- Political correctness
Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent. In current usage, the term is primarily pejorative, while the term politically incorrect has been used as an implicitly positive self-description. Examples of the latter include the conservative The Politically Incorrect Guide published by the Regnery editorial house and the television talk show Politically Incorrect. In these cases, the term politically incorrect connotes language, ideas, and behavior unconstrained by a perceived orthodoxy or by concerns about offending or expressing bias regarding various groups of people.
- 1 History
- 2 Current usage
- 3 As a linguistic concept
- 4 Criticisms
- 5 Counterclaims
- 6 Political correctness and science
- 7 Right-wing political correctness
- 8 Satirical use
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Early usages of the phrase "politically correct" have been found in various contexts, which may not relate to the current terminology. Examples of the term can be found as early as the 18th century. The previous meaning was 'in line with prevailing political thought or policy'. The term previously used 'correctness' in its literal sense and without any particular reference to language that might be considered offensive or discriminatory. For example, J. Wilson's comments in U.S. Republic, 1793:
"The states, rather than the people, for whose sake the states exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention... Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language... ‘The United States,’ instead of the ‘People of the United States,’ is the toast given. This is not politically correct."
In New Left rhetoric
By 1970, New Left proponents had adopted the term political correctness. In the essay The Black Woman, Toni Cade Bambara says: ". . . a man cannot be politically correct and a [male] chauvinist too." The New Left later re-appropriated the term political correctness as satirical self-criticism; per Debra Shultz: "Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the New Left, feminists, and progressives . . . used their term politically correct ironically, as a guard against their own orthodoxy in social change efforts". Hence, it is a popular English usage in the underground comic book Merton of the Movement, by Bobby London, while ideologically sound, an alternative term, followed a like lexical path, appearing in Bart Dickon’s satirical comic strips. Moreover, Ellen Willis says: " . . . in the early ’80s, when feminists used the term political correctness, it was used to refer sarcastically to the anti-pornography movement’s efforts to define a ‘feminist sexuality’ ".
Widespread use of the term politically correct and its derivatives began when it was adopted as a pejorative term by the political right in the 1990s, in the context of the Culture Wars. Writing in the New York Times in 1990, Richard Bernstein noted "The term 'politically correct,' with its suggestion of Stalinist orthodoxy, is spoken more with irony and disapproval than with reverence. But across the country the term p.c., as it is commonly abbreviated, is being heard more and more in debates over what should be taught at the universities." Bernstein referred to a meeting of the Western Humanities Conference in Berkeley, California, on "'Political Correctness' and Cultural Studies," which examined "what effect the pressure to conform to currently fashionable ideas is having on scholarship". Bernstein also referred to "p.c.p" for "politically correct people," a term which did not take root in popular discussion.
Within a few years, this previously obscure term featured regularly in the lexicon of the conservative social and political challenges against curriculum expansion and progressive teaching methods in US high schools and universities. In 1991, addressing a graduating class of the University of Michigan, U.S. President George H. W. Bush spoke against "a movement [that would] declare certain topics 'off-limits,' certain expressions 'off-limits', even certain gestures 'off-limits'" in allusion to liberal Political Correctness. The most common usage here is as a pejorative term to refer to excessive deference to particular sensibilities at the expense of other considerations. The converse term "politically incorrect" came into use as an implicit term of self-praise, indicating that the user was not afraid to ignore constraints associated with political correctness. Examples of the latter include the conservative Politically Incorrect Guides published by the Regnery editorial house and the television talk show Politically Incorrect.
The central uses of the term relate to particular issues of race, gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual preference, culture and worldviews, and encompass both the language in which issues are discussed and the viewpoints that are expressed. Proponents of the view that differences in IQ test scores between blacks and whites are (primarily or largely) genetically determined state that criticism of these views is based on political correctness.
- "Mentally challenged" in place of "Retarded" and other terms
- "African American" in place of "Black," "Negro" and other terms. (However, "Black" is used in English-speaking countries other than the U.S.)
