||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (April 2014)|
Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct, commonly abbreviated to PC) is an ordinarily pejorative term used to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. The term had only scattered usage prior to the 1990s, usually as an ironic self-description, but entered mainstream usage in the United States when conservative author Dinesh D'Souza used it to condemn what he saw as left-wing efforts to advance multiculturalism through language, affirmative action, opposition to hate speech, and changes to the content of school and university curriculums. The term came to be commonly used in the United Kingdom around the same period, especially in periodicals such as the Daily Mail, a conservative tabloid that became known for the trope "political correctness gone mad."
Scholars on the political left have said that conservatives and right-wing libertarians such as D'Souza pushed the term in order to divert attention from more substantive matters of discrimination and as part of a broader culture war against liberalism. They have also said that conservatives have their own forms of political correctness, which is generally ignored.
The term "politically correct" was used infrequently in the U.S. until the latter part of the 20th century, and its earlier use did not communicate the social disapproval inherent in more recent usage. In 1793, the term "politically correct" appeared in a U.S. Supreme Court judgment of a political-lawsuit. William Safire states that the first recorded use of the term in the modern sense is by Toni Cade in the 1970 anthology The Black Woman.
Early-to-mid 20th century
In the early-to-mid 20th century, the phrase "politically correct" was associated with the dogmatic application of Stalinist doctrine, debated between Communist Party members and Socialists. This usage referred to the Communist party line, which provided for "correct" positions on many matters of politics. According to American educator Herbert Kohl, writing about debates in New York in the late 1940s and early 1950s,
The term "politically correct" was used disparagingly, to refer to someone whose loyalty to the CP line overrode compassion, and led to bad politics. It was used by Socialists against Communists, and was meant to separate out Socialists who believed in egalitarian moral ideas from dogmatic Communists who would advocate and defend party positions regardless of their moral substance.—"Uncommon Differences", The Lion and the Unicorn Journal
In 1968, the French philosopher Michel Foucault is quoted as saying: "a political thought can be politically correct ("politiquement correcte") only if it is scientifically painstaking", referring to leftist intellectuals attempting to make Marxism scientifically rigorous rather than relying on orthodoxy.
In the 1970s, the New Left began using the term "politically correctness", in the essay The Black Woman: An Anthology (1970), Toni Cade Bambara said that "a man cannot be politically correct and a [male] chauvinist, too." Therafter, the term was often used as self-critical satire, Debra Shultz said that "throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the New Left, feminists, and progressives... used their term 'politically correct' ironically, as a guard against their own orthodoxy in social change efforts". As such, PC is a popular usage in the comic book Merton of the Movement, by Bobby London, which then was followed by the term ideologically sound, in the comic strips of Bart Dickon. In her essay "Toward a feminist Revolution" (1992) Ellen Willis said: "In the early eighties, when feminists used the term political correctness, it was used to refer sarcastically to the anti-pornography movement's efforts to define a "feminist sexuality"".
Stuart Hall suggests one way in which the original use of the term may have developed into the modern one:
According to one version, political correctness actually began as an in-joke on the left: radical students on American campuses acting out an ironic replay of the Bad Old Days BS (Before the Sixties) when every revolutionary groupuscule had a party line about everything. They would address some glaring examples of sexist or racist behaviour by their fellow students in imitation of the tone of voice of the Red Guards or Cultural Revolution Commissar: 'Not very "politically correct", Comrade!'
In 1990, the term was adopted by the right, with its use as a pejorative phrase becoming widespread in 1991. It became a key term encapsulating conservative concerns about the left in academia in particular, and in culture and political debate more broadly. Two articles on the topic in late 1990 in Forbes and Newsweek both used the term "thought police" in their headlines, exemplifying the tone of the new usage, but it was Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (1991) which "captured the press's imagination". "Political correctness" here was a label for a range of policies in academia around supporting multiculturalism through affirmative action, sanctions against anti-minority hate speech, and revising curricula (sometimes referred to as "canon busting"). These trends were at least in part a response to the rise of identity politics, with movements such as feminism, gay rights movements and ethnic minority movements. That response received funding from conservative foundations and think tanks such as the John M. Olin Foundation, which funded D'Souza's book.
In the event, the previously obscure term became common-currency in the lexicon of the conservative social and political challenges against progressive teaching methods and curriculum changes in the secondary schools and universities (public and private) of the U.S. Hence, in 1991, at a commencement ceremony for a graduating class of the University of Michigan, the then U.S. President George H.W. Bush spoke out against: "... a movement [that would] declare certain topics 'off-limits', certain expressions 'off-limits', even certain gestures 'off-limits'..."
