Political Correctness as a Gospel Principle

This is another reprint from Mormon Matters. For those of you that bristle at the very mention of “Political Correctness” please don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what I am referring to without reading the article. This article is advocating a well defined form of political correctness in use of language (particularly with gender) and seeks hard limits to political correctness, namely that you have to still say what you mean and mean what you say, even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

When I started attending school at BYU, political correctness was still recently taking hold in American culture. In high school my English teacher, Mrs. Summers, specifically taught us that if the gender was unknown, we were to use “he” or “his” as the pronoun as these signified both genders. For example:

“Each student in the class opened his book to the page specified.”

And back then we spoke of mailmen, chairmen, policemen, garbage men, etc. A person with a below average IQ was “mentally retarded” and someone that was overweight was “fat.” It was just the way things were.

Old habits die hard.

My initial introduction to politically correct English were somewhat negative. For example, I remember reading an Editorial in The Daily Universe talking about how horrible politically correct English was with all its meaning deficient words like: “horizontally challenged,” “special,” and “mail person.”

My view changed when I took a Technical Writing course from a self proclaimed “radical feminist.” I remember her being very quirky and often hypocritical; and I have my doubts about many of the technical writing principles she taught. But she did an incredible job of explaining the need to avoid “gender biased language” and by extension sold me on political correctness.

One example she used was the sentence I just mentioned above: “Each student in the class opened his book to the page specified.”

According to her, in a study done they asked a group of men and women to draw a picture based upon that sentence. The women all drew a picture of a mixed gender class. The men all drew a picture of a male-only class.

I could see her point.

I appreciated that she was careful to avoid a mistake many advocates of politically correct English make; she did not blame the individuals. “Of course the men drew the picture as a male-only class,” she said, “that’s what it literally said. They were just understanding it more literally then the women,” she said.

The Power of Language

She pointed out that we think with language. Thus if there is a gender bias, even unintentional bias, in our language then it will translate to a gender bias in life. This is why politically correctness is so important.

This explanation helped me past one of my own biases against political correctness; I now knew it wasn’t about torturing old fogies that can’t get with the program. She taught me to see political correctness as changing the way we use language so that we change the way we think to be more neutral or fair.

The very words we use affect how we feel about something. Saying a person is “a porker,” “fat,” “over weight,” or “obese” all mean the same thing technically, but carry vastly different connotations. This is where the real power of political correctness comes from: connotations.

A recent example I came across illustrates this: it is not an accident that we now refer to the “jungle” as the “rain forest.” At a time when protecting the rain forest really is a top priority, this slight change of language is well justified as it’s very likely to affect how we think and thus how we act.

It’s “Special”

One unfortunate side effect of political correctness is that some words were experimented with that had no meaning. To this day this is what anti-political correctness advocates think of when they think of political correctness.

While there may be nothing wrong with referring to a mentally challenged individual as “special” there is an issue with communication that must be dealt with. The word “special” tells an outsider nothing about one’s mental condition any more than “horizontally challenged” tells them something meaningful about one’s weight. Words that don’t communicate are not good words. This form of political correctness must be allowed to disappear.

But then I have to wonder: who is keeping such meaning-challenged words alive? Is it political correctness advocates or is it people making fun of political correctness? I have to admit I’ve never actually anyone use “horizontally challenged” as anything but a joke.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do: The Dark Side of Political Correctness

In my opinion, another stumbling block to many for feeling comfortable with political correctness is the fact that the political correctness advocates are often such bad examples of what they are advocating. I’m afraid my professor was such an example.

I can still remember her insisting on tolerance towards women in one sentence and then suddenly breaking into a deep voice to make fun of other professors as BYU (who she obviously saw as all men, due to her deep voice) and their “authoritative” ways. This mocking of other professors (besides herself of course) was worsened by the fact that she was the only overly authoritative professor I ever had at BYU.

I still remember her telling us all that we’d get to pick our own grades and she wasn’t in charge of the class. Empty words coming from a professor that decided what the class wanted based on what she wanted. I would have preferred for her to just admit she was a tyrant and that we need to conform to her ideas. I would have received a better grade that way.

