Tag Archives: Political correctness

When the Mob Attacks!

If you haven't had enough…

The kerfuffle surrounding the recent canning of CHE blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley has once again made obvious the inherent racism deeply entrenched in our public discourse. Just because you don't mean to be racist does not mean that you aren't. On the other hand, if someone points out that you are a racist, that does not then ipso facto make them an apparatchik for the PC police. These points should be obvious, but we find people repeatedly failing to understand them and continuing to advance poor arguments that rest on racist assumptions. Riley should be fired because what she wrote was racist. What she wrote was also stupid, and that is another legitimate reason to fire her. But to deny that what she wrote indicates her racially motivated biases is dumb.

Unfortunately many people (on the right, of course!) have argued that the reason for NSR's firing was due to the outcry from the liberal PC academic mob rather than her racist comments. Here are a few examples:

This is plainly a politically correct response to a thug's veto and should be owned up to as such. (Reason)

All those hoodie-wearing academics exercising their veto powers.

The reason they gave Naomi the boot wasn’t because of anything she wrote, but rather the effect her writing had on their readers, who generally reacted as though they were suffering from a case of the vapors. (Weekly Standard)

I wonder if they have fainting couches in those ivory towers?

Ms. Riley wasn’t fired because her argument lacked sufficient intellectual vigor. She was fired because a sufficient number of people had their feelings hurt and deemed her ouster — as opposed to a rebuttal of her arguments — the more reasonable course of action. (FrontPage)

Yes, exactly! Her argument had no intellectual rigor. Hence, no rebuttal. Except for all the rebuttals.

And finally, the money shot:

The great irony, of course, is that the whining and gnashing of teeth from the “Black Studies” crowd only reinforces Naomi’s point about the “discipline.” You’d never see chemists or physicists or mathematicians worked into a hysterical mob by a critical blog post. Because they study actual fields of knowledge—and don't simply tend the garden of their own feelings. (Weekly Standard)

You would never see these folks worked into a hysterical mob because there are no critical blog posts attacking the legitimacy of their very existence. The irony.

Now, this is a point that people fail to grasp whenever they accuse someone of demanding racial justice Politcal Correctness: Sometimes people have hurt feelings because an injustice was done. And sometimes the correct response to injustice is to work yourself up into a hysterical mob and…write a petition.

logical correctness

There's a difference between using a word and "mentioning" it–I mean, mentioning it without the quotes.  Mentioning it means you refer to the word qua word, not what the word means.  This is in effect what you do when you refer to someone else's words–he said "you're a jerk"–doesn't call you a jerk.  Reporters do this sort of thing all of the time when they refer to someone's words or accusations or whatever in their stories.  One not unfair criticism of the press is that this is all they do (i.e., the stenography objection).

But that objection concerns when they note they're mentioning someone else's words: "Obama said that McCain was xyz."  McCain responded, "Obama is abc."  Sometimes, however, you don't really know whether the journalist is using or mentioning.  Here's an example from today's New York Times business section:

Indeed, Wal-Mart has gone so far on some initiatives, like the environmental programs, that it has started to draw scattered attacks from the right, particularly from a group called the National Legal and Policy Center that has accused the company of giving in to political correctness.

While it's clear the author is talking about someone's accusation, it's not clear that "political correctness" has meaning independent of that accusation.  Since there's no gloss on what that accusation might mean, one might suppose it's being used, not mentioned, that the author, in other words, thinks that phrase is the proper description of the union's activity.

Besides, wasn't it once the case that "political correctness" referred to restrictions on representational content–one could not, say, use sexist or racist language in a public museum.  When did it become the case that conservationist environmental policies qualify?