Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Is "Political Correctness" to Blame for Orlando Massacre?

Well, well, the dear old National Rifled Assholeciation has weighed in with its theory. Assault weapons don't kill people, "political correctness" does. 

"The National Rifle Association (NRA) on Tuesday defended gun rights, two days after a gunman killed 49 people and left 53 others injured at a gay nightclub in Orlando," Jesse Byrnes at The Hill reports:
"In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, President Obama and Hillary Clinton renewed calls for more gun control, including a ban on whole categories of semi-automatic firearms," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, wrote in a USA Today op-ed. 
"They are desperate to create the illusion that they’re doing something to protect us because their policies can’t and won’t keep us safe. This transparent head-fake should scare every American, because it will do nothing to prevent the next attack," he said. 
Cox said "political correctness" allowed for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history to take place, noting that the FBI had interviewed the shooter multiple times since 2013 and that he maintained a government-approved security license. 
"Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it," Cox wrote. 
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who the NRA has endorsed, also attacked "political correctness" in a speech following the shooting.
So what exactly is the connection between "political correctness" and mass murder? Let's ask an expert: mass murderer Anders Breivik (the following is reposted from August 2015)
"...voters crave the anti-status-quo politician. They want results. They need a fighter. They need someone to fire all the political-correct police." -- Sarah Palin, interview with Donald Trump
Anders Breivik
In the introduction to his "compendium" manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, mass-murderer Anders Breivik asked, "What is Political Correctness?" and "How did it all begin?" His answer dwelt on the Frankfurt School, and singled out Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization as especially important.  Breivik's text was copied and pasted almost verbatim from a screed called "Political Correctness: a Short History of an Ideology?" by William S. Lind, "Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation."

In turn, the "cultural Marxism" thesis of Lind's "history" can be traced to a 1992 article, "New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and Political Correctness,"  published in a Lyndon Larouche cult magazine, Fidelio The article's author, Michael J. Minnicino, subsequently disowned his work as "hopelessly deformed by self-censorship and the desire to in some way support Mr. LaRouche's crack-brained world-view."

Along the way, "conservative" Republican stalwarts Ralph de Toledano and Patrick J. Buchanan have recycled those crack-brained conspiracy theories, documented by abundant footnotes that typically lead either to a source who didn't say what they were credited with saying, to some other hack propaganda recycler or to an "authoritative" emigre like Victor Zitta or Lazlo Pasztor relying extensively on official histories published by the Axis-allied Horthy regime. Martin Jay traced the strange trajectory of this propaganda meme in "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe."

Roger Kimball
This month saw the publication by Roger Kimball's Encounter Books (an "activity" of the Bradley Foundation) of yet another rehash of the discredited crap, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, by Michael Walsh. A credulous review of that book in the Washington Free Beacon presents the book's argument, apparently oblivious to its dubious lineage:
In The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, Walsh argues that the current obsession with politically correct speech began with a group of Marxist academics at the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University in Frankfurt, who would come to be known as the Frankfurt School. The scholars, Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse, among others, developed a wide-ranging, if often contradictory, critique of the principal tenets of "bourgeois" Western culture—from the centrality of reason and individuality to Christian sexual mores.
As Barkley and I have discussed, the term "politically correct" probably was popularized in the late 1960s and early 1970s by left-wing student activists wary of the self-righteous dogmatism displayed by self-styled Marxist-Leninist political grouplets. But that's not the way the conventional mythology goes.

At the end of December 1982, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed, "The Shattered Humanities" by William Bennett, who at the time was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Bennett's complaint was that "matters of enduring importance" -- "the true," "the good" and "the noble" -- had been abandoned because "we have yielded to the bullying of those fascinated with the merely contemporary." By the early 1990s, Bennett's lament about the decline of traditional values in the humanities had swelled into a moral panic about the alleged tyranny of political correctness on campus, fueled by best-selling books such as Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals: How Politics has Corrupted Our Higher Education and Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education: The politics of race and sex on campus. 

Even President Bush I had to get into the act with a commencement address at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in which he railed against "political extremists [who] roam the land, abusing the privilege of free speech, setting citizens against one another on the basis of their class or race."
Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses. The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits. 
Isolated anecdotes and broad generalizations can only get you so far. The elusive scourge of political correctness needed to be explained by theory of its origins. Thus the Minnicino/Larouche conspiracy theory, taken up by Lind, Buchanan, de Toledano, Breivik and now Walsh.

