“The point of Political Correctness is not and has never been merely about any of the items that it imposes, but about the imposition itself.” – Angelo M. Codevilla
“The conversations that are the most curative are simultaneously the ones that are most difficult and most dangerous.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson
“What we’re learning from Trump is that a lot of people have been biting their lips, but not changing their minds.” – William Galston
What is Political Correctness?
A simple question with complicated answers.
William Safire wrote of the phrase Politically Correct in a 1991 column in the NY Times. He noted, “the origin is in correct thinking” and stemmed from a 1963 writing by Chairman Mao Zedong, “Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?”. Safire highlights the Chairman’s answer: “They come from social practice, and from it alone.”
Communists supposedly used the phrase Correct Thinking back in the 1920’s as a means to force members to hold the Party’s ideological line.
In 1970, Toni Cade wrote “A man cannot be politically correct and a chauvinist too” from the anthology The Black Woman.
A reference to the phrase can even be found in a 1793 Supreme Court ruling although the usage is somewhat different and relates to a political lawsuit.
Used with a certain willful innocence, being Politically Correct means avoiding offense – or any disadvantage – to members of differing social groups. While that may be the reason put forth it most certainly is not the goal.
Political Correctness has everything to do with stymieing freedom of speech – and ultimately freedom of thought. Political Correctness is about political goals.
My favorite way of thinking about Political Correctness comes from Angelo M. Codevilla, who reminds us what the words themselves imply:
“Truth has morphed from the reflection of objective reality to whatever has normative pull—i.e., to what furthers the ruling class’s (Democrats) agenda, whatever that might be at any given time. That is the meaning of the term political correctness, as opposed to factual correctness. – Angelo M. Codevilla
Political Correctness is the forceful application of whatever belief furthers a political agenda. It is the words themselves. Any ideology that advances the cause is Politically Correct – because it works. There is no search for factual correctness – there is only the search for what achieves the goal. In this way, truth has been pulled from itself and is no longer a vehicle for honest discourse. It is a vehicle for control.
Think on this statement from Dr. Jordan Peterson:
The social justice people are always on the side of compassion and ‘victim’s rights,’ so objecting to anything they do makes you instantly a perpetrator. The thing is if you replace compassion with resentment, then you understand the authoritarian left. There is resentment, fundamentally. – Dr. Jordan Peterson
Resentment has been defined as the foundation for hatred. It has also been defined as the perception of injustice. Robert Solomon stated that “resentment is anger directed toward a higher-status individual; anger is directed toward an equal-status individual; and contempt is anger directed toward a lower-status individual”. Political Correctness – through its path of self-righteousness – is ultimately a resentment of – and a war on – our institutions.
Dr. Peterson defines Social Justice Warriors as; “the ones who weaponize compassion“. He continues; “There’s nothing about the PC authoritarian types that has any gratitude for any institutions. They have a term – patriarchy. It’s all-encompassing. It means that everything our society is, is corrupt.”
As Angelo Codevilla notes, there are two levels to Political Correctness; “On the retail level, it is about the American’s ruling class’s (Democrats) felt need to squeeze the last drops of voter participation out of the Democratic Party’s habitual constituencies. On the wholesale level, it is a war on civilization waged to indulge identity politics“.
Or as Antonio Gramsci might have noted – It’s about change – “a long march through the institutions”. A slow transformation from within.
Let’s return to my earlier assertion that Political Correctness is the forceful application of whatever belief furthers a political agenda. This implies that Truth is lost in favor of that agenda.
As I wrote in Gramsci, Alinsky & the Left, Critical Theory – a theory used to criticize every traditional social institution – provided the origin of Political Correctness. As noted by Raymond V. Raehn, “Political Correctness seeks to impose a uniformity of thought and behavior on all Americans and is therefore totalitarian in nature”. Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism – also known as multiculturalism. Multiculturalism views traditional culture as the true source of oppression in the world. It is the translation of Marxism from economic to cultural terms.
It is here that we find the real roots of Political Correctness.
Gramsci created the Theory of Cultural Hegemony – the way in which nations use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. Hegemony, Gramsci believed, was created through society’s institutions – the family, church, schools, economy, universities and government. These institutions were the bonds that cemented the ruled to the rulers. In Gramsci’s view, the governing class – in order to succeed, maintain power and the status quo – must persuade those being governed to accept and even embrace the social, moral and political values held by the governing class. In order to break these bonds, the entire value systems of Societal Institutions must be overturned – social norms and beliefs must be changed. This would require the introduction of an entirely new set of values and beliefs – a new morality. Counter Hegemony.
The Frankfurt School – which fled Germany when Hitler rose to power – took Gramsci’s teachings and then applied them to American Society. The goal of the Frankfurt School was to move America gradually to the Left using the precepts of Gramsci’s Counter Hegemony and the practice of Critical Theory – a social theory of critiquing and changing society as a whole.
George Lukacs, one of the original founders of the Institute of Social Research – which later became the Frankfurt School – utilized the idea that “commodity exchange” had become the central organizing principle for all sectors of society – and led to the creation of their institutions.
