Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nick Cohen and Political Correctness, Part III

Finally, a short post from me. I think I elided rather too much in my last post. So, to expand: Nick thinks that East Enders expected new rights after WWII. I agree, but I can't accept his position on attempts by blacks in the US to win at least the patina of respect as being evidence of 'the constant shifting of the linguistic goal posts.' These weren't a succession of Blitzkreigs on the standard English of decent white Americans (also Nick seems to posit the 'decent' and 'liberals' as not only separate but immiscible: this is not a perspective I share*). These were different groups trying different approaches, not the attention demanding whims of one mercurial and all-powerful organisation which represented all non-whites. (If they all look alike to you, that's your problem.)

But to give Nick his credit, he does have one good sentence.

The notorious trouble is that it uses authoritarianism to enforce tolerance.

I don't know if I fully agree with this, but it's broadly correct, certainly up to 'authoritarianism.' A much better piece on political correctness is Jesse Walker's Right-Wing P.C..

The prototypical P.C. leftist will pat himself on the back for being "subversive" while reciting opinions carefully calculated not to upset his career track. The prototypical P.C. conservative will pat herself on the back for being "politically incorrect" while reciting opinions that are just as safe and predictable. When Fox blowhard Bill O'Reilly declares that "it is politically incorrect to mention that immigration laws must be enforced and the borders effectively monitored," he obviously isn't describing what's risky to say on the channel that employs him, where calls to enforce our immigration laws are about as rare as ads for Hannity & Colmes.

See also The Water Buffalo Affair for an example of PC gone bad. Apart from examples like that, I'm pro PC as, to use Nick's own phrase, 'merely modern good manners', and fulminating against terms like "Down's Syndrome" or "African American" doesn't change that.

Stick a fork in it, I'm done here.

*In the 1950s, decent white Americans ... Doubtless, that will change too, but on the course of the journey American liberalism lost many supporters who concluded that they were caught up in a linguistic racket.
I think the way this is said is wrong: liberalism is not party with supporters who may vote elsewhere. Besides, for me anyway, 'liberal' and 'decent' are all but synonyms.


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