For example, she had this idea that you could make a resume better by using a yellow highlighter on it to call attention to certain points. Every student in the class knew what a bad idea that was. I made the mistake of believing her when she said we could talk her into changing our grade at the end of class if we disagreed with her advice. On the last day of class, when I sat down with her to discuss why I felt my grade should be higher because no one in my industry would look upon a yellow highlight on a resume as a good thing, she merely brushed me aside and used her authority (which she wielded like a sword) to insist that “the class has decided this was a good idea.” Oh yeah, show me one person in that class beside her that agreed. But of course they all feared her so no one would dare speak up.

I think this is a real danger of being an advocate for tolerance. You can quickly become your own worst enemy and not even realize it. This is something I see as a problem with myself as well. I think it is more common then we realize.

Uneven Tolerance

The other concern I have with political correctness, and tolerance in general, is the fact that we, as a society, apply it unevenly. We believe certain categories of people deserve tolerance while others should be left in the cold. My professor’s sensitivity to gender-bias against women but lack of tolerance to male professors was just one example of this.

Recently I was listening to a podcast out of Yale about over weight people going to Doctors. It turns out that obese people tend to hate going to doctors because doctors treat them poorly. For one thing, they tend to cringe when having to touch their body. If my doctor cringed when he or she touched my body, I’d hate going to the doctors as well. And if there was a doctor that treated, say, African American’s this way, we’d brand him or her fast as the bigot he/she is.

The speaker also made the point that on television obese people are often there for comic relief via over weight jokes. The speaker claimed he’d just finished a study with statistical evidence to back this up. The interviewer asked him “Aren’t you over reacting? Isn’t it just a joke?”

His response: “Would you say that about racial jokes?”

The Darker Side of Word Control

Perhaps more concerning is when “political correctness” is used as a weapon to control other people’s thoughts for the sake of intolerance rather than tolerance.

Due to my interest in tolerant language, I have become sensitive to how words are used. So imagine my shock when I realized that a certain newspaper I read solely referred to people in favor of legalized abortion as “pro-choice” and referred solely to people against legalize abortion as “anti-abortionists.” Do you think this choice of words was an accident? Do you think it’s meant to be neutral, fair, or tolerant?

This is the very reason why I find referring to Mormons as “non-Christians” – especially if done with intent to deceive – to be an act of intolerance and deeply concerning.

Political Correctness as a Gospel Principle

In the end, political correctness, or at least the idea behind it, is really “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” But it adds the interesting, but correct, point that through use of language we may inadvertently bias the way people think about others in intolerant ways.

44 thoughts on “Political Correctness as a Gospel Principle

  1. Wow, brilliant Bruce, once again one of your best posts ever. I wonder if I am the only one who has noticed that many of those who call for tolerance most loudly are the least tolerant in their personal lives with people who disagree with them.

  2. I am planning some posts in the future to hold a discussion about tolerance. But one of the points that needs to be made is that ‘tolerance’ defines *only* your relationship to those you do not agree with or dislike. There is no such thing as tolerance towards your friends. (Well, I guess it depends on who your friends are. ;) )

  3. Most of the people I know that complain about “political correctness run amuck” are actually just complaining that they can’t be rude without someone calling them out on it.

    Maybe now it’s not calling someone fatty instead of overweight, but twenty years ago it was my father-in-law complaining about having to call someone Asian-American instead of “slope” or “chink”, or getting a nasty look when calling a woman “honey” or “babe”. Words and word use changes over time and I don’t see that as a negative thing.

    “I wonder if I am the only one who has noticed that many of those who call for tolerance most loudly are the least tolerant in their personal lives with people who disagree with them.”
    I haven’t noticed this, but maybe it’s because I’m so intolerant.

  4. Good points. I’m wondering where you stand on the recent insistance on being called “little people” by what we used to refer to as “midgets”. Little people sounds more insulting to me . . . but I guess it fits better into your view that PC-language should clarify.

    Along those same lines I really appreciate the fact that the term “Black” has had a resurgence as being PC-friendly, and “African American” is on its way out. I always smile when people refer to a black person, on any other continent, as “African American”. (“Man, that Idris Elba is one great African-American actor.” “Ummm, he’s from England” . . . . *blank stare*) Not to mention the many white people from South Africa. The whole usage just creates confusion.

