The PC/SJW Boogeyperson

Every now and then Dana Milbank writes something worth reading, and he did so this week. See “The GOP’s War on ‘Politically Correct.’” Milbank effectively demonstrates that, in current right-wing usage, the term “political correctness” has no actual meaning. “Once a pejorative term applied to liberals’ determination not to offend any ethnic or other identity group,” Milbank wrote,  “it now is used lazily by some conservatives to label everything classified under ‘that with which I disagree.’ ” For example:

GOP candidates are now using the “politically correct” label to shut down debate — exactly what conservatives complained politically correct liberals were doing in the first place.

When CNN’s John Berman last week asked Rick Santorum about Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the country, Santorum employed the familiar evasive maneuver.

“Republicans are sick and tired of the political correctness that we can’t talk about this,” he said. “You can’t say the word ‘Muslim.'”

It wasn’t clear which officer in the P.C. Police told Santorum he couldn’t say “Muslim.”

People say “Muslim” all the time. And Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the country was discussed rabidly throughout the nation for several days, with armies of people pointing out why this was a really bad idea, not to mention bigoted and possibly unconstitutional. What it is Frothy thought he was not allowed to talk about I can only guess.

Ted Cruz said that political correctness is “killing people.” I had to hunt to find out how. He was referring to the Obama Administration’s policy of not using the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” Apparently if the President would just say that phrase, ISIS would shrivel up and die on the spot.

And Ben Carson seems to think that not waterboarding people is just being PC. In his world, there is no other reason to not torture people. As Milbank said, this is intellectual laziness on its face.

I’ve only relatively recently stumbled into the acronym SJW, meaning “social justice warrior.” Apparently being a social justice warrior is a bad thing. According to Rational Wiki (which may or may not be accurate, but it’s fun to read), the phrase “social justice warrior” was coined in 2009 by a blogger named Will Shetterly. Shetterly was talking about people who like to engage in arguments favoring social justice on the Internet but aren’t committed to fighting for it anywhere else, like in the real world. They’re phonies, in other words, who are posing as liberals to raise their social status. I’m not sure why anyone would do that, but whatever.

However, SJW has since morphed into a term, meant to be a pejorative, applied to any progressive political or social activist. The subtext of this is that all progressive political or social activism is phony; people just pretend to champion liberal views to make themselves look good to other liberals who must be as phony as they are.

(Years ago I read a social psychology paper in which researchers had determined that white racists sincerely believe all other white people also believe nonwhites are inferior, and that the only reason some whites won’t support white supremacy is that “they’re just being PC.”)

“SJW” seems particularly popular among libertarians and “men’s rights advocates” (MRAs). It says here, SJWs are

… people who, according to Urban Dictionary, engage in “social justice arguments on the internet… in an effort to raise their own personal reputation.” In other words, SJWs don’t hold strong principles, but they pretend to. The problem is, that’s not a real category of people. It’s simply a way to dismiss anyone who brings up social justice—and often those people are feminists. It’s awfully convenient to have a term at the ready to dismiss women who bring up sexism, as in, “You don’t really care. As an SJW, you’re just taking up this cause to make yourself look good!”

Labeling someone “SJW” is just a way to not have to answer their arguments. Most women will recognize this as a variation of the “women are just emotional” line that sexists have used forever to avoid listening to us.

I’ve noticed that complaints about people or opinions being PC/SJW tend to follow a pattern (a recent example, if you want one). If the individual is educated enough to be writing for a commercial publication, we will learn he was traumatized in his college years by  fascistic “PC police” on campus. Even assuming some young people get a bit over-strident in their intolerance of intolerance, college is a relatively brief interlude in life that is quickly left behind as one marches into adulthood. So who’s oppressing him now? Hard to say, but he will complain bitterly about being “censored” without giving us any specific examples. Ahem.

If you want to see specific examples of people who try to intimidate other people into shutting up, see the Mahablog archive on conservative correctness.  I wrote back in 2007,

When the phrase “political correctness” was first coined, as I recall, it was something of a joke, ribbing academics for going overboard creating “inclusive” language, like “physically challenged” for “disabled.” Wingnuts seized the phrase and turned it into an all-purpose explanation for why liberals say crazy things like “racial discrimination is wrong” — the standard response is “Oh, you’re just being P.C.” Meaning, “you don’t really mean what you say.”

But we really do mean what we say, and when righties conjure up some phony outrage in order to bash liberals, we get all caught up in answering charges, explaining logical fallacies, and pointing out hypocrisies. We do this because we assume they mean what they say. And, frankly, the more cognitively challenged among them probably do mean what they say, because they can’t critically think their way out of a wet paper bag.

But Bill’s hypothesis is that many of the opinion leaders among them — he discusses Michelle Malkin because he knows her personally — don’t mean what they say. They know good and well that many of the outrages they gin up to bash us with are contrived. They’re just trying to bully us, often because (deep down inside) they think we’re trying to bully them. So while we’re exhausting ourselves in a mighty intellectual struggle, they’re just playing tit for tat and barely working up a sweat.

Now we’re hearing about “victimist” culture, never mind that righties can’t so much as say good morning without adding a complaint about how they are being victimized (see, for example the “war on Christmas”).

As has been said elsewhere, the original “PC” effort was well-intended, even if it sometimes got a bit silly (“differently abled”?). The backlash, however, is about nothing other than being able to express hate speech without being criticized for it.

And I’m done with it. The only correct response to “Oh, you’re just being PC” is “Oh, you’re just being an idiot.”  And a bigoted one at that.

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