Theodor Adorno, one of the Frankfurt School’s leaders, took this theory and reshaped it. To Adorno, capitalism had transcended mere organizing principals and had instead transformed society and culture into the very mechanisms by which order – and capitalism – was maintained. Institutions and culture now created capitalism. Adorno felt that what had once been separate and distinct aspects – culture, politics and the economic market – were now merging to maintain the whole. Culture was no longer a by-product or a coincident part of capitalism – Culture perpetuated capitalism. This led Adorno to view the nature of modern culture as the enabler of a capitalist society – and a belief that it must be overthrown for humanity to achieve its full potential. Already the author of three influential books, this philosophy led Adorno to co-write The Authoritarian Personality which argued that the epitome of psychological health was the “genuine liberal” — an individual completely free of all groups, including race, family and institutions – and anyone who defended traditional culture was inherently a Fascist.
The Authoritarian Personality was an attack on Western Values at its most basic core – the family as a patriarchal unit. Adorno used a very simple but odd premise – and one not supported by research. The traditional family model – mixed with religion in a capitalist society – created an individual who was prone to racial prejudice and ultimately fascism. Adorno believed that traditional parenting used authoritarian techniques which caused children to feel anger towards their parents. At the same time, fear of parental disapproval or punishment kept children from directly confronting their parents, invoking repression and ultimately leading children to identify with and idolize authority figures. These individuals were then pre-disposed to fascist governments which in turn produced hostility towards racial, religious or ethnic minorities. Said another way, if children were raised traditionally, they would hold hostile and aggressive tendencies towards authority figures – tendencies that could not be acted on or overtly addressed. As a result, this hostility and aggressiveness generated authoritarian personalities in children – leading to inherent hostility towards racial, religious or ethnic minorities. In Adorno’s view, the traditional family produced a society defined by racism and inequality and was therefore deserving of overthrow. The book has been the subject of considerable criticism for poor methodology and research but it has also been enormously influential.
While this discussion may seem esoteric, the impact on how we rear our children has been profoundly transformational.
Psychologists describe three primary parental models – Authoritative, Authoritarian and Permissive (there is a fourth – neglectful). I will quote from the originator of the three primary parental methods, Diana Baumrind, and her book Effects of Authoritative Parental Control On Child Behavior. Baumrind is a famous Developmental Psychologist at Berkeley – where Adorno wrote The Authoritative Person – and she cites Adorno as a major influence. Note that the parent is referred to exclusively as female. According to Baumrind;
“The Authoritarian parent attempts to shape, control, and evaluate the behavior and attitudes of the child in accordance with a set standard of conduct, usually an absolute standard, theologically motivated and formulated by a higher authority. She values obedience as a virtue and favors punitive, forceful measures to curb self-will…when the child’s actions conflict with what she thinks is right conflict.”
“The Authoritative parent attempts to push the child’s activities in a rational, issue-oriented manner. She encourages verbal give and take, shares with the child the reasoning behind her policy, and solicits his objections when he refuses to conform. Both autonomous self-will and disciplined conformity are valued by the authoritative parent.”
“The Permissive parent attempts to behave in a non-punitive, acceptant and affirmative manner toward the child’s impulses, desires and actions. She consults with him about policy decisions and gives explanation for family rules. She makes few demands for household responsibility and orderly behavior. She presents herself to the child as a resource for him to use as he wishes, not as an ideal for him to emulate, nor as an active agent responsible for shaping or altering his ongoing or future behavior.”
Adorno’s work strongly influenced American parenting styles, causing them to shift from Authoritarian and Authoritative styles towards Permissive styles. Consider the enormous number of books on parenting – and child-rearing guidance – that appeared in the 1960s and 1970s.
Herbert Marcuse, another prominent member of the Frankfurt School, created the philosophy of the “Great Refusal” – “the protest against that which is”. Marcuse, who actually became a key figure in the OSS – the predecessor to the CIA, enjoyed a true rise to fame in the 1960’s with his book Eros and Civilization. Marcuse became known as the guru of the student movements in the 1960s and it was Marcuse who coined the phrase “Make love, not war”. In his Preface to An Essay on Liberation, Marcuse notes the following:
“In proclaiming…the Great Refusal, they recognized the mark of social repression, even in the most sublime manifestations of traditional culture, even in the most spectacular manifestations of technical progress. They have again raised a specter (and this time a specter which haunts not only the bourgeoisie but all exploitative bureaucracies): the specter of a revolution which subordinates the development of productive forces and higher standards of living to the requirements of creating solidarity for the human species, for abolishing poverty and misery beyond all national frontiers and spheres of interest, for the attainment of peace.”
Marcuse also embraced the idea of feminism – he saw in it the potential for radical social change. The process of rethinking femininity and masculinity – gender identity – could lead to a replacement of masculine traits with feminine ones (Marcuse has been credited with advocating and advancing androgyny). Marcuse noted in 1974 that, “I believe the women’s liberation movement today is, perhaps, the most important and potentially the most radical political movement that we have. Feminism is a revolt against decaying capitalism”. Marcuse recognized in Feminism the impact that could be had on the traditional family.