  5. “I’m wondering where you stand on the recent insistance on being called “little people” by what we used to refer to as “midgets”.”

    I’m in favor of calling them what they want to be called so long as the term means what it means. So “little people” or “midget” is fine with me if that is what they prefer, but “vertically challenged” is not an option for me because it doesn’t mean anything. (Not that I’ve ever heard of someone seriously wanting to be called that.)

  6. Thank you Bruce. As always you give me something to ponder on. I consider myself a reasonably PC person. Even as a child I was PC and was further drilled into me during my years as a student in the BYU Elementary Education program. We teachers are usually a pretty PC bunch.

    As for those who are intolerant, forcing their brand of tolerance on others; there are those who exhibit controlling behavior in every segment of the human population. This is a universal personality trait or disorder that can be modified or twisted to fit any dogma.

    I agree with JJohsen. Political Correctness has encouraged rude/prejudicial individuals to watch their language. These individuals are finding out their behavior is no longer socially acceptable. To be polite and considerate is an important element which makes for civilized society.

    B.Russ brought up a good point on Black vs African AMerican. People should be called by the name they prefer, but what if not everyone in a particular group agrees on the same name? For example, I prefer Native American over Indian, but some Native Americans prefer to be called Indians. How do you know what term to use to avoid a social faux pas? I guess we should regard this quandary as a positive dilemma considering the alternative terminology of previous generations or uncouth individuals.

  7. I think you presented both sides of this argument well! The only thing I don’t completely agree with is the gospel as politically correct. Political correctness is a social trend/agenda (however you want to look at it) meant to help people learn to respect and get along with each other better because some people are prideful and judgmental and they practice evil traditions of their fathers. God is not prideful or judgmental, but He is also not discriminating or politically correct. He is correct. He loves everyone. He governs by laws and true principles. These are never altered for social correctness. I prefer to think of the term as social correctness because I hate acknowledging that I am required by a political, or governing body, to speak a certain way. I speak the way I do because I love people, not for social reasons.

    In the scriptures he says, “Let any man ask of God…” I am not offended by this and no one should be. (Have you ever read one of those strange re-written Bibles for women? I had a friend with one. Strange stuff there. Someone took the Bible and made it all politically correct toward women. They ruined the whole content. Of course anyone who would mess with the word of God is not going to get a good result. Needless to say, my friend came to me with lots of questions because her Bible confused her so much.)

    So, you can’t really have a discussion about political correctness without judging someone (or group) one way or the other. This interests me since it seems the topic is always about not judging.

    I know I am a bit of an idealist, but my personal opinion on this is: don’t worry about political correctness as much as really living the gospel way….Love your neighbor….honor your family….speak with understanding and kindness….believe that the worth of all souls are great in the sight of God….and that we are meant to be our brother’s keepers. Etc.

    Without goodness, people will never think of others in this Christ-like way. I don’t really think any new social custom, no matter how good it’s intentions, can make people love each other. Love is too personal and too spiritual. So, I think the best we can hope for is for it to stop some fights and complaining by some, and increase social respect slowly. After all, that is what political correctness was partially designed to do. It could be to get people all paranoid too.

    Maybe paranoid isn’t the word. Maybe it’s insecure. You are right about speech being an emotional conductor and valuable means of communication. This is the very reason I wonder if the constant social vernacular changes, which increase communication insecurity, could be a means to getting people to shy away from standing for things they believe in. Political agendas are always trying to keep us in our places. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with bashing anyone, but I do believe people should be allowed to speak their thoughts clearly and stand up for what they believe in, even if it is wrong. “Freedom of speech” has transformed in recent years to mean “hate speech.” Yes, it is funny how words and ideas change over the years. I thought these definitions of political correctness on the web were worth pondering. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS406&defl=en&q=define:political+correctness&sa=X&ei=drMbTfSRFYGqsAPdxsWzAg&ved=0CBwQkAE

    If only people still used the principles in the gospel (Bible) to govern their thoughts and actions. Then we would all be more concerned with our own progression toward goodness and perfectness than how we compare with our neighbors. Self Government is always more powerful than social government.

