The ‘Other’ Side Of Political Correctness

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Donald Trump persuaded Americans to elect him to the White House but was his use of political correctness legitimate, asks Dean Frenkel.

Google ‘political correctness’ with ‘Donald Trump’ and you will get 897,000 hits.

Political correctness is a favourite right-wing squeal, but there is another type of political correctness that is less audible but no less potent, and it’s existed for centuries. We know it as conformity. Yes, conformity is right-wing PC.

This brand of right-wing PC occurs every time the national anthem is played – there is nothing more politically correct than standing with all the other conformists until the anthem is finished. And yet, we don’t hear any complaints from the right-wing PC police, nor will Donald Trump defend the right to sit while the American national anthem is played.

Right-wing political correctness is embodied by traditional values and maintaining the status quo. Right-wingers have enlisted and hijacked political correctness as a tool to challenge social progressiveness, reinforce conformity and resist progressive changes of values. It demands traditional protocols and won’t tolerate anything that rocks the establishment boat.

PC right-wingers are the first to take umbrage against those who burn the national flag to make a political statement, yet you won’t hear them defending symbolic protests against the establishment. They will not quote the First Amendment or defend these kinds of acts of freedom of expression. Does it get anymore hypocritical than those who complain about political correctness, yet also complain about flag burning?

IMAGE: fourstuarts, Flickr)
IMAGE: fourstuarts, Flickr)

When the Sex Pistols released their provocative version of “God Save The Queen” in 1977, it was first and foremost an attack on the political correctness of its time. This was particularly bothersome to conformists and supporters of the establishment.

In context, monarchists who swear allegiance to the Queen are abiding by a centuries-old brand of political correctness. Their automatic support for the elitist structure, system of etiquette and protocols is an enforcement of traditional political correctness. It has long been PC to support the Queen, monarchy and Westminster system.

At a more grassroots level, cyclists often face the choice of following the politically correct way, on the one hand, or taking their judgment into their own hands to break a minor law by cycling on the footpath – often much safer than riding on the road.

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Should cyclists prioritise political correctness over their own personal safety? Of course not.

When Paul Robeson was sledged as being a ‘black dog’ during a college gridiron game in the first half of the 20th century, black people all over the world had already been stigmatized with ‘black dog’ for centuries. Yet today the term has been rebranded to describe depression and has its own institute. Is it politically correct to demand the Black Dog Institute change its name?

Culture is in a constant state of evolution, partly because it gets things wrong and needs correction. Political correctness is about values, expression and behavior.

One kind of political correctness identifies truth that hurts and abhors attempts to censor. But Australians who sing from the PC song-sheet and complain about special consideration for Aborigines are blind to the obvious – that an entire race of First Australians were subjugated and suffered genocidal human rights abuse.

In the face of Trump-inspired intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy, it is time to open both eyes to a broader notion of political correctness.

There is another side, indeed dimension to political correctness that receives no acknowledgement: political correctness as a concept applies to both sides.

It is not the property nor the exclusive tool of right-wingers to throw at the left.

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Dean Frenkel

Dean Frenkel is a Melbourne writer and communications expert.

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