Political correctness

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Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term applied to language, ideas, policies, or behavior seen as seeking to minimize offense to gender, racial, cultural, disabled, aged or other identity groups. Conversely, the term "politically incorrect" is used to refer to language or ideas that may cause offense or that are unconstrained by orthodoxy.

Ruth Perry traces the term back to Mao's Little Red Book. According to Perry, the term was later adopted by the radical Left in the 1960s, initially seriously and later ironically, as a self-criticism of dogmatic attitudes. In the 1990s, because of the term's association with radical politics and communist censorship, it was used by the political Right in the United States to try to discredit the Old and New Left.[1]

The term itself and its usage are controversial. The term "political correctness" is used almost exclusively in a pejorative sense,[2][1] while "politically incorrect" is commonly used as an implicitly positive self-description, as in the series of "Politically Incorrect Guides", produced by conservative publisher Regnery[3] and the former talk show Politically Incorrect.

Some commentators[2][4][5][6][7] have argued that the term "political correctness" is a straw man used by conservatives in the 1990s in order to challenge leftist social change, especially with respect to issues of race, religion and gender.


[edit] History

[edit] In the United States

The earliest citation is not politically correct, in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), denoting the statement to which it refers is literally incorrect, owing to the U.S.'s political status as then understood.[8]

[edit] In Marxism-Leninism

In Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist vocabulary, the term "correct" was commonly used to describe the appropriate "party line", often called the "correct line".[9]

A similar term was used in the People's Republic of China, [1][10][11] notably as part of Mao Zedong's declarations on handling "nonantagonistic contradictions."[12]

[edit] In the U.S. New Left

Even before the use of the term, the concept of the Left mocking its own use of language is evident in the 1956 pamphlet, "Lifeitselfmanship or How to Become a Precisely-Because Man" by the well-born communist Jessica Mitford. In response to Noblesse Oblige, the book her sister Nancy co-wrote and edited on the class distinctions in British English, popularising the phrases "U and non-U English" (upper class and non-upper class), Jessica described L and non-L (Left and non-Left) English, mocking the clichés used by her comrades in the all-out class struggle. [13][14] (The title alludes to Stephen Potter's series of books that included Lifemanship.)

Some U.S. New Left proponents adopted the usage of the phrase "political correctness". One 1970 example [1] is in Toni Cade Bambara's essay The Black Woman: "a man cannot be politically correct and a [male] chauvinist too", illustrating its usage in gender and identity politics, rather than solely about general political orthodoxy.

Yet, soon afterwards, the New Left re-appropriated the term political correctness as satirical self-criticism; per Debra Shultz: "Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the New Left, feminists, and progressives ... used their term politically correct ironically, as a guard against their own orthodoxy in social change efforts".[15][2][1] Hence the phrase's popular usage in English [1][16] and Bobby London's usage in the underground comic book Merton of the Movement, while the alternative term, ideologically sound, followed a like lexical path, appearing in Bart Dickon's satirical comic strips.

In typical left-wing usage, Ellen Willis says: "in the early '80s, when feminists used the term political correctness it was used to refer sarcastically to the anti-pornography movement's efforts to define a 'feminist sexuality' ".[17]

[edit] In conservative rhetoric

In the 1990s, after the Cold War, this obscure term became part of conservative social and political challenges to curriculum expansion and "progressive" teaching methods in American universities and high schools (D'Souza 1991; Berman 1992; Schultz 1993; Messer Davidow 1993, 1994; Scatamburlo 1998). In 1991, in a commencement address at the University of Michigan, U.S. President George H. W. Bush spoke against a "movement" that would "declare certain topics off-limits, certain expressions off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits".[18]

[edit] Worldwide

The phrase "politically correct" is popular in other countries, including Scandinavian countries (politiskt korrekt=pk), Portugal, Spain, and Latin America (políticamente correcto), New Zealand[19], France (politiquement correct), Germany (politisch korrekt), Poland (poprawność polityczna, poprawny politycznie), The Netherlands and Flanders (politiek correct=poco), Italy (politicamente corretto) and Russia (политкорректность, политкорректный). Although the dominant usage is pejorative, a few writers use political correctness to describe inclusive language or civility, and thus praise language that they see as politically correct.[20]

[edit] Explanations

[edit] As a linguistic concept

According to Andrews,[21] using "inclusive" and "neutral" language is based upon the idea that "language represents thought, and may even control thought"; per the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, a language's grammatical categories shape the speaker's ideas and actions,[22] although Andrews says that moderate conceptions of the relation between language and thought are sufficient to support the "reasonable deduction" of "cultural change via linguistic change".

