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“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – attributed to James Madison[1]

The creation of Political Correctness (PC) has been shown to be a tool of authoritarianism. My contention is that PC officially promotes a worldview that seeks equality by combatting discrimination by promoting multiculturalism and identity politics, such as gender, race, religion, secularism, sexual orientation, age and disability. Supporters have claimed that PC is instrument to create a more inclusive society by altering what society can say, and therefore think, about social or cultural demographics. However, I would argue that the true intention of PC is to overthrow the traditional cultural narrative of a particular society, ironically creating another type of unequal society, as those to disagree with the proposed changes in thought are punished and isolated from ‘polite society’. This is achieved by interrupting opinions that vary from what is deemed to be acceptable are somehow bigoted, indifferent or immoral. I would argue that PC does not bring about a more harmonious society, but is a path to tyranny.

In order to explore this thesis, I first explore the origins of PC and how it can devolve critical thinking. Secondly I scrutinize the noble intentions of PC and how it has overextended its initial goal of keeping ‘hatred’ at bay and has become authoritarian itself. Finally, I will explore recent examples of disagreement becomes criticised in order to establish the ‘greater good’.

The Origins and Implications of Political Correctness

The thesis may sound melodramatic at first, however, once the history of PC is analysed, the authoritarian nature is exposed to be a fundamental plank of its ideological makeup. This belief is verified once the works of Mao Zedong and George Orwell are studied. It was Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party who brought the PC into the modern world, when he stated that the idea of ‘political correctness’ could evolve to mean the ‘correct political line’ and the discovery of ‘correct ideas’. By radicalizing those who support the alleged ‘correct ideas’ and viewing those who dare disagree, to be perceived as ‘enemies’ and/or ‘counter-revolutionaries’[2]. What this indicates, is that in order to achieve a certain reality, control must be exerted on not just speech but thought itself. Due to the nature of PC being created in Communist Asiatic country, the Liberal Democratic Western nations can dismiss the notion of such dogma would occur in their own culture.

This concept was not lost on George Orwell, who incorporated the implications of political correctness into his despotic novel 1984 in which British society is under an authoritarian-boot with individualism and independent thinking are now known as ‘thoughtcrimes’. The tactics used in order to achieve this is the control of vocabulary. It was realized that if words could be created, controlled, reinvented and suppressed, the perception of reality of a person or a mass of people could be manipulated to suit whatever ideology is holding the councils of power.[3] This is exemplified in the slogan of Big Brother: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.[4] Orwell depicts this occurring in 1984,where the State’s official, O’Brien, is torturing the protagonist Winston Smith. During the interrogation, O’Brien asks Smith the answer to a mathematically wrong formula of two plus two makes five – and states that if everyone believes it, it’s true. Regardless what the actual truth may be, if the majority believes otherwise, that perception becomes reality[5]. The fact that Winston questioned the conventional wisdom therefore represented a threat to peace, as disagreement disrupts society.

The Orwellian nature of PC offers an explanation as to why modern-day PC Supporters can be so extreme in arguing their cause. As former ‘PC warrior’ Brandon Smith explains, is due to the characteristics, which PC consists, are elitism, futurism, collectivism and control. According to Smith, PC culture like all other believe systems, allows supporters to acquire a certain amount of elitism that allows them to act with a certain kind of zealotry, as they don’t want people to simply accept their beliefs, but to recognize their beliefs as being enlightened, and therefore superior. Due to the true nature of their philosophy is to feel superior to others, there is a constant need to engineer new taboos, regardless how ridiculous. According to Smith, there is also a streak of futurism present where the youth is made to feel wiser than the old. Despite having less world experience than pervious generations, the young have an attitude of being more knowledgeable and sophisticated than their elders (the same tactic used by the Soviets and Nazi regimes). This is called ‘futurism’ where labelling older generations as social bigots and products of a barbaric era. The younger generation is allowed to act as possessors of wisdom without having to go through the trails and tribulations of life. The dictates of natural law are simply an obstacle needed to be overcome in order to create a better world. This worldview is solidified through collectivism, thereby if an individual disagrees with affirmative action, that person is labelled as racist and isolated. This tactic is unsurprising as it keeps true to its communistic origins.

This is extremely important to understand, as it exposes the shameless agenda of PC, which is to weaponize thought itself. However, as I will explain below, the totalitarian nature of PC has asserted itself, although it has not been by negative means such as arrests or beatings, but by the much softer approach of linguistic–minimization.

