When political correctness started to become a meaningful culture force, helping shape the public discourse, it’s fair to say the left was the driving force. It was liberals who were invested in making language more respectful, less offensive, and more tolerant of diversity.
That said, it’s been interesting to watch the right quietly adopt its own form of political correctness in recent years. Timothy Johnson, for example, reported yesterday on the NRA publishing a new online commentary about Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree in May near UC-Santa Barbara.
…NRA News commentator Billy Johnson claimed that media coverage of the killing spree only told “half the story,” adding, “Yes, the Santa Barbara murderer had a gun, and yes he killed three people with that gun. But he also killed three people with a knife and injured several others with his car.” (Johnson never mentioned those who were wounded by gunfire but survived.) […]Johnson complained that because of headlines that refer to Rodger “as a gunman or a shooter, guns become permanently linked with his crime, while cars and knives get a free pass.” He posited that Rodger is labeled as “the gunman” or “the shooter” and not “the stabber” or “the driver” because “perhaps it would be harder to sell newspapers with those headlines, or perhaps it would be harder to sell gun control policy with those headlines.”
Got that? Just because a man with a gun shot and killed people, that’s no reason to describe the murderer as a “gunman” or a “shooter.”
Apparently, in this version of conservative political correctness, we should stop to think about how our use of such words makes gun enthusiasts feel.
I’m reminded of Paul Krugman’s commentary a couple of years ago about “right-wing political correctness” and the “threat to our discourse.”
Krugman added, “[T]he goal is very much the kind of thing Orwell tried to convey with his notion of Newspeak: to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order.”
As long-time readers may recall, there are a surprising number of examples to bolster the point. In Congress, for example, many Republican lawmakers have decided to stop using the word “rich,” preferring the more politically expedient “job creator.”
Some on the right argue we’re not supposed to reference “sea level rise” anymore, because it’s a “left-wing term.” We’re also not supposed to reference “climate deniers” because some who deny climate science find it offensive.
We’re also not supposed to talk about economic inequality, at least not publicly – Mitt Romney insisted such discussions be limited to “quiet rooms” – where, presumably, rich people won’t have their feelings hurt.
I’m also reminded of the time in early 2009 when the Department of Homeland Security released reports about ideological extremists, alerting officials to potentially violent groups and organizations. Republicans and conservative activists were apoplectic – even though the report was commissioned by the Bush administration, mainstream conservatives decided concerns about violent radicals attacking Americans may have been referencing them. Analysis of domestic threats was soon after curtailed as a result.
Update: Reader Jamie McCarthy reminds me that some on the right have even deemed references to the “middle class” as offensive under new conservative standards.
I think I like the old version of political correctness better. The right-wing version is kind of weird.