Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
“Political Correctness – The End of Freedom”
April 4, 2016
“I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism,
and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism.”
P.D. James (1920 – 2014)
Created Baroness James of Holland Park, 1991
Islamic terrorism threatens our lives in ways both visual and dramatic. Primordial screams, the stench of death, and blood-streaked streets where bodies so mutilated they are virtually unrecognizable capture our senses of hearing and sight. It is horrific, real and frightening. It is meant to scare. It does.
The danger from political correctness is different, but no less treacherous. It arrives like the morning fog that, as Carl Sandberg wrote, “comes on little cat feet.” It settles imperceptibly and enshrouds us. Political correctness makes one feel noble and caring, because it is said to be inclusive and sensitive to the feelings of others, especially those who are racially and culturally different. But it is exclusive; it impugns those whose thinking is at odds with convention. It is based on “group think.” It is dependent on minds closed to ideas outside what is deemed correct. It was the basis of fascism and underlies communism. Its consequence can be deadly to those who value freedom and democracy.
We see it on college campuses when students and faculty prevent conservatives from speaking, and in the willingness of administrations to provide “safe places” for those who feel threatened by opinions and expressions that do not match what they have been taught to believe. Political correctness ill prepares students for a world that does not march to a single drummer and puts them at a disadvantage when they enter the workforce where diversity of ideas is as commonplace as cultural diversity. Diversity is a powerful force for good, but only when it extends beyond genetic traits and delves into the realm of ideas. Its adherents claim idealism, but that is not true, as it denigrates those who think differently. It is, in fact, anti-intellectual and anti-liberal. It suffocates curiosity, accountability and individualism, characteristics critical to a liberal education and necessary for life after college.
Political correctness is behind advocates of “man-caused” climate change – those who say man is the principal (or sole) reason for changes in climate. Those who question, who are skeptical of conventional wisdom, or who suspect ulterior motives on the part of the claimants are impugned as “deniers.” Those like Al Gore who have made fortunes with scarifying tales of rising seas, are reminiscent of the Catholic Church, which in the 17th Century demonized Galileo because he threatened their view that the Earth was the center of the universe. They are like the eugenicists of the early 20th Century, represented by what was then the establishment, who excoriated those who dared question their findings. In both cases, “science” was considered “settled.” Now we have the attorney generals of Connecticut and New York, and Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, like the Inquisitor Father Firenzuola, proposing to prosecute “deniers.”
It is political correctness that causes Mr. Obama to refuse to declare that today’s terrorism is caused by Islamists. Denying a fact does not make it go away. Claiming that the killings in 2009 at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great”) as he shot to death thirteen people, was “work-place violence” did not reduce the number of future Islamic attacks. It was a lie and did nothing to abate the growth and the evil of Islamic extremism.
Multiculturalism is a byproduct of political correctness. Cultures are not equal, nor are morals relative. The President, when in Havana, equated all revolutions, including Cuba’s, as “liberation movements seeking democracy.” His words showed either a gross misunderstanding of history, or a pandering to his Communist hosts. I suspect the latter. Either way, it was political correctness at its most dangerous. Political correctness in geopolitics is ubiquitous. Even today Che Guevara is portrayed as an idealistic youth and Ho Chi Minh is seen as the “George Washington” of Vietnam. Neither were pluralists. Both were tyrants, intent on power for themselves, while subjecting their people to the rigors and deprivations of communism.
North Carolina Governor, Republican Pat McCrory has been vilified and his state has been boycotted because he permitted a bill that disallows those who claim to be transgenders, but have not legally or surgically been designated so, to use bathrooms other than the ones appropriate for the sex of their birth. Was that so outrageous? If you watched your fifteen-year-old daughter disappear into a Ladies room followed by two young men claiming to be transgenders would it not make you nervous? Edward Cline recently wrote that a society that allows one to believe one is a particular gender simply because it is what he or she wants to be “is possible only in a culture of philosophical disintegration.” There is validity to his concerns. Putting horns on an ewe doesn’t make it a ram. I have no particular prejudice against Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner, but he (she) is not the stereotype I would wish for my grandchildren. Hiding behind a mask of political correctness prevents us from seeing the downside of the world we are exalting.
Living in a pluralistic society requires harmony, which is dependent on civility, respect and sensitivity to others. I can respect the quirks in others. But they should not demand I abide by theirs. Those of us who grew up in the 1940s and ‘50s were taught, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Its purpose was to teach children to avoid physical retaliation, to remain calm when taunted. Teasing may not be pleasant (and should be discouraged), but it is unlikely to cause lasting damage.
Political correctness presents a distinct but different threat, as mentioned at the start of this essay, from that of being exposed to a terrorist with a gun, a bomb or an exploding vest. It augurs poorly for a democracy. If we are prevented or become fearful of expressing ourselves, it is a step down the road toward tyranny. When ethnic groups are in conflict, as are Jews and Palestinians today, the multicultural aspects of political correctness require choosing sides. Today, Palestinians are favored. That has given rise to the anti-Semitism that has infested Europe and menaces the Unites States.
Erika Christakis, an early-education expert, was forced out of Yale last fall because of an e-mail she sent regarding Halloween costumes. “Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people?”, she asked. “Free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society.” Her e-mail, a defense of liberty, was in response to one sent by the administration. But hers was considered racially insensitive; it caused students to seek “safe places” and resulted in protests. It was a scene that could have been included in dystopian novels, like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies or George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. Unfortunately, what happened at Yale was not an isolated instance, but that it did happen at Yale should scare all of us.
Yet, even as the P.C. crowd surrounds us, my optimism remains. I am reminded of the famous quote, usually attributed to General “Chesty” Puller, when he was encircled by the enemy in North Korea: “All right, they’re on our left; they’re on our right. They’re in front of us; they’re behind us. They can’t get away this time!” Rally for freedom now, while there is still time! Our democracy depends on it!