    For what it’s worth…

  8. I think we all need to consider where we draw the line with political correctness. What I mean by this is that political correctness in its current form is a set of norms set up by social elites to discriminate between the “up-to-date, in crowd” and the people who are hicks. So, to the social elites it is not politically correct to call native Americans “Indians,” but I remember when I was at university there were Indians who really preferred to be called Indians. They were sincerely upset when Stanford changed its mascot from the Indian to the Cardinal (a color). But the social elites deemed “Indian” offensive.

    In Peru, an entire country called its former president “El Chino” (the Chinese guy) when in fact he was of Japanese descent. But Pres. Fujimori (the Peruvian-Japanese president) thought it was pretty cool and not an insult to be called “El Chino.” It was a pretty catchy term and helped him get elected in 1990 and of course is reflective that, in Spanish, people from East Asia are called collectively “Los Chinos.” Now, some politically correct elite could have explained to the entire country that the correct title for him should have been “El Asiatico,” or “El Japones,” but luckily Peru is not that politically correct.

    I guess my point is that there is always a line between “politically correct” and “funny” or “satire” or “social custom” that is being drawn randomly by a social elite that assumes it knows what is offensive and what is not. The attendant snobbishness is a bit bothersome, to be quite frank.

  9. Geoff, Very true pointing out a truth is not offensive.

    Another Case in point. When George Brush Sr. was President, someone asked him where his grandchildren were at. He pointed to his son Jeb’s children as “the brown ones over there.” The elitist liberal press went nuts. His reply was something like, “They are brown. What is wrong with that?”. Sometimes I point my daughter Hong Mei out as the petite Chinese girl, cause as a Caucasian people do not automatically recognize me as her mother. There is nothing offensive about this, as she is petite and Chinese. We are proud she is Chinese. This is the same as saying, “My son Flash, the big boy with the curly brown hair.” This is not a offensive comment as he is a big boy with curly brown hair and we think he is darling. I do not have to point out his ethnicity, because people assume he is Caucasian. Now if I were to call Hong Mei a “Chink” and Flash a “Chub” This would be offensive.

    Nicely said Nicholeen. I also think true followers of Christ show their respect/love for others/neighbors by not being offensive. I think “Be ye not offensive” is a worthy goal.

  10. The “gospel principle” thing was really ‘treat others as you’d want to be treated.”

    I agree with the point about what a group wants vs. what an ‘elite’ wants. American Indians still prefer that term and so I go with it.

    When a group doesn’t agree on what to be called, I think the only possible response is to accept both.

    A key point here is that we shouldn’t be using political correctness as a weapon in circumstances like this. I can see it having more of an edge for a racial slur, but accidently saying “mankind” when that was correct usuage for years shouldn’t be penalized in my opinion. We should just assume they meant it in the gender neutral way.

  11. I think it all hinges on how a comment was meant and how the group being referred to feels about it.

    “Anchor baby,” for example, is one term that is a horribly offensive way to refer to a U.S. citizen who has parents who are not U.S. citizens. Why? It is always used in a derogatory manner, and those who are being referred to by the term “anchor baby” obviously don’t like the name. A less offensive term would be “U.S. citizens who are children of undocumented immigrants.”

    The question to ask ourselves,then, is “do I mean my statement in a less-than respectful way?” I use the term “white trash,” “red-neck,” and “hick” every once in a while. Obviously, I need to stop using those terms, even if they are based on behavior rather than on circumstance.

  12. Thanks Nicholeen. The Scribd article you pointed to is by the same author. I was unaware of the history of political correctness until recently when someone pointed me to the article in Accuracy in Academia (http://www.academia.org/the-origins-of-political-correctness/).

    Although Bruce’s original post is narrowly defined (re: language with respect to gender), the article and paper by William S. Lind are both very applicable. Offensive language is certainly not consistent with gospel principles, but it is interesting to read above how this topic was introduced in a Technical Writing class. I think Mr. Lind would find this consistent with his experience on this subject.

    BTW – I’m with you. Live the gospel and no offense need be given.

