Thought Police and the Poets

by Circle or Line

My objection to political correctness, as a Christian, is that it is diabolic; as a conservative, that it is Marxist; as a philosopher, that it is not merely untruthful but openly nihilistic and irrational; as a practical man, that it makes rational conversation about any controversial topic all but impossible; as a gentleman that is substitutes political fashion for true courtesy; but as a writer my objection is that Political Correctness lacks drama.

To support this point, it would behoove us first to define the elements of drama, and second to define Political Correctness. But PC is a school of thought that is esoteric in the literal sense of the word, that it, a school of thought whose point not to be defined, and who go to great lengths, even to the denial of truth and reality, to undermine attempts to define it.

Despite this, it is not that hard to define. Political Correctness is cultural Marxism, that is, the Marxist analysis of all human history into a single factor: the Darwinian war between oppressor-class and oppressed-class. Everything is a power struggle; all human relations are power relations. In the case of Political Correctness, it is culture rather than economics which is said to be determined by power struggles.

(PC differs from classical Marxism by the introduction by Herbert Marcuse of Freudian ideas, claiming that civilization produced sexual neurosis, and that a culture of “polymorphous perversity” wherein all desires and lusts would be sated and all goods and services would be free and all work would be play would follow from the destruction of all traditions, codes, laws, and legal relationships. Few or no PCniks these days voice Marcuse’s Utopian goals, but the steps they take and the effects that follow are the same.)

The idea that all cultural values and expressions, from literature to institutions to language to sacraments, are determined by power struggles means that anything, anything at all, can be accused of being a type of oppression.

A racial slur becomes not merely rudeness, but an act tantamount to thousands of years of violence against the oppressed. A cartoon showing a teenaged superheroine using her mutant powers to do housework becomes tantamount to forbidding the women from entering the workforce, backed with social and legal sanctions. Or, to use an example from the current headlines, Catholic charities and hospitals and radio stations who demur on religious grounds from paying for the contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, or medical sterilization of their employees becomes tantamount to an attempt impose by force the laws of the Dark Ages upon women, when they were bought and sold like chattel.

The accusation is unanswerable, like the accusation of being a witch.

Dovetailing neatly with this is the dogma of deconstruction, which says, in brief, that the surface meaning of literature, or other cultural expressions, cannot possibly be determined, but the inner psychological motives can be determined with ease, and the motives are always the desire to oppress and control. So Shakespeare can be ‘deconstructed’ to be about nothing but homosexuality, or the Bible be ‘deconstructed’ to be about nothing but race relations, and so on.

Political Correctness is not merely false, it is moonbat-barkingly, outrageously, openly, in-your-face false.

It is so false that conservatives cannot understand why or how anyone believes it, even its supporters. As best I can tell, the supporters both believe it and do not believe it at the same time and in the same sense, with a hypocrisy that is breathtaking in its insouciant insolence. By no coincidence, hypocrisy is the main charge leveled by PC-niks against conservatives.

But it is deliberately, knowingly false. That is the significant fact to grasp.

Because it is false, it naturally lends itself to totalitarianism, that is, to the policing of every aspect of thought and life, and this for two reasons: first, normal people will not utter endless falsehood about everything and anything unless they are forced or pressured; second, normal people, once they yield to the force or the pressure and utter lies they themselves know to be false, naturally tend to lack the will to resist further impositions, and lack the strength to repent of the practice.

A third factor which also plays a role is that once everyone in your environment is a liar, and repeats whatever lies the Big Brother demands, the bonds of faith between individuals are severed, and a man has no family, no Church, no brotherhood, no community to whom he can turn for support. He is alone and naked before the stark power of Big Brother.

Because it is false, it can be changed at will. The pious slogans repeated from yesterday become thoughtcrimes tomorrow. Yesterday, in the name of fighting sexism, the pious slogans denounced the hideous abuses of women under Sharia Law, because it was fashionable, but tomorrow, when the fashion changes, that same slogan is Islamophobia ergo thoughtcrime. Because a falsehood can be changed at will, anyone can be denounced at any time no matter how pure his PC credentials.

Why should anyone volunteer for this bizarre system of make believe? There are several reasons:

First, the method of analysis sounds smart, and uses big words but does not require any brains to use, so a person adopting PC can pass himself off as a smart person while not having to do any thinking.

Second, and related, the answers are simple. The method of analysis always yields the desired result. The oppressor groups are simply devils and the oppressed groups are simply angels.

Third, the answers are actionable. The method of analysis cannot come to the conclusion that Man is Fallen, that his nature is utterly depraved, or that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. There are no necessarily evils or even opportunity costs. Every problem is soluble.

Fourth, the solution of problems is effortless. All we need do is change our language, and it will change our thinking; our thinking creates reality, and so politically correct language will create goodthink which will make all problems, economic and social and personal, vanish by magic.

Fifth, the motive is always benevolent. The motive for the deeply committed PCnik is to end all human suffering and bring about utopia. No one aside from a villain of the blackest heart or dimmest brain would oppose paradise, unless he were afraid. Consequently, the PCnik regard all their opponents as brainless dupes, gutless cowards, conscienceless henchmen, or as heartless villains.

