Conservatives’ problem with political correctness
Since last week, I’ve been bothered by conservative commentators’ constant use of the kneejerk phrase “political correctness” to describe liberals’ massively dishonest response to the Fort Hood massacre, but had not gotten around to writing about it. However, Sage McLaughlin posted a superb comment at What’s Wrong with the World yesterday that says pretty much what I would have said and more:
The reason people don’t understand why PC becomes so entrenched is because “political correctness” is itself a phrase that obscures the institutional rationale for things. PC is nothing more or less than advanced, institutionalized liberalism. I have come to dislike the phrase “political correctness run amok” very strongly. It suggests that just a little bit of PC would be sensible, or that PC is just an extreme version of something basically rational, which it’s not. You can’t identify and combat “political correctness run amok,” because it’s a meaningless way to describe the phenomenon.This is so good it’s worth repeating:
Finally, recognizing this fact also explains why people are so hopelessly confused by it all—they accept the basic premises of liberalism, and they largely know precisely when and how to cringe before its demands … but they nonetheless are baffled when they see institutions behaving in accordance with the raw, anti-rational radicalism of the non-discrimination principle.In other words, the very thing that people ordinarily and unreflectively support and obey, they suddenly attack as the bogeyman “political correctness” when it appears in its pure form.
Ralph Peters is an example of this schizophrenia. He has had daily columns in the New York Post since the massacre (normally he writes two columns a week) in which he has ceaselessly gone after the “political correctness” of the Army for its failure to stop Nidal Hasan and of the liberal media for their extravagant campaign to describe Hasan’s act of mass murder as anything other than what it is. And what it is, according to Peters, is “Islamist extremism.” In other words, he bitterly castigates liberals’ PC refusal to call the attack what it is, while he himself uses (and uses over and over and over) the gratuitously PC phrase “Islamist extremism,” rather than simply speaking of “Islamic extremism.”
Remember, the whole purpose of the term “Islamist” was to avoid criticizing Islam as such. “Islamist” conveys the idea of extreme Islam as distinct from Islam. If you spoke of “Islamic extremism” or of “Islamism,” you had shown that you were not speaking of all Muslims but of the supposed tiny minority of Muslims who are extremists; you had shown that you were properly sensitive. But now Peters has become so PC and so hypersenstive himself that the unobjectionable and sufficiently qualified phrase, “Islamic extremism,” has become insufficiently qualified for him. So he speaks instead of “Islamist extremism,” which is like saying, “Extremist extremism.”
How can a writer who furiously tells other people that they should stop using their PC euphemisms, and use his PC euphemism instead, expect anyone to take him serously?
Bruce B. writes:
I would qualify two points in Mr. McLaughlin’s excellent comment:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 11, 2009 12:44 PM | Send