Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Political Correctness" Is Just A Silly Defense Of Hate Speech

(This cartoon image is by Tom Toles in The Washington Post.)

One of the favorite terms of the right-wing these days is "political correctness". Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum at Think Progress have written a very good article about this, and I urge you to read the whole thing. Here is just a small part of it:

It’s unclear what the multi-decade debate over political correctness has accomplished in aggregate. But there is one group of people who find it incredibly useful: Republican politicians. 
The use of the term “political correctness,” particularly in the Republican presidential primary, does not have a specific definition. Rather it functions like a swiss army knife — it is the answer to every kind of issue that a candidate might confront. It’s a “get out of jail free card” for bigotry, sexism and lying. 
When Fox News’ Megyn Kelly confronted Donald Trump in an August GOP debate with a litany of sexist attacks he made against women, he had a ready answer. “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either,” Trump said. The audience applauded. 
Trump loves to rail against political correctness on Twitter. He argues that “our country has become so politically correct that it has lost all sense of direction or purpose.” For example, he is not able to use the word “thug” without criticism. 
Ted Cruz goes a step further. “Political correctness is killing us,” he argued during a Republican debate in December. On his website, Cruz blames political correctness for 9/11
Cruz also finds political correctness useful for collecting email addresses.
Ben Carson tweeted that we should “#StoPP funding political correctness and PlannedParenthood.” What does funding for Planned Parenthood have to do with political correctness? He doesn’t really explain, except to say that “political correctness” is making us amoral.
Carson also uses political correctness to justify his opposition to Obamacare and accepting Syrian refugees
Confronted with criticism for saying that a Muslim should not be president — a religious test that would violate the constitution — Carson replied that “political correctness is ruining our country.”
Why are these candidates so quick to point out instances of political correctness? Like a lot of things politicians talk about, it polls very well. A recent poll found that 68 percent of Americans, and 81 percent of Republicans agreed that “A big problem this country has is being politically correct.” Even among Democrats, 62 percent agreed. 
Poll numbers like these have a snowball effect. The more popular the message, the more politicians will talk about it or use it as a way to divert the conversation away from more troublesome topics. The more politicians talk about political correctness, the more Americans will believe it’s a big problem.

So, what is political correctness? The right would have you believe it is a pernicious attempt to limit free speech -- to mandate only speech that is "politically correct" (acceptable to the left). If that was true, then it has been a dismal failure. One need only listen to radio, watch TV, or peruse the internet to see that free speech still abounds in this country -- including hate speech from the right. Anyone can say pretty much anything they want in this country (and that's a good thing).

Political Correctness simply does not exist as a curb on free speech. That's just a fact. So what is it? It is just a term used to protect the hate speech of the right.

The right has a basic misunderstanding of just what free speech truly is. They rightly believe it allows them to say whatever they wish (however offensive). What they misunderstand is that free speech is the right of all Americans. And it applies equally to those who disagree with the hate speech of the right. When people disagree with right-wing hate speech, that is not political correctness -- it is just more free speech.

The right calls it political correctness because when they are called-out on that hate speech, they have no rational way to defend it. Their only defense (and it is a rather pathetic one) is to label that opposing free speech as political correctness. It is the right-wing's code word for their inability to defend their racism, misogny, xenophobia, and religious bigotry.

When you hear a politician (or anyone else) use the term, you should immediately know they are trying to defend something stupid they have said (and have no rational argument to do so).

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