Other cognitive psychology and cognitive linguistics works indicate that word-choices have significant "framing effects" on the perceptions, memories, and attitudes of speakers and listeners.[23][24] The relevant empirical question is whether or not sexist language promotes sexism, i.e. sexist thought and action.

In some cases, what critics call political correctness, its advocates defend as the usage of inoffensive language whose goal is multi-fold:

  1. The rights, opportunities, and freedoms of certain people are restricted because they are reduced to a stereotype.
  2. Stereotyping largely is implicit, unconscious, and facilitated by the availability of pejorative labels and terms.
  3. Rendering the labels and terms socially unacceptable, people then must consciously think about how they describe someone unlike themselves.
  4. When labelling is a conscious activity, the described person's individual merits become apparent, rather than his or her stereotype.

A further complication is that terms chosen by an identity group, as acceptable descriptors of themselves, then pass into common usage, including usage by the very people whose racism and sexism, et cetera, the new terms mean to supersede. The new terms are thus devalued, and another set of words must be coined, giving rise to lengthy progressions such as Negro, Coloured, Black, African-American and so on. (See Euphemism treadmill.)

[edit] As engineered term

Some commentators, primarily on the Left, claim that the term "political correctness" was re-engineered by American conservatives after 1980 as a way to reframe political arguments in the United States. According to Hutton:

"Political correctness is one of the brilliant tools that the American Right developed in the mid-1980s as part of its demolition of American liberalism....What the sharpest thinkers on the American Right saw quickly was that by declaring war on the cultural manifestations of liberalism - by levelling the charge of political correctness against its exponents - they could discredit the whole political project."[25]

Such commentators say that there never was a "Political Correctness movement" in the United States, and that many who use the term are attempting to distract attention from substantive debates over discrimination and unequal treatment based on race, class, and gender (Messer-Davidow 1993, 1994; Schultz 1993; Lauter 1995; Scatamburlo 1998; Glassner 1999). Similarly, Polly Toynbee has argued that "the phrase is an empty rightwing smear designed only to elevate its user".[26]

[edit] As "Cultural Marxism"

Some critics, primarily on the Right, claim that political correctness is a Marxist-inspired effort aimed at undermining Western values.[27] Peter Hitchens wrote in his book The Abolition of Britain, "What Americans describe with the casual phrase ... political correctness is the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Isles since the Reformation." Lind and Buchanan have characterized PC as a technique originated by the Frankfurt School. According to Lind and Buchanan, the work of the Frankfurt School aimed at undermining Western values by influencing popular culture through Cultural Marxism.[28][29] Buchanan says in his book The Death of the West: "Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism, a regime to punish dissent and to stigmatize social heresy as the Inquisition punished religious heresy. Its trademark is intolerance."(p. 89).

[edit] Criticism

[edit] General

Critics argue that political correctness is censorship and endangers free speech by limiting what is considered acceptable public discourse, especially in university and the political forums. University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors and lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate, connect political correctness to Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, particularly his claim that liberal ideas of free speech were, in fact, repressive, viewing this "Marcusean logic" as the base of speech codes formulated in American universities.[30] Kors and Silverglate went on to create the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which campaigns against such speech codes.

Other critics say that politically correct terms are awkward euphemisms for truer, original, stark language, comparing them to George Orwell's Newspeak.[31] Some critics of PC use the terms "PC brigade" or the "diversity dictators".[citation needed] Another term used in both a serious criticism and jokingly manner is the "PC Police".

Camille Paglia, a self-described "libertarian Democrat," argues that political correctness gives more power to the Left's enemies and alienates the masses against feminism.[32]

Some critics of political correctness claim that it marginalizes certain words, phrases, actions or attitudes through the instrumentation of public disesteem.[33][34]

Some critics of political correctness argue that it is a form of coercion rooted in the assumption that in a political context, power refers to the dominion of some men over others, or the human control of human life; by this argument, ultimately, it means force or compulsion.[35] This argument holds that correctness in this context is subjective, and corresponds to the sponsored view of the government, minority, or special interest group that these conservative critics oppose. They claim that by silencing contradiction, their opponents entrench their views as orthodox, and eventually cause it to be accepted as true, as freedom of thought requires the ability to choose between more than one viewpoint.[36][37] Some conservatives refer to political correctness as "The Scourge of Our Times."[38]

In a different example, NRK, the largest broadcasting company in Norway, decided to alter the children's story of Pippi Longstocking to be "less excluding"[39]. In the original stories, the main character's father is nigh permanently absent, this is explained as being due to his being a negerkonge - negro king - on a tropical island. The NRK version has him being a sydhavskonge, roughly translated "southern sea king", instead[40]. A second NRK-production was also altered to remove the word neger [41], which is one of several hotly debated[42][43] episodes in Norway[44] [45] where the use of certain words has been deemed inappropriate or racist, and subsequently reduced, criticized, or even outlawed[46].