- "Native American" (or "First Nations" in Canada) in place of "Indian"
- "Caucasian" in place of "White", and other terms
- "Gender-neutral" terms such as "firefighter" in place of "fireman"
- The use of the word "gender" instead of the word "sex" to distinguish males and females
- Terms relating to disability, such as "visually challenged" or "hearing impaired" in place of "blind" or "deaf"
- "Persons of color" in place of "ethnic minorities" or "non-whites" in countries populated predominantly by people who are white.
- "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas" and other holiday greetings
In a more general sense, any policy regarded by the speaker as representing an imposed orthodoxy, such as the claim that global warming is a serious problem requiring a policy response, may be criticized as "politically correct."
As a linguistic concept
In addressing the linguistic problem of naming, Edna Andrews says that using "inclusive" and "neutral" language is based upon the concept that "language represents thought, and may even control thought." This claim has been derived from the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, which states that a language’s grammatical categories shape the speaker’s ideas and actions; although Andrews says that moderate conceptions of the relation between language and thought are sufficient to support the "reasonable deduction ... [of] cultural change via linguistic change".
Other cognitive psychology and cognitive linguistics works indicate that word-choice has significant "framing effects" on the perceptions, memories, and attitudes of speakers and listeners. The relevant empirical question is whether or not sexist language promotes sexism, i.e. sexist thought and action.
Advocates of inclusive language defend it as inoffensive-language usage whose goal is multi-fold:
- The rights, opportunities, and freedoms of certain people are restricted because they are reduced to stereotypes.
- Stereotyping is mostly implicit, unconscious, and facilitated by the availability of pejorative labels and terms.
- Rendering the labels and terms socially unacceptable, people then must consciously think about how they describe someone unlike themselves.
- When labeling is a conscious activity, the described person's individual merits become apparent, rather than his or her stereotype.
Critics of such arguments, and of inclusive language in general, commonly use the terminology of "political correctness".
A common criticism is that terms chosen by an identity group, as acceptable descriptors of themselves, then pass into common usage, including usage by the racists and sexists whose racism and sexism, et cetera, the new terms mean to supersede. Alternately put, the new terms gradually acquire the same disparaging connotations of the old terms. The new terms are thus devalued, and another set of words must be coined, giving rise to lengthy progressions such as Negro, Colored, Black, Afro-American, African-American, and so on, (cf. Euphemism treadmill).
Discussion of political correctness, to the extent that it uses the term and accepts the existence of political correctness as a significant force, is almost invariably critical.
Structuralist philosopher Julia Kristeva, seen as a theorist who was instrumental in providing the philosophical basis for American political correctness, denounced political correctness in 2001 in New York Times and said her works have been distorted by Americans. She labeled identity politics and political correctness in general as totalitarian.
In The Abolition of Britain, Peter Hitchens says: “What Americans describe with the casual phrase . . . ‘political correctness’ is the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Isles since the Reformation”.
Accusations of exclusion from PC of certain groups
An article by Larry Elder in FrontPage Magazine referred to an incident on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect where the term "white trash" was used in reference to guests on the Jerry Springer Show and asked 'Why Is It Okay to Say "White Trash?"'. Commenting on this, and citing an instance of the term in a glossy magazine, blogger Ed Driscoll asked "Why Is "White Trash" An Acceptable Phrase In PC America?".
Accusations of cultural Marxism
University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors and lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate connect political correctness to Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse. They claim that liberal ideas of free speech are repressive, arguing that such "Marcusean logic" is the base of speech codes, which are seen by some as censorship, in US universities. Kors and Silvergate later established the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which campaigns against PC speech codes.
Some conservative critics claim that political correctness is a Marxist undermining of Western values. William S. Lind and Patrick Buchanan have characterized PC as a technique originated by the Frankfurt School, through what Buchanan describes as "Cultural Marxism". In The Death of the West, Buchanan says: “Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism, a regime to punish dissent and to stigmatize social heresy as the Inquisition punished religious heresy. Its trademark is intolerance.” 
A conservative criticism in the United States of higher education is that the political views of the faculty are much more liberal than the general population which contributes to an atmosphere of political correctness.