The Ideology of Political Correctness

The implementation of political correctness resulted in a much more resentful society. This is due to the fanatic devotion by those who wish to see their utopian vision come to fruition and the wish to overturn the pillars of society by punishing those who do not conform to the ‘new normal’.

In order to nullify resistance to new ideas, the art of ‘engineering consent’ among the population was needed. This tactic was created by the inventor of modern day propaganda techniques, Edward Bernays, who stated that, the engineering consent as the alteration of opinions by manipulation. He thought that people are unintelligent and driven by instinct and therefore can be unconsciously valuable to suggestions from those who were considered ‘experts’.[6] I would add that once this is achieved, the public will police itself and those who publicly complain or disagree will be suppressed or punished with not only the support of the masses but by public demand. Glenn Loury, who observed there are two levels of debate that are often confused, supports this theory. The first is the language used by those who are critical of PC is unpopular. The second, and more important, point is the fundamental issue that the climate of voicing opinion in important forums, such as universities, which permits constructive, informative dialogue on matters of importance. Increasing, he notes, there is reason to doubt this remains so. For instance, PC on university campuses is used as a threat; it is often reported that through the use of legal restrictions on open expression as well as formal speech codes. The threat is subtle, as the voluntary limitation on speech that a climate of social conformity is encouraged. Nowadays, it is not the iron fist of repression that is used, but the velvet glove of seduction[7].

John Stuart Mill recognized the peril that would be born of such seduction, which results in self-censorship along the erosion of the lexicon, thus control of reality. In On Liberty, he spoke on the importance of opinion and stated that if all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind[8]. Furthermore he foresaw the concept of restricting speech for the ‘greater good’ and questioned it validity political correctness, as it ultimately lead to nothingness ‘if the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error[9]. Even at this stage in history, Mill recognized as to why those who sought to suppress speech, as they are terrified at skepticism, as their claims of an opinion is to be protected from public attack as their opinion rested on its protection, not by truth[10]. This means that language is not simply a choice of words, but as Norman Fairclough states, which changing or maintaining a culture is to gain control over language.[11] In other words, cultures exist as language, as they are also systems and forms of consciousness[12]. Political correctness and being politically correct are identifications imposed upon others by political opponents. But this itself is a form of cultural politics as intervention to change representations, values and identifies as a way of achieving social change[13].

The issue of political correctness is essentially a battle of ideas, where those who are supportive of PC are Critical Theorists who wish to attack the established narrative. In order to attack the status quo, political correctness is used as a weapon, such as linguistic-minimization and the adoption of ‘gender neutral’ language. The problem with the ideology of PC is that it ultimately leads to nothingness. In trying to be accepting to all, it has made everything culturally relative. According to John Tilley, although culture has some moral judgments, no moral judgement is universally valid, meaning to be valid for all cultures, therefore every moral judgment is culturally relative[14]. By deconstructing fundamental beliefs of society, the end result of PC is nothingness, meaning instead of being a tool for unity and peace, it is a weapon to produce balkanization and nihilism.

As I will explore below, the arresting of individual thought has been, not only achieved, but has become all encompassing. It has become apparent that is no limit to what PC will consider to be offensive, no matter how irritating the perceived offense may be.

Political Correctness Gone Too Far

The influence of political correctness can be felt in many debates within society, from the sacred versus secular, nationalism versus internationalism, feminism versus patriarchy, just to name a few. What this implies, is that PC has indeed expanded to every aspect of debate and therefore what is being considered permissible to say and think is rapidly shrinking. In order to establish the ‘greater good’, there are many examples of social intimidation and punishment occurring for those who do not adhere to ‘correct ideas’.

There are also many everyday examples of punishment being dealt to those who refused to submit to the ‘new normal, with the two most notable recent occurrences is the firing of Phil Robertson and the Chick-fill-A controversy. The first example is the reaction to Phil Robertson; star of hit-TV shows ‘Duck Dynasty’. Robertson made ‘anti-gay’ remarks during a sermon where he said, “…but hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical…Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.’ This was deemed by the establishment media as being ‘dangerous hate speech’ and that network A&E punished him for expressing his politically incorrect opinions by removing him indefinitely from the show.[15] It was only by the greater public backlash, which viewed such a punishment as an assault on free speech that Roberson was rehired. And the second is when President and COO of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A openly opposed same-sex marriage. The LGBT community reacted by staging mass protests and boycotts on the chain, while counter-protesters rallied by eating at the restaurant.[16] Although this is an exercise of expression, it carries an undercurrent of authoritarianism, by the implication that if a person is not in agreement with their narrative, then that particular person will some be punished. The element of free speech eventually will become background sound, as the true intention is asserted which is the enforcement of a worldview upon others.