Critics of political correctness have been accused of showing the same sensitivity to choice of words they claim to be opposing, and of perceiving a political agenda where none exists.[47] For example, a number of news outlets claimed that a school altered the nursery rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" to read "Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep."[48] In fact, the nursery, run by Parents and Children Together (PACT), simply had the kids "turn the song into an action rhyme. ... They sing happy, sad, bouncing, hopping, pink, blue, black and white sheep etc."[49] The spurious claim about the nursery rhyme was widely circulated and later amplified into a suggestion that similar bans applied to the terms "black coffee" and "blackboard."[50] According to Private Eye magazine, similar stories, all without factual basis, have run in the British press since first appearing in The Sun in 1986.[47]

[edit] Political correctness and science

Opponents of mainstream scientific views on evolution, global warming, passive smoking, AIDS, race, and other issues have argued that political correctness is responsible for the failure of their views to get a fair hearing. Thus Ted Steele, an associate university professor of biology, says, in his book, Lamarck's Signature: "We now stand on the threshold of what could be an exciting new era of genetic research. [...] However, the 'politically correct' thought agendas of the neo-Darwinists of the 1990s are ideologically opposed to the idea of 'Lamarckian feedback' just as the church was opposed to the idea of evolution based on natural selection in the 1850s!"[51]

Tom Bethell's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science is a comprehensive presentation of the viewpoint that mainstream science is dominated by politically correct thinking. Bethell rejects mainstream views on evolution and global warming and supports AIDS denialism.[52]

[edit] Right wing political correctness

Allegations of political correctness, in the sense of an enforced orthodoxy, have been directed against the political right.

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, several weeks after their Grammy success, the country band the Dixie Chicks performed in London at the Shepherd's Bush Empire theatre. During this 10 March 2003 concert, the band introduced their song "Travelin' Soldier", during which Natalie Maines, a Texas native, was quoted by The Guardian as saying, "Just so you know, [...] we're ashamed that the President of the United States [George W. Bush] is from Texas." Though this is the official circulation of the comment, the full text of the statement Maines made was as follows: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”[53]

The resulting backlash against the band was described by columnist Don Williams as an example of exacting a price for expressing views the right considered politically incorrect. Williams wrote "the ugliest form of political correctness occurs whenever there's a war on. Then you'd better watch what you say." Williams noted that Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly called it treason. [54]

In 2004, then Australian Labor leader Mark Latham described conservative calls for "civility" as "The New Political Correctness".[55]

Other examples include attempts to rename French fries as Freedom fries, and the name Liberty cabbage used for sauerkraut during World War I.

[edit] Satirical use

Political correctness has frequently been a target of satire. Two early and famous examples are 1992's Politically Correct Manifesto by Saul Jerushalmy and Rens Zbignieuw X[56] and 1994's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner, in which traditional fairy tales are rewritten from an exaggerated PC viewpoint. Other examples include Bill Maher's former television program, which was entitled Politically Incorrect and George Carlin's "Euphemisms" routine. The Politically Correct Scrapbook[57] also further satirizes political correctness. Comedy Central's controversial animated show South Park regularly satirizes political correctness.

