Conservative political correctness targets ‘sea level rise’

Rising sea levels threaten to swallow inhabited Virginia islands.
Rising sea levels threaten to swallow inhabited Virginia islands.
Associated Press

Paul Krugman recently picked up on a trend that’s quietly becoming more common: “right-wing political correctness.” As Krugman explained it, the goal is “to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order.”

There is, alas, a growing number of examples, but Rebecca Leber flagged a new one: we’re not supposed to say “sea level rise.”

State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who insisted on changing the “sea level rise” study in the General Assembly to one on “recurrent flooding,” said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether.

He said “sea level rise” is a “left-wing term” that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation?

“What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door,” Stolle said. “Let’s focus on that. Let’s study that. So that’s what I wanted us to call it.”

So, “sea level rise” might give people the impression that climate change is dangerous – in other words, it might convey accurate information – which necessarily makes the phrase inconvenient to those who deny climate change.

In this case, Virginia, like North Carolina, wants to know what’s likely to happen to its ocean coast line as sea levels inch higher, but the study couldn’t progress unless phrases like “climate change” and “sea level rise” were carefully excluded, and “recurrent flooding” was embraced.

I like the old version of political correctness better. The right-wing version is kind of weird.