"Political Correctness"

OK, so really. WTF is the deal with the Right railing against, “Political Correctness”?

Are people really so foolish as to believe that a major root cause of failing to deal with societal ills can be traced back to not wanting to say the wrong thing??

Perhaps I should back up. My family did something very kind today, in that my parents and my siblings and my nephews all gathered at my parent’s friend’s house for dinner, as their grown children who would have been in their mid-to-late 40’s now all committed suicide within 2 years of each other in the early 2000’s.

However, my father and his friends are sort of on the cranky right-leaning side of things. So there was some hours of railing about said “Political Correctness” prior to dinner.

Over dinner, I mentioned a story of corporate strife, where a security gal I used to date got in trouble for discussing porn at work. Discussing in the sense that, she worked in security and tons of people looked at it at work, and she was told to not report it as long as they were spending more time working than watching porn.

This is apparently the fault of said, “Political Correctness”.

This was enough for me. I stated quite firmly (but politely, and ironically with the same level of “Political Correctness” that they were probably complaining about) that this was not due to being PC, but the natural result of:

A. An overly litigious society. (Indeed, a long history of wrongful termination suits at that company)
B. Poor corporate culture, driven primarily by many years of bad leadership.



I think they sort of got it, actually.

But I am sick of this insane talking point that a huge societal ill is fundamentally suggesting (*not mandating) that people talk in respectful terms in public discourse. I think a lot of these PC complainers don’t actually take issue with the idea that sexist and racist behavior is unprofessional, and if you act unprofessionally that you should be disciplined for doing so in a professional setting (really, today’s topic of convo). So, WTF is this all really about? AFAIK, nobody on the left wing is trying to criminalize sexist and racist jokes…?


I think the least savory elements of the right rail against political correctness because it’s an easy scapegoat for why they’re harassed when they express hateful views.

They prefer to believe the idea of PC has to do with either censoring them, or harassing them, when it has more to do with trying to get all the details of nomenclature and terminology sewn up so that dialogs can progress without falling into terminal cycles of offense and reaction to offense and counterproductive retaliation.

While the concept of PC speech can certainly fall into the category of prior restraint, it serves a purpose. It allows me to speak with people I don’t immediately identify with, without pissing them off, and allowing them to express their preferences. There’s a time and a place for it. Conversely, I have never been PC when talking about the catholic church and the pope. Neither of them deserve my respect, and if you have a problem with my disrespectful language with regard to the church and the pope, you’ve not paid even cursory attention to what they’re doing in the first place.


Don’t look for rigorously applied reason from authoritarians; folks who delegate their thinking to others aren’t fit to converse with adults.

‘PC gone mad’ has everything a conservative wants in a complaint:

  • Primarily, it clearly denotes which tribe they themselves belong to, and invites a circle-jerk from like-minded others,
  • It’s a nifty soundbite, which has just the sort of catchy hook that appeals to folks who like to think with their gut,
  • It’s a virtually complete straw man, which leaves any opposition wondering where to even start with that shit, and stewing in fury.

But how does it signify a tribe?

Surely it can’t be as simple as older dudes missing the ability to wantonly tell dick jokes at the office?

I do suspect a kernel of truth, with the recent articles about how Seinfeld now refuses to play college campuses, and students making censorious demands of teachers with regards to discussion of literary content. But this is pretty small potatoes compared to what “PC Culture” is on the hook for.


Oh for crying out loud. Jerry wasn’t ever being censored. He’s just a lazy joke writer these days. He hasn’t been paying attention to what the zeitgeist finds funny, so now he strays into rather unjustifiably lame references that are often a lot like your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving.

“what do you mean you’re offended when I say ‘faggot’ in a way meant to demean gay people? You’re oppressing me with your political correctness!”


well, personally, I think that being politically correct is generally congruent with being politic and with being polite-- but, so much of that is tied up with ones place in the social hierarchy. If the formerly privileged are being asked to display the same courtesy universally, it can rankle.

emmet till was killed because he wasn’t polite.


It’s always seemed to me that the vehement anti-PC crowd are usually comprised of ignorant bullies who are both bewildered and outraged that its no longer ‘socially acceptable’ to act like a dick to other people who may happen to be different in some superficial way.


This is part of the puzzle for me. My dad and a few other family members (who are cranky right-leaners) are, frankly, nerds. Engineers from outdoorsy, right leaning families.

I could understand it if, say, anyone in my family was the alpha male, captain of the football team type. AFAIK, grandpa on my dad’s side was the only real bully.