Another example of PC reaching levels of absurdity is the rise of ‘gender neutral’ language[17]. It is proposed by PC supporters that language itself indirectly allows sexism to thrive. Terms such as his, he and man refers to males, but can also used as neutral terms and therefore excludes female word usage[18]. Not only using male-only terms is considered to be oppressive to women, but also misleading. For instance, being ‘doctored’ has worse connotations than does ‘being nursed’[19]. There has been a recent campaign against the word ‘bossy’. Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, launching a campaign to ban the word ‘bossy’ as it a negative putdown and stops girls from pursuing leadership roles. According to Sandberg, the word is a symbolic systematic discouragement of girls to attain positions of leadership[20].

There is also the aspect of ‘gender neutrality’ where the word ‘partner’ has come to replace ‘wife’ or ‘husband’. As explained by Martha L.A. Fineman, marriage has historically been considered the fundamental building block of society. It is a civil contract and regulated by law.[21] By changing the age-old titles of marriage with the unisex replacement, it undermines the whole concept of marriage by regulating it to a term used by anybody, regardless of context. This concept outraged Judge Bathurst-Norman, who said ‘A wife is a wife and to call her otherwise is to downgrade marriage’. He went on to say that a wife or husband is called partner, it is a blow to the institution of marriage. Being a wife or husband is different from being a boyfriend or girlfriend as it involved a solemn vow. Furthermore the term partner is inaccurate as it can be used in other terms, such as being a business partner[22]. I would add that according to the tactics discussed throughout this essay, the idea of stripping away the importance of the meaning of marriage, creates yet another aspect where relativism is inserted into the cultural narrative and therefore renders the whole institution meaningless.

Conclusion

What PC supporters fail to realize, is that nature is beautiful in being imperfect. What I mean by this is that what makes a culture interesting and important is its uniqueness[23]. By wanting to live in a ‘free and open society’, there it must be realized that nature is wonderful and unfair. Therefore the political philosophy of civil-libertarianism, which supports the dogma of freedom to do and believe anything, as long as the non-aggression principal is upheld. By refusing to be tolerant of the intolerant, PC radicals have ironically become authoritarian themselves.

 Bibliography

Barreto, M “The Perils of Political Correctness: Men’s and Women’s Responses to Old-Fashioned and Modern Sexist Views.” Social Psychology Quarterly 68.1 (2005): 75-88.

Bernays, E (1955) The Engineering of Consent, University of Oklahoma Press, United States

Fairclough, Norman. “Political Correctness: The Politics of Culture and Language.” Discourse & Society 14. 17 (2003): 17-28.

Fineman, Martha. “Masking Dependency: The Political Role of Family Rhetoric” Virginia Law Review 81(1995) 2181-2215

Glenn C. Loury. “Self-censorship in Public Discourse: A Theory of ‘Political Correctness’ and Related Phenomena.” Rationality and Society (1994) 428-461

Grant, B (1997) Pauline Hanson: One Nation and Australian Politics, University of New England Press, United Kingdom

Holly Y (2013) Duck Dynasty Family Stands by Suspended Patriarch, CNN Online

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/19/showbiz/duck-dynasty-suspension/

Jay, A (2012) Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Kang, J (2014) The Campaign to ‘Cancel’ Colbert, The New Yorker Online http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/03/twitter-campaign-to-cancel-colbert-report.html

Kelly, T (2009) A wife’s a wife, not a partner, says judge: The trendy term that ‘downgrades marriage’, DailyMail Australia http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1222554/A-wifes-wife-partner-says-judge-The-trendy-term-downgrades-marriage.html

Mill, JS (1860) On Liberty, Hard Classics, United States

Moulton, J (1978) Psychology in Action: Sex Bias in Language Use, American Psychological Associations, United States

Orwell, G (2003) 1984, Harcourt, New York

Snejana, F (2012) ‘Guilty as charged’: President of Fast Food Chain Chick-fil-A OUTS Company as Anti-Gay marriage…and He’s Proud of It, MailOnline. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2175587/Chick-fil-A-President-fast-food-chain-Dan-Cathy-OUTS-company-ANTI-GAY–proud-it.html

Tilley, John. “Cultural Relativism, Universalism and the Burden of Proof.” Journal of International Studies 27.2 (1998) 275-297.

