At least according to Amanda Taub from Vox, who wrote a blog piece in response to an article by Jonathan Chait. Chait argues that the resurgent form of political correctness today is threatening to undermine liberalism. He seems to think this is a bad thing, but I digress. Taub contradicts that, saying that use of the label “Political Correctness” is actually a way of dismissing the legitimate concerns of others that we ourselves do not feel particularly strong about. She uses as an example a single comment by a Virginia legislator, Jackson Miller, who wanted the Washington Redskins to keep their name unchanged. Taub, unsurprisingly, thinks it is racist and should be changed so as to avoid offending people. Miller made the statement that the controversy over the Redskins’ name was “political correctness on steroids on overdrive” (interestingly Taub left out the “steroids” part in her version of the quote). Taub sees this as simply a ploy to shut down the debate without considering the possibility of racism, and thus shows a lack of respect to those who have what might be legitimate concerns.
In fact what Taub appears to be doing here is projection. As Chait points out well in the above article, it is actually liberals who have been shutting down debate and dismissing the viewpoints of those who do not fit in with their ideological perspective which is what the (admittedly arbitrary) standards of political correctness do. A closer look at Taub’s analysis of the statement by Jackson Miller is instructive. The comment which she pulled out of context came at the end of a speech of his which he even prefaced by saying it was “the last thing I’ll say about this movement for the Redskins to change their name.” In other words it was his closing statement in trying to explain why a state legislator should even become involved in a controversy about the name of a football team. Taub fails to even consider the possibility that Miller has thoughtfully considered the issue and has concluded that the concerns over the name have no merit. In fact Taub is the one who is dismissing Miller and failing to consider his arguments (I can’t resist this as an amusing aside and as an illustration of Taub’s sloppy thinking, but it also appears that Taub thinks the name is Del Jackson Miller as she writes it in her blog, a mistake which apparently came from her reading of the above Washington Post article in which he is listed as “Del. Jackson Miller.” The abbreviation “Del.” is short for delegate as he was a delegate to the Redskins Pride Caucus. Taub took a quote out of context, misquoted it, and also made a careless blunder on the name – an impressive three-fer!).
Taub also seeks to illustrate her case by mentioning how the concerns about online harassment of women bloggers such as herself and some others are dismissed as an illegitimate display of political correctness. I have news for Amanda Taub: that’s life. I have done blogging and online debating in many different fora over the years and I have been on the receiving end of a good bit of vitriol, profanity, and even threats. It would be nice to live in a world where that wasn’t a reality, but we don’t. I don’t see that harassment of women online is a bigger problem than harassment of men. To see this as an example of sexism is to blind oneself to a large part of reality. But it also brings to mind the recent case where a male conservative writer on a college campus had his room vandalized for writing a satirical piece about the excesses of the new political correctness (see Chait’s article above for a summary). One wonders if Taub has had anything like that happen to her because of an article she wrote.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown has her own response to Chait which is much more sympathetic. Her biggest disagreements with Chait are first that she thinks the extreme p.c. crowd is actually mainstream liberalism rather than radical leftists as Chait holds, and that the radicals actually oppose it. I’ll leave it to others to analyze that claim; I’m more interested in her second disagreement, namely that political correctness today is not for the most part coming from academia, but from social media and journalists. Ironically there was a recent announcement to faculty of the CUNY Graduate center that they were no longer to use gendered titles like “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.” to address students or prospective students. (paywall). One doesn’t have to think hard of other rules which have originated at institutions of higher learning. Some might suggest that actually some of the most bizarre p.c. rules have come from academia and eventually get filtered down to social media through students of these institutions.
It is touching to note, however, that Brown has finally decided that political correctness is a real problem after long thinking of “use of the term ‘political correctness’ to be the sole province of dullards, bigots, and general morons.” In fact she says that as recently as a year ago she held this opinion, roughly putting her in the same boat that Amanda Taub presently occupies. Why the change? Could it be because the thought police have finally started attacking things that she doesn’t think are real problems? Conservatives were among the first to recognize the dangerous trajectory of political correctness simply because they were the first to be targeted. It almost looks like many on the left are just waking up to that reality, though judging by Amanda Taub there is still plenty of denial to go around. So where does this leave us? As a conservative there is some satisfaction in being able to think “I told you so” in response to the Elizabeth Nolan Browns of the left. The bigger question is whether anything will change when those occupying the center left of the spectrum increasingly find themselves running afoul of the thought police.
On a final note, it is striking to me how many of these liberal articles contain some sort of parenthetical comment to the effect that yes, the threat of those awful conservatives is bad, but the new thought police might be just as bad if not worse. I can think of no better response than Paul Cella’s here. The supposed threat of conservatives seems to me to be largely a figment of the leftist imagination. Political Correctness, on the other hand, is a real and increasingly present danger.