  13. I confess, trying to see past the professors blatant hypocrisy throughout her class made her message of political correctness more difficult to look at objectively. But I had to finally admit that, at least as she expressed it, it made sense and I could get behind it.

  14. In my High School Sociology class I used to tell students, “Men exchange information and girls gossip.” At that point, I would tell students that I was sexist in two and possiblbly three different ways and ask them to tell me how I was. The first reason was very easy for students to grasp, the second and third were very difficult for them, for in terms of spoken English they were often the default choice: men were men and women were girls plus men were always listed first.

    We would then play word association with men and girls. Afterwords, we would rate each
    word associated with male as having a positive, negative or neutral connotation; and then the same for girls. You could imagine the results. For each “serious” for males a “silly” and “giggly” would appear for girls.

    Words and the use of words have power. What types of attitudes do we engender in young people by speaking in a “politically incorrect” manner? Labeling something as politically incoreect does very little. Teaching young (and old) to recognize it and see the harm it can cause is vital.

    In addition “politically incorrect” is a loaded use of words. The phrase has a negative connotation since most people have a negative feeling about the words containing “politic.” Frank Luntz got the Republicans and Fox News to start to use “government run medicine” instead of “public option,” and very quickly public opinion changed because of the people’s antipathy to the former phrase. It would be great at this late date if we could change politically correct with something like verbal equality.

  15. “Anchor baby,” for example, is one term that is a horribly offensive way to refer to a U.S. citizen who has parents who are not U.S. citizens

    I have never heard anyone use it that way. It can only properly refer to babies in abstract who are conceived with the intent of establishing U.S. citizenship. In abstract because people aren’t mind readers.

  16. I’m betraying my age, but when I went to BYU it was an incredibly racist place. Blacks and other minorities were often referred to — in class — in explicitly racist terms. And not once — not once — did one of my professors ever correct a student using such terminology or suggest that we should speak more respectfully of people who were not WASMs (white, anglo-saxon Mormons). A little political correctness in that regard is a good thing, in my view.

  17. Rob, if what you say is true, why did you not stand up to defend the Blacks and other minorities in class? Did you falter in defending truth and right? Are you betraying more than just your age? Perhaps you could provide the name of the professor whose class you were in? Give the year, semester and other details so others may come forward and explain what happened in these classrooms?

    My parents raised me with Gospel principles and ideals that would not allow me to sit silently while someone openly berated another human being with racial epithets and slurs.

    I had a good friend in elementary school who was from India. He had very dark skin and someone hurled the “N” word at him. My friend stood up, defended African Americans, and proceeded to beat the tar out of the boy who insulted Black people. Even though my friend was punished for this incident, I admired his courage and his determination not to allow abusive and racist language to be used. I was not large in stature like my friend, but I followed his example by using my voice to defend against racism.

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not make allowances for racism of any kind. This is not an issue of political correctness, rather one of human dignity and respect.

  18. Pingback: » What is Tolerance? The Millennial Star

  19. So, I have been discussing this issue with my 14 year old son, who is an avid studier of political science and law. He has some thoughts to share in this discussion: From Quin:

    First, All of this debate really leads to one question: Who has the right to tell someone else what they can and cannont say? The first amendment says: “There shall be no law abridging the freedom of speech…” Political Correctness, in it’s meanest sense is forcing another individual to give up part of his rights to freedom of speech. Even if the person is rude or wrong, they still have the write to say whatever they please according to our founding document.

    The church believes in following the national law. The 12th the article of faith tells us so. Also, D & C 58: 21 “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.”

    So, what are the laws of God? One of the laws of God is: have charity. Political correctness is the term for the agenda to force charity on the people. Charity cannont be forced. Forced charity is communism. Charity can only come through the pure love of Christ. As His people we need to seek charity ourselves and not judge others. Also, as His people we need to respect other people’s right to speak the way they want to. We can recognize that they are not being charitable and not participate in their way of communicating or thinking, but we have no right to tell another individual how they can and cannot speak. Only God has that right, and since he has given us the agency to choose how we will speak, Political Correctness is taking away an individual’s right to agency. God has given us principles to align ourselves with in order to make the right choices.

