Some things in public discourse ought to be pretty simple and devoid of controversy. For instance, words have definitions that are verifiable and universally agreed upon. Without that it would be impossible to have a conversation. And yet, there are Republican candidates for president who appear to prefer to invent their own definitions in order to advance an otherwise absurd argument.
For example, the phrase “politically correct” has a specific meaning that everyone who speaks English understands. It isn’t some vague concept unto which you can project whatever meaning suits you at the time. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as…
“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.”
See? That wasn’t hard. It would, therefore, be politically incorrect to refer to a woman as a “ho” or to an adult African-America man as “boy.” It would also be politically incorrect for a pizza joint to call their barbecued chicken special “The Sambo” or for a bar to make Tuesday’s Dwarf Tossing Night. It usually includes language that has been considered acceptable in some deviant circles. But if the language or activity is insulting or hurtful to people who are already struggling for respect in a social environment that rewards or at least tolerates prejudice, it is politically incorrect. And the part that refers to people who are victims of discrimination is absolutely essential to the definition. It’s the part that makes it political. Otherwise it would be merely incorrect.
However, conservatives are desperately trying to redefine the phrase so that they can use it to escape responsibility for outright repulsiveness. They want an all-purpose excuse for absolution, usually after they have already embarrassed themselves with some crass comments or behavior. Their definition of political correctness would be more like “Any comments or actions that people find offensive.” But that isn’t political correctness, it’s just being an asshole.
Ben Carson has made whining about political correctness a core feature of his campaign. He asserts that he is the victim of it when he takes criticism for saying that Muslims can’t be president, or that ObamaCare is the worst thing since slavery, or implying that the victims of the Oregon shooting cooperated with their killer. But those are not instances of political correctness. They are instances of boorishness and ignorance. And his inability to understand the Constitution or healthcare or crime does not grant him license to say stupid things without taking criticism for it.
Donald Trump is another candidate who needs to twist the meaning of political correctness. It is not politically incorrect to call Mexicans rapists, or to denigrate women as fat pigs, or refer to your rivals or the media as stupid losers. That would be better defined as rude, immature, and hostile. Which pretty well defines Trump.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
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The concept of political correctness has taken a beating in recent years as Republicans who want to retain it as a shield against criticism that they deserve try to distort it’s meaning. But it is a useful measure of progress in a society that has been far too tolerant of bigotry. There ought to be a price to pay for using language as a cudgel to continue suppressing people. So it is important that we do not allow the bigots and the bastards to redefine it as anything for which they take some heat.