You don’t need to be a bully to feel like you’re losing power to “those people”. I don’t know your family well enough to make a judgment, but when I used to be rather conservative, I was against any kind of PC-ness because it was a way of facilitating other people’s speech, and I hadn’t yet realized that I was in a position of extreme privilege. I thought that “hey, I have a loud voice, those people have voices too, so why should I go out of my way to help them talk?” Then I actually spent some time talking with people from many different backgrounds, and took some philosophy classes, and came to realize the fundamental blindspot privilege overlays on your thinking. I realized that when I’m trying to shout others down, and when I refuse to call people by their preferred name, I wasn’t really being a “free speech crusader” as much as an asshole.



My own respective level of snark is generally dependent on how they approach me.

If they exercise a modicum of basic respect, then there’s no need to verbally eviscerate them.

If they don’t…

http://i.imgur.com/IpHHhgT.gif[quote=“ActuallyARegular, post:9, topic:77773”]

This is part of the puzzle for me. My dad and a few other family members (who are cranky right-leaners) are, frankly, nerds

When I say “bullies”, I don’t necessary mean the stereotypical Biff Tannen physical archetype.

I’m referring to anyone who regularly engages in psychic vampirism, people who perpetually try to bring someone else down so that they can feel “superior.”



Not descriptive of my family members I am referring to, although I do have Libertarian “friends” like this. A few of my right-leaning family do suffer from trying to seem like they know more than they do.

Which is why I am sort of confused. Seriously, these people are not bullies, or vampires or what have you.


Yeah, back when I was, actually very young, like from around 11 to 15, I was quite the firebrand libertarian. I think the only thing that saved me from such a life is that The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are much too boring and long for someone with my level of ADHD to ever read.


Okay, perhaps ‘self centered’ is a better term.

Or as @LDoBe put it,

“an asshole

No offense to your family intended; but personally, I’m directly related to more than a few, including some bonafide bigots.


Better phrasing.

Does complaining about “PC Culture” make you an asshole?

Uh, yeah, kinda. Sort of my central complaint.

In my view, being PC is really about not being an asshole.


I concur.

Being PC doesn’t mean that anyone should sugar coat their words or walk on eggshells all the time, as some detractors seem to believe; it merely means making the minimal effort to afford everyone the same amount of basic respect.


Well, not quite; ‘PC gone mad’ is mostly just another badge to denote right-wing… anyone with a clue who wants to say it is forced to give a preamble to the effect that their brain is actually in gear, and they’re not using it as a lame rallying cry for bigotry.


I think the term is used differently in different places, but I’m familiar with the idea that there is some obvious truth that people want to suppress or unsubstantiated opinion that they want to push by forcing you to use their newspeak. While there can be elements of this in some places, generally the objection seems to come from a lack of flexibility in thinking. Political correctness challenges safe beliefs and suggests that some may be oppressive or unacceptable, even if they were considered normal before. Established beliefs give structure to your life though, even if they oppress other people (or even yourself at times).


As best I can tell, ‘Political Correctness’ is an ugly(but admittedly quite clever, though the details often go over the heads of the people who spend the most time actually ranting about it) rhetorical trick for eliding the distinctions between different flavors of social disapproval of certain(typically uncomfortably retro) expressions.

I say that It’s a clever trick in part just because it has a great name, implicitly invoking the Soviet “Political Officers” who, so giving things a flavor of un-American statist oppression and suggesting that what is ‘politically correct’ is some sort of obscurantist theory babble imposed by an indoctrinated specialist, rather than an organic social norm that any adult with an IQ above room temperature should be expected to handle.

The other elegant(sophistry; but well done) aspect is how it serves as an organizational category for erasing distinctions in a deceptive and self-justifying way: You headline with the most dramatic examples; ideally involving liberal academia, folk-etymologists who think they know why ‘niggardly’ means what it does, men being berated for holding doors even though they were just doing it because the woman behind them was carrying something in both hands, etc. Then you do a quick handwave and flip to describing any criticism of tasteless jokes, sexual harrasment, etc. as ‘political correctness’. If you do it reasonably smoothly, this allows you to conflate being called out on your boorish bullshit for which you have no principled defense whatsoever with the stories of people caught up in the most genuinely WTF? situations drawn from an entire nation’s worth of news(and not infrequently pure fantasy from talk radio).

As sophistry, I can’t really fault it. It’s well done and pretty effective. It’s just that that isn’t a good thing. It both makes an easy, and lazy, smokescreen for behavior that has no place being tolerated; and it also makes it harder to put the brakes on one of the genuinely crazed situations without being accused of defending the indefensible ones.


Some interesting history behind the term, and how it has been used differently by different groups. No wonder it’s hard to fathom what exactly an individual might mean when they use the term. http://knowledgenuts.com/2015/05/28/the-unlikely-origins-of-the-phrase-politically-correct/


I think the term is pretty fraught; it’s basically an oxymoron in a sense: if there was a ‘correct’ way of doing politics, there would be nothing to argue about.

I have a vague memory of proposing an alternative label at some point, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was…

Suggestions, anyone?