We hear a lot about “political correctness” these days. Antagonists of political correctness are usually thought to be ignorant, right-wing, slack-jawed yokels. (I’m sorry, the PC term is “academically challenged rural Americans.”) Those who are hell bent on preserving their brand of “good old fashioned bigotry.”
Intellectuals, on the other hand, are generally viewed as the people who are proponents of modern political correctness; as they recognize we are social beings and that interacting civilly is paramount to a properly functioning society. Right?
So… What about the intellectuals who speak out against political correctness?
Why would an intellectual, particularly one who is vehemently against racism and bigotry, be so against political correctness?
For us the reasoning is a bit more profound. The premise is usually centered around free artistic expression and anti-authoritarianism.
The Origins of Political Correctness
Conservative writer for the Washington Examiner, Ziyad Rahaman Azeez , argues the origins of political correctness can be attributed to a Marxist-Leninist socio-cultural purification deemed necessary to supplant autocracy; paving the way for communist revolution. Essentially upending traditional values in an “out with the old, in with the new” emphasis.
While I don’t necessarily disagree with Ziyad in his assessment that Marxists viewed ideological purity to be paramount to revolution, I believe the methodology of socio-cultural purification was not uniquely leftist or late-19th century.
The Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of publications deemed heretical, or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index (a former Dicastery of the Roman Curia) and thus Catholics were forbidden to read them.
Giordano Bruno’s publications were put on the list in 1603AD, 3 years subsequent to the Catholic church burning him at the stake. His crimes were heresy and pantheism.
This was what “political correctness” or ideological purification looked like in the 16th-17th century.
Implementation of Moral Code
As a freethinker I share some of the “moral code” of my liberal and progressive companions (there’s a lot we can agree on) but it becomes problematic when that moral code is canonized or written congruent to, or ubiquitously into, law.
When you attempt to institutionalize a purist moral framework you’re in essence becoming identical to the crusaders that have historically ravaged, attempted to suppress, or stifled scientific exploration. Parallel to that, you’re also laying the foundation for an authoritarian state; as observed in Maoism or Stalinism (which is a diametric opposite to Marx’s theory of a stateless society.)
Intellectualism, scientific exploration, technological progress, and the preservation of liberty in general, rely on dichotomy, discourse and debate.
My politically correct friends have extreme difficulty in understanding the necessity of a free and open marketplace of ideological intercourse, but I wont stop my efforts to enlighten them.
The notion that an idea is too vile or offensive to be presented into a compendium of human thought is ludicrous and tantamount to the fascism we’re attempting to eradicate.
As George Carlin said: “Political Correctness is fascism pretending to be manners”.
When you proclaim that an idea is too offensive to be heard you’re mimicking the behavior of Emperor Qin Shi Haung, who burned philosophical texts and led Confucian scholars to martyrdom.
When you attempt to articulate a case to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, you’re crusading against the very intellectualism that led to 21st century technology, science, medicine, knowledge, thought etc.
The Hurdles of Free Expression
Where there’s a free marketplace of ideas, occasionally some repugnant, even hateful and violent ideas emerge. As the ACLU suggests, the best way to combat bad ideas is with good ideas, but the marketplace must always stay free.
Nazism, or hate groups, are often brought up as an example of why we should suppress or limit the freedom of speech. It’s the freedom of speech and the right to protest, however, that kept Nazism from taking root in the United States.
History reveals to us that totalitarian regimes, like Hitler and the Nazis, relied heavily on the suppression of the free press. The ministry of propaganda, during the third reich, swiftly and effectively removed all literature opposing the regime. The removal of free speech allowed their rhetoric to dominate the culture, and them to gain enormous power.
Censorship, speech codes, political correctness; these are all authoritarian concepts that would allow corporations, media and government to contrive information and weaken the liberties of the people.
Racists and bigots have become so thoughtlessly vocal against political correctness that “anti-pc” and bigotry are starting to appear as synonymous, even among the artistic community that once scoffed at it. Intellectuals are avoiding open critique of political correctness out of fear of social ostracizing (the fear of being on the wrong end of a witch hunt.)
Criticizing political correctness isn’t about spreading bigotry, it’s about preserving the foundations of liberty.
Some will argue that political correctness is just about being polite and careful in our wording, and that you will still have your freedom of speech. While it’s true the constitution guarantees your 1st amendment rights, it’s systemic political correctness that lays the framework for the threat of losing that right.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
I agree we should treat each other better; we should be pragmatic, open-minded, thoughtful and egalitarian. It’s important to consider marginalized people and how America has institutionalized racism, decimated populations, and historically oppressed people who were viewed as inferior to the dominate culture of the period.
We should consider how we think, how we interact and how we speak to one another. As a civilization we have a lot to discuss. It’s likely we wont get far, however, if we implement rigid authoritarianism in an attempt to curtail that in which we disagree with.
Political correctness is neo-puritanism and in itself anti-intellectual… this is the reason that true intellectuals oppose it.