WBAA What Matters. Businesswoman Says Ban Bossy, But Teach Confidence [Internet]. United States: 2014 http://wbaa.org/post/businesswoman-says-ban-bossy-teach-confidence

[1] Antony Jay, Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (Oxford University Press, 2012), 201.

[2] Bligh Grant, Pauline Hanson: One Nation and Australian Politics (University of New England Press, 1997), 31.

[3] George Orwell, 1984 (Harcourt Inc. 2003), 31.

[4] George Orwell, 1984 (Harcourt Inc. 2003), 91.

[5] George Orwell, 1984 (Harcourt Inc. 2003), 333.

[6] Edward Bernays, Engineering of Consent (University of Oklahoma Press, 1955), 115.

[7] John Tilley “Cultural Relativism, Universalism and the Burden of Proof.” Journal of International Studies 27.2 (1998) 430.

[8] John Stewat Mill, On Liberty (Hard Classics, 1860),16.

[9] John Stewat Mill, On Liberty (Hard Classics, 1860),16.

[10] John Stewat Mill, On Liberty (Hard Classics, 1860),16.

[11] Norman Fairclough, “ Political Correctness: The politics of culture and language,” Discourse & Society 14, no. 1(2003):18.

[12] Norman Fairclough, “ Political Correctness: The politics of culture and language,” Discourse & Society 14, no. 1(2003):18.

[13] Norman Fairclough, “ Political Correctness: The politics of culture and language,” Discourse & Society 14, no. 1(2003):21.

[14] Cultural Relativism, Universalism, and the Burden of Proof John J. Tilley p.275.

[15] Holly Yan ,Duck Dynasty family stands by suspended patriarch, CNN Online, 2013 http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/19/showbiz/duck-dynasty-suspension/

[16] Snejana Farbrtov, ‘Guilty as charged’: President of fast food chain Chick-fil-A OUTS company as Anti-Gay marriage…and he’s proud of it”, MailOnline. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2175587/Chick-fil-A-President-fast-food-chain-Dan-Cathy-OUTS-company-ANTI-GAY–proud-it.html

[17] On a personal note, in my previous employment at the NSW Law Society, I came across an example of gender bending. After bathroom renovations were complete, the new bathroom was unisex. There was no consultation with employees if they were comfortable with sharing the toilets with the opposite sex and complaints were obviously ignored. I would presume if anyone complain, they were going would be viewed as ‘old fashioned’ or even somehow sexist.

[18] Manuela Barreto, “The Perils of Political Correctness: Men’s and Women’s Responses to Old-Fashioned and Modern Sexist Views.” Social Psychology Quarterly 68, no.1 (2005): 1032.

[19] Manuela Barreto, “The Perils of Political Correctness: Men’s and Women’s Responses to Old-Fashioned and Modern Sexist Views.” Social Psychology Quarterly 68, no.1 (2005): 1033.

[20] WBAA What Matters. Businesswoman Says Ban Bossy, But Teach Confidence [Internet]. United States: 2014 http://wbaa.org/post/businesswoman-says-ban-bossy-teach-confidence

[21] Martha Fineman, “Masking Dependency: The Political Role of Family Rhetoric.” Virginia Law Review 81.12 (1995):2189 .

[22] Tom Kelly, A wife’s a wife, not a partner, says judge: The trendy term that ‘downgrades marriage’, DailyMail Australia http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1222554/A-wifes-wife-partner-says-judge-The-trendy-term-downgrades-marriage.html

[23] In order to explain this concept further, I take the analogy of mandarins. If mandarins are freshly picked from a tree, superficially speaking, they are unappealing as they are spotty with bumps on its skin along with being oddly shaped. However, once it is eaten it is very sweet and juicy. Constantly, if mandarins are bought from the supermarket, they are all the same shape with smooth unblemished skin. If eaten, they can be sweet at times but usually they are tasteless and watery. It is the imperfect mandarins that bring the better quality to the table.

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