Political correctness/Talk

< Political correctness

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

You evidently haven't spent much time in American universities if you believe that political correctness does not concern economic, political, and environmental thought. It definitely does. On my understanding, the origin of the term was in the 70s, when it was used amongst leftists, a relatively straightforward (but often tongue-in-cheek) term describing liberal-left positions generally. If you're not convinced, follow the links I've provided in the article. --LMS

". . . it is currently being used on college campuses by certain groups with no ironic intention. Nowadays, what is politically correct is anything, particularly language, that is not sexist, racist, heterosexist, lookist, ageist, ableist, etc. The groups fighting these -isms tend to use the term quite straightforwardly to refer to what they believe is the only accepted way to be." (a 1994 quote from one of your links) -- Ed Poor

Admittedly I haven't spent considerable time in America anywhere. However, I have seen considerable support for political correctness among activists who are otherwise on the very far right. So if we have liberal detractors and anti-liberal supporters, I don't see how the claim that political correctness has to do with liberalism is anything other than false. At best the one has a tendency to come with the other, which is a lot weaker than the link originally stated.

The fact that something you happen to identify with the term 'political correctness' is supported by nonleftists does not entail that, in one well-established (and indeed older) sense of the term, 'political correctness' does not mean 'strict support for leftist causes'. In fact, Josh, it does mean that. Again, please consult the links I provided in the article. --LMS
All right, I certainly can't speak for all senses of the term. If there is indeed such a significant distinction between the politically correct movement in general and the movement for politically correct speech, though, it should probably be made plain. The way the page looks right now is that use of terms like chromosomally advantaged youth, which certainly is oft referred to as political correctness, is intrinsically something to do with liberalism, which is for instance something members of the Canadian Alliance are not noted for. Btw, I would suggest that an article proclaiming such movements as the extension of a Marxist agenda to undermine western civilization might be a bit opinionated for an encyclopedia.

As cute as it is to have a politically incorrect article on the subject, it would be nice if the material stayed factual. Atheism isn't conceivably part of a politically correct agenda, and neither big government, increased social spending, nor environment come into the movement at all. It is about talking in a way such that noone can conceivably be offended, even if it means you aren't saying anything anymore. The listed tenants are not necessarily for politically correctness, although it does draw support from their ranks.

I'd beg to differ most of the reactions/suggestions/demands from liberals in issues of political correctness involve increasing the role/size/regulation of government into everyday life. Increasing the role or regulation almost always results in a larger government. Also, political correctness advocates some restitution payments (in actual money or subsidies) for certain items.

Most of the reactions from liberals in such issues. But there are also conservatives concerned with such issues, and presumably they would approach the same goal through different means. It's not surprising that liberal political correctness relates to liberalism, and it doesn't mean that political correctness does. This is barring the above sense distinctions, since the comment you were replying to was as well (the chronology of this page is already backwards).

It's "tenets", and I agree. This one needs a lot of work to be factual. I'll see what I can do. --LDC

Made some changes. AS

Here's the majority of the old text. Some of this could be useful for the political liberal page (I think I'll move the list of issues there now--that page is linked to by this one), but doesn't belong here. Also, I think the example is copyrighted, so I'll look for something similar.

Not on your life. I just now made up that example off the top of my head.

Was my rendering of the issue so bad it had to be excised?

No, just a bit sloppily written, and I had already written my version. I'll put your example back (after cleaning up the grammar). It just looked a lot like the old "politically correct little red riding hood" example, so I feared it might be from a similar source).

I made some attempt to deal with the political assumptions of this article, but I still have a lot of objections to it. In my opinion, the last two paragraphs should go, because they are simply an exposition of the right wing position on so-called "politicial correctness".