    The main point is, God can tell us what to say and what not to say, but he hasn’t. He has only told us what principles to follow and left us to govern ourselves. This means that if government steps in and says someone can’t say something they want to say, they are wrong, even if the person speaking is morally wrong.

    The last question is how do we stand up for God’s law? This is the trickiest part of the arguement. It’s very personal for each person and each situation. We should stand up for what is morally right and defend the souls around us, but “our rights end where another person’s begin.” It is not right to force another person to adhere to our moral compass. We can’t beat them or put them in jail for not complying with what we think is right. Or, even more to the point, we cannot invovle the laws of the land to rule a case that is only a case because it is offensive to antoher person and not really against a law. Likewise, they (other individuals and religions) who don’t agree with the Mormon religious beliefs should not have legal backing for pushing their moral agenda on us. Thomas Jefferson said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty Gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    I stand up for God’s law by speaking when the Spirit prompts me to, and by not speaking when the Spirit prompts me to. I guess the only real way to speak as God would have us is to remember we are on His errand and focus on learning the language of the Spirit and not the language of argument.

    –Quin

  20. Nicholeen/Quin:

    The first amendment says: “There shall be no law abridging the freedom of speech…” Political Correctness, in it’s meanest sense is forcing another individual to give up part of his rights to freedom of speech. Even if the person is rude or wrong, they still have the write to say whatever they please according to our founding document.

    Well, there are two problems with this: First of all, you have defined polical correctness in a very crude fashion. In most cases, and particularly in the one Bruce is putting forth in the OP, Political Correctness involves teaching the consequences of our words and how words have deeper meaning that can be hurtful or devaluing. By changing the definition to “forcing another individual to give up part of his rights to freedom of speech” you have improperly refocused the discussion to a very narrow definition that was not presented in the OP. This is what is called a straw-man argument. Feel free to look it up.

    Second, if you are going to bring the Bill of Rights into a discussion, it would be a good idea to present at least one example of a law that defends PC while “abridging the freedom of speech”. There may very well be a law somewhere that does this, but you haven’t presented one, and instead seem to be implying that I, as an individual, have to comply with the first amendment in allowing others to say what they want. I don’t have that censure since I am not a governing body of the United States. People practicing (or asking others to practice) PC behavior is in no way regulated by the first amendment, since they are not legislative bodies enacting laws.

    Third, while not a problem really since the idea is the same, you’ve incorrectly quoted the first amendment.

    So, what are the laws of God? One of the laws of God is: have charity. Political correctness is the term for the agenda to force charity on the people. Charity cannont be forced. Forced charity is communism.

    Again, you are defining terms to fit your argument. Who defines Communism this way?? Who defines PC this way?? If its just you, then I will limit my comment to this, you’re wrong, way wrong. If its someone else, please cite them.

    Also, as His people we need to respect other people’s right to speak the way they want to. We can recognize that they are not being charitable and not participate in their way of communicating or thinking, but we have no right to tell another individual how they can and cannot speak.

    It seems we have every right to tell another individual how they can and cannot speak. Isn’t that our right of free speech? Wouldn’t limiting my ability to tell another one how they should speak be abridging the freedom of speech?? We just don’t have the ability to ENACT LAWS telling people how to speak.

    We can’t beat them or put them in jail for not complying with what we think is right.

    Is anyone doing this for PC reasons??

    Or, even more to the point, we cannot invovle the laws of the land to rule a case that is only a case because it is offensive to antoher person and not really against a law. Likewise, they (other individuals and religions) who don’t agree with the Mormon religious beliefs should not have legal backing for pushing their moral agenda on us.

    So where do you stand on laws restricting illicit drug use? Prostitution? Abortion? Alcohol to minors? Alcohol on Sundays? Or any of Utah’s alcohol laws? Tobacco to minors? etc. etc. etc. etc. Or does your belief only extend one way in forcing a moral compass on Mormons?

    Only God has that right, and since he has given us the agency to choose how we will speak, Political Correctness is taking away an individual’s right to agency.

    As long as laws are only restricted to consequences for actions, agency has not been taken away. Laws don’t force people to do things, they merely attach consequences to actions. If we don’t have the right to affix consequences to actions (due to some misunderstanding of agency) then there can be NO LAWS. none. Government becomes non-existent.