The motive for the average dupe swept up into PC is, again, merely benevolence. Since he would not use a racial slur to insult a Black man, the moment his teachers and entertainers and opinion-molders tell him that ‘pervert’ is tantamount to a racial slur, or the use of ‘he’ for the neuter pronoun, or the use of ‘A.D.’ for the reckoning of years, or the use of the word ‘bastard’ to refer to an illegitimate child, of the use of the world ‘child’ to refer to an unborn fetus, and so on and so on, the average man, conservative or not, will adopt the linguistic oddities and perversions of PC, thinking he is adhering to a standard of courtesy higher and nobler than all other standards. He will also revile Michelle Malkin as a whore chink bitch, because she is a conservative, which is tantamount to being Emmanuel Goldstein.

Sixth, the system is infinitely flexible. Because anything can be deconstructed at will to mean anything, asking someone to call ‘marriage’ a ‘gay marriage ban’ and to call support for marriage sexism, and heteronormalism, and homophobia, becomes tantamount to asking someone not to call a Black man by a racial slur. Better still, even a complimentary stereotype, such as saying Chinamen are hard-working or Jews are good at book-learning, becomes tantamount to a slur. Even better again, perfectly normal words that have never been meant nor taken as offensive, such as ‘Oriental’, or ‘Native’, or ‘Indian’ become tantamount to slurs. Even when the spokesmen for the group involved say that word in question does not offend them, once the PC accusation is made, there is no defense and no trial.

Finally, the system always allows the PC-nik to conclude that he is the moral and not just the mental superior to all other men, and grants him the palm of the martyr without the mess of martyrdom, the halo of sanctity without the effort of being saintly, or even decent. The Christians may have abolished slavery world-wide, but you refuse to use the word ‘Eskimo’ and refuse to condemn sadomasochism as a sexual perversion, and so this enables you to look down your nose at the moral teachings of Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, and Christ.

The secret of Political Correctness is that it is Gnostic. PC is a worldview that holds that society is radically evil and false, in the same way that Gnostic teach the material world is evil and false, and every cultural value is the reverse of the truth, in the same way the Gnostics teach that God is the Devil and the Devil is God and every divine commandment is the reverse of the truth.

While this Gnosticism of Politics has many complex side effects, it has one clear purpose. Any evil can be made to seem good by declaring it to be part of the struggle to overthrow the world-system, and, likewise, any good can be made to seem evil by declaring it to be supportive of the world system. Hence a man who fights against a degrading sexual vice or perversion is not virtuous in the PC universe, because such a man is trying to live up to an objective standard, and wishes not to demean himself or to betray his mate; but a man who approves of a degrading vice or perversion is not vicious but quite the opposite, because he is nonjudgmental, which is the sole virtue in their system.

This will serve as a definition of PC. What are the needs of drama?

Political Correctness has one and only one story to tell: the glorious revolution of the plucky rebels against wicked and evil Rich Uncle Pennybags, the mascot of Parker Brothers’ Monopoly Game. Sometimes the rebels are against Elmer Gantry or Nehemiah Scudder or Simon Legree.

The problem is that, aside from this one rebel story, Political Correctness is only fit for satire. Anything else, and PC eliminates the tension, and the moral compass, needed for a satisfying tale. You cannot write a politically correct love story, because love stories require masculine men and feminine heroines. You cannot write a politically correct war story, unless the story is about corruption in the ranks, because masculine virtues of bravery or boldness or chivalry toward a fallen foe are all incorrect. You cannot even write a decent Cowboys-and-Indians story, not even if it is placed on Mars as a Cowboys-and-Martians story, because PC does not allow you to cheer for Cowboys. They are the wrong race. PC does not allow you to cheer for fighting men. They are the wrong ‘gender.’ And fighting is wrong (except when plucky rebels kill Rich Uncle Pennybags, etc.)

Envy is just not that dramatic. The one and only story Envy tells is about getting even with your betters. Aside from that, the world view is too narrow to tell a tale.

First, drama is dramatic when it is smart rather than simple, trite, or childish. The best dramas have plots and characters clear enough for a child to understand, but involve layers and levels of meaning scholars can study fruitfully. Political Correctness, by its very nature, is simplistic and preachy, hardly rising above allegory. It merely ruins a story to turn it into a sermon.

Second, in a real drama, no answers are simple. Even Darth Vader in a childish space opera movie reaches a moment of true drama when he is revealed to be the father of Luke Skywalker, because the possibility opens either for pagan tragedy or Christian redemption. Neither tragedy nor redemption, if handled dramatically, would be simple.

Third, in a drama, in order to be drama, the boundary conditions or basic axioms of the plot have to be unchangeable. When Antigone faces the choice either to obey the gods and bury her traitorous brother, or to obey the King and leave her brother’s corpse to rot, there is no drama if Antigone can simply ask the King to write her a waiver, or if the gods reveal that their laws are merely guidelines and suggestions. All drama with a moral conflict requires a moral code against which other desires and needs and demands, including moral demands, batter themselves.

