I don’t get political on here much, and then so only in general philosophic terms. But I have been very interested in all the signs that there is a new “antiestablishment” movement in the works. The indications have been there for at least a decade now. It won’t manifest itself as Flower Children in the Haight-Ashbury. But there is certainly a new attitude, one that is completely intolerant of the intolerant “politically correct.”
I’m old enough to have seen this era come about, and equally I’m old enough to remember the time before it. I also know enough history to know when these periods have come before and how they faded or were done away. The difference with our era is that “political correctness” has been labeled “liberal” when it is, in substance, the furthest thing from. It is something born from a Philistine establishment rooted in 1980s superficial Yuppism.
It is inherent in the word justice that one has a sense of proportion. Therefore it is a dangerous society that allows the trivial, picayune, and petty to dominate and find sin in everything people say and do. When they get the upper hand, there can be no justice.
Each society that has undergone such disorganized tyranny, or “oppression from on low,” has given it a new name. Old Victorians, the epitome of Philistine culture, dropped a monocle in your mashed potatoes at the thought you eat such common food. There is certainly a glitch in your etiquette somewhere. Maybe you didn’t raise your pinky high enough in drinking tea? There may be a different object to today’s smuggery, but you still end up with a monocle in your mashed potatoes.
I hate “political correctness.” The term is a press invention, which to their credit they collectively hated as well, though they inadvertently helped fuel the phenomenon. As someone who has worked in the media and with the media before, and someone who took philosophy and history, let us combine all three in order to probe into the history of “politically correct.” It is something that needs to be contextualized and done away with. It is nothing new. In fact it is very ancient and it has been given various names.
One of the longest lasting references to it from the ancient world can be found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 29 verse 20 and 21: “For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: that make a man a sinner for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.”
The aim of all those who “seek iniquity” is to find people transgressors, offenders, sinners– you pick the word– for just “a word.” As Isaiah declares above, there is rejoicing when they are put away.
There’s your Sunday sermon. But one doesn’t need to be religious to be looking for iniquity. Indeed, the self righteous are almost invariably outside of organized religion. Religions set the parameters of righteousness for their members. The self righteous set their own . . . and always try to set everybody else’s. A loud burp in a public restaurant? Not a crime or a moral sin, but it is a transgression our society condemns. It is, in a way, a civil sin. That’s all “sin” means= transgress.
As such there are many ways for a society to become oppressive and burdensome. Simply become a society that allows sin to be found in so many little things.
Let’s come forward to see how this happened to our current generation.
Ever since the end of World War II, the press had no limit of news stories, both from the point of view of international events to domestic social issues. Internationally, we had the Cold War. Half of the evening news was taken up with what the Russians were going to do to us. “Rather be dead than Red,” declared Alexander Haig. Most Americans felt that way. The “commies” coming to get us was perfect filler for the news. Anything else would seem petty.
Back “then” — the 1950 to 1970s– national news was only 30 minutes; half Cold War, half politics, some human interest story to end it all. Locally we had an hour long news before the stations went to network programming. Local news covered some controversy– crops failed, bras were being burnt, something was declared an historical landmark.
Perestroika ruined it all. . . . sorta.
In the early 1990s half the news hour was wiped out. The Cold War was over. There was a scramble to find news. Controversy was always newsworthy on a slow day. Just think of the success of the “School Prayer” issue in the 1980s. Purely manufactured. The press stirred the pot . . . until finally it dawned on people. How can someone force you to pray, and likewise how can someone stop you from praying? Think about it. Years later even celebrated talk show conservative Rush Limbaugh admitted the “School Prayer” issue was a “red herring.”
But it was a profitable one.
“Politically correct” was born. It was a huge success for a news media that had no big Red scare anymore. It was a huge success because it was an oddity. The ludicrousness of it all stirred people up and they tuned in. Sitcoms could advertise its new comic star as “politically incorrect and proud of it.” It created a status quo that a comic could deftly expose. With the “anything goes” attitude of the 1980s morality, it was becoming harder, if not impossible, for a comic to take on and critique the “establishment.” This essence had been the medium of the classic comics. W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, all were to some extent “politically incorrect.” There was nothing as funny as Groucho saying something shocking and then seeing Margaret Dumont’s offended reaction.
