Thursday, December 15, 2016

'Political Correctness' And The Battle Of Words, NPR/Kat Chow Edition

   One of the main tactics of the politically correct is to obfuscate issues with terminological shenanigans. And one of their favorite types of sophistry in the current incarnation of PC is to deny that PC even exists. One way to try to do this is to deploy largely irrelevant arguments about different uses of 'political correctness' / 'politically correct.'
   Here's yet another instance of this sophistry.
   It's funny that the paleo-PCs embraced the moniker, but the neo-PCs, despite the fact that they're clearly the descendants of the paleo-s, reject it. I suspect it's because of the greater rhetorical sophistication of the neo-s. Fail to question the terminology and you give up a major salient, a major opportunity for obfuscation and rhetorical victory. Allow the terminology to stand, and you're in danger of being forced to fight on the plain of substantive issues...which they absolutely, positively, do not want...
   'Politically correct' is not in principle different than the moniker they tend to prefer, 'social justice.' Both build positive valence right into the name of the movement...though the ironic interpretation of the former is more well-known. And they want to close off that line of attack.
   Note the tweet this thing ends with: alt-right = white supremacist, whereas political correctness and social justice = civil rights. I still don't know what 'alt-right' means...but the latter equivalence is obviously false. Again, these folks want to try to simply win by insisting on definitions. And they want that because they can't win on substantial points.
   Of course, if political correctness = social justice = civil rights (grammatical awkwardness aside), then I'm not sure why they object to 'political correctness'... But consistency is obviously not their strong suit, given that they insist that all of the following are true: (a) 'political correctness' is meaningless and (b) political correctness does not exist and (c) political correctness is good. (Of course there's a fallacy in there, in that it's probably not the same people insisting on all three of those things...but there's still a problem at the movement level if the movement itself is, in some sense, pushing all three.)
   This terminological screwing around really is just sophistry...but if they want to propose a new term, they could do it. But it can't constitute an attempt to win at the level of the term itself. Though if they do try that and it gets turned around on them and used ironically, they'd have no one to blame but themselves. One might say that what they're really mad about is that their effort to win rhetorically right out of the gate was thwarted. And now the positive valence of their preferred terminology has turned negative. It's hard to be sympathetic when this is really just a taste of their own medicine. 
   Another point: the PCs are largely responsible for the plague of ever-morphing euphemisms, a famous coinage of theirs being 'differently-abled.' The thing they never seemed to understand was that you cannot make something bad non-bad by giving it a neutral name. Being disabled is bad, and it's going to remain bad no matter what you call it. Call it 'betterly-abled' or whatever you want, as the term accepted as meaning what it means, it will take on a negative valence, because it's a name for a negative thing.
   I expect that that's a lot of what's going on with 'political correctness' / 'politically correct.' It's a mass of sophistries, and many people realize that. Calling it True Goodness Of Excellent Rightness, and its still going to be an object of justified ridicule. Stinkweed by any other name...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the dynamic is pretty simple. First, the people who play these terminological games simply are not rational. They genuinely believe they work, or believe they can make people make them work, which might as well be the same thing.

Second, the terminology is obviously absurd, like the "betterly-abled" example. There is no way that the term "disabled" is a meaningful component of a disabled person's suffering, unless you are a basically irrational PC.

So people call it out immediately, or use it ironically. The PC's, being irrational, regroup and try it out again with new words. And we are back where we started.

The only way the cycle is broken is if the PC's become rational (which seems impossible), or if they are ignored (which seems necessary).

3:11 PM  

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