Political correctness is a relatively new term, generally considered pejorative, and coined to denote what moderate and conservative political groups conceived to be overreaching in the arena of govermnent and corporate protection of individual rights, and censure of traditional white male-centric politics, business and social paradigms. Its chief use is in the field of utterances, especially public utterances by the media and in social contexts. The most pointed accusation against politically correct verbiage is that it is so intent on being value-neutral and upon protecting the feelings of disadvantaged groups that it far exceeds the bounds of common good sense, makes it nearly impossible to use commonly understood terminology, and results in ungainly and largely meaningless statements.

Users of the term refer to it as a coherent ultra-liberal movement, using value neutral language as a weapon of social reform, and blame it for everything from such socially laudatory programs as the Americans with Disabilities Act to overt political purges of people who do not believe in modern day liberal political viewpoints from government, organizations and businesses.

Tendencies toward "politically correct" speech can also be seen to result in legalistic sounding phrases excessively burdened with modifiers which detract from the direct meaning of what is said.

Example: In plain English, "The fireman put a ladder up against the tree, climbed it, and rescued the cat."

In a satirically exaggerated example of "politically correct" speech, the sentence might look like this. "The firefighter (who happened to be male, not that it just as easily could not have been a female) abridged the rights of the cat to determine on its own where it wanted to walk, climb or rest, and inflicted his own value judgements in determining that it needed to be "rescued" from its chosen perch. In callous disregard for the well-being of the environment, and this one tree in particular, he thrust the disabled-unfriendly means of ascent known as a "ladder" carelessly up against the tree, marring the bark, and unfeelingly climbed it, all-uncaring how his display of physical prowess might injure the feelings of those differently-abled. He kidnapped and unjustly restrained the innocent animal and removed it to the ground against its will, whereupon it immediately fled his grasp, having withstood more insult and injury than it could bear."

In fact, no serious narrator or journalist would subscribe to such an extreme example. The point of those ascribing to the term "political correctness" is that, taken to its logical conclusion, politically correct speech results in a similar degree of nonsense, interjected into otherwise harmless utterances, in a effort to spare the feelings of people who are in all probability completely comfortable with normal speech in the first place, and do not desire to be patronized.

Political correctness began in the 19??s, rose to broad usage in the early 1980s and declined in intensity in the late 1990s.

Some positions ascribed to political correctness by those favoring the term (similar to tenets of modern liberalism):

  • pro affirmative action
  • pro women's rights
  • pro gay rights
  • pro disabled rights
  • pro abortion rights
  • pro animal rights
  • anti religious fundamentalism
  • anti moral definism
  • anti gender discrimination
  • pro moral relativism
  • pro religious pluralism
  • pro cultural pluralism
  • pro government role in social progress
  • pro domestic social spending
  • pro environment
  • anti big business
  • anti racist
  • anti sexist
  • anti traditional gender roles
  • anti English as an official language
  • pro multi-lingual education

The term "political correctness" was coined by those who oppose the effect such speech is conceived to have on free thought and expression. They argue that political correctness amounts to thought control by the same liberals who denounce any mention of religion as forcing religious beliefs on other people.

Re these sentences:

However, the term is primarily used now as a perjorative term by conservatives as a way of describing progressive political views. The term actually has little literal meaningfulness, since all political ideologies are "correct" given the values that underlie them.

The point expressed by the first sentence was already made earlier in the article, and hence does not need to be repeated. The second sentence is a statement of opinion. The point it makes is perfectly valid, but to be unbiased, it should be entirely restated, and much earlier in the article. I'll try to do that. --Larry Sanger

article said

In an absurd and satirically overexaggerated example of PC speech, the sentence "The fireman put a ladder up against the tree, climbed it, and rescued the cat" might look like this:
The firefighter (who happened to be male, but could just as easily have been female) abridged the rights of the cat to determine for itself where it wanted to walk, climb, or rest, and inflicted his own value judgments in determining that it needed to be "rescued" from its chosen perch. In callous disregard for the well being of the environment, and this one tree in particular, he thrust the disabled-unfriendly means of ascent known as a "ladder" carelessly up against the tree, marring its bark, and unfeelingly climbed it, unconcerned how his display of physical prowess might injure the self-esteem of those differently abled. He kidnapped and unjustly restrained the innocent animal with the intention of returning it to the person who claimed to 'own' the naturally free animal, but it immediately fled his grasp, having withstood more insult and injury than it could bear.