Herbert Kohl, in 1992, commented that a number of neoconservatives who promoted the use of the term "politically correct" in the early 1990s were former Communist Party members, and, as a result, familiar with the Marxist use of the phrase. He argued that in doing so, they intended "to insinuate that egalitarian democratic ideas are actually authoritarian, orthodox and Communist-influenced, when they oppose the right of people to be racist, sexist, and homophobic."
Mainstream usages of the term politically correct, and its derivatives – "political correctness" and "PC" – began in the 1990s, when right-wing politicians adopted the phrase as a pejorative descriptor of their ideologic enemies – especially in context of the Culture Wars about language and the content of public-school curricula. Generally, any policy, behavior, and speech code that the speaker or the writer regards as the imposition of a liberal orthodoxy about people and things, can be described and criticized as "politically correct". Jan Narveson has written that "that phrase was born to live between scare-quotes: it suggests that the operative considerations in the area so called are merely political, steamrolling the genuine reasons of principle for which we ought to be acting..."
Liberal commentators have argued that the conservatives and reactionaries who used the term did so in effort to divert political discussion away from the substantive matters of resolving societal discrimination – such as racial, social class, gender, and legal inequality – against people whom the right-wing do not consider part of the social mainstream.
In the course of the 1990s, the term was increasingly commonly used in the United Kingdom, with the expression "political correctness gone mad" becoming a catchphrase, usually associated with the politically conservative Daily Mail tabloid. In 2001 Will Hutton wrote:
Political correctness is one of the brilliant tools that the American Right developed in the mid–1980s, as part of its demolition of American liberalism.... What the sharpest thinkers on the American Right saw quickly was that by declaring war on the cultural manifestations of liberalism – by levelling the charge of "political correctness" against its exponents – they could discredit the whole political project.—"Words Really are Important, Mr Blunkett", The Observer
Similarly Polly Toynbee, writing in 2001, said "the phrase is an empty, right-wing smear, designed only to elevate its user", and, in 2010 "...the phrase "political correctness" was born as a coded cover for all who still want to say Paki, spastic, or queer..."
Accusations of bias in academia and education were core to Dinesh D'Souza's arguments when he initially pushed the term into public discourse, and conservatives have used it as a major line of attack since. University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors and lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate connect political correctness to philosopher Herbert Marcuse. They claim that speech codes in US universities create a "climate of repression", arguing that they are based on "Marcusean logic". The speech codes, "mandate a redefined notion of "freedom," based on the belief that the imposition of a moral agenda on a community is justified", a view which, "requires less emphasis on individual rights and more on assuring "historically oppressed" persons the means of achieving equal rights." They claim:
Our colleges and universities do not offer the protection of fair rules, equal justice, and consistent standards to the generation that finds itself on our campuses. They encourage students to bring charges of harassment against those whose opinions or expressions "offend" them. At almost every college and university, students deemed members of "historically oppressed groups"--above all, women, blacks, gays, and Hispanics--are informed during orientation that their campuses are teeming with illegal or intolerable violations of their "right" not to be offended. Judging from these warnings, there is a racial or sexual bigot, to borrow the mocking phrase of McCarthy's critics, "under every bed."
Kors and Silvergate later established the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which campaigns against infringement of rights of due process, rights of religion and speech, in particular "speech codes". Similarly, a common conservative criticism of higher education in the United States is that the political views of the faculty are much more liberal than the general population, and that this situation contributes to an atmosphere of political correctness.
Trigger warnings in academia have sometimes been compared to political correctness; but Greg Lukianoff, the president of FIRE, and Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, writing in The Atlantic, said that they were subtly different. They felt that political correctness, while it restricted hate speech aimed at marginalized groups, also added more diverse perspectives to academia; whereas in their opinion, trigger warnings were a distinct phenomenon that aimed to protect individuals from any speech that might create emotional distress based upon personal history.
In 2015, Jerry Seinfeld made news by stating that he and other comedians were no longer playing college campuses because of the increasing "political correctness". He later expanded his opinion beyond millennials, saying "There's a creepy, PC thing out there that really bothers me."
Groups who oppose certain generally accepted scientific views about evolution, second-hand tobacco smoke, AIDS, global warming, race, and other politically contentious scientific matters have said that PC liberal orthodoxy of academia is the reason why their perspectives of those matters have been rejected by the scientific community. For example, in Lamarck's Signature: How Retrogenes are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm (1999), Prof. Edward J. Steele said:
We now stand on the threshold of what could be an exciting new era of genetic research.... However, the 'politically correct' thought agendas of the neo–Darwinists of the 1990s are ideologically opposed to the idea of 'Lamarckian Feedback', just as the Church was opposed to the idea of evolution based on natural selection in the 1850s!
