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Reblogged:Political Correctness at Three O'Clock?

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Over at the Washington Post, Alex Nowrasteh makes his case that conservatives have their own version of "political correctness:"

Every group has implicit rules against certain opinions, actions and language as well as enforcement mechanisms -- and the patriotically correct are no exception. But they are different because they are near-uniformly unaware of how they are hewing to a code of speech and conduct similar to the PC lefties they claim to oppose. The modern form of political correctness on college campuses and the media is social tyranny with manners, while patriotic correctness is tyranny without the manners, and its adherents do not hesitate to use the law to advance their goals. If we have a term to describe this new phenomenon -- I nominate patriotic correctness. [links dropped, bold added]
I'm not sure I agree that the left-wing version of this anti-intellectual phenomenon has manners, and I don't see how the lack of self-awareness on the part of anti-intellectuals on the right necessarily makes them "different" from leftists whose actions stifle debate. (Many of them also claim to support freedom of speech.) However, I do think that Nowrasteh is correct that in this, as in many other ways, many conservatives ape leftists. (My "favorite" is being accused of supporting "open borders" even after explaining the difference between my views on immigration from that idea.)

That said, this piece raises an interesting issue: The first sentence in the above paragraph reeks a little of moral relativism, as if anyone who has a stand on anything will inevitably succumb to the temptation to throttle dissent. There is world of a difference between standing up for what one judges to be true and good, and attempting to force everyone else to either shut up or express agreement (genuine or feigned). One can, say, boycott or protest a public figure whose stated opinion one disagrees with, without being guilty of the vice(s) Nowrasteh is calling "political correctness." (These appear to be (1) anti-intellectualism and (2) a willingness to misuse government force to violate freedom of speech.)

Amendment_1.jpg
The text of the First Amendment.
Indeed, we should consider what "political correctness" might actually mean. A privately-organized boycott, say by the owner of a radio station against a singer whose opinion he has an issue with, is not an abridgement by the government of freedom of speech. (It isn't a violation of any of the singer's rights, either: The owner doesn't owe anyone his property to use as a forum.) A "safe space" at a university run or financed by the government may be; various speech codes at such schools quite often are; and both, being financed by confiscated money, are wrong, anyway. This piece does not seem to make such a distinction. (This is, by the way, the same distinction Ayn Rand notes is missing when people wrongly speak of "economic power.") This distinction, between the action of rights-respecting, free individuals vs. government force, is important to bear in mind. Yet it seems to have been all but forgotten: Picketing and boycotting an event do not violate anyone's rights; forcibly blocking off an event, issuing threats, and yelling during the whole thing do. Nowrasteh doesn't seem to make such a distinction, but neither does anyone else. (Petwer Schwartz, author or In Defense of Selfishness, has some interesting thoughts on why the politically correct wouldn't care even if this were pointed out to them.)

All that said, the meaning and validity of the term "political correctness" aside, the point about a disturbing cultural trend remains worthy of consideration: Some corners of the "right" are on a par with the left in terms of anti-intellectualism and enmity towards the free expression of ideas.

-- CAV

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