Political Correctness Is Not About “Good Manners”

political correctness

“It is better that the truth be known than that scandal be covered up.”

– St. Augustine

Political Correctness is not simply “good manners”.

If only it were something so trivial.

The term is often referred to derisively, as if people who complain about “PC culture” are simply rude bigots who resent the fact they can no longer use racial and sexist epithets with impunity.

This viral meme, which was shared on Twitter at the end of last year, illustrates this attitude perfectly:

But PC is far more pernicious. It is a form of control that fosters ideological conformity through the imposition of speech codes.

Fundamentally, it is the suppression of dissenting voices.

This can be achieved by discrediting people who hold opposing worldviews to your own as “racist’ or “sexist” – regardless of what their actual intentions are.

And because hardly anyone wants to pay the social penalty for being labelled as either of these – which tells you something about how inaccurately such labels are applied – people begin to self-censor, or to speak in politically correct platitudes. They say what they think they should say, rather than what they actually think.

PC then begins to foster a culture of dishonesty and insincerity. It makes it impossible for people to disagree frankly and in good faith, which leads to feelings of self-doubt and alienation. People begin to engage less and less with challenging perspectives and thus deny themselves the opportunity for correction and improvement.

Fundamentally, it is the suppression of dissenting voices.

If PC culture was simply about good manners, I don’t think as many decent people would be as concerned about it as they are.

PC is easily exploited by those with megalomaniacal agendas who use it to undermine and crush any opposition. In a culture obsessed with political correctness that is who truly flourishes.

With its tyrannical system of gulags, show trials and informant networks, the Soviet Union was PC at scale.

At the time, many in the West, who had the means and resources to do so, were unwilling to criticise its brutish excesses for their own politically correct, ideological reasons. George Orwell really struggled to publish Animal Farm, because so many publishers were afraid of offending Soviet sensibilities. We now refer to such misguided people as “useful idiots”.

The ability to speak freely does mean that people will say things that are ignorant, cruel and hurtful. But the only people who will ever engage in that sort of speech with any real enthusiasm or regularity are not the sort of individuals that kind and honourable people – of all political persuasions – would want to associate with anyway. Such types will always be unpopular. Free speech makes it very easy to identify and avoid them.

What has been frustrating about PC culture, in recent years, is that anyone who expresses themselves in a way that even slightly challenges current political orthodoxies is “no-platformed” or mobbed and shamed out of the public square.

Remember the astrophysicist, Matt Taylor, who was forced to issue a humiliating public apology after he wore a wacky shirt on television? And who could forget Tim Hunt, the Nobel prize-winning biologist who was publicly excoriated for making a silly joke?

Modern PC thus creates a terrible climate of fear, which demoralises good people and prevents them from speaking out when they really should, as was the case in the Rotherham rape scandal.

And this dread consumes the zealous enforcers of PC too.

Many western feminists were hesitant to criticise the recent sex attacks in Cologne because they were terrified of being perceived as racist. It didn’t matter how much time and effort they had personally dedicated to anti-racism, they knew that an accusation of racism against them, from someone in their milieu, could result in career death and pariah status.

Perhaps they do fear lending credence to the “far right”, but I think they fear each other more.

What a terrible thing it is to tiptoe so nervously around the suspicion and mistrust of others, unable to depend on the understanding and goodwill of your peers.

I don’t know how anyone could honestly describe that as “good manners”.

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