[thechat] More Pledge news

Janet Green JGreen at desmoinesmetro.com
Fri Jun 28 09:27:00 CDT 2002

>>>'Political correctness' is just some bullshit
catchphrase where the right-of-centre try to ridicule
anyone who

a) makes a genuine attempt not to be shitty to other
   people, or
b) defends the letter of the US Constitution where
   they'd prefer to break it

I don't think political correctness is either one of these things. Political correctness is the concept of finding new ways to label things (preferably with as many multi-syllable words as possible) so as to make them sound more official, legitimate, sympathetic, or forgivable than they may or may not be. It's the process of softening the sound of calling a spade a spade, so that maybe it won't sound so spade-ish and therefore possibly offend someone. (Personally I've noticed that it's the left-of-center coming up with the new phrases, and the right-of-center trying to get back to basics - but, that's just my own observation and is not meant to over-generalize.) George Carlin did a routine on this - he compared the Civil War-era phrase "shell-shocked" with the Viet Nam-era phrase "post-traumatic stress disorder" - and determined that as a concept acquired more syllables to describe it, the money we spend on it and the sympathy associated with it increased. (Yes, he ignored the fact that our *understanding* of it also increased, but then, he's a comedian so he doesn't have to be "fair" in his reporting.)

I think the danger here is that as we become more worried about finding phrases that don't hurt someone's feelings, we could actually muddle our words beyond meaning and stifle the exchange of good ideas and/or creative thinking. Haven't you ever listened to a politician trying to lay out his vision, and at the end of it, asked yourself what the hell he was talking about? That's probably because he had to find ways to express his ideas so he appeared not to take any sort of stand - on the chance that some piece of his constituency would take offense. I'm not advocating being rude, or calling people derogatory names, or being shitty to other people, just to get your ideas across. I'm saying that the phenomenon of political correctness is NOT just an invention of the "right of center" - it's an example of how our whole society is moving toward a more indirect form of communication. Personally I find it incredibly frustrating.

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