I deleted this because it doesn't serve any purpose, it doesn't represent at all what real PC writing looks like, and because it is (or so it seems to me) an attempt to ridicule PC writing. -- SJK

I agree. It feels overly slanted. But on the other hand, it does accurately capture how a lot of people &lt;i>feel about political correctness (Or rather, what they feel Political Correctness to be like). I wonder how we might incorporate this popular criticism without losing sight of NPOV. -t

If a lot of people feel that PC writing is like the above extract, they're wrong. Politically correct writing looks almost identical to normal writing, with just some simple differences in style or terminology: it tries to be gender neutral and it prefers certain terminology (e.g. African-American instead of black, intellectually disabled rather than retarded, etc.). Certaintly there may be legitimate reasons for opposing PC writing, but strawman (or should I say strawperson? :-) ) arguments like the extract above are obviously invalid. -- SJK

Agreed. The only thing I am saying is that the above strawperson (cute) isn't just one of many arguments. It's the kind of misunderstanding that has taken hold in sitcoms and small town editorial pages and all of the other vast stretches of non-academic America. It isn't just an incorrect misunderstanding (though it is that) it is THE misunderstanding. It is a misunderstanding that has taken on a rich and vibrant life of its own, and for that reason deserves direct address. What that address would be, i do not know. But my experiences in my home town and with old high school friends working as mechanics and farmers and bus drivers compels me to ask for such an address. I'm not picking a fight, and i respect the need for this to be removed from the page, but I want to make sure that the issue doesn't get ignored or forgotten. If for no other reason, I would like to see a well articulated engagement of the above misunderstanding that would allow me to politely explain the situation to my non-academic friends and family. I feel at a loss when the issue comes up. I know (or rather, I feel) political correctness is right, but I have few diplomatic (dare I say politically correct) ways of communicating that to people who have been swept up by the above misunderstanding. --t

If the advocates of political correctness (I first met the actual use of the term in the summer of 1985 on the campus at U.C. Berkeley - only I seemed to think it was odd) had presented it as a branch of etiquette rather than as a branch of ethics or morality, they might have gotten further - Americans as a group are (despite the 'ugly American' image) tremendously polite people who don't like hurting others' feelings. However, the presentation of p.c. as a moral imperative sank it like a rock for the general public. --MichaelTinkler
Berkeley is clueless. Half the city council fights UC tooth and nail on everything, without seeming to realize that Berkeley would just be a dirty little railroad town of two-bit factories and broken down warehouses without Cal. Right now, Mayor Dean is sending out form email to everyone who is boycotting Berkeley over the latest city council shenanigans. They don't seem to understand that while they can dictate what everyone is supposed to think, they cannot yet dictate where we spend our money. Boneheads.

I made a few changes. In particular, I prefixed all uses of the word "PC" with so-called, since the usage otherwise presumes that there is even any such thing as "PC", which I happen to believe is not the case. I also attempted to restate in a non-biased fashion that some would argue that "PC" is a meaningless term (which, by the way, it is).

Um, folks, I see a lot of trying to say something strong from a point of view, and then neutralizing the language to come across as non-biased, and the result is very difficult to both read and get any value from, and it has little to do with anything I ever saw with political correctness, except, apparently, by accident. Let me leave this here and see if anybody feels like working it into the main article -- I'm not going to just dump it in there, since I'm the last one to the party (thus far):

Political Correctness is the term used to describe a set of language patterns intending to be sensitive to the concerns of groups seen as oppressed (such as the terms applied to members of those groups) or disrespected (such as people with various forms of physical and emotional problems being described as "challenged" rather than "disabled" or "handicapped"), to challenge or reverse traditional language patterns seen as oppressive (such as the use of generic male forms), and to generally harness the use of language to further the political perspectives of its proponents (for whom such goals were seen as correct politically). It was also used somewhat more generally to describe the attitudes underlying these attempts, usually by those who differed politically with its proponents, and usually portraying those proponents as overly sensitive and uptight.
PC terminology was adopted rather unevenly, with terms such as "people of color" and "African-American" gaining widespread use, but other terms being rejected or ridiculed because they were awkward to use and seen as unnecessary. The movement itself was eventually the object of ridicule, and was widely discredited, although concern about using language that is not seen as insensitive has persisted.

