How conservatives’ addiction to the term “political correctness” cripples them intellectually

In the previous entry, about the State Department’s changing the words “mother” and “father” to “parent 1” and “parent 2” on passport applications in order to include same-sex couples, I wrote this comment:

I continue to be discouraged by conservatives’ mental laziness and inability to grasp this issue properly. Consider the response of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to the word change:

“Only in the topsy-turvy world of left-wing political correctness could it be considered an ‘improvement’ for a birth-related document to provide less information about the circumstances of that birth.”

When Perkins speaks of the “topsy turvy world of political correctness,” he is saying that the word change is ridiculous and irrational. But it’s not ridiculous or irrational. It’s entirely rational. Once you have same-sex couples as parents, the word-pair “mother and father” does not include those parents, and therefore different words, sex-neutral words, are needed to include them. The elimination of the words mother and father is not some silly, unnecessary indulgence, but a logically inevitable result of same-sex parenthood.

Will the day ever come when conservatives stop automatically using the mindless, dismissive term “political correctness” to refer to leftist phenomena which are in fact deeply coherent and deadly serious?

I continued:

And the answer to my question is, sadly, No, not so long as Americans continue in their British-based dislike of analyzing political phenomena in terms of first principles and as outgrowths of first principles. Americans, like the British, seem to consider it bad taste, a form of incivility, to reason rigorously and logically. As a result, American conservatives are unable to identify the nature of the leftist dynamic that is steadily destroying our society, or to propose a counter-principle to it. All they can do, in the face of each new leftist victory, is to mutter, “political correctness, political correctness, political correctness…”

The amazing fact is that “political correctness” is, and has been for a long time, conservatives’ principal term for describing leftist phenomena, yet this term lacks any substantive or conceptual content. It conveys zero information about the leftist phenomena to which it refers. Conservatives thus find themselves in the midst of one of the greatest social revolutions in history, the Revolution of Non-Discrimination, and they are unable to understand it, because they’ve made no effort to understand it, because they complacently think that their pat but empty phrase “political correctness” is a sufficient description of it.

- end of initial entry -

Jack Henzie writes:

Quite brilliant in its utter matter-of-fact simplicity, Lawrence. I hope you’ll expand upon this theme. The millions of serious quarrels that have been terminated with the simplistic notion of political correctness go on unchallenged and undiscussed. The unfiltered BS that goes down without a frown nowadays is killing the Republic. Stick to this theme for a spell; it’s worth the effort.

LA replies:

Thank you. I agree there’s more to be fleshed out here, namely the relentless, step-by-step logic of the leftist advance, none of the steps of which the conservatives ever seem to grasp, but instead they mindlessly label each step forward in the leftist advance as “political correctness.”

January 8

Andrea C. writes:

I think that the Tea Party offers the easiest way to start applying a major corrective to the problem discussed in this entry and in the links. It is very simply this: cut the spending that is supporting a vast social architecture that is doing nothing more than separating human beings from their actions. As someone said the other day, there is nothing in the Constitution that leads a person to have to accept homosexuality and vice versa. But without an overarching social structure that wedges the acceptance of homosexuality into our society, guess which one most people would naturally choose. In the case of the imposition of homosexuality as a norm, the structure is composed of the sensitivity training, research, promotion, education, bureaus, documents and on and on. If no money was available to be used to build these things, they wouldn’t exist for us. And free association, a bedrock principle, would be strengthened.

In this way we don’t have to try to educate everyone in philosophy first which would be too difficult and, perhaps more importantly, plenty would still succumb to the temptations offered by the current paradigm.

If the vast liberal institutions that are currently serving to separate people from their actions (and by extension their very nature) were dismantled, virtue and stigma would of necessity reemerge as a matter of survival, or at least as an avoidance of chaos. There would be very, very few old folks’ homes and it would be beyond the means of most but to care for aged parents at home, there would be virtually no students going to colleges and wasting their time learning garbage spending years unproductively, the few who went to college would choose more carefully and study harder, unwed mothers would be taken care of by their own families, we would have to save and plan for everything we wanted to do, in an accident or illness we would have to pay the doctor and hospital directly, on and on. We would be reacquainted with the true cost of living which is only a form, in dollars and cents and work and occupation, of the truth about our lives. We Americans are living in an inflated bubble cushioning us and we’ve borrowed the money from our children to do it. When we pop the bubble, which as I see it is the one and only project of the Tea Party, our standard of living will go down but we will be better people for it.

LA replies:

Well, I guess it’s a plan of sorts: to stop the homosexual agenda, all we have to do is de-fund and dismantle virtually all government.

Andrea replies:

Only need to defund Constitutionally illegitimate fed spending….

