On the inherent harmfulness of political correctness

02e November 16, 2014 -- (asphalt)

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
-- George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., "Harrison Bergeron"

Three years ago I wrote an essay entitled "un argument împotriva corectitudinii politice", loosely translatable as "An argument against political correctness". Said essay starts with the Google dictionary definition of the term "political correctness", which I shall re-introduce here:

the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

It is worth noting that the definition has been revised since then. Firstly, the current definition acknowledges the danger of extremism implied by political correctness, a revision which I, for one, find very pleasing. Secondly, it explicitly mentions "disadvantage" and "discrimination" as two possible issues addressed by political correctness.

I shall in the paragraphs that follow attempt a complete rewrite, since the translation would prove to be inaccurate1. I also feel the need to mention that this essay focuses on political correctness as a linguistic tool more than anything else, mostly because I find myself both fascinated and scared by this particular aspect.

The case against political correctness

Be aware, dear reader, that I write to you in what the educated Englishman would consider to be broken English, but I write frankly. Notice how I said "Englishman" and not "Englishperson", not because I have anything against women -- on the contrary --, but because I found it most natural; maybe it's just that language evolves and mine will prove to remain a relic, but I will be here to make my case for as long as I live.

This case probably deserves a historical background. I am however poorly equipped with the knowledge for this, so I will keep it brief: the sexual (and whatnot) revolution of the '60s gave birth, among others, to rather peculiar, although entirely understandable, political movements in the States. Women, despite not being a minority, felt the need to assert their status as persons, followed by other social groups who felt now that they could strongly stand for whatever it is that they believed in. Note that many people were, as people usually are, unkeen to adhere to these new beliefs, especially due to the fact that they weren't theirs, but the minorities'. Many people still are now, half a century later, despite the strong propaganda occuring in the mass-media.

Since we're discussing communication, this phenomenon was followed by an even more peculiar one: given the new person-status of persons in said social groups, some people, a very vocal crowd, felt the need to also change all the terms pertaining to the denigration of women, black people, gay people, and so on, and so forth: it is nowadays forbidden to call an African American a "nigger"2, although that word is, in all honesty, part of their heritage. You see, here in uncivilized Romania, we call Gypsies "Gypsies", because that's who they are, and it is fortunate of them that they are really proud of their heritage. On the other hand, this indeed has the unfortunate side effect of creating an inter-ethnical, maybe even inter-"cultural" clash, but that's only because Gypsies are very resilient to the cultural brainwashing which Western people like to call "integration".

The problem with this linguistic mashup is that not only it's completely artificial, but it is also very dangerous from a moral and ethical point of view, in that it creates false morals. To quote Orwell once more, it is akin to creating a "Newspeak", a language where concepts are disguised as different, sometimes completely opposite, terms. And while this is used to support the "good guys", let us remember that the same tactics were used by the bad guys in the past: let's not call it a slaughterhouse, call it a "concentration camp"; let's not call it slavework, call it "re-education". As Orwell and Vonnegut very well noticed, this is nothing but politicians' false pretenses to their own ends.

The problem with political correctness is also that it creates false problems: for example, feminists state there aren't enough women working in the IT industry, when there should be, and companies should somehow magically, forcefully, bring women to work there. Yes, maybe "tech companies", or engineering companies in general, are populated with male pigs suffering of superiority complex, but this doesn't imply stuff about women in any way3. The only "achievement" this mindset brings is that it grossly misrepresents the causal chain: if we wish for equality so much, then why aren't there more female construction workers? Ah, because we don't educate them to? There you go.

Finally, based on this train of ideas, I argue that political correctness is inheretly harmful, because it paves the way for what I would call a generalization of the Stockholm syndrome: a harsh reality covered in and by pretty words, solely for the desire of being less hateful to one another, like hate is the only problem, and like we don't have the right to hate4. It is, in the end, brainwashing for the sake of "equality".

Quasi-theoretical arguments are, however, not valuable by themselves. I will therefore attempt to provide a case study in order to further express my point of view and make it clearer, and then I will let you, dear reader, reflect upon this and develop your own point of view.

A not-so-thorough case study

You might remember the Brendan Eich scandal from April this year. In case you don't know who Brendan Eich is, I'll clear that up for you: he's the guy who created Javascript, the one and only client-side scripting language available on the web today. No matter how awesome or awful the language might be, he basically wrote the book, made history, call it whatever you like.

According to official sources5, Eich occupied his rightful place as CEO of the Mozilla Corporation for exactly one week and three days. Sometime during this timeframe, voices had discussed a political donation made by Eich for some law or another which seeked to invalidate gay marriage rights in some US state or another, which, I suppose, would lead one to believe that Eich hates gays. The outcry and political pressure spawned by this was impressive, and while being gay or pro-gay or anti-gay has nothing to do with his merits as a CEO, he was effectively forced to resign.

Now, my educated view of this unfortunate event tells me that Brendan Eich has a lot of enemies. Whatever his personal life is, this was used by people who don't exactly like him in order to bring him down right at his moment of peak and, if possible, to completely break him as a man who's in a perfectly legitimate position. This evil, if I may call it so, was no different from forcing someone to leave somewhere due to religious beliefs or you name it, since those are nothing but his personal beliefs and views of the world, whatever they may be. What happened was the perfect strawman, the kind of tribal behaviour that never occurs in the civilized world.

On another note, activists who are pro-some-group-or-another like to perform "public shaming" on all "straight white males" on various social networks, on the false premise of positive discrimination, stating that people born in a social group or another are somehow indebted to people born in some other social group, which I suppose goes back to the Christian sophism that we all bear Adam and Eve's sins. One such attack is the harassement of Notch6 on Twitter on the basis that he didn't do enough to help some-group-or-another in his games. Others include the rantings of artists whom I otherwise admire7, who try to impose that art "oughta" consider some or other views, otherwise it "oughta" cease to be viewed as such, like people actually give a damn about what anyone else thinks art "oughta" be.

Finally, I feel compelled to remark the hypocrisy that comes along with all the politically correct nonsense: Coca Cola got publicly burned in a recent ad promoting diversity, multiculturalism and other such values that "oughta matter" to this Brave New World, albeit in a manner which doesn't promote "positive discrimination" and political attitudes. This goes to show that modern tribalism considers that it's ok, no, that it's better to be a black gay woman, just as long as you're not a brown muslim arab who doesn't speak English.

And no, it doesn't matter that you have a Phd. Your political correctness is a proverbial Auschwitz of minds, and it's killing me.

  1. Tried it, didn't work.

  2. If I were an American, right now I would have been impaled or something. Fortunately for me, I'm not one.

  3. Do you know any women saying that they don't want to do programming because programmers are emotionally broken? Neither do I, and maybe that's because women have no idea of how programmers are when they decide to become programmers (or not) and the former would rather avoid it because they like barbie dolls, or something equally un-programmer-ly.

  4. For the record, ideologically speaking, the opposite of "the right to hate" is forcing people to "live in harmony", which is another term for fascism.

  5. Mozilla Leadership Changes, Brendan Eich Steps Down as Mozilla CEO

  6. The guy who made Minecraft and some other equally neat games.

  7. Say, Dresden Codak's Aaron Diaz, who's only one of the many who fight fire with fire by overusing the "straight white male" crap in their public discourse.