It has been argued, particularly by writers on the political left, that there is no movement advocating "political correctness", and that many specific claims put forward as evidence of political correctness are spurious, exaggerated or urban myths.
Political correctness as an engineered political term
A major criticism of the term stems from critics' claims of how it has been used by conservatives for political gain, considering it to play to voters' fears as a red herring as well as an attack on the political left. Some commentators claimed that after 1980, right-wing American conservatives re-engineered the term to ideologically re-frame US politics as a culture war. Hutton reports:
Political correctness is one of the brilliant tools that the American Right developed in the mid-1980s, as part of its demolition of American liberalism. . . . What the sharpest thinkers on the American Right saw quickly was that by declaring war on the cultural manifestations of liberalism — by levelling the charge of "political correctness" against its exponents — they could discredit the whole political project.
Moreover, the commentators claimed there never was a “Political Correctness movement” in the US, and that many who use the term do so to distract attention from substantive debate about racial, class and gender discrimination and unequal legal treatment. Similarly, Polly Toynbee argued that “the phrase is an empty right-wing smear designed only to elevate its user”.
Commenting on the UK's 2009 Equality Bill, Toynbee wrote that:
The phrase "political correctness" was born as a coded cover for all who still want to say Paki, spastic or queer, all those who still want to pick on anyone not like them, playground bullies who never grew up. The politically correct society is the civilised society, however much some may squirm at the more inelegant official circumlocutions designed to avoid offence.
False accusations of political correctness
In the United Kingdom, some newspapers reported that a school had altered the nursery rhyme “Baa Baa Black Sheep” to read “Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep”. But it is also reported that a better description is that the Parents and Children Together (PACT) nursery had the children “turn the song into an action rhyme. . . . They sing happy, sad, bouncing, hopping, pink, blue, black and white sheep etc.”  That nursery rhyme story was circulated and later extended to suggest that like language bans applied to the terms “black coffee” and “blackboard”. The Private Eye magazine reported that like stories, all baseless, ran in the British press since The Sun first published them in 1986. See also Loony Left#Baa Baa White Sheep.
Political correctness and science
Among scientists, "correctness" (of procedures, results, or scientific claims) derives from the factual truth of the matter or the soundness of the reasoning by which it can be deduced from observations and first principles. When publication, teaching, and public funding of science is decided by peer committees, academic standards, and elected or appointed boards, the allegation can arise that a work's acceptability has been assessed "politically". Professor J. I. Katz applies the term PC to censure characterized by emotional, rather than rational discourse.
Groups opposing certain generally accepted scientific views on evolution, global warming, passive smoking, AIDS, and other politically contentious scientific matters argue that PC is responsible for the failure of their perspectives to receive a fair public hearing; thus, in Lamarck's Signature: How Retrogenes are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm, Assoc. Prof. Edward J. Steele says: "We now stand on the threshold of what could be an exciting new era of genetic research. . . . However, the 'politically correct' thought agendas of the neo-Darwinists of the 1990s are ideologically opposed to the idea of 'Lamarckian Feedback', just as the Church was opposed to the idea of evolution based on natural selection in the 1850s!"
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, by Tom Bethell, is a comprehensive presentation argument that mainstream science is dominated by politically correct thinking. Bethell rejects mainstream views about evolution and global warming, and supports AIDS denialism.
Right-wing political correctness
Accusations of political correctness, in the sense of enforced orthodoxy, have also been directed against the political right. For example, the intense backlash against country band the Dixie Chicks, for remarks critical of President George W. Bush onstage in London in 2003, was described by newspaper columnist Don Williams as the price for freely speaking political views disapproved by supporters of the Iraq War. Williams went on to say, “the ugliest form of political correctness occurs whenever there’s a war on. Then you’d better watch what you say.” He noted that Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly called the remarks in question "treasonous".