  21. Quin,

    You make many good points and I basically agree with you.

    However, keep in mind that this professor persuaded me on the value of politically correct English by showing me it was consistent with my already existing moral compass.

    She was intolerant on a lot of fronts, but this wasn’t one of them. If she had held up PC as ‘you are scum if you don’t do this’ she would likely have failed to persuade me because her real message would have been lost on me in the spam, for precisely the reasons you outline.

  22. B. Russ, keep in mind that Quin is a mere 14-years old, lacking the life experience and educational background that you or I have. As I read his comment, I was reminded of the same youthful exuberance I possessed at his age. Having said that, he is an extremely bright and well-spoken 14-year old.

  23. I’m sorry if I overstepped. I tried to keep that in mind and refrained from using language that I thought was (too) insulting. I probably should have refrained even more.

    If all I did was to make him a little bit angry, allowing him to reassess his thoughts and look for better arguements, then I’m happy. If I unfortunately left him feeling like I thought he was stupid or ignorant, then I really am sorry. That was not my intent. I was trying to offer him the respect I would offer an adult by treating his comments as I would treat an adult’s.

    Quin, I’m sure you’re a very bright boy. I hold no ill will toward you and hope you hold none toward me due to my disagreement with almost all of your arguements.

  24. B.Russ – Nicholeen and her son bring up many important points. She/they did not define communism this way – Mr. Lind and others have suggested that PC has its roots in cultural marxism.

    Many years ago, Dr. Fred Schwarz wrote that these groups utilize many “weapons”:

    The weapons of this warfare are not merely the classical weapons of guns, tanks, bombs, and aircraft. The weapons are universal. Education is a weapon; language is a weapon; trade is a weapon; diplomacy is a weapon; religion is a weapon; cultural interchange is a weapon.

    (You Can Trust the Communists: To Be Communists. Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1960.)

    In other words, at least in this view, PC language is a weapon being used within “cultural interchange” in today’s society.

    Perhaps there would be no need for some groups of people to define PC if more simply adopted the principles Elder Hollad outlined in his talk on the The Tongue of Angels.

  25. PCness causes folks to find offense more readily where none is intended — like the guy who was sued for saying, “hey, no monkeys in the tree!” to some neighboring black kids who were playing in his tree. He didn’t mean to convey anything derogatory — he regularly said the same thing to his own (Hispanic) children.

    But there you go — another virtue gone a-rye.

  26. Jack,

    That is sad that a good thing can be twisted in such a way. We throw the baby out with the bath water when we become so upset over PCness that people start to fear for their lives so to speak. (Either physically, financially, or socially.)

    Sometimes I think society would be better off with out all the people.

  27. Tim: So it’s okay as long as it’s used in the abstract?

    When referring to people with that actual intent, yes. Unless the universe is structured such that such an intent can never be formed in someone’s mind, in which case we can say that it is a metaphysical impossibility.

  28. I’ll remember that next time I make a comment about lying Jewish bankers. Of course, I’ll only be referring to the ones that are actually dishonest…

  29. Tim,

    Your example might be more applicable if you were talking about lying bankers — period — sans the “Jewish.” Mark wasn’t talking about any specific race. He was talking about human motivations, generally — the way I read it, anyway.

    That said, I can understand the need to be sensitive to the “baby” in question — sorta like not labeling children as “illegitimate.” That’s a title we should reserve for the parents nowadays.

  30. Bruce,

    Yeah, I’ve often thought of how wonderful the world would be without people. But then the idea of going “green” snaps me out of it — you know, like the thought of pulling a dry towel though my teeth.

  31. Jack,
    You’re right of course. But back in the day, when most (or even almost all) bankers were Jewish, I think any broad reference to “lying bankers” would carry racist overtones, especially if Jews were particularly disliked.

    And we all know that any reference to “anchor babies” applies almost solely to Latino children.

  32. “And we all know that any reference to “anchor babies” applies almost solely to Latino children.

    That is political correctness at its worst. We can’t talk about something because it appears to be predominantly engaged in by some cultural or linguistic group?

  33. Mark D and Tim,

    I wanted to insert my own thoughts here.