But as it progressed in the 1990s the humor left being “politically incorrect.” Political correctness was being used as a means by which complainers were allowed to paint themselves as the oppressed and abused. One example: a couple of people made a big stink about city warning signs that read:
— You know those big diamond signs set up on the side of the road. They were going to sue the city or the state. These “politically correct” were afraid kids would misread this sign as “Slow Children . . .Playing.” The result would be, thanks to these signs, that the children would get a complex or think the city is calling them retards . . . a word you could still use then.
“Political correctness” became a political weapon on both sides. Rush Limbaugh again pollinated the airwaves about how insane these people were about the “SLOW Children” sign. Indeed, but then error was added to error. Limbaugh condemned them as “liberals.” In truth, the politically correct have no political or philosophic allegiance. They want their way.
Such malcontents have always been around. Aside from the Biblical reference, there are many more. One famous example are the infamous delatores from the reign of Tiberius. One Senator was condemned to death because he was seen leaving the “bathroom” in proximity to his meeting with the divine Tiberius. He must have had his purse on him, it was deduced by this profiteering accuser. Therefore a delator seeking to quench the appetite of a paranoid and self righteous Tiberius told him of it. What of it? Nothing until the delator spun it. The coins in his purse bore the emperor’s divine image. The spin worked. The Senator was condemned for making rude and disgusting sounds, which he must have made while in the john, with the divine image of the emperor being a witness to it. It was blasphemy!
Those who seek to find iniquity in people, those who find you a sinner for just a word they say is misspoken, those who stop someone and mess up their whole life for some inconsequential thing– for a “thing of nought.” That character has always been about. It will always be around. But only seldom does it gain the upper hand. Then there is hell, sometimes for decades.
It can only be abhorred by those who are just. Without a sense of justice, how do you know what is a “thing of nought” or something inconsequential? The dangers of the “politically correct” are manifold, for they are the most unjust people at any given time in history. Their conflict of interest– to habitually appear pious– their tremendous weakness to prove their superiority– is dangerously blind sighting to proportion. But this is only one attitude. Their most dangerous character trait is their desire to impose their will on others. There is a huge difference between a hypersensitive person who gets offended easily and one who presumes to use it to set the pace of everybody else’s life. The latter type of character is arrogant and presumptuous.
They cannot gain he upper hand alone. They need delatores.
And indeed we have delatores again. We call them shysters, but they amount to the same thing. These attorneys were kept in line by a fairly intolerant legal profession, which would not tolerate the injustice they represent, but by the 1990s we were developing a paranoid and self righteous culture. Like with the mad Tiberius, shysters could convince most anybody easily “offended” that some trespass had occurred and it was worthy of money. Self righteous trivialities flourished in Tiberius’ reign because he was paranoid and fearful. Self righteous and fearful people are easily manipulated.
Since it is inherent in the word justice that one has a sense of proportion, it is not surprising that the “politically correct” are disproportionately self-serving and that eventually they seek out lawyers to inforce their will. Lawsuits began. The accused were scared to go through a lawsuit. It’s $50,000 dollars and 3 years through the court, and this doesn’t include the judgment.
The “politically correct” malcontents of today have no power without attorneys. Simply put they are nothing but bizarre complainers. No one is impressed by that. But the attorney spin is that these are the oppressed. As a result, life has become a convoy. We move at the pace of the slowest or most self righteous ship.
The “politically correct” scourge of Tiberius’ reign could only be stopped when Caligula, before he went barking mad, wiped the delatores out, to the rejoicing of Rome. Though the Romans did not know Isaiah 29, they could rejoice for the same reason. “For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: 21: That make a man a sinner for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.”
Ding, dong the witch is dead. . .
However, even the effects of shysters can only go so far. Political correctness has remained with us more than 20 years now, longer than the reign of Tiberius, because of two things. Ignorance and Want. Delatores thrive in a period of ignorance and greed. Ignorance is so dominant that defense attorneys warn clients about a jury trial. The chances are that you could look into the jury’s eyes and see the back of their skull. The result of a jury trial may be facing twelve people who haven’t a clue of justice, judging a case that never should have come to court.
