Political correctness

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Political correctness is the avoidance of thought and speech that could be construed as insensitive to some demographic. A classic example of PC behaviour is moving away from established language because it has gained negative connotations. The term, in the way that it's used today can be dated to at least the early 90s.[1]

Political correctness outside the left[edit]

Corporate speak[edit]

Carefully manipulated language is a hallmark of corporate publications. In order to appeal to as broad a marketable audience as possible, companies have to choose words in a way that minimises the risk of putting anyone off.

Among reactionaries[edit]

Despite their seeming opposition to political correctness, the alt-right uses a lot of it. This is especially true in the words they use to identify themselves. "Scientific racist" becomes "race realist," and "white supremacist" becomes “ethnic nationalist” or “identitarian,” “online neo-Nazis” becomes “alternative right.” People know what the former is. They don't like it. As such, new language has to be found.

This effect can be enhanced by being more pedantic about the meaning of words than the average person. "Fascists" are members of the Italian Fascist Party, being a "neo-reactionary" is something entirely different. A “Nazi” is a member of the German National Socialist Workers' Party during the Weimar period, or not even that, since they never called actually themselves “Nazis.” In this way they'll try to avoid any epithet that's applied to them.

In order to seem more respectable, far-right propagandists are happy to go along with the euphemistic language of the day. For instance, instead of using their favourite racist pejorative, or simply saying "non-whites", they will likely go for the euphemism "people of colour."

Political correctness inside the left[edit]

The far-left is often seen as the main pusher of political correctness today. They are frequently stereotyped as centring their entire discourse around it.

It's important to consider the subtext of words and its implications. Simple changes in vocabulary can meaningfully reduce the day-to-day marginalisation of oppressed demographics, such non-white and LGBT people, something some leftists agree is a worthwhile goal. However, there are points at which political correctness becomes problematic.

One of these cases is when politically correct language hides oppression.

Critiques of political correctness within the left[edit]

As a right-wing buzzword[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Richard Bernstein (OCT. 28, 1990), "IDEAS & TRENDS; The Rising Hegemony of the Politically Correct", The New York Times