Hear Hear

January 29, 2004

John Quiggin at Crooked Timber has a nice piece comparing political correctness and civility. He points out the essential similarities between the two:

the central claim [of both] is that modes of speech are an appropriate subject of concern and that some form of government action to encourage more socially appropriate modes of speech, ranging from subtle pressure to direct coercion, is desirable. The only difference between the two positions is that they have different lists of inappropriate words.
His take on language police is much like mine - I ascribe more power to language than he does, or perhaps he is wise to spot that terms are slippery and twist their meaning: handicapped was once the polite form of crippled, but now it is an insulting word for many.

When debating knee-jerk rightists in the past I have generally tried to argue that what they decry as political correctness is closer to misfeasance than malfeasance, that their most egregious examples of PC are a poorly implemented attempt to enforce common decency and limit verbal cruelty.

I then generally turn perverse and reflexive and point out that if we argue that using charged language to distinguish and demean a particular set of behaviors for political purposes is, well, a bad thing, then the folks who scream and yell about PC are actually the people who are doing the most to use charged language to distinguish and deman a particular set of behaviors for political purposes. You can make a reasoned case about the value of using the blunt instrument of law and speech codes to enforce civil behavior, but most of the people who rant about PC do not make that case.

I blogged the article because I wanted to give Quiggen a shout out for the following quote, for I most certainly agree with it:

I find people who think that being "politically incorrect" is exceptionally brave and witty to be among the most tiresome of bores.
Hear Hear!
I might start using that to sign my email.

Posted by Red Ted at January 29, 2004 07:54 AM | TrackBack