Ignorance and Want. Fear them both, but most of all fear Ignorance.
“Politically Correct” could have been quashed by the media, but the media was undergoing an unusual metamorphosis in the 1990s. Budget cutbacks. At least 15 years ago, Dan Rather appeared as a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s show. He lamented that CBS had cut back the budget for investigative reporting. Though Rather didn’t say what took its place, it is obvious from watching the news today. It rings true not just for CBS but for the entire media profession. A formula developed, antagonist/protagonist, something bound to the studio, something for which a studio-bound press could look like the righteous referee.
News was no longer just 30 minutes at night. There were now news channels and daylong programming. News anchors were replaced by show hosts. News was replaced by “infotainment.” Show hosts have a formula. They must always appear in the superior position. To do so, look pious. Make someone with conviction sound as if he has inappropriate gall. Always act like you reflect the infallible amorphous cloud over your shoulder, and receive all the reflected glory of the acolyte of perfection. Always believe the ad executives who tell you that only subhumans watch TV and can’t see through this schtick. Is it a wonder network news ratings are terrible?
In this environment “political correctness” is perfect filler. A show host can appear the advocate for the downtrodden and facilitate any agenda by giving a guilt trip to everybody else. Robert Bork once made a big deal about how the legal profession has become a “free priesthood” in the country. I think he got the wrong profession. It has been taken by a tambourine beating media constantly trying to look superior.
The new formula made a star of show hosts. It didn’t require reporters going out on the street to find news. It didn’t require long and protracted investigation of issues. It was an easy angle by which to excite interest. Someone transgressed and offended someone else. In doing so, someone was being oppressed. They could look like they were at the cusp of social progress when, in fact, they merely facilitated the income of delatores.
There was no shortage of stories with lawyers bleeding the public purse or some large corporation. What oil company was it, where one executive was heard to express how all these other holidays now celebrated at Christmastime?– Let’s see, he said: “They pissed on Santa’s beard.” How many millions did that company have to pay out? Wasn’t it 14 million? The press failed to tell the audience that the attorneys probably pocketed 3/4 of the take.
For the “politically correct” equality means life is a convoy– we move at the pace of the slowest or most self righteous ship.
To claim it is being objective by not being outraged by this is a copout for the media. Objectivity is for when you don’t know where the bodies are, so to speak, in any issue. But after the facts are learned, the media must have a thesis. The media are not gods on Olympus. They are a part of their community and used to be the 4th Estate. Where there was wrong, they exposed it. Where there was bilking of the public purse, they shamed those responsible and called for action. Injustice was met with denouncements that cowed event he mightiest politician. Where is that today?
The anodyne or opportunist media approach to the “politically correct” has only profited ignorance, base ignorance, and emboldened it to oppress more and more people. It may sell “news” and it needs no budget to sit in a TV studio and stir the pot, but on the ground floor of our society fear dominates, and as the recent primaries in America have shown, anger as well. Anger at the injustice, anger at the decades of fear. Fear of a complainer. Fear of attorneys getting involved and soaking you for a word. The fear of lawsuit, of three years of legal harassment– written interrogatories, depositions, mediations, jury trial, tens of thousands in fees– is enough to cower many people and companies and replace fear with resentment and anger.
But there is no mystery when a pig overeats. Now a nation is angry, and its anger will direct its political goals. Donald Trump has vowed to do away with political correctness. It is clear Bernie Sanders doesn’t like a lot of it either. Who are the two most popular candidates in American politics in 2016? They are called the “antiestablishment” candidates.
When one swings a pendulum too far one way, it will swing too far the other. What is the result of the opposite swing of the pendulum in this case? It is in the much-maligned Millennials’ hands. They aren’t the superficial generation they have been promoted to be. They are the largest generation in American history. The media will have to cater to them. Millennials will enter politics and law soon. They will become the establishment, but they too cannot entirely define what the new “antiestablishment” movement is. To help, in our next post let’s begin to define the current establishment as they see it. From history we will get an insight into how the next generation will deal with the decadence that came before it.