Hate to be the cliche liberal assailing his/her own team here, but it’s long overdue. My fellow lefties need to be called out for letting extremist political correctness take hold and maintain its grip on American discourse.
Just the mere idea of scathingly critiquing an ideal held by your own “team” is rare in America these days, but it’s warranted now more than ever. Both sides, plus the center, or whatever is left of it, need to stay on their guard to always question, and when necessary, point out the flaws in values and beliefs that fall under their ideological umbrella.
First we have to start with what the definition of political correctness actually is. That’s difficult because it keeps changing, and it doesn’t mean the same thing, or even remotely close, to everybody. As someone who regularly watches Real Time with Bill Maher and South Park, I’ve interpreted the meaning of the term, generally, to essentially mean this:
Putting feelings above the truth, and/or then taking it to another level and assuming the moral high ground for oneself because you value people’s feelings above the truth, and find that to be among the greatest good possible.
You can also define it as the linguistic version of neighborhood gentrification. The ugliness and social ills are still very much there, but now they’ve just been covered up by something corporate with a pleasant and inoffensive exterior.
Certainly, there’s a lot to loathe about Bill Maher (and this is a fellow leftist saying this), but on this issue, he’s really knocking it out of the park. Go to this search engine results page and take a spin through all the YouTube videos of all his assaults on P.C.
It’s fitting because he did host a show entitled Politically Incorrect, which ran for nearly a decade. Also, if you can watch all of South Park’s 2016-17 season, I highly recommend it, because they never presented a single point on political correctness that I could disagree with.
The dictionary definition of political correctness reads as follows: “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”
Or as Urban Dictionary deems it, in a very politically incorrect manner: “A way that we speak in America so we don't offend whining pussies.”
Now it wasn’t always this way, as political correctness use to be something I could get behind 100%. P.C. of yesteryear had nothing to do with today’s abomination, which includes safe spaces, trigger warnings, participation trophies and the professionally outraged.
The Washington Post had a fantastic piece at the beginning of 2016 entitled “How Political Correctness went from Compliment to Insult.”
In that article, you’ll see the concept of an actual literal definition, as defined by President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the convention of the United Auto Workers in 1964:
“I’m here to tell you that we are going to do those things which need to be done, not because they are politically correct, but because they are right.”
In the ’60s, the phrase reappeared in left-leaning political and activist circles. Here, Johnson’s use is fairly literal, describing government actions that he saw as not only politically advisable — passing a civil rights bill and a medical-assistance plan for the elderly — but also morally justified.
You’ll also see another President George H.W. Bush in a commencement address at the University of Michigan in 1991 describing the reality of a quarter-century ago, and it perfectly encapsulates today’s linguistic hellscape.
“The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones.”
By the early ’90s, more people were growing outraged by “political correctness” in higher education, and fewer activists were flying the “P.C.” banner as a glorified ideal.
Isn’t it amazing?
An issue as divisive as P.C. yet we found rhetoric from a prominent figure on both sides of the aisle that conveys common sense.
Of course, it naturally sickens me to see the most deplorable, disgusting subset of our society (the far right, #MAGA heads, America Firsters, the alt-right (i.e. white supremacists and Nazis) sharing the same zeal for railing against political correctness as I.
This sordid bunch is on the wrong side of history for absolutely everything, so you never want to see be on the same side as them FOR ANYTHING.
However, what the political correctness they’re raging against is not the same phenomena as what I’m describing and discussing.
Another phenomenal piece on this topic was published on NPR’s website at the end of 2016, and it was entitled “Politically Correct: the phrase has gone from wisdom to weapon.”
The writer Lindy West offers a way out of this semantic loop: People who think the phrase is used to demonize things like social justice and diversity should drop it altogether and call things what they are.
A tweet recently captured her view about the decades-long debate in fewer than 140 characters:
now that we've covered "alt-right = white supremacist," can we go back to calling political correctness & identity politics "civil rights"?
— Lindy West (@thelindywest) November 23, 2016
The right has taken the struggle for basic civil liberties and natural human rights and lumped it into the political correctness category. They are obviously wrong on countless levels in doing this, and the need to fight back against them brings us to the political correctness partner-in-crime: the professionally outraged.
These days, somebody will find something to be offended about in just about everything. Then they will gather a following of like-minded zealots who are also offended about the same non-issue. Then, no matter how small or insignificant the influence of this outraged group is, they will receive an amount of media coverage not commensurate to their significance or influence.
That’s because conflict moves the needle and the media pander to it. Just how bad is it? When the HBO biopic “Paterno” premiered, there was someone out there genuinely angry that reporter Sarah Ganim was played by a white actress. Because Ganim is reportedly half-German and half-Lebanese.
Take a look below at the side by side of Ganim, and the woman who played her, Riley Keough.
This level of idiocy and you-really-need-to-have-more-going-on-in-your-life-to-actually-care-about-something-as-trivial-as-thisness is actually quite common, and it’s severely damaging to the left.
It’s basically the boy who cried wolf, because when you are consistently flipping out about nothing, what happens when you legitimately have something that’s worth flipping out about? Who will listen?
If you have the time and energy to complain about a big nothingburger, it tells the rest of the world that you have no real problems. You can imagine how people with real problems will react to that.
Any time a person acts more outraged than the actual victim, they have truly made themselves as unlikable and not relatable as possible.
These are all truths the left must immediately realize and remedy. Otherwise they’re going to keep losing elections.
We won’t have a #BlueWave in November unless the left can really distance themselves from this extremist strain of political correctness and the outrage for the sake of being outraged culture that it spawns.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune corporation blogging community Chicago Now.
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