Political correctness is contentious – it was meant to be that way. It was a lousy right-wing media stitch-up to disparage the left and mask political encroachment upon our liberties. It’s been going on for decades. The idea that the right are the new advocates of freedom of speech is plain farcical.
Political correctness - attributed to leftists if one is to believe the press - is for the most part a conservative concoction. The more senior among us have heard it all before on numerous occasions.
The Looney Left.
In Britain in the early 1980s, the Thatcher years, the predominantly right wing press was hysterical with incendiary, yet apocryphal stories of ‘loony left’ extremists advocating near identical PC reforms to the ones currently being touted. Nothing has changed. Newspapers ran daily stories about leftist PC extremism while the right-wing government simultaneously busied itself reducing personal freedoms, not increasing them. PC was an invention to deflect attention away from major policy shifts.
The 1980s were, of course, the period of re-militarization of the economy with the Falklands War, when huge increases in military, police and security service expenditure were seen (totally in opposition to Thatcher’s supposed Hayekian minimal government politics). Simultaneously, workers’ rights and the power of trade unions were being massively curtailed. The notion that our freedoms were under attack by a few ‘right-on’ looney left-wingers was preposterous.
The years of political incorrectness
The early 1970s in Britain, had, in fact, been the golden years of political incorrectness (and were, revealingly, presided over by Labour governments). This was an era of heavy left-wing bias by the BBC, for instance, that allowed some of the most ludicrously un-PC programming ever aired on public TV. The BBC, to cite just one example, broadcast the ultra-incorrect Till Death Us Do Part for a full decade. The show’s fictional protagonist, Alf Garnett, was an old-school racist and anti-immigration bigot whose outspoken rants about ‘coons’ made even Enoch Powell seem moderate. Ironically, the un-PC persona managed to accurately mirror many Britons while, at the same time, making a mockery of the ultra-right extremism of the emergent British National Front party. It would now be impossible to make such a portrayal on public TV, as now we have basically sanitized the baddie.
It is, nevertheless, hard not to sympathize with some of the right’s assertions about the ridiculousness of the political correctness craze, even if they did surreptitiously invent it. The movement represents a form of modern-day Puritanism with the entire discussion hinging on the dubious notion that there is one political subset who should be allowed to impose their biases over another. By what right? The trite left-wing response cites grounds of equality, democracy, liberty and so on… but the thousands of disgruntled right-wingers ousted from social media, purely based on their political views negates the arguments. Ultimately, freedom of speech only works if everyone is allowed a voice, no matter how repugnant the sentiments. Bring back Alf Garnett, I say, and make a fool of the intolerants that way.
Skewing the argument.
The right dug its own grave. Conservative media invented and promoted political correctness to disparage the left, and then many got themselves banned from social media for not adhering to the rules. The left has effectively dug its own grave too. Instead of disregarding the hysterics and getting on with the great work, they walked into the trap and imposed further a kind of cultural censorship, with disastrous consequences. Rarely now do we talk about such crucial issues as fair pay, labour conditions, workers’ rights, kleptocratic bank fraudsters, tax havens or other issues crippling the world economy. There is, however, far more debate about the rights of transsexuals. (A recent poll by the Williams Institute concluded that 0.6% of the U.S. identified themselves as transgender, while a Gallup poll put the number of LGBT at 4.5%.)
Political correctness is dangerous. We now have traditionally intolerant voices on the right claiming to be the true advocates of free speech.
Conservatives against free speech
But the right, whether it be moderate Tories or hawkish Republicans, have never been true advocates of freedom or free speech. It has been forgotten that for decades there were huge conservative attempts at censorship and opposition to themes such as nudity, language, sex, homosexuality or other gender or race based issues. Let me refresh your memory.
Let’s take a look at the early 1970s. These were, of course, the nascent years of extreme cultural freedoms, when Hustler first appeared on newsstands, disco on the dance-floor, and when even hardcore films like Deep Throat were playing at local movie theatres. The left, Hollywood actors, the alternative press and counter-culture advocates were by far the staunchest defenders of these new freedoms. Conservatives most definitely were not. They opposed them vehemently. The Reagan and Bush eras continued this intolerance into the 1980s. The uncomfortable truth is that the advocates of real-life correctness in these decades were the conservatives. And in wasn’t just lone voices either. There were legions of do-gooders, setting themselves up as the defenders of correctness and decently. In Britain and the U.S. there were numerous large scale conservative clean-up TV campaigns and Christian pressure groups galore.
The Moral Majority on the rampage
One of the more prominent was the Moral Majority, which, as the popular wisdom now recognises, was neither. This Christian and Republican sect was founded in… guess when? Yep, 1979. The year exact year of British conservative re-election with Republican Reagan just about to take office in the States. A coincidence?
Free love, mass drug consumption and college drop-outs
Quite possibly recent history’s foremost advocates of political correctness and censorship were the Washington Wives and their Parent Music Resource Center whose campaign to purge American music of themes such as sex, masturbation, the occult, violence and bad language eventually spawned the Parental Advisory sticker. This attempt to censor language deemed to be offensive or disadvantageous towards a particular group had an interesting twist. Instead of protecting marginalized groups, ethnic minorities or gender discriminated people, the Washington Wives were pioneering a type of PC - purportedly to ‘protect’ their own children - but really an arbitrary crusade against young people making music. The Washington Wives’ peer group had, of course, 20 years earlier, been the generation of free love, mass drug consumption and college drop-outs. This was obviously the hangover or the guilt trip for past sins.
