We hear a lot about “political correctness” these days. The antagonists of political correctness are usually thought to be ignorant, right-wing, slack-jawed yokels (I’m sorry, the PC term is “academically challenged rural Americans”) hell bent on preserving their brand of “good old fashioned bigotry.”
Intellectuals, on the other hand, are generally viewed as the people who are proponents of political correctness; as they recognize we are social beings and that interacting civilly is paramount to a properly functioning society.
So… What about the intellectuals who speak out against political correctness?
Why would an intellectual, particularly one that is vehemently against racism and bigotry, be so against political correctness?
For us the reasoning is a bit more profound, and usually centered around the concept of free artistic expression and anti-authoritarianism.
I’ll try to explain.
The Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of publications deemed heretical, or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index (a former Dicastery of the Roman Curia) and thus Catholics were forbidden to read them.
All of Giordano Bruno’s publications were put on the list in 1603AD, 3 years subsequent to the Catholic church burning him at the stake for heresy and pantheism.
Now, I cannot deny this. I share much of the “moral code” that my progressive and liberal companions tout as superior to all other morality in history, but it becomes problematic when that moral code is lionized as untouchable.
When you attempt to institutionalize a purist moral framework you’re in essence becoming identical to the crusaders that have historically ravaged, attempted to suppress, or stifled scientific exploration.
Intellectualism, scientific exploration, technological progress, and progress in general rely on dichotomy, discourse and debate.
My politically correct friends have extreme difficulty in understanding the necessity of a free and open marketplace of ideological intercourse, but I wont stop my efforts to enlighten them.
The concept that an idea is too vile or offensive to be presented into a compendium of human thought is ludicrous and tantamount to the fascism they’re attempting to eradicate.
As George Carlin said: “Political Correctness is fascism pretending to be manners”.
When you proclaim that an idea is too offensive to be heard you’re mimicking the behavior of Emperor Qin Shi Haung, who burned philosophical texts and led Confucian scholars to martyrdom.
When you attempt to articulate a case to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, you’re crusading against the very intellectualism that led to 21st century technology, science, medicine, knowledge, thought etc.
When there’s a free marketplace of ideas, occasionally some repugnant, even hateful and violent ideas emerge. As the ACLU suggests, the best way to combat bad ideas is with good ideas, but the marketplace must always stay free.
Nazism, or hate groups, are often brought up as an example of why we should suppress or limit the freedom of speech. It’s the freedom of speech and the right to protest, however, that keeps Nazism from taking any form of noticeable root.
History reveals to us that totalitarian regimes, like Hitler and the Nazis, relied heavily on the suppression of the free press. The ministry of propaganda, during the third reich, swiftly and effectively removed all literature opposing the regime. The removal of free speech allowed their rhetoric to dominate the culture, and them to gain enormous power.
Censorship, speech codes, political correctness; these are all authoritarian concepts that would allow corporations, media and government to contrive information and weaken the liberties of people.
Racists and bigots have become so vocal against political correctness that anti-pc and bigotry are becoming synonymous. Intellectuals are avoiding open critique of political correctness out of fear of social ostracizing.
Criticizing political correctness isn’t about spreading bigotry, it’s about preserving liberty for all people.
I agree we should treat each other better; we should be pragmatic, open-minded and egalitarian. We should consider marginalized people and how our society has institutionalized racism, decimated populations, and historically oppressed people who were viewed as inferior to the dominate culture of the period.
We should consider how we think, how we interact and how we speak to one another. We as a civilization have a lot to discuss. We wont get far, however, if we implement rigid authoritarianism in an attempt to curtail that in which we disagree with.
Political correctness is neo-puritanism and in itself anti-intellectual… this is the reason that true intellectuals oppose it.