Right-wing political correctness
"Political correctness" is a label normally used for left-wing terms and actions, but not for equivalent attempts to mold language and behavior on the right. However the term "right-wing political correctness" is sometimes applied by commentators drawing parallels; one author used the term "conservative correctness", arguing in 1995 (in relation to higher education) that "critics of political correctness show a curious blindness when it comes to examples of conservative correctness. Most often, the case is entirely ignored or censorship of the Left is justified as a positive virtue. ... A balanced perspective was lost, and everyone missed the fact that people on all sides were sometimes censored."
In 2003, Dixie Chicks, a U.S. country music group, criticized the then U.S. President, George W. Bush, for launching the war against Iraq. Subsequently, they were criticized and labelled "treasonous" by some US rightwing commentators (including Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly). The newspaper columnist Don Williams said that "The campaign against the Chicks represents political correctness run amok" continuing "the ugliest form of political correctness occurs whenever there's a war on" claiming that three years before, "a virulent strain of right wing political correctness had all but shut down debate about the war in Iraq."
Paul Krugman in 2012 wrote that “the big threat to our discourse is right-wing political correctness, which – unlike the liberal version – has lots of power and money behind it. And the goal is very much the kind of thing Orwell tried to convey with his notion of Newspeak: to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order”.
In 2003, French fries were renamed “Freedom fries” in the U.S. Congress cafeterias in response to France's opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq, this was described as "polluting the already confused concept of political correctness". In 2004, then Australian Labor leader Mark Latham described conservative calls for “civility” in politics as “The New Political Correctness”.
As a conspiracy theory
Some radical right-wing groups argue that "political correctness" and multiculturalism are part of a conspiracy with the ultimate goal of undermining Judeo-Christian western values. This theory, which holds that political correctness originates from the critical theory of the Frankfurt School as part of a conspiracy that its proponents call "Cultural Marxism", is generally known as the Frankfurt School conspiracy theory by academics. The theory originated with Michael Minnicino's 1992 essay "New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and 'Political Correctness'", published in a Lyndon LaRouche movement journal. It is popular with many conservative commentators; for instance, in 2001, Patrick Buchanan, in The Death of the West, wrote that "Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism, a régime to punish dissent, and to stigmatize social heresy, as the Inquisition punished religious heresy. Its trademark is intolerance."
In the United States, left forces of "political correctness" have been blamed for actions largely carried out by right-wing groups, with Time citing campaigns against violence on network television as contributing to a "mainstream culture [which] has become cautious, sanitized, scared of its own shadow" because of "the watchful eye of the p.c. police", even though protests and advertiser boycotts targeting TV shows are generally organized by right-wing religious groups campaigning against violence, sex, and depictions of homosexuality on television.
In the United Kingdom, some newspapers reported that a school had altered the nursery rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" to read "Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep". But it was later reported that in fact the Parents and Children Together (PACT) nursery had the children "turn the song into an action rhyme.... They sing happy, sad, bouncing, hopping, pink, blue, black and white sheep etc." This nursery rhyme story was widely circulated and later extended to suggest that other language bans applied to the terms "black coffee" and "blackboard". The Private Eye magazine reported that similar stories, had been published in the British press since The Sun first ran them in 1986. See also Baa Baa White Sheep.
Political correctness is often satirized, for example in the Politically Correct Manifesto (1992), by Saul Jerushalmy and Rens Zbignieuw X, and Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (1994), by James Finn Garner, presenting fairy tales re-written from an exaggerated politically correct perspective. In 1994, the comedy film PCU took a look at political correctness on a college campus.
Other examples include the television program Politically Incorrect, George Carlin’s "Euphemisms" routine, and The Politically Correct Scrapbook. The popularity of the South Park cartoon program led to the creation of the term South Park Republican by Andrew Sullivan, and later the book South Park Conservatives by Brian C. Anderson.
British comedian Stewart Lee satirised the oft-used phrase "it's political correctness gone mad". Lee criticised people for overusing this expression without understanding the concept of political correctness (including many people's confusion of it with Health and Safety laws). He, in particular, criticised Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn for his overzealous use of the phrase.
- Anti-racism in mathematics teaching
- Christmas controversy
- Frankfurt School Conspiracy Theory
- Gutmensch (German expression for "do-gooder")
- Kotobagari (Japanese political correctness)
- Pensée unique
- People-first language
- Politics and the English Language (1946 essay by George Orwell)
- Reverse discrimination
- Wedge issue
- "Project MUSE - Uncommon Differences: On Political Correctness, Core Curriculum and Democracy in Education". jhu.edu.
