A Howell is never wrong! Cut off a piece and make it fit!

Political correctness is a concept with a lot of potential—that goes unfulfilled.
The term (in anything close to its current usage) dates back to left-wing ideological discussions in the early seventies, or so I’ve read; being only 13 in 1971, I didn’t participate in a lot of radical activism (heck, about two years earlier, or so I’ve been told, the school district was still checking guys hair with a ruler to make sure it wasn’t going too hippy—yes, Fort Walton Beach was that conservative). This was parodied in a comic-strip in the early eighties (IIRC) in which the politically correct protagonist insists he can’t call a nine year old girl a girl; when she objects to “woman,” he settles on “pre woman.” In other words political correctness meant obsessive fuss about what political dogma says is correct, regardless of whether it works in the real world.
This concept penetrated into the mainstream in the eighties, but not in a good way. Rather than satirizing the “pre woman” kind of thinking, it became a shorthand for anything that was liberal or deviated too far from a white, conservative male norm. Female sidekick to Prince Valiant in an eighties cartoon? Politically correct! Never mind it was on a conservative Christian channel (or that even the authentic legends of Charlemagne had a female knight in them).
And then it mutated into its really ugly form where “politically incorrect” has become some sort of shield for racism—asserting that blacks are inherently stupider than whites only offends people because it’s “politically incorrect” for example (speaking for myself, I’m offended because I really loathe racist arguments cloaked in bad science).
What conservatives don’t want to admit is that political correctness—in the sense of adhering to dogma that doesn’t fit reality—is a universal concept. As witness that conservatives cling to The Truth regardless of the fact it isn’t: Tax cuts always create more revenue and boost the economy! The free market regulates without government intervention (tell that to the people who died of tainted peanut butter a few years ago)! Government is never the solution, always the problem (of course, if they really believed that they’d be a lot less enthused about government that tortures people and, under Obama, orders American citizens executed without trial).
Which is why, back in my Destin Log days, I often made use of the phrase “conservative political correctness” or “libertarian political correctness”—it’s a term that helps people understand what I’m targeting even if they’re not used to seeing it in that context (or possibly they just scratched their heads and thought I’d given them an oxymoron). I’d like to see it used more in that context, and less in the racism-is-political-incorrectness vein.
The extreme PC wing are the serious Marxists and the hardcore objectivists, who have more in common with each other than they’d think. Both are acolytes of secular prophets who revealed The Truth, and reality must be made to conform to it. I knew Communists in college in 1980 who assured me that the USSR had not, in fact, invaded Afghanistan. Likewise, I’ve read objectivist columns explaining that the United States is so noble that it has never taken or conquered land belong to anyone else, which is bull even if you discount the Native American tribes (and objectivists do—Ayn Rand having dismissed the tribes as savages who had no right to their own land, they have no choice but to agree.
Oh, the title of this piece? Back in an old Gilligan’s Island episode, the castaways are trying to piece together a stone-age map that will show them how to catch a current taking them off the island (except as it turns out, it’s a record of how the tribe arrived on the island, not how it was going to leave). When the Professor tells Mr. Howell that his attempt to put the pieces together is wrong—well, Howell insists that the reality should be rejiggered to fit his opinion.
And that sums up political correctness of any stripe.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “A Howell is never wrong! Cut off a piece and make it fit!

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