“When I was young
PC meant ‘Police Constable.’
Nowadays, I can’t seem to tell the difference…”
- Manic Street Preachers, ‘P.C.P.’
“…political correctness: that strange, nebulous world of safety and
compliance that seems to be binding us all in hoops of steel at the moment.”
- Stephen Fry
Well-meaning young folk offended by Donald’s Trump’s offensiveness have latched onto his attack on political correctness, saying “political correctness is a phony idea,” that it doesn’t really exist as a concept – that being “sorry for being un-PC" is simply “a way to shift the responsibility for one's bigotry.”
Well, they might be right about Trump. (Although there are many, many more reasons than this one to revile the man as a candidate.) But there is nothing phony or non-existent about about the concept political correctness. It is real, it exists, and it is a vile shackling of free speech: at the same time a system of self-imposed pre-digested opinion with a voluntarist imposition of silence – “Systemised atrocity ignored, As long as bi-lingual signs [are] on view.”
Since they may be too young to remember when it first emerged, here’s a documentary to explain it. You can tell how old it is because the bloke presenting it is holding a pipe.
Here’s Stephen Fry on Spooks and political correctness. Yes, that sentence makes sense. It’s the concept that doesn’t.:
PS: ‘NOT PC,’ Friday, November 04, 2005
Political Correctness: A classic documentary now online
I thought it was time that a classic documentary on Political Correctness was taken out and dusted off: a forty minute radio documentary put together by Lindsay Perigo and Deborah Coddington for BBC World Service Radio just over a decade ago [that’s twenty years ago now!]. (I've transferred it to MP3 and put it online, with links below.) How far have we come since then?
The documentary covers the origins and effects of political correctness, the local and overseas manifestations of the phenomenon, and of course takes the piss out of PC whenever possible. The case of Anna Penn is discussed (Penn, if you recall, was the trainee nurse failed for being 'culturally unsafe' -- ahem, 'deficiency-achieved' -- in 1993, despite having a 92% average in the rest of her course) and there is also commentary from and interviews with luminaries such as journalist Carol du Chateau, economist and commentator Walter Williams, then-lecturer Rodney Hide, scientist and former Professor Robert Mann, and philosopher Gary Hull.
Hull points to post-modernism and its relativist, deconstructionist cousins as being responsible for political correctness. Says Williams, the corruption of language that political correctness demands brings to mind George Orwell's important point in 1984, that "to introduce totalitarianism into society, you first have to corrupt the language."
How far have we come since 1993, and how much closer to 1984? You decide.