Stephen Hill on the rise and rise of political correctness
Before the 2010 election, David Cameron asked his shadow team to read ‘Nudge’, which was about how decisions by humans are effective, especially economic decisions.
Now human behaviour is accepted as part of economics, which it most certainly is: economics is nothing other than an anthropological subject, engaging maths, psychology, politics, societal style and zeitgeist, history and much else besides.
Donald Trump, would-be Republican leader, blew his top when he said that neither he nor America had time for political correctness, which he saw as a big problem for America and its economic effectiveness. He had scratched a raw nerve: the First Amendment to the US Constitution maintains the most important liberty of all – freedom of speech; it is not to avoid causing offence, or not to speak your mind.
There is a serious campus movement taking hold of universities in America to the point that comedians, of all people, are effectively banned from undergraduate life.
There is a new language of campus-speak, all fuelled by social media: words like ‘microaggression’, ‘trigger-point’ and ‘violated’ are the new vocabulary. Words like ‘rape’ in criminal law studies are ‘violating’, and now even to say ‘to violate’ is on the PC hit-list at Harvard.
The Atlantic calls this ‘the coddling of the American mind’ for Generation Emotional Wrap; in Britain we call it molly-coddling, as applied to babies.All this recalls Allan Bloom’s 1980s The Closing of the American Mind.
When these graduates enter the workplace, they take this new disease with them, and then their workplace becomes stultified and courts death. A new recruit at a US bulge-bracket bank was caught on the cameras in the elevator looking at a woman’s legs. This unsuspecting leg-gazer was promptly summoned to see HR and fired for being politically incorrect!
When political correctness inhibits freedom of speech, which it increasingly does in corporate America, it also inhibits freedom of expression and then of action. This, or something like it, was what The Donald was saying.
When PC first appeared in the 1980s in America, we Brits just laughed at it as a daft practice. As it spread in America especially, I begin to wonder where this notion had first been propagated. I was convinced it must have been incubated in the mind of some dingy professor, at a University like Indianapolis, a famed media institution. But whenever I asked my American friends, they had no idea either.
Now this disease is all over the UK too, like a rash, but we still laugh at it, having had a look-round to make sure the thought police aren’t listening in.
Well, Americans, my researches have hit pay-dirt, and have I got news for you: the term ‘political correctness’ was first used as a controlling device by the Communist Party in post-revolutionary Russia in the 1920s. Yes, it’s an essential term of fascism!
Get ready, Generation Emotional Wrap, for the 5.30am knock on the door, or you may be ‘violated’ by a shot to the head before your time is up.