In response to the "Freedom Fries" incident, it was suggested that the Fama-French model used in corporate finance might be renamed the "Fama-Freedom" model.[58]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Ruth Perry, (1992), "A short history of the term 'politically correct' " in Beyond PC: Toward a Politics of Understanding by Aufderheide, Patricia 1992
  2. ^ a b c Schultz, Debra L. (1993). To Reclaim a Legacy of Diversity: Analyzing the “Political Correctness” Debates in Higher Education. New York: National Council for Research on Women. [1]
  3. ^ "Regnery". http://www.regnery.com/pig.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-28. 
  4. ^ Ellen Messer-Davidow. 1993. "Manufacturing the Attack on Liberalized Higher Education." Social Text, Fall, pp. 40–80.
    Ellen Messer-Davidow. 1994. "Who (Ac)Counts and How." MMLA (The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association), vol. 27, no. 1, Spring, pp. 26–41.
  5. ^ P. Lauter. 1995. "'Political correctness' and the attack on American colleges." In M. Bérubé & C. Nelson, Higher education under fire: Politics, economics, and the crisis in the humanities. New York, NY: Routledge.
  6. ^ Scatamburlo, Valerie L. 1998. Soldiers of Misfortune: The New Right's Culture War and the Politics of Political Correctness. Counterpoints series, Vol. 25. New York: Peter Lang.
  7. ^ * Barry Glassner, The Culture of Fear New York: Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 0-465-01489-5 / ISBN 0-465-01490-9
  8. ^ Chisholm v State of GA, 2 US 419 (1793) Findlaw.com - Accessed February 6, 2007. "The states, rather than the People, for whose sakes the States exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention[...]. Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? 'The United States', instead of the 'People of the United States', is the toast given. This is not politically correct."
  9. ^ "Marxism and Form". http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051212/collini. Retrieved on 2007-08-26. 
  10. ^ Chang-tu Hu, International Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft / Revue Internationale de l'Education, Vol. 10, No. 1. (1964), pp. 12-21.
  11. ^ Susan Biele Alitto, Comparative Education Review, Vol. 13, No. 1. (Feb., 1969), pp. 43-59.
  12. ^ On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  13. ^ Severo, Richard (July 23, 1996). "Jessica Mitford, Mordant Critic of American Ways, and a British Upbringing, Dies at 78". The New York Times. Jessica Mitford Memorial Site. http://www.mitford.org/nytimes.htm. Retrieved on 2007-10-28. 
  14. ^ Cohen, Nick (20 August 2001). "Do you speak New Labour?". The New Statesman. http://www.newstatesman.com/200108200009. Retrieved on 2007-10-28. 
  15. ^ Schultz citing Perry, 1992, P. 16
  16. ^ Joel Bleifuss (February 2007). "A Politically Correct Lexicon". In These Times. http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3027/a_politically_correct_lexicon/. 
  17. ^ Ellen Willis, "Toward a Feminist Revolution", in No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays, Wesleyan University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-8195-5250-X, p. 19.
  18. ^ Remarks at the University of Michigan Commencement Ceremony in Ann Arbor, May 4, 1991. George Bush Presidential Library.
  19. ^ mapp (9 December 2005). "Political Correctness - Next Steps". http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0512/S00144.htm. Retrieved on 2007-04-19. 
  20. ^ "Teaching Politically Correct Language". http://exchanges.state.gov/forum/vols/vol44/no1/p20.htm. 
  21. ^ Cultural Sensitivity and Political Correctness: The Linguistic Problem of Naming, Edna Andrews, American Speech, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Winter, 1996), pp. 389-404.
  22. ^ Development and Validation of an Instrument to Measure Attitudes Toward Sexist/Nonsexist Language Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, March, 2000 by Janet B. Parks, Mary Ann Roberton [2]
  23. ^ Loftus, E. and Palmer, J. 1974. Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 13, pp.585-9
  24. ^ Kahneman, D. and Amos Tversky. 1981. The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice. Science, 211, pp.453-458
  25. ^ Hutton W, "Words really are important, Mr Blunkett" The Observer, Sunday December 16, 2001 - Accessed February 6, 2007.
  26. ^ Toynbee P, "Religion must be removed from all functions of state", The Guardian, Sunday December 12, 2001 - Accessed February 6, 2007.
  27. ^ http://www.freecongress.org/PC_Essays/B_Intro_and_chapter_one.pdf
  28. ^ William S. Lind states Political Correctness is a form of cultural marxism
  29. ^ Buchanan interview on Fox News
  30. ^ Kors AC and Silvergate H, "Codes of silence - who's silencing free speech on campus -- and why" Reason Magazine (online), November 1998 - Accessed February 6, 2007.
  31. ^ Schmidt M. "The Orwellian Language of Big Government" NTUF Policy Paper 152 Accessed February 3, 2007.
  32. ^ Camille Paglia says it best-- Accessed February 2, 2007. "My message to the media is: Wake up! The silencing of authentic debate among feminists just helps the rise of the far right. When the media get locked in their Northeastern ghetto and become slaves of the feminist establishment and fanatical special interests, the American audience ends up looking to conservative voices for common sense. As a libertarian Democrat, I protest against this self-defeating tyranny of political correctness."