I’m saying that we will get the conversion of mind and conversion of lives that we seek if we successfully put a stop to the Constitutionally illegitimate spending. This is the social spending the Federal Gov’t does for housing, education, retirement plans, medical plans along with the regulation and taxation put in place to exact certain behavior from the people. We therefore do an end run around the need to wake everybody up to philosophical truth by having everyone confront reality in their own lives materially. I believe that castles-in-the-air such as “homosexuality does not hurt anyone” will fall because they are merely supported by federal spending.

LA replies:

There is something to what you are saying. The insanity of modern liberalism—i.e., liberalism the ruling principle of which is to eliminate all discrimination and intolerance—could only exist in a society with huge buffers against reality, buffers such as those provided by vast surplus wealth and the modern Provider State.

But there’s the problem. The leisure and the buffers against reality that make people feel they can screw around with the structure of society and the structure of human nature do not just come from government spending. They come from the enormous wealth and leisure made possible by modern technology and economy. Therefore I don’t know that cutting down government would get at the root of the problem.

George R. writes:

I think you’re really on to something with this “political correctness” issue. Certainly it was a clever tactic for conservatives to appropriate the term as a satirical weapon against left-wing insanity. However, their continuous and incessant use of it has betrayed a certain hollowness in their own position. They seem to forget (or perhaps they never knew) that the problem with political correctness, that is, with leftist orthodoxy, is not that it has been imposed on us, but that it is destructive, vicious, and insane—in other words, false and incorrect. This, however, implies that there is a true orthodoxy, one that first and foremost must condemn leftist heterodoxy as being destructive, vicious, and insane. But try to suggest to today’s conservatives that they ought to be preaching a true political orthodoxy to be imposed on society and they’d react with horror. No, all they want is to be free, and for everybody else to be free. They seem to have no idea that the first prerequisite for freedom is to be subject to truth.

LA replies:

This is a very different point from my point, but is interesting. My point is that the problem with conservatives’ use of the term political correctness is that it is empty of meaning and doesn’t help them understand or oppose leftist orthodoxy. Your point is that when conservatives complain about political correctness they are attacking the idea of authoritative truth, of any authoritative truth, which they shouldn’t be doing, because we need authoritative truth. We need to attack the left’s false authority and replace it with true authority.

George R. replies:

I was also trying to point out that when people use words like “correctness” and “orthodoxy” exclusively in an ironic sense, they forget the true sense of those words. And as a result, they forget that correctness and orthodoxy, when properly understood, are good things, and necessary for a well-ordered society.

Alan M. writes:

Perhaps …

“Political correctness” is to the “rule of leftist orthodoxy” as “terrorism” is as to the “rule of Islam,”

We shouldn’t fight the tactic—but the belief system.

LA replies:

Yes, if “political correctness” does have a real meaning, it means the enforcement of leftist orthodoxy, as distinct from the contents of the orthodoxy itself. But the conservatives are so thoughtless and unreflective in their statements that they don’t even use the term “political correctness” in this correct and delimited sense. They use it as an all-purpose synonym for leftism generally.

Cary J. writes:

You are entirely correct to deconstruct “political correctness” as a label for the tendency to strip us of our particulars, to deny us our ability to discern differences, and to silence us from critical intellectual discussions. [LA replies: But it is NOT used as a label that conveys the first two meanings you mention. Conservatives have no word to convey those meanings. They make no attempt to convey those meanings. That is my point.]

“Political correctness” wasn’t always problematic. I can well recall the day when I first read about it and breathed a sign of relief that someone somewhere had the guts to challenge the reigning destructive orthodoxy. The term served us well by providing a way to distinguish between the powers of coercion and the liberating impact of genuine critical thinking. Now “political correctness” has pretty well worn out its powers of insight and description.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure what would be a better term to replace “political correctmess,” and the problem is compounded by the fact that many attacks on America’s majority ethnicities, American history, American law, and the unitary nature of America are grounded on race, and it is extremely difficult to tackle someone head on in public discourse unless the attack back can be based on the same level as the attack itself. I don’t know how that can be done.

LA replies:

The better term with which to replace “political correctness” (as I have been arguing forever) is liberalism.