    I see a difference between someone deciding to avoid certain wording because they are concerned about how others might feel and coming down on someone that ‘says it wrong’ and branding them with a label (i.e. racist, or what have you.)

    If we can accept that these aren’t the same, then you two aren’t necessarily arguing for mutually exclusive positions. You might want to clarify.

    To put this more concretely, I think saying “Chair” over “Chairman” is just good practice. But I still slip up and say “Chairman” now and again and I find it rather rude if someone ‘corrects me’ on what, for much of my life, was just plain old English. Especially since I actively am working on learning to say “Chair” on my own accord.

    In short, I think me choosing to drop “man” is charitable. And I think correcting someone that does not isn’t.

  34. Greg (27)

    Ah yes, From the regime that brought you the AK-47, The Cold War, The Nuclear Arms Race, The Vietnam War, and The Korean War; Its the most insidious weapon yet: Political Correctness!!

    You’ll watch in horror as they teach your kids to be polite and not use words like “fag” and “spick”. *gasps and screams* You’ll be defensless as they instruct the next generation to not use language that oppresses and insults women!! *fainting and gnashing of teeth*

    Political Correctness as a weapon of communism = the least threatening weapon communism has ever used.

  35. “Political Correctness as a weapon of communism = the least threatening weapon communism has ever used.”

    Well, that is saying something, at least :P

  36. Great perspectives! It is true that there is a gray area when it comes to political correctness. You’re right in your summation that try as we might to be “tolerant” in this society, the language we use almost inherently becomes a double-edged sword.
    As the old adage goes: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In this case, political correctness is the intention and the hell is the attempt at wading the murky waters of an ideal form of tolerance, which, in turn could shoot you in the foot.
    There’s both an insidious and sincere nature attached to political correctness that I find interesting because sometimes the PC can be more offensive or repressive than the actual phrase or word itself.

  37. When I first heard of political correctness back in the early 90s, I can’t say I was impressed. An example from then was describing a “crewed” spaceflight instead of a “manned” one–just saying it out loud should reveal the problem with the alternate word choice. Another one from that time was using “office professional” instead of “secretary” to describe an administrative/clerical worker; maybe some people load their sexist baggage onto “secretary,” but that’s a failing of them more than of the word.

    My objections to political correctness center around its tendency to obscure meaning, and its inefficiency in expression. Just look at the linguistic gymnastics the current administration goes through to avoid using the word “terrorism” when making statements about it. Some words have become taboo because they’re hurtful, but that’s when we need to use our brains to either use another word that expresses what we’re describing with the same amount of clarity as the verboten term (like saying “cheated” instead of “gypped”), or to decide that we don’t value the feelings of those we might offend enough to stop calling them by that term (terrorists? Even if they kill me for it I wouldn’t care if they feel offended by that word). Saying “office professional” instead of “secretary” is a fine example of inefficiency in expression; they mean pretty much the same thing, but takes almost twice as long to say as the other. This flies against such sound principles like “don’t use a ten-dollar word when a five-dollar one can do the job” or “brevity is the soul of wit.”

    I hesitate to agree that political correctness is a gospel principle. Kindness, respect, charity; those are all principles that the gospel and political correctness have in common, but the overlap isn’t complete. The Spirit speaks “of things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13) while political correctness often obscures meaning to spare the feelings of those who may or may not be offended.

  38. What I find interesting about this discussion is that there seems to be a fairly universal dislike of using PC as a way of beating people into submission. Yet back on post #6 JAB suggested this was the advantage of it (at least in the case of racism) and there was some ascent to that idea. It empowers us to speak up against offensive racial stereotypes.

    Can we have it both ways?

  39. Witteafval – I don’t think that the Obama administration avoids the word terrorist out of some PC idea. I think it’s just politics. They have a political agenda to avoid the word “terrorist”. That is very different than the idea of political correctness. (even if they both coincidentally contain the word politic)

    As far as office professional, I’ve never heard that. That would truly be unfortunate if someone believed that would be a better word than secretary, fortunately I’ve always heard the position referred to as secretary and never as office professional. So I don’t think you have to worry about that word becoming fashionable.

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