So consider our backdrop. Gramsci promoted an overturn of societal institutions, values and morals as a means to promote change – to promote Cultural Marxism. The Frankfurt School took Gramsci’s ideas and began the process of implementing them – introducing them into American Society. The Theory of Critical Thinking was employed to launch criticisms and attacks on every traditional social institution – oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole. Adorno focused this view and narrowed in on Culture as the primary factor in perpetuating Capitalism. His goal – a “genuine liberal” free of all groups, including race, family and institutions. His target – the traditional family model. His premise – the traditional family produced a society defined by racism and inequality and was therefore deserving of overthrow. Marcuse utilized timing and events to engage in a reshaping of morality – engaging and promoting the student uprisings of the 1960s – through his “Great Refusal” – his embrace of feminism – and gender identity. And the process continues today.
For the sake of simplicity I have chosen to discuss only a few of the principal individuals, but the goal of the Frankfurt School and its members has always been unified – the overturning of American Societal Values and Institutions. As Lukacs stated; “Such a worldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries.” The tool employed to overturn these values is Political Correctness.
Political Correctness wants to destroy institutions but build up groups. It claims to free the individual but destroys the individual in group collective thought – and ultimately destroys the groups themselves. It strives to create mental homogeneity – same thinking. These hypocrisies and conflicting ideals are not the result of flawed logic – they are the results of political goals superseding and overriding logic. Political Correctness is just that – politically desired outcomes – politically desired thinking.
Politically Correct Culture – and make no mistake, it is a culture – has proven itself to be very enduring, in part, because it stands up to a certain level of ridicule. In daily speech we note its impact; “That’s not a very PC thing to say” or “That’s not politically correct – but it’s funny”. On the one hand we dismiss Political Correctness but at the same time we acknowledge its looming presence. We classify the idea of Political Correctness – notice it – accept it. We are afraid of it. And it is working. Political Correctness has everything to do with stymieing freedom of speech – and ultimately freedom of thought.
Political Correctness is about political goals.
Raymond V. Raehn summed up Political Correctness in this fashion;
“No single religion was to be superior. No single culture was to be superior. And no single race was to be superior. And so multiculturalism was invented. And then no single sex was to be superior. And with nothing superior, there was nothing to value. It was to be a matter of choice by the individual self since there was to be no higher authority than the self. This is the very essence of Political Correctness. It serves as the means to conduct the psychic decapitation of any potential leader who might seek to unify Americans on the basis of a shared religion, culture or race.”
In its first step, Political Correctness is used to stifle free speech by putting forth an argument that others are being harmed by saying, doing or believing something. It labels certain things as being incapable of being said. Once these labels are accepted the second step is deployed. Invalidation. If society’s perceptions are shifted subtly to form an unspoken agreement around a topic then a “rational consensus” has been formed. Therefore, if one speaks against this new “rational consensus” that individual violates the precept – and inadvertently identifies themselves as being on the fringe. Their argument is invalidated. More importantly, their future arguments are now invalidated. They are classified as something outside – Alt-Right, racist, even a Nazi or fascist. Henceforth, any further arguments are subject to outright dismissal. It is not one argument that has been refuted – it is all arguments.
This process is circular. When you label someone you simplify them. You render all their other thoughts and viewpoints as meaningless. You invalidate them. And by achieving the second step in Political Correctness one is led back to the first. More faults are found, more core beliefs are challenged. If one cherished institution is flawed so must they all be.
It’s the throttling of freedom – and the throttling of Truth.
Which brings me to free speech. A recognition needs to be made that Conservatives’ belief in Freedom of Speech can be an inherent weakness – if not properly addressed. In no way, shape or form am I advocating against free speech. But I am arguing a recognition needs to be made that free speech is being used effectively against conservatism – and conservatives have been failing to use free speech with equal effectiveness against Multiculturalism – and Political Correctness. If we cherish free speech – hold it up and protect it – than we need to be willing to fight for our use of free speech as well. Progressives are using Political Correctness dressed in free speech garb as the very tool to restrict and destroy free speech. And conservatives are letting this happen through their silence and complacency. Protection of our First Amendment rights must be done by equal exercise of those same rights.
We do not want to allow one of the pillars of our Republic to become our very undoing. It is incumbent upon us to fight back against Political Correctness – through a willingness to speak out and publicly express our beliefs and values. The protection of free speech through apathy is no protection. Speaking out is not simply a right – it is an obligation.
“If you stop talking to people, you either submit to them, or you go to war with them.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson
“To learn who rules over you, find out whom you are not allowed to criticize.” — Voltaire
You can find an excellent article by Angelo M. Codevilla titled The Rise of Political Correctness here. You can find an intriguing interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson, “We’re Teaching University Students Lies”, here.
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