Jonah Goldberg

Now, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush. There is stuff that gets labeled political correctness that is entirely defensible. Because of the erosion of traditional authority that has marked the last half-century, for good and ill, society has been forced to re-create what defines good manners largely from scratch. Women, blacks and other historically marginalized groups have finally and deservedly gained an equal place in society. Treating fellow citizens with respect and dignity shouldn't be lumped in with the more radical agenda that also exploits political correctness.

For example, ditching the word "colored" from the vocabulary when it comes to describing blacks might have been seen as political correctness by many in the 1960s (though the phrase wasn't widely used), but that in no way means it wasn't the right thing to do. Or consider the idiots who shouted "iron my shirt" at Hillary Clinton (assuming it wasn't staged to help Clinton burnish her victim status). That's not bravely fighting political correctness. It's just rude and stupid.

But there's a separate agenda that parasitically clings to the more defensible aim of crafting new good manners. The left uses Western society's admirable desire not to offend to bludgeon competing ideas and arguments. Inconvenient facts are ridiculed as "insensitive." Refusal to go along with the multicultural agenda, for example, is cast as a sign of backwardness and bigotry. We're told we must have a frank conversation about race, but when conservatives take up the challenge, they are immediately demonized for the insensitivity of their honesty.

One of my favorite recent examples is when Newt Gingrich argued last year that bilingualism makes it more difficult for Hispanics to learn English, which has the unfortunate result of leaving some Latinos trapped in the "ghetto." He was immediately denounced by the usual suspects and forced to issue an apology, which he promptly did.

Harvard President Lawrence Summers was tarred and feathered after merely hypothesizing about the data on cognitive differences between the sexes.

In Britain this week, the National Children's Bureau advised that day-care centers treat aversion to unfamiliar foreign food by children as "racist." It was also reported that two children were punished for their bigoted refusal to kneel and pray to Allah in a religion class.

This strikes me as something beyond mere tolerance. This is will-to-power masquerading as tolerance. This sort of thing needs to be resisted, because there is no end to where thinking like this can lead. Indeed, if it doesn't cause too much offense, one could even say it's a black hole.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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