Robert S. writes:

Your point about the lack of substantive meaning in the so-called political discourse of both the left and right is well put. [LA replies: I was not saying that the left’s position lacks substantive meaning. My whole point is that the left’s position does have substantive meaning and a telos towards which it mercilessly moves, but that conservatives refuse to recognize this meaning and this telos and to oppose them.] Terms like “political correctness” are merely inane cant. However, our politicians of all persuasions are so maleducated as to be delusional and incapable of rational debate. Many of them are also dangerous sociopaths. [LA replies: I was not speaking about Republican politicians, but about conservative writers.]But, We the People elected them. And, it must be noted that these defects go back to the founding of the Republic. They are inherent in any kind of representative democracy. No amount of Constitutional tinkering will eliminate them. So, if you wish to rid us of the problem, you have to give us a dictatorship. And there’s the rub. The best you could hope for would be a Franco/Pinochet style military coup d’etat. But you could get a Pol Pot terror. [LA replies: you are jumping way beyond the problem being discussed here. I am not talking about eliminating a problem, by dictatorial means or otherwise. I am calling on conservatives to understand what liberalism/leftism is about, to call it by its proper names, and to oppose it.]

A conservative writer and blogger writes:

Excellent. Fits into some stuff I’ve been working on. Also, just now I posted something and came to that point where most would write PC and (thankfully) I realized it was a nonsense term, really, and used a more descriptive term instead.

LA writes:

Here are older writings by me on this subject, going back to 2002 at VFR and back to a talk I gave to the Federation for American Immigration Reform in 1991:

Is there a difference between “silly” and “non-silly” PC?

Why Conservatives Call PC Tyranny “Silly”

George Fraser, the ruin of Britain, and the possibility of true resistance to liberalism [How criticizing political correctness is inadequate. We must understand what liberalism is, what liberals really believe in and seek, how they seek the destruction of tradition, then by standing for tradition we stand against liberalism.]

Roger Kimball’s pointless criticisms of the cultural left [According to Kimble, the ongoing destruction of our culture is the result of “bending over backwards to mollify multicultural sensitivities,” it’s a “linguistic absurdity,” and it makes him “sick.” He has neither an explanation of why it’s happening nor an intellectual or practical response to it.]

The real “PC” [My 1991 speech at FAIR. PC is not the problem, but the liberal democratic belief system—accepted by conservatives—of which PC is the symptom.]

Debra C. writes:

In my experience, the people I know who are conservatives are not very deep thinkers. (And I realize that the thrust of this entry may pertain primarily to so-called conservative writers and politicians.) The conservatives I know, with a few notable exceptions, are easily intimidated by the liberal culture surrounding them, enforced by politically correct dogma effusing from the workplace, the media ((TV (both news and entertainment) Hollywood, print-journalism)), government, and even intimate, family members.

It takes a deeply-rooted and well-thought out commitment to conservative principles to stand firm against the constant barrage of liberalism that tells you you are nuts to believe in absolutes, that tells you you are evil not to want egalitarian non-discrimination as the standard by which to measure values, that insists that global warming should be tackled by the government, over-population is a threat to mankind, abortion is not an evil, homosexuality should be nurtured in our culture, and that Christian Orthodoxy is a plague on mankind.

The left messes with people’s minds; I know. I’ve been in an intimate relationship with a leftist, unbeknownst to be at the outset, who was in many ways brighter than I was, and therefore able to convince me that I was a lunatic for maintaining the views I held. But God told me I was right; and I chose to believe God, and ended that relationship for fear of my sanity.

Do not discount the power of brainwashing to unhinge otherwise conservative-leaning individuals. If people are not steeped in solid conservative principles—principles that are considered reactionary and now, even dangerous by the “powers that be”—then they are ripe for the picking. Only the utter horror of our current administration is beginning to make people question where we are headed, speaking of telos. And that’s the reality we need to make men face: Where are we headed?

LA replies:

To my mind, Debra’s comment reinforces what I am always saying: that there is no real and viable conservatism at present, in the sense of a political/cultural force that is fundamentally different from liberalism and prepared to stand against its totalistic forward march; that such conservatism must be created; and, as Alan Roebuck argues, that a key task of this new conservatism must be to offer an articulate intellectual challenge to liberalism. Of course it is the case, as Debra says, that under current circumstances the average conservative has no ability to stand against the prevailing liberal winds that surround and engulf him. It’s not that every conservative needs to be an intellectual. It’s that there needs to be a vigorous intellectual conservatism in existence, led by conservative intellectual leaders, giving guidance, sustenance, and support to average conservatives.

Again, nothing like that now exists. If elements of it did once exist, in an earlier and more vigorous period of the modern conservative movement, they no longer exist. As we can see from its complete and utter collapse in the face of the homosexualization of the military, what is called the conservative movement is now an empty shell. It is, as H.G. Wells said of the Holy Roman Empire, a corpse pretending to be a living being. Therefore we have no choice. Either we build a new conservatism, a conservatism equipped to fight the left, or the left will take over and destroy whatever is left of our civilization.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 07, 2011 09:22 PM | Send

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