Bill Maher's show Politically Incorrect lost some of its main advertisers after remarks he made about the 9/11 hijackers including that the hijackers were not cowards but that it was cowardly for the United States to launch cruise missiles on targets thousands of miles away. He later apologized. White House press secretary under President Bush at the time, Ari Fleischer stated, "people have to watch what they say and watch what they do". Fleischer later stated that this referred to both Maher and remarks against Arabs by Representative John Cooksey that were considered disparaging. Two journalists lost their jobs soon after the 9/11 attacks for statements critical of the president.
Linguistic examples of right-wing adjustments to language criticized as examples of political correctness include renaming French fries “Freedom fries”. In 2004, then Australian Labor leader Mark Latham described conservative calls for "civility" as "The New Political Correctness".
Political correctness often is satirized, for example in the Politically Correct Manifesto (1992), by Saul Jerushalmy and Rens Zbignieuw X, and Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (1994), by James Finn Garner, presenting fairy tales re-written from an exaggerated PC perspective.
Other examples include the television program Politically Incorrect, George Carlin’s "Euphemisms" routine, and The Politically Correct Scrapbook. The popularity of the South Park libertarian cartoon program led to the creation of the term South Park Republican by Andrew Sullivan, and later the book South Park Conservatives by Brian C. Anderson.
British comedian Stewart Lee also satirized the oft-used phrase of criticism for political correctness: "it's political correctness gone mad". In which Lee, himself, criticized people for overusing this phrase without even understanding the concept of political correctness (including many people's confusion of it with Health & Safety laws). He in particular criticized Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn for his overzealous use of the phrase.
- Anti-racist mathematics
- Christmas controversy
- Common Era
- Euphemism Treadmill
- Hate speech
- Identity Politics
- Kotobagari, a similar concept in the Japanese language
- Gender-neutral language; See Satiric misspelling (Alternative political spelling) for a Spanish-language example.
- Pensée unique
- People-first language
- Political consciousness
- Politically Correct Bedtime Stories
- Power (communication)
- Speech code
- University of Pennsylvania controversies
- ^ a b c d Ruth Perry, (1992), “A short history of the term ‘politically correct’ ”, in Beyond PC: Toward a Politics of Understanding , by Patricia Aufderheide, 1992
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- ^ Ellen Willis, "Toward a Feminist Revolution", in No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays (1992) Wesleyan University Press, ISBN 0-8195-5250-X, p.19.
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- ^ Remarks at the University of Michigan Commencement Ceremony in Ann Arbor, May 4, 1991. George Bush Presidential Library.
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- ^ "Multiculturalism and citizenship: responses to Tariq Modood | openDemocracy". http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-terrorism/response_madood_4630.jsp.
- ^ Mihkel M. Mathiesen (2004). Global Warming in a Politically Correct Climate: How Truth Became Controversial. iUniverse Star. ISBN 0-595-29797-8.
- ^ Cultural Sensitivity and Political Correctness: The Linguistic Problem of Naming, Edna Andrews, American Speech, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Winter, 1996), pp.389-404.
- ^ Development and Validation of an Instrument to Measure Attitudes Toward Sexist/Nonsexist Language Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, March 2000, by Janet B. Parks, Mary Ann Roberton 
- ^ Loftus, E. and Palmer, J. 1974. "Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory." Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 13, pp.585-9
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- ^ "Library : Inclusive Language: Is It Necessary?". Catholic Culture. http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=2623&CFID=16394192&CFTOKEN=66016122. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
- ^ Riding, Alan, Correcting Her Idea of Politically Correct. New York Times. June 14, 2001
- ^ Camille Paglia says it best-- Accessed February 2, 2007. “My message to the media is: ‘Wake up!’ The silencing of authentic debate among feminists just helps the rise of the far right. When the media get locked in their Northeastern ghetto and become slaves of the feminist establishment and fanatical special interests, the American audience ends up looking to conservative voices for common sense. As a libertarian Democrat, I protest against this self-defeating tyranny of political correctness.”
- ^ "FrontPage Magazine - Why Is It Okay to Say "White Trash?"". http://220.127.116.11/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=22911.
- ^ "Ed Driscoll.com: Why Is "White Trash" An Acceptable Phrase In PC America?". http://eddriscoll.com/archives/007301.php.
