequences, for celebrities and politicians who speak out of turn about sensitive subjects than for those who commit real crimes.

There will be a firestorm of denunciation against anyone who says anything that indicates insufficient respect for the American flag or for the Christian religion or the troops or the police or most especially for Israel.

I think of the constant stream of attacks on President Obama over trivialities—whether he wears an American flag lapel pin, whether he salutes properly, whether he is overly deferential or not deferential enough to foreign dignitaries, whether he affirms the concept of American exceptionalism with sufficient fervor, whether he is overly tolerant of Muslims—the list goes on.

If you follow this web log, you will know that I am highly critical of the President, but I criticize his actions, not his failures to say the required thing in the right way.

Like the narrower “political correctness”, our national minefield of taboos on what can be said and how it can be said is a great barrier to meaningful political speech and action.   Maybe this is intentional and maybe not, but it is highly convenient to the defenders of the status quo.

LINKS

Multiculturalism and the Ruling Elite by Daniel Brandt for Public Information Research (1993)

The Moral Appeal of P.C. by Ross Douthat for the New York Times.

P.C. and the Political Left by Ross Douthat for the New York Times.

 [2/10/2015]  I made some minor edits and additions for clarification.

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