Censoring Madonna and other Satanists
The PMRC made a bid to, first, convince people that words are imbued with ‘good’ and ‘evil’ rather than purely subjective abstractions. (This was the period when right-wing moralists the world over were playing records backwards in a bid to discover satanic messages.) Having established their own warped agenda - in this case a set of taboo words and random topics used by certain rock and pop singers - the PMRC then set about censoring, finally falling short of outright bans, but managing to convince the Senate to rule in favour of Parental Advisory stickers on records containing swearwords. If you think modern day leftists choose odd victims, think again. Conservatives were far worse. Included in PMRC’s delightfully named ‘Filthy Fifteen’ were Madonna, Cindy Lauper and Sheena Easton! Thanks for advising me… the damage it could have done to my kids… And you still think that the right are the representatives of free speech?
The absurd, subjective logic of moralists
On the other side of the Atlantic a near identical, nationwide Conservative-Christian clean up TV campaign had been spearheaded by Mary Whitehouse. Tapping into Britain’s weakness for snobbery, Whitehouse became the darling of Daily Mail-reading housewife hypocrites keen to show that their moral rectitude and ‘correct’ middle-class agenda should be the cultural model. Not the bawdy, liberal working class one. Whitehouse would have censored Shakespeare.
Key to debunking cults like the Moral Majority, the PMRC and many other cultural sanitization campaigns, is understanding the fallacious reasoning that underpins them. Political bigots and religious fundamentalists often first invent what they consider to be acceptable. Then they whinge and cry like babies when the non-political and non-believers do what they deem to be unacceptable. It’s an absurd logic. One example will suffice. Take swearwords. In some countries there are virtually no taboo words at all. Spain, for instance, is highly tolerant of practically all swearwords, to the point that most have lost any type of power to offend. The identical set of words, however, will cause extreme offence in other Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. Why? The subjectivity and desire of an individual to let themselves get offended by someone else’s language or opinions is what makes the whole issue so contentious. Those who really get upset and offended, and need to be protected, are the poor sensitive bigots and fanatics themselves. They are inventing the story. Think about that next time you criticize some leftist snowflake.
We have been through this on dozens of occasions. This time the entire discussion has re-emerged during the period when the hip right-wingster is all the rage and mushrooming across America, packing out Milos lectures on campus, as a handful of dodgy right-wing intellectuals give a ‘credible’ public voice to some highly suspect ideologies. The jocks love it. It’s basically a scrubbed-up, down-market, redneck moralist version where y’all get to defend ya freedom, arms, borders and ya white folk… But it’s just a rehash of the duplicitous, bigoted do-gooder mentality practiced by Jerry Falwell or the Washington Wives, where anyone not in agreement with light Christofascism is thought to be a Communist or a Satanist… or any left-winger who might mention inclusion of LGBTs or any other marginalized groups is obviously a leftist snowflake in need of time in the on-campus safe space. Go back to the trailer park!
But it’s all a giant lie to undermine the people and their opposition to elites. Ultra- conservatives and the far right have never been real advocates of either freedom, free speech or correctness of speech. Completely the opposite. Their obsession with hierarchical power structures shows this: the state, the government, the military, the monarchy, the church, or even the family have never allowed insubordination. Their entire ethos involves maintaining power and privilege among (their) small groups of concentrated power. Subservience, not freedom, is their real aim. Take a look at the families of some of these hawks. You are supposed to stand to attention and call your dad ‘Sir’. You are not allowed to defend yourself – that’s called answering back. Punishments are dealt out – in one direction only. Bullying is standard practice. Rules are for lower ranks. And that is only at home. Wait until you get a job or join the army! (And yes, they let these people possess firearms.)
Thus the true advocates of freedom can really only be those who oppose statism, war, clericalism and patriarchy. That basically leaves the anarchists, whether they be of the European libertarian socialist variety or the anarcho-capitalist ‘libertarians’ (a hijacked term).
Authoritarianism is the enemy, not the leftists
The reason that the right (and much of the left) is a continual letdown is because they consistently fail on every one of the above counts. They holds liberty as their highest value but are, paradoxically, hugely pro-statist. Jingoism abounds. Instead of challenging the military industrial complex, they usually work for it. Religions are divided into acceptable and unacceptable, but they fail to challenge any of the evils of clericalism. Freedom is preached, but they denounce equality in the same sentence. Take a look at the resurgence of anti-feminism among the alt-right. Yet even those who claim to support feminism often refuse to challenge male power structures. Anarcho-feminism remains the only credible form of female emancipation as it is the only ideology aimed at reconfiguring the authoritarian family paradigm. Forget the Washington Wives; think Spain’s Mujeres Libres in the 1930s. They ran the Spain’s major cities and fought the fascists alongside the men. In America and Britain the girls stayed home from the wars ‘sewing bandages’ as Emma Goldman put it.
So when someone declares themselves in their Twitter profile to be a ‘A Christian, a patriot, a defender of individual liberties and an opponent of political correctness’ they have clearly got their wires crossed. The first two negate the last two. It’s hypocritical and oxymoronic. It’s also a complete cop out. It’s like saying, ‘I want freedom, but my wife should get back in the kitchen and the snowflake should stop complaining too!’
Ask yourself this. Are you really for freedom? Or are you for authoritarianism? You can’t be for both.
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