Social justice warriors paint a dismal picture of American society. They say America is inexcusably racist, sexist, “Islamophobic,” homophobic, and guilty of a laundry list of other -isms and newly named offenses. In July 2015, when feminist blogger Kiran Gandhi ran a marathon without a tampon while on her period to protest “period shaming,” I didn’t even know “period shaming” was a thing. Who, of influence, has ever shamed women for having a natural occurrence take place?, I thought.
I found out a few weeks later, when, after the first Republican debate, the man who would become the presumptive Republican nominee appeared to shame moderator Megyn Kelly for just that. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” Donald Trump said, as he tried to dispute the allegation that he had expressed misogynistic views. Just like that, what once appeared to be a manufactured boogeyman became a real thing, and feminist SJWs had an actual example they could point to of what they oppose.
Ever since he started his campaign, Trump has been remarkably persistent at proving PC millennials right. Does America need a lecture on not being bigoted towards Muslims? When a presidential nominee proposes a blanket ban on Muslims entering the country, regardless of individual circumstances, and attacks Muslim Americans whose son died on the battlefield, then it starts to sound like we do.
Is America institutionally racist? We have been getting better, but then again, some influential people would still attack a judge’s impartiality on the basis of his ancestry. Trump has done a much better job of bringing public attention to discrimination and prejudiced views in America than activist college students occupying the lawn over microaggressions ever could.
Is “political correctness” just a word conservatives use to stop criticism of their views, as liberals assert? The way Trump has used the term, they could argue it is. Trump’s insistence that his campaign is a crusade against political correctness appears to be hurting the brand of the “anti-PC” movement.
Trump Is Being Rude, Not Politically Incorrect
An interesting thing happens when you ask people if they think political correctness is a problem. When asked to agree or disagree, 68 percent of Americans agree PC is a big problem, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson poll. But when that statement is attributed to Trump, the percent who agree drops to 53 percent. That poll was taken before Trump’s unfavorability rating hit a historic high of 70 percent in June. Trump’s unfavorable ratings currently, er, trump Hillary Clinton’s.
The problem is, Trump isn’t actually opposing political correctness. When he took umbrage at Kelly’s question, for example, he was defending himself calling particular women a “fat pig” and an “animal.” He wasn’t speaking a controversial truth, just being uncivil.
The way Trump uses the term “political correctness” conflates it with good manners. He calls his opponents “losers” and mocks the appearance of their wives, and then pleads that he is just being anti-PC. That’s not being anti-PC, it’s just being a contemptible jerk. When Trump behaves like a jerk and calls it anti-PC, he’s teaching the public that it’s okay to do whatever you want as long as you call it something enough people dislike. But what we need in this country is not more incivility, but more courage. Courage implies knowing the right thing to do and doing it prudently despite opposition, not refusing to feel bad for despicable behavior.
With so many journalists referring to Trump as “anti-PC,” it could stain the reputation of those who are actually anti-PC. It puts the image forward that political correctness isn’t about pushing unassailable dogma but rather about common decency. It has gotten so bad that one New Zealand man made a popular Google Chrome extension that replaces the words “political correctness” with “treating people with respect.”
PC Is About Preventing Debate, Not Protecting Rudeness
That is not what political correctness is about. Being PC is a means for uncompromising activists to enforce their dogmatic views on others without debate or consideration of alternative views. It’s why hardline leftists want to keep from campus speakers with whom they disagree—even liberals who don’t buy into leftist dogma. It’s how Muslim activists can get mainstream films like “American Sniper” banned from showing at the University of Michigan by invoking “Islamophobia.” It’s why liberals want us to examine our every word—from “poor” to “rich”—and encourage us to use unwieldy synonyms just so we don’t inadvertently “stigmatize” even 0.3 percent.
Jokes are overanalyzed, ethnic food is off-limits due to “cultural appropriation.” Hell, even the feminist play “The Vagina Monologues” is offensive because “At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman.”
For PC liberals, it’s not enough to simply avoid taking part in an event you do not approve of, you must make sure no one can take part. PC liberals actively look at the world through a prism of offense, and they microanalyze everything to pick out microaggressions, whether intended or not, whether real or not. Political correctness is not about getting offended by things that are objectively offensive. It’s about seeking offense to excuse yourself from having to grapple with different ideas.
Having Standards Isn’t Political Correctness
Standards of public decency have existed throughout human history, much longer than before leftists started trying to remake every aspect of society. So to hold yourself and public figures to standards is not politically correct but rather a traditional conservative value.
In fact, Trump’s assault on public decency is only made possible because leftists have corroded the standards of society. With their attacks on people being “judgmental” and their argument that anything should go, anything does go for Trump, who built his schtick in the reality TV world of crass sexuality and naked selfies.
The truth is, people are judgmental for good reason. Some behaviors and qualities really are inappropriate and should not be encouraged. One can debate about what those qualities are specifically, but many of Trump’s antics, from his raging narcissism to his bald-faced lies and overt rudeness, are so far on the side of things we would punish our children for that there isn’t a debate.
But in a world where we aren’t supposed to judge other people, Trump is heralded for “giving a voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans.” Whereas leftists say we shouldn’t be too critical of radical Islamist immigrants to Europe because that would be “punching down,” Trump-sympathetic conservatives say the Trump movement consists of “the unprotected,” who ought to be treated as a protected class of their own. It’s a conservative version of political correctness.
Trump has succeeded this election cycle not only in destroying the Republican Party but also in destroying the meaning of the concept of “political correctness.” That’s a shame, because we need a terminology to describe our support for free speech and open discourse that doesn’t imply unrestrained boorishness.