- Ruth Perry, (1992), "A Short History of the Term 'Politically Correct'", in Beyond PC: Toward a Politics of Understanding, by Patricia Aufderheide, 1992
- Schultz, Debra L. (1993). "To Reclaim a Legacy of Diversity: Analyzing the 'Political Correctness' Debates in Higher Education" (PDF). New York: National Council for Research on Women.
- Ellen Willis, "Toward a Feminist Revolution", in No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays (1992) Wesleyan University Press, ISBN 0-8195-5250-X, p. 19.
- Whitney, D. Charles and Wartella, Ellen (1992). "Media Coverage of the "Political Correctness" Debate". Journal of Communication 42 (2). doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1992.tb00780.x.
- D'Souza, Dinesh (1992). Illiberal Education: Political Correctness and the College Experience. John m Ashbrook Center for Public. ISBN 978-1-878802-08-8.
- Messer–Davidow 1993, 1994; Schultz 1993; Lauter 1995; Scatamburlo 1998; and Glassner 1999.
- Will Hutton, “Words really are important, Mr Blunkett” The Observer, Sunday 16 December 2001 – Accessed February 6, 2007.
- "Conservative Correctness" chapter, in Wilson, John. 1995. The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on High Education. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 57
- "Don Williams Insights – Dixie Chicks Were Right". Retrieved November 9, 2007.
- Krugman, Paul (26 May 2012). "The New Political Correctness". New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
- In the 18th century, the term "politically correct" occurs in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. (2 Dall.) 419 (1793), wherein the term meant "in line with prevailing political thought or policy". In that legal case, the term correct was applied literally, with no reference to socially offensive language; thus the comments of Associate Justice James Wilson, of the U.S. Supreme Court: "The states, rather than the People, for whose sakes the States exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention... Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? 'The United States', instead of the 'People of the United States', is the toast given. This is not politically correct." Chisholm v State of GA, 2 US 419 (1793) Findlaw.com – Accessed 6 February 2007.
- Flower, Newmas (2006). The Journals of Arnold Bennett. READ BOOKS,. ISBN 978-1-4067-1047-2."Politically correct". Phrases.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
- Safire, William (2008). Safire's political dictionary (Rev. ed.). New York [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0195343344.
- Foucault, Michel (March 1968). "Foucault répond à Sartre". La Quinzaine littéraire (46). Retrieved 15 January 2015.
- Schultz citing Perry (1992) p.16
- Joel Bleifuss (February 2007). "A Politically Correct Lexicon". In These Times.
- Hall, Stuart (1994). "Some 'Politically Incorrect' Pathways Through PC" (PDf). S. Dunant (ed.) The War of the Words: The Political Correctness Debate. pp. 164–184.
- In The New York Times newspaper article "The Rising Hegemony of the Politically Correct", the reporter Richard Bernstein said that:
The term "politically correct", with its suggestion of Stalinist orthodoxy, is spoken more with irony and disapproval than with reverence. But, across the country the term "P.C.", as it is commonly abbreviated, is being heard more and more in debates over what should be taught at the universities.—The Rising Hegemony of the Politically Correct, NYT (28 October 1990) Bernstein, Richard (28 October 1990). "IDEAS & TRENDS; The Rising Hegemony of the Politically Correct – The New York Times". Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- Wilson, John. 1995. The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on High Education. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p26
- D'Souza 1991; Berman 1992; Schultz 1993; Messer Davidow 1993, 1994; Scatamburlo 1998
- U.S. President H.W. Bush, at the University of Michigan (4 May 1991), Remarks at the University of Michigan Commencement Ceremony in Ann Arbor, 4 May 1991. George Bush Presidential Library.
- Jan Narveson (1995), "Politics, Ethics, and Political Correctness", in Friedman, Marilyn and Narveson, Jan (1995), Political correctness: for and against, Rowman & Littlefield. p47
- "Multiculturalism and citizenship: responses to Tariq Modood | openDemocracy".
- Polly Toynbee, "Religion Must be Removed from all Functions of State", The Guardian, Sunday 12 December 2001 – Accessed 6 February 2007.
- Toynbee, Polly (28 April 2009). "This Bold Equality Push is just what We Needed. In 1997". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- "Queer" in this context clearly refers to its use in hate speech and should not be confused with other uses (see queer for more information).
- Kors, A. C.; Silvergate, H (November 1998). "Codes of silence – who's silencing free speech on campus – and why". Reason Magazine. Archived from the original on 2004-08-03. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
- Leo, John (Winter 2007). "Free Inquiry? Not on Campus". City Journal (Manhattan Institute for Policy Research). Retrieved 2008-03-25.