Political Correctness, by its very nature, hold that there are no fixed standards. There is one and only one drama of moral conflict open to a PC dramatist: the foolish moralist disapproves of someone, and then learns his disapproval is evil, and so grows into becoming nonjudgmental.

Fourth, and related to the last point, a story where everyone is nonjudgmental and nature is forgiving of errors contains no room for conflict and hence no room for drama. If you put your characters in a world where changing the names of things changed reality, there is no room for conflict. Everything is accomplished at a word.

Fifth, the characters have to be stereotyped according to excruciatingly flat Politically Correct stereotypes. This is especially true of racial stereotypes. Suppose you are doing a King Arthur movie. In a non-PC version, everyone would be English, or at least Norman. In a PC version one must introduce a token Black without making him look like a token, and he cannot be the comedy relief, or the traitor, so he has to be the wiseman and adviser (but without seeming to be the “magical negro”). But if he talks with a British accent, he might be accused of being inauthentic, or trying to “sound white.” Maybe he can play Sir Palamedes, the Saracen Knight, and be a Muslim from Ethiopia, but only if he does not convert to Christianity (as Palamedes does in the Arthur tales) and only if it is emphasized that the Muslim civilization was superior to the Christian.

This will not save the author from being savaged, however. If there is not the right mix of non-Christians, non-Whites, and non-Males on the Round Table, not to mention persons of alternate sexuality.

But it is really hard to get drama out of flat characters. And Political Correctness makes it hard to differentiate members of the oppressor and oppressed class. Any member of the one or the other has to behave according to PC stereotypes. If you have a member of the designated evil class, white Christian males, act like a normal person, a mix of good and evil, his goodness will be denounced as that author’s attempt to flatter or whitewash his class evils.

Likewise, if you have a member of the designated good class act like a normal person, a mix of good and evil, his evil will be denounced as that author’s hatred and bigotry against (1) whatever class the character is a member of (2) whatever class the accuser is reminded of when he looks at the character.

Recall the tempest in a teapot when M Night Shyamalan cast Caucasians to represent the Fire Nation in the movie version of LAST AIRBENDER? The argument was made that having the arch-villain Uncle Iroh played by a Persian actor was insupportable racism. The accusers were unaware that Uncle Iroh was a hero, and even more unaware that Persians are Caucasians (the Caucasus mountains from which the race gets its name runs through Persia). But a witchhunter does not need to get his facts straight: the accusation is all that matters. The crowning irony was that the blue-eyed seal-fur wearing Water Tribe race was played by Caucasians, and the PCniks writhing in agonies because of the insult to whatever race it was that the Water Tribe was supposed to be, I assume Siberians. My point is that real people who are members of real races do not have to really be offended by whatever is accused to be racially insensitive: even cartoon people will serve in a pinch.

Sixth, since the standards change, and change arbitrarily, a politically correct drama must of its nature avoid any controversial material. But drama is controversy. In a good drama, even the villain has a moment to say his piece, give his side of the story, utter his justification. PC would not allow Rich Uncle Pennybags to make a speech extolling the benefits of capitalism because the writer dare not reveal that he understands the enemy’s doctrines.

Drama requires a moral compass, and that political correctness lacks it.

It might seem shocking to say PC lacks a moral compass, because the PC-nik are so overwhelmingly self-righteous. You might think “Surely they have a very high moral standard? They cram it down our throats every chance they get, and indoctrinate our children in it, and infuse our laws and institutions to the point of implosion with it? To them, throwing out your garbage correctly is a morally significant act! Everything is a morally significant act!”

You would be right if, as the PC hold it to be, all morality were a political ploy. Yes, they are filled to the brim with red-faced teeth-clenching, protest-marching self-righteous indignation, they are as humorless as puritans and as over-sensitive as Victorians.

But — and this is the crucial but—but it is not moral indignation.

It is political indignation.

And it is not political the way you and I use the word politics, to refer to how best to arrange the necessary evils of the public agora for the common good, and leave each man to his own devices otherwise. Like the Christ of the Christians, the Big Brother of the PCniks demands the whole life of the whole man. There is no private sphere for the totalitarians, and no best arrangement for the utopians, no discussion of what necessary evils one must tolerate. All necessary evils are unnecessary. So the political attempt of the totalitarian utopians is how to arrange everything not just for the common good, but for the perfect good of each nook and corner of each man’s soul. Your innermost thoughts are a political matter. Where and how you mate, or what ritual solemnizes the event, are political. Whether you burn your leaves is political; or whether your cow passes gas.

So, finally, PC drains drama out of dramas by being Gnostic. The Gnostic world view is merely he reverse of the normal world: whatever is evil is good and whatever is good is evil. But by the nature of the case, one cannot get a great deal of drama out of pro-evil propaganda. Once you tell someone that he is right to be selfish and self-indulgent and irrational, and that all the voices who say otherwise are trying to deceive him from absurdly wicked motives, then what else is there to say? The first time one read about a brave rebellion again heaven, the story has some zest and appeal. But in real life wickedness is crass and nasty and dull, and evil actually does bring bad consequences along with it, and selfishness is boring compared to saintliness.

John C. Wright:

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