Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Macmillan Blog On 'Political Correctness': An Illustration Of The Problem

This and this at the Macmillan Dictionary Blog are just awful...and they illustrate the way in which political correctness has infiltrated so much of the cultural superstructure, especially the academic and quasi-academic sectors. Political correctness is portrayed as a virtually unmitigated good--
   As the definition in the Macmillan Dictionary suggests, political correctness was originally a strategy for combating discrimination, and its focus was language. The rationale is that language and social attitudes are closely linked – and there is plenty of sociolinguistic evidence to support this idea. The unthinking use of negative terms when talking about people who belong to any kind of minority is bound to affect the way such people are viewed. But, the argument goes, if these negative terms become socially unacceptable and are replaced by more ‘inclusive’ language, then attitudes will change too. The goal, in other words, is not simply to avoid offending people (on the basis of their race, gender, sexuality or disability) but to change perceptions in society as a whole.
   It is hard to see how any reasonable person could object to this, and it’s no surprise that the British National Corpus, most of whose texts come from the 1980s, includes sentences like [basically: women like Bill Clinton because he's politically correct.]
   First, no, there is not "plenty of sociolinguistic evidence to support this idea." Second, no, PC was not originally a strategy for combating discrimination. The term originated among Marxists to make fun of the craziest of their comrades who were willing to at least semi-believe...or pretend to's often hard to tell the difference...even the most obviously false bits of dogma. It was originally a term for mindlessly subordinating truth to political orthodoxy...and that meaning has never gone away. The paleo-PCs embraced the term IMO because they were to some extent ignorant of its origins...but also because they accept the view that truth and evidence should be subordinated to leftist orthodoxy.  I mean--it was/is their view. It was and is obvious in their actions, and stated explicitly in the works of their intellectual heroes.
   I wonder whether the Macmillan blog has complained about the fact that they swapped out 'political correctness' for 'social justice', an illegitimately positively-valenced term?
   But I knew what I was going to see in that blog before I read it. I knew there was no doubt that such a source would be supportive of PC. Seriously...imagine coming across something like, say, the Encyclopedia Britannica taking a primarily negative stance toward PC or SJ. It simply isn't going to happen. That's part of the nature of the problem. 


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