  33. ^ "Beyond political correctness." HPR online (the online site of the Harvard political review), Posted March 6, 2006 - Accessed February 6, 2007.
  34. ^ Young C. "Under the radar - political correctness never died." Reason Online July 2004 - Accessed February 6, 2007. "On campuses across America, the censorship of speech and ideas in the name of sensitivity continues unabated."
  35. ^ Bailyn B. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. p. 55-56. Cambridge: The Harvard University Press, 1967,1992. ISBN 0-674-44302-0. "The essence of what they meant by power was perhaps best revealed inadvertently by John Adams as he groped for words in drafting his Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law. Twice choosing and then rejecting the word "power," he finally selected as the specification of the thought he had in mind "dominion," and in this association of words the whole generation concurred. "Power" to them meant the dominion of some men over others, the human control of human life: ultimately force, compulsion."
  36. ^ Strauss L. Persecution and the Art of Writing. p. 23. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1952. ISBN 0-226-77711-1. "They have not been convinced by compulsion, for compulsion does not produce conviction. It merely paves the way for conviction by silencing contradiction. What is called freedom of thought in a large number of cases amounts to — and even for all practical purposes consists of — the ability to choose between two or more different views presented by the small minority of people who are public speakers or writers. If this choice is prevented, the only kind of intellectual independence of which many people are capable is destroyed, and that is the only freedom of thought which is of political importance."
  37. ^ Mansfield HC "The cost of free speech." The Weekly Standard. October 3, 2005 - Accessed February 6, 2007. "For lively exchange you need balance, as it is easy for a dominant majority to be unruffled by dissent when it is only from a token few."
  38. ^ Political Correctness: The Scourge of Our Times - Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
  39. ^ Fjerner støtende ord NRK Kulturnytt
  40. ^ Pippis pappa ikke negerkonge lenger - Dagbladet, 12-2006
  41. ^ -Et overgrep mot litteraturen NRK Kulturnytt
  42. ^ -Greit å si neger NRK Nyheter
  43. ^ Raser etter fjerning av negerkonge TV2 Nettavisen
  44. ^ Negeren og nordmannen Aftenposten nett
  45. ^ Ikke gjør som mora di sier VG Nett
  46. ^ Forbudt å si neger Adresseavisa
  47. ^ a b "Obsolete: Baa Baa Rainbow Bollocks.". http://www.septicisle.info/2006/03/baa-baa-rainbow-bollocks.html. Retrieved on 2007-10-06. 
  48. ^ Blair, Alexandra (2006-03-07). "Why black sheep are barred and Humpty can't be cracked". The Times. http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article738220.ece. Retrieved on 2007-10-05. 
  49. ^ "BBC NEWS". http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4782856.stm. Retrieved on 2007-10-06. 
  50. ^ "Teen Ink - Bah, Bah, Rainbow Sheep". http://teenink.com/talk/showthread.php?s=cb96eb0a024fd73bbc9080f5184fd151&postid=322528. Retrieved on 2007-10-06. 
  51. ^ Robert V. Blanden; Steele, Edward David; Lindley, Robyn A. (1999). Lamarck's signature: how retrogenes are changing Darwin's natural selection paradigm. Reading, Mass: Perseus Books. ISBN 0-7382-0171-5. 
  52. ^ Bethell, Tom. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science. Washington, D.C: Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-031-X. 
  53. ^ http://www.democracynow.org/2007/2/15/shut_up_and_sing_dixie_chicks
  54. ^ "Don Williams Insights - Dixie Chicks Were Right". http://www.mach2.com/williams/index.php?t=1&c=20060602120901. Retrieved on 2007-11-09. 
  55. ^ http://www.australianpolitics.com/news/2002/08/02-08-26.shtml
  56. ^ http://www.fiction.net/tidbits/politics/pc.html
  57. ^ http://www.capc.co.uk/PC%20_Scrapbook_Main.htm
  58. ^ ""Fama-French" Model Renamed "Fama-Freedom" Model - GSB News, Chicago Business". http://media.www.chibus.com/media/storage/paper408/news/2005/04/01/GsbNews/famaFrench.Model.Renamed.famaFreedom.Model-909279.shtml. Retrieved on 2007-11-09. 

[edit] Further reading

  • Aufderheide, Patricia. (ed.). 1992. Beyond P.C.: Toward a Politics of Understanding. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press.
  • Berman, Paul. (ed.). 1992. Debating P.C.: The Controversy Over Political Correctness on College Campuses. New York, New York: Dell Publishing.
  • Gottfried, Paul E., After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State, 1999. ISBN 0-691-05983-7
  • Jay, Martin., The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950, University of California Press, New Ed edition (March 5, 1996). ISBN 0-520-20423-9
  • Switzer, Jacqueline Vaughn. Disabled Rights: American Disability Policy and the Fight for Equality. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003.

[edit] Against

[edit] Skeptical

  • Debra L. Schultz. 1993. To Reclaim a Legacy of Diversity: Analyzing the "Political Correctness" Debates in Higher Education. New York: National Council for Research on Women.
  • Wilson, John. 1995. The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on High Education. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.

[edit] External links

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