I will say one thing for the conservative types, they are very good at making up slogans and shouting those slogans over and over until they get their base to rally around them.
One example over the past 30 years has been the Republicans shouting over and over that they are the party of “small government.” This, as Reason magazine has pointed out over and over again is patent BS. In fact, the Republicans only want a different kind of intrusive large government from Democrats. They want a huge military, lots of prisons and to tell women how to use their uteri. Some might even argue that this is big government as its absolute worst — and Reason certain has.
They are doing exactly the same thing with “Political Correctness.” The idea is that liberals are so thin skinned that certain words and concepts have to be watered down to the detriment of free speech and free thought. Somehow the opposite of being PC is “telling the truth.” This truth telling in the face of the forces of oppression is supposed to be one of the appeals of Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
So, let’s look at a couple of recent examples.
A few months ago there was a controversy at Harvard where Latino students objected to the phrase “House Master” to describe what at other universities might be called Residential Assistants (RAs), students who help keep order in the dorms. The Latino students felt that it was too reminiscent of a slave master. Steven Pinker, the famous psychologist and linguist tweeted: “We should be teaching students: 1 All words have >1 meaning.. 2. Mature adults resist taking pointless offense.”
Usually I agree with much of what Pinker says, but in this case, I feel he was off base. But the larger issue is, who was being “Politically Correct”? I think a good argument can be made for saying it was actually Pinker.
Pinker himself knows full well that language marches on. To my ears, if nothing else, “house master” sounds like something from a Victorian boarding school. But (and I know I am putting words in Pinker’s mouth) he wants to say, “stop being children, words are words, we should keep doing it this way because we always have.”
Well, if words are words, why not change them? Why shut down debate and cling to the past? That is being politically correct! “I get all butt hurt when things change, so let’s just keep it all the same so I can comfortably live in the past.” Who is thin skinned here? Also when the party in power (Pinker is on the faculty at Harvard) says, “It must be this way,” that shuts down debate more quickly than anything.
A similar, but more settled issue, was the move from “policeman” to “police officer” and similar changes in nomenclature. Some people still want to claim that this shift is simply one of “political correctness.” But again, who is being politically correct? The use of the phrase “police officer” is simply a reflection of reality. Not everyone on the police force is male. “Police Officer” is a more accurate description of the members of our police force, it is simply the truth. Those who would want to continue to call them “policemen” are doing so for a political reason. They are the ones being politically correct — and often times use bullying and name calling (The PC Police!) to try and make their point, not reason and logic.
Another example arose in the Arizona legislature. An atheist member of the legislature gave the daily invocation, but he (gasp!) didn’t actually mention god. The butt hurt Republicans rushed a minister up front post haste to give a “proper” invocation, that is to say one that they approve of. So, who is being “politically correct” here? I’ll let you figure it out.
Finally, I’ll get to Mr. Anti-PC himself, Donald Trump. Trump’s followers, spurred on by the Donald himself, say that he is “just telling the truth” and the rest of us don’t like it because we are just too PC. Hmmm. Let’s see. Now, I can’t evaluate every statement he has made, but here is a pretty typical one:
I think Islam hates us. There’s a tremendous hatred there, there’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us. … it’s radical, but it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.
Now, if we parse this, it becomes pretty apparent there is not a lot of truth here. Islam can’t hate anyone. It is a religion, a philosophy. People hate, not ideas. It is also easy to see that whatever some Muslims might feel, the vast majority have no bone to pick with the US or the West. The most populous Muslim country is Indonesia, which is not exactly a hotbed of anti-American terrorism. Ten percent of the Muslims in the world live in India, one of our staunchest allies. Only 20 percent of Muslims live in Arab countries. Looking down the list of the top ten Muslim countries, I see a lot of poverty, but not a lot of terrorism.
Are there terrorists who use Islam as their justification for their actions? Undoubtedly. But it does no good to identify all of the world’s two billion Muslims as potential terrorists, in fact it is extremely harmful to our anti-terrorism efforts. How much time should we spend looking for terrorists in Indonesia? How much time in Syria? I think we can figure who is who.
The problem with Trump is that he is wrong, but he keeps saying these things for political reasons. He thinks this is what his audience wants to hear, and he appears to be right. Once again, it is Trump who is being “politically correct” as opposed to factually accurate. Saying things for political effect in a way that shuts down debate is pretty much the definition of political correctness. Trump is the king of PC!
Anyone who thinks that Trump is “not a politician” is out of their mind.