- ^ Kors, A.C. and Silvergate, H, "Codes of silence - who's silencing free speech on campus -- and why" Reason Magazine (online), November 1998 - Accessed February 6, 2007.
- ^ [dead link]
- ^ "William S. Lind says Political Correctness is a form of what Buchanan describes as cultural Marxism". Academia.org. http://www.academia.org/lectures/lind1.html. Retrieved June 1, 2009. [dead link]
- ^ "Buchanan interview on Fox News". Foxnews.com. May 27, 2005. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,157952,00.html. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
- ^ Buchanan, Patrick The Death of the West, p.89
- ^ The Politically Correct University Problems, Scope, and Reforms, Edited By Frederick M. Hess, Robert Maranto, Richard E. Redding, AEI Press, September 2009.
- ^ Hutton W, “Words really are important, Mr Blunkett” The Observer, Sunday December 16, 2001 - Accessed February 6, 2007.
- ^ Messer–Davidow 1993, 1994; Schultz 1993; Lauter 1995; Scatamburlo 1998; and Glassner 1999.
- ^ Toynbee P, “Religion must be removed from all functions of state”, The Guardian, Sunday December 12, 2001 - Accessed February 6, 2007.
- ^ Toynbee, Polly (April 28, 2009). "This bold equality push is just what we needed. In 1997". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/28/toynbee-equality-bill-welfare. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
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- ^ "Nursery opts for 'rainbow' sheep". BBC News. March 7, 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4782856.stm. Retrieved October 6, 2007.
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- ^ "What Is Political Correctness? |author Jonathan I. Katz". http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/pc.html.
- ^ Robert V. Blanden; Steele, Edward David; Lindley, Robyn A. (1999). Lamarck's signature: how retrogenes are changing Darwin's natural selection paradigm. Reading, Mass: Perseus Books. ISBN 0-7382-0171-5.
- ^ Bethell, Tom (2005). The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science. Washington, D.C: Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-031-X.
- ^ "Don Williams Insights - Dixie Chicks Were Right". http://www.mach2.com/williams/index.php?t=1&c=20060602120901. Retrieved November 9, 2007.
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- Aufderheide, Patricia. (ed.). 1992. Beyond P.C.: Toward a Politics of Understanding. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press.
- Berman, Paul. (ed.). 1992. Debating P.C.: The Controversy Over Political Correctness on College Campuses. New York, New York: Dell Publishing.
- David E. Bernstein, "You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws", Cato Institute 2003, 180 pages ISBN 1-930865-53-8
- William S. Lind, "The Origins of Political Correctness", Accuracy in Academia, 2000.
- Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me - But Not for Thee, HarperCollins, 1992, ISBN 0-06-019006-X
- Diane Ravitch, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, Knopf, 2003, hardcover, 255 page.
- Nigel Rees, The Politically Correct Phrasebook: what they say you can and cannot say in the 1990s, Bloomsbury, 1993, 192 pages, ISBN 0-7475-1426-7
- Arthur Schlesinger Jr., The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, W.W. Norton, 1998 revised edition, ISBN 0-393-31854-0
- Howard S. Schwartz, Revolt of the Primitive: An Inquiry into the Roots of Political Correctness, Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2003 Revised Paperback Edition ISBN 0-765-80537-5
- Howard S. Schwartz, Society against Itself: Political Correctness and Organizational Self-Destruction, London: Karnac Books, 2010, ISBN 978 1 85575 763 9
- Psychodynamics of Political Correctness - Published in Journal of Applied Behavioural Science
- Debra L. Schultz. 1993. To Reclaim a Legacy of Diversity: Analyzing the "Political Correctness" Debates in Higher Education. New York: National Council for Research on Women.
- Wilson, John. 1995. The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on High Education. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
- Politically correct and proud of it Observer Special Report by Will Hutton
- Possible origins of the term at www.linguist.org
- "Shortcuts" by Thomas Jones, discusses the term "political correctness" in British discourse, London Review of Books, December 1, 2005
- A list of examples cited by the Daily Mail of political correctness in the UK
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Look at other dictionaries:
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