In spite of being called out more than two decades ago by a President of the United States, those political extremists liberals on the left have allegedly persevered in their "unrelenting demands... for increasingly preposterous levels of political correctness over the past decade." This, according to S. E. Cupp explains Donald Trumps popularity: "Trump survives -- nay, thrives! -- because he is seen as the antidote, bravely and unimpeachably standing athwart political correctness."

Meanwhile, "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 71% of American Adults think political correctness is a problem in America today, while only 18% disagree. Ten percent (10%) are undecided."
National Survey of 1,000 American Adults
Conducted August 25-26, 2015
By Rasmussen Reports 
1* Do Americans have true freedom of speech today, or do they have to be careful not to say something politically incorrect to avoid getting in trouble?

2* Is political correctness a problem in America today?
Hey, if they keep repeating it, it must be true, right?

Three Stooges: Lyndon Larouche, Roger Kimball, Anders Breivik

4 comments: said...

While student activists in the late 60s and early 70s used the term ironically, they did so in reaction to actual serious use of the term by some of those more orthodox Marxist-Leninists, especially Maoists, who indeed used the term to identify that which was politically acceptable in their views. That which was not "politically correct" was to be shunned and struggled against. I am not sure how far back the first use of the term by such groups goes, but I think it predated the 1960s. said...

Indeed once the student activists started mocking these pompous politically correct people, the term pretty much stopped being used as a serious positive term by pretty much everybody, even the sometimes leadenly deedly dull Maoists. It has been used as this term of opprobrium against the people who supposedly use it now for decades, but it has been many decades since anybody used it in a serious way as a positive term for ideas or speech.

Unknown said...

Double ditto. I started Berkeley in 1974, left in 1977 and reenrolled in 1981 and was one of those left but not Left students who deployed "politically correct" in an ironic way playing off the Maoist/Trotskyite/Splinter rhetoric but pivoting to the arguments being deployed by the Women's Studies/Ethnic Studies/African American Studies movements that were challenging both academia and the Old and New Left from what would these days be called intersectional directions.

To be a white male liberal of the New Deal variety on a radicalized campus like Berkeley (or Madison or others) in the 70s was to be whip-sawed. Because no matter how sympathetic you might feel towards any and all liberation movements and whatever your own self-perception of being working class you were continually being confronted with perfectly fair accusations that you were STILL the beneficiaries of while male privilege. You could protest all you wanted that the REAL beneficiaries were the rich white boys at Stanford, still in the cold light of day it was not like you would trade societal positions with the women or peoples of color.

And so that kind of consciousness raising was a little or a lot uncomfortable as we had to engage with our own patterns of thought, language and actual conduct vis a vis others. Casual racist or misogynistic language, no matter how normalized in then American culture were no longer okay, separating the world into "men" and "girls" in particular would get one ostracized at Berkeley in the 80s. And as a result a lot of us described our own self-policing of language and needed conscious raising as being "politically correct" in a self-mocking way while equally mocking the endless efforts of the multitude of factions of the New Left to define the "correct political line". And to expel or self-expel dissenters.

Berkeley, Madison, Yale/Smith and a number of other campuses actually did validate a little of the Horowitz critique and echoes of that penetrated a lot of schools back in the day. But the idea that college campuses everywhere were captured by the kinds of radicalism that were endemic at places like Cal Berkeley was frankly ridiculous. For every UT- Austin that got a little of this there was a Texas A&M that decidedly didn't.

But there were places where you had to rigorously self-police your language. Hopefully while equally re-examining in a critical way issues of power as it related to gender, race and ethnicity. Personally I found it a very valuable exercise. Not particularly comfortable mind you. But valuable.

Anonymous said...

If we define "political correctness" as people seeking to prevent opposing views from being discussed, doesn't that make the National Rifle Association a proponent of political correctness?

Of course, the definition used by the right wing is that they are free to vehemently advocate their world view, because they are exercising their free speech rights to describe their deeply-held beliefs. Liberals criticizing folks on the right are deemed to not really believe what they're saying - they're merely being "politically correct."

In short, anyone criticizing something as being "politically correct" are themselves attempting to prevent opposing views from being discussed openly.