A whole lot of sound and fury has been made over political correctness. It’s impossible to avoid talking about it, given its important role in the culture wars.
The old conservative yarn about political correctness is that it’s a leftist tool to suppress free speech. It accomplishes this by conditioning political discourse according to the constantly evolving rules and mercurial sensibilities of the left. This set-up skews the conversation from the outset in favor of the left. In this sense, political correctness has mostly been bad for the right so far.
Political correctness has doubtless played a major role in transforming our society according to the progressive program, and it continues to be the left’s major weapon in the culture wars. But how long can this advantage last?
Because of the fragile sensibilities of progressives, the culture wars have become, increasingly, a battle about speech rather than ideas. And this is starting to be bad for progressives. A tool that was meant to give them an edge is turning on them, and making them look out-of-touch and foolish.
The thing about odd speech is that it excites our amusement involuntarily. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky is funny because it’s all nonsense. There is something inherently funny about nonsensical bullshit.
When leftists butcher language to make reality conform to their ideas, the results are often ridiculous and difficult for outsiders to take seriously. ”SJW” talk has been the butt of internet jokes for a while now, long enough to almost stop being funny altogether. Once upon a time, it was edgy and original to satirize the odd lingo popularized on Tumblr to describe confused young people who didn’t receive enough attention from their parents growing up. There was something funny about those non-binary conforming non-GMO eating otherkin because the language seemed innocuous.
It’s not funny anymore because it has become obvious that the left was never joking. Recently, Cambridge University tutors were told to stop using the word “genius” because of its “sexist” assumptions. Too often, genius has been used to describe brilliantly inventive men; therefore, the term “genius” is offensive to women.
To observers outside this strange bubble, this linguistic revisionism is pretentious, confusing, and simply ridiculous. It does nothing but push people away.
Political correctness is not new, but there is a growing feeling, not only on the right but outside the extreme-left campus bubble generally, that it didn’t used to be this crazy. It only seems new because it has reached such an intensity of ridiculousness as to impress itself as something completely original. We are free-floating in a whole new world of linguistic and logical possibilities. In this world, it is possible at one and the same time to be a radical feminist and a devout Muslim; race is a social construct, but whites are inherently guilty for past injustices; and cisgendered people, the normative group, are expected to treat transgendered people like the new normative group. Most people identify with their biological sex, so it goes without saying that most people would balk at being prompted to give their preferred gender pronoun. Only in the vacuum-sealed world of academia could a question like this make any sense.
This system of ideas, if it can be called that, has no internal logic because it is not based on time-honored common sense. We have become unmoored from the traditions that Westerners accepted for generations to make sense of the world, and in doing so, we have discarded common sense.
The left has become reliant on political correctness to conceal the illogic of this system. Open dialogue is threatening to the left because it risks exposing their ideology as illogical and indefensible.
Outside the campus leftist bubble, people in the real world aren’t taken in by this Panglossian junk.
All it does is hurt the left in the end. Jon Ossoff’s electoral loss has demonstrated better than any recent election could that the left needs to rethink how it reaches the electorate. A platform based on political correctness and antipathy towards the President won’t do.
Worse, political correctness brings down political discourse by making it all about speech and feelings rather than ideas. Part of having a productive conversation is having clear ideas. Every philosophy undergrad knows this. How is it even possible to have a productive discussion when the ideas aren’t at the forefront of the discussion? When the terms to signify those ideas are constantly evolving?
Political correctness has been helpful to the left so far, but it will only hurt the progressive cause in the long run. If progressives dropped the language games, the constant speech policing, and the histrionic hurt parades, they might well lose some support, initially. But if they want to stay in touch with the electorate, they will have to, at some point, reflect, develop a better strategy for reaching people, and come down to earth. Maybe, then, they’ll start winning again.