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Political Correctness

Political Correctness

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Published by Abhijit Jadhav

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Published by: Abhijit Jadhav on Sep 23, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Political Correctness or politically correct, more so in its abbreviated form, PC,happens to be one such term that animates the chatterati to no end. Throughoveruse and diffusion to differing, even contradictory espousers of causes, theterm PC has lost its original meaning and is now blown about as verbal free-for-
all. At some point in time, say, in the 1990s, PC was used to “describe language,
ideas, policies, or behaviour seen as seeking to minimize offense to racial,cultural, or other identity groups. Conversely, the
term ‘politically incorrect’ is
used to refer to language or ideas that may cause offense or that are
unconstrained by orthodoxy.”
 Currently, the term PC and its usage are controversial, while
“politically incorrect”
is used to imply positive self-description.
According to some commentators, “political correctness” is a straw man or effigy
conservatives devised in the 1990s in order to frighten progressive social change
concerning race, religion and gender. Ruth Perry traces PC to Mao’s Little Red
Book, later adopted by the radical left in the 1960s, initially seriously and later asa self-criticism of dogmatic attitudes. In the 1990s, PC was associated with radicalpolitics and communist censorship by the political right in the United States todiscredit the Old and New Left. But soon the New Left turned the tables on thepolitical right and re-appropriated the term political correctness as satirical self-criticism.
Although the dominant usage is pejorative, a few writers use political correctnessto describe inclusive language or civility. To its advocates, political correctnessdenotes:1. The rights, opportunities, and freedoms of certain people who get restrictedbecause of their being stereotyped by dominant groups.2. Stereotyping often is implicit, unconscious, facilitated by pejorative labels andterms.3. If above is correct, then, people must consciously think about how theydescribe someone unlike themselves.But the nature of discourse causes complications. For instance, when a groupchooses a term to describe its identity and as acceptable descriptor of themselves, the so-chosen term eventually passes into common usage, reachingeven those very people whose racism and sexism, orthodoxy et cetera, the newterm was intended to supersede. The new term thus gets devalued, and otherset of words have to be coined, giving rise to lengthy progressions, such as Negro,Coloured, Black, African-American and so on. We would recall that once Indians
were referred as “natives”
by the English people but now the term with itspejorative connotation has disappeared from common speech of the Englishpeople. An Indian equivalent is the commonly current usage of Dalit
fromShudra to Harijan to Scheduled Caste to Dalit. Interestingly, in the wake of OBC
debate, re-
introduction of “SC” in government job application forms is being
resented by Dalits.
According to some observers, there never was a “Political Correctnessmovement” anywhere, and the term has been used to distract attention from
substantive debates over discrimination and unequal treatment based on race,class and gender. Polly Toynbee
argues that “the phrase is an empty rightwingsmear designed only to elevate its user”.
 Some Rightist critics view political correctness as a Marxist-inspired effort aimedat undermining Western values. Peter Hitchens, in The Abolition of Britain,
observes: “What Americans describe with the casual phrase ... political
correctness is the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Islessince the Ref 
ormation.” Lind and Buchanan believe that PC is a technique
originated by the Frankfurt School for subverting Western values by influencingpopular culture through Cultural Marxism. Buchanan, in his The Death of the
West, states: “Political Correctness is
Cultural Marxism, a regime to punish dissentand to stigmatize social heresy as the Inquisition punished religious heresy. Its
trademark is intolerance.”
 There appears to be some justification in the argument that political correctnessis censorship and hazardous to free speech as it restricts acceptable publicdiscourse, especially in the university and political forums. PennsylvaniaUniversity Professor Alan Charles Kors and lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate, connect

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