Some further discussion of PC terms actually used, including all the "challenged" forms, would seem appropriate at some point.

For the record, I have seen individuals using these kinds of terms with straight faces to describe themselves and others, including some that came across as rather silly, even at the time.

I just ran across a message in a discussion forum in which "political correctness" was used to describe the San Francisco bid for the 2012 Olympics. What was so "PC" about it? Well, they were offering the Olympics as something environmentally friendly. This is an example of how the term "PC" is often used in ways that has nothing whatsoever to do with minority groups, and I think that if we are going to have an encylopedia article on a smear term used by one segment of society to characterize another, we might as well cover all the categories that the smear term is used to cover.

The article does exactly that, in the first paragraph: The term is also frequently used by conservatives in a broader sense to characterize any of a numerous set of beliefs they disagree with, including in such areas as environmentalism or foreign policy. If you want to add an example, I don't think that would be out of place (though the article is getting a bit cluttered). --LDC

I have trouble believing that the use of the term "political correctness", as used by those who support it, originates in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. Just because those countries may have used similar terms, where is evidence that the contemporary English term has that origin? The origin given in the article has the implication that those who support the PC language movement are somehow Nazis or Stalinists, and I don't think that is very NPOV. So I'm removing it here:

It is modeled on German and Russian terms translated variously as 'socially correct' or 'politically correct' describing the necessity in totalitarian countries such as Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia to toe the party line.


I hate calling anyone a fascist, since that is the lowest form of academic argumentation, but the folks in Berkeley who, so far as I know, originated the term certainly had former Stalinists amongst 'em. I don't find a conscious adoption (tongue in cheek or not) of Stalinist language at all hard to believe. But if the statement is unsourced, cut it. --MichaelTinkler

Why this need to tinker with the opening paragraphs? The opening paragraph as it stood before all the tinkering made it clear that the subject of this article is a term used by the political right to characterize an alleged phenomenon of the left. The paragraph was fairly balanced and dealt with the fact that it is even controversial as to whether any phenonemon even exists. So then a new opening paragraph was added to the beginning that asserted matter of factly that the phenomenon did exist, thus killing whatever attempt at an NPOV had been acheived up to this point.

But its not just a term used by the political right -- at least originally, it was a left wing term. The right has only just taken it over and given it negative connontations -- but even some people who see themselves on the left still identify with it. -- SJK
Regardless of its origins in the mists of time, in its present day usage it is a perjorative term used by the right-wing. For that reason, it is important for this article to make no assertions about whether this so-called phenomenon of PC actually exists or not. -- Egern.
But its not just a pejorative term used by the right wing. I don't consider myself right wing, and I use it, and what is more I use it in an approving sense. I think politically correct speech is important. I admiteddly don't entirely like all the conontations that the term PC has been given by the right, but I will still happily use it to describe some of my own views about language. -- SJK
Okay, fair enough. When you say "politically correct speech", I assume you are refering to speech that is respectful of minorities and others, and I am also in favor of that. What I object to is the term "politically correct", although I realize that you don't use it in a perjorative way. I think it is too broad and too often used to describe views that have nothing to do with respectful speech. I also think that the literal meaning of the term is offensive, since it either implies that the "PC" person is being unthinking and doctrinaire (by toeing a "correct" line), or it assumes that only "PC" people draw inferences about appropriate actions and behavior from their value system. For all those reasons, I cringe whenever I hear the term.