- Hess, Frederick M.; Maranto, Robert; Redding, Richard E. (2009). The politically correct university : problems, scope, and reforms. Washington, D.C.: AEI Press. ISBN 0844743178.
- Greg Lukianoff; Jonathan Haidt (September 2015). "The Coddling of the American Mind". The Atlantic.
- Michael Schramm (June 8, 2015). "Jerry Seinfeld says comedians avoid college gigs, students are 'so PC'". USA Today.
- Hoai-Tran Bui (June 10, 2015). "Jerry Seinfeld calls PC culture 'creepy'". USA Today.
- Bethell, Tom (2005). The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science. Washington, D.C: Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-031-X.
- Robert V. Blanden; Steele, Edward David; Lindley, Robyn A. (1999). Lamarck’s Signature: How Retrogenes are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm. Reading, Mass: Perseus Books. ISBN 0-7382-0171-5.
- At a concert in London, on 10 March 2003, Natalie Maines introduced the song "Travelin' Soldier", by saying "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war … we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." "'Shut Up And Sing': Dixie Chicks' Big Grammy Win Caps Comeback From Backlash Over Anti-War Stance". Democracy Now!. February 15, 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
- Campbell, Duncan (25 April 2003). "Dixie sluts' fight on with naked defiance". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
- "Freedom fries and French toast".
- "The New Political Correctness: Speech By Mark Latham [August 26, 2002]". Australianpolitics.com. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
- Richardson, John E. "‘Cultural-Marxism’ and the British National Party: a transnational discourse". In Copsey, Nigel; Richardson, John E. Cultures of Post-War British Fascism.
- Jamin, Jérôme (2014). "Cultural Marxism and the Radical Right". In Shekhovtsov, A.; Jackson, P. The Post-War Anglo-American Far Right: A Special Relationship of Hate. The Post-War Anglo-American Far Right: A Special Relationship of Hate (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan). pp. 84–103. doi:10.1057/9781137396211.0009. ISBN 978-1-137-39619-8. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Jay, Martin (2010), "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe". Salmagundi (Fall 2010-Winter 2011, 168–169): 30–40.
- Buchanan, Patrick The Death of the West, p. 89
- Wilson, John. 1995. The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on High Education. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p.7
- Blair, Alexandra (7 March 2006). "Why black sheep are barred and Humpty can't be cracked". London: The Times. Retrieved October 5, 2007.
- "Nursery opts for 'rainbow' sheep". BBC News. March 7, 2006. Retrieved October 6, 2007.
- "Teen Ink – Bah, Bah, Rainbow Sheep". Retrieved October 6, 2007.
- "Obsolete: Baa Baa Rainbow Bollocks.". Retrieved October 6, 2007.
- "TidBits: The PC Manifesto". Fiction.net. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
- "Book – Buy Now". Capc.co.uk. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
- Anderson, Brian C. (Autumn 2003). "We're Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore". Retrieved November 9, 2007.
- Sean O'Hagan (December 6, 2009). "The Guardian Online – Stewart lee Interview". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
- Aufderheide, Patricia. (ed.). 1992. Beyond P.C.: Toward a Politics of Understanding. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press.
- Berman, Paul. (ed.). 1992. Debating P.C.: The Controversy Over Political Correctness on College Campuses. New York, New York: Dell Publishing.
- David E. Bernstein, "You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws", Cato Institute 2003, 180 pages ISBN 1-930865-53-8
- William S. Lind, "The Origins of Political Correctness", Accuracy in Academia, 2000.
- Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me – But Not for Thee, HarperCollins, 1992, ISBN 0-06-019006-X
- Geoffrey Hughes (2009), Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture, John Wiley, ISBN 978-1-4051-5279-2
- Diane Ravitch, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, Knopf, 2003, hardcover, 255 page.
- Nigel Rees, The Politically Correct Phrasebook: what they say you can and cannot say in the 1990s, Bloomsbury, 1993, 192 pages, ISBN 0-7475-1426-7
- Arthur Schlesinger Jr., The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, W.W. Norton, 1998 revised edition, ISBN 0-393-31854-0
- Debra L. Schultz. 1993. To Reclaim a Legacy of Diversity: Analyzing the "Political Correctness" Debates in Higher Education. New York: National Council for Research on Women.
- Wilson, John. 1995. The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on High Education. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
|Look up politically correct in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- A list of examples of political correctness in the UK, cited by the Daily Mail
- The Truman Faux on Political Correctness