Permanence and Political Correctness

The recent news that New Jersey legislators are demanding that Huckleberry Finn, a redemptive tale of interracial friendship, be removed from public school curricula on grounds of racial vulgarity provides a sobering reminder that political correctness is about more than free speech. It is about the divide between permanence and progress.

To see why, instead of striking one canonical work of American literature from the curriculum, New Jersey lawmakers might consider adding, and reading, another: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dystopian story “Earth’s Holocaust,” which depicts an orgy of progress in which everything old, starting with “yesterday’s newspapers,” is thrown on a bonfire and consumed.

Hawthorne narrates a sequence of futile attempts to achieve progress by expunging the past. The marauders throw implements of war on the fire, the narrator inquiring of a skeptical “old commander” (note the “old”), “Do you imagine that the human race will ever so far return on the steps of its past madness as to weld another sword or cast another cannon?”

“There will be no need,” the commander replies in an enduring locution. “When Cain wished to slay his brother, he was at no loss for a weapon.”

Money, deeds to property, books of philosophy—everything burns. But the revelers, we learn, have neglected to torch the one thing that will regenerate all the rest: “the human heart itself.” A “dark-visaged” and red-eyed stranger who appears at the story’s end laughs: “And, unless they hit upon some method of purifying that foul cavern, forth from it will reissue all the shapes of wrong and misery—the same old shapes or worse ones—which they have taken such a vast deal of trouble to consume to ashes.”

Hawthorne’s point is not merely that sin is endemic to man but also that the frenzy for progress at the expense of what Russell Kirk—half a century ago this year—called “the permanent things” is self-consuming.

The bonfire is an important dimension of what travels under the label “political correctness”: the war on permanence. The label, to be sure, can obscure as well as illuminate. It has been deployed to protect patent incivility and to assail simple decency. But it also denotes a genuine phenomenon according to which language and policies that were widely employed and endorsed yesterday are, with astonishing suddenness, execrable today.

The essence of the genuine phenomenon distills to this: Progress starts today, on the basis of today’s moral standards, and anything that precedes it is ipso facto suspect.

Huckleberry Finn has faced a perennial indictment—the book burners in this case do not know how retro they actually are—but this mania has also recently extended to calls to dismantle monuments to the slave-owning founders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Now, let us specify what, in an age of political correctness, is obligatory: the N-word that Mark Twain stands accused of using too often in his masterwork is objectively offensive, and Washington and Jefferson are accountable for enslaving people, which must be weighed opposite their ample virtues. But the phenomenon of political correctness, as Hawthorne teaches, is nonetheless fundamentally about progress at the expense of the past. What frustrates those accused of violating the tents of political correctness is that the goalposts are constantly moving in the name of progress. The moral authority is never Burke’s “collected reason of ages.” It is always the omnipresent now, oriented toward the glorified future.

This faith in the now arises from a boundless confidence in contemporaneous reason that in turn implies a conception of man as the measure. It is not possible, or perhaps it is not necessary, to believe in reason’s limitations when man is not accountable to anything that transcends himself. The notion of permanence, and its transcendent nature, imply limits to human reason that the cult of progress cannot accept, for permanence declares there are some things reason cannot change or fully comprehend.

Progress, by contrast, rejects the past by necessity. Terminology that was commonplace in what Hawthorne called “yesterday’s newspapers” is consequently offensive today. The same is true of political positions. Barack Obama could not win the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 because the health-care reform he signed in 2010—then considered revolutionary—left too much room for the private insurers that the champions of Medicare for All deplore today. Among elements of the right, the issue is less progress than the present: Fealty to the sitting president can upend long-standing norms because the standard is not tradition but rather today. On either account, whether progress or presentism, there can be neither heroes—they come from the past, a foreign country—nor traditions.

Genuine opposition to political correctness—as opposed to using the term to cloak incivility—must be anchored in a respect, arising from modesty, for the authority of the past. Burke’s respect for the collected reason of ages was about the idea that the accumulation of human experience might contain more wisdom than the smartest professor in the room right now. Political correctness rightly understood, by contrast, regards today’s standards as de facto superior to yesterday’s because today’s are steps on the road of progress.

The issue is thus not a freedom to say whatever one wants whenever one wants. Yes, within reason, such is a principle of free speech. But while the principle of open debate is vital, free speech alone leaves opposition to political correctness rootless, or at least not fully rooted. Excoriation, after all, is an exercise of free speech too. The real issue is that we do not know everything in the here and now. We are not by definition smarter than those who preceded us.

That a work of literature has endured in the canon (itself now an offensive term) for more than a century might suggest there is something to it that is not wholly evident if it is held up merely to the standards of the moment. The same is true of custom.

The internal logic of progress dictates the opposite. That something is old makes it prima facie retrograde. Progress cannot tolerate the traditional because it is a barrier to the future. The goalposts must move. Today’s champions of purity of thought and speech will themselves be excommunicated from the church of progress tomorrow.

In “Earth’s Holocaust,” after tobacco is tossed into the flames, an “old gentleman”—again, “old”—laments: “Well, they’ve put my pipe out . . . . What is this world coming to? Everything rich and racy—all the spice of life—is to be condemned as useless. Now that they have kindled the bonfire, if these nonsensical reformers would fling themselves into it, all would be well enough!”

Hawthorne writes: “‘Be patient,’ responded a staunch conservative; ‘it will come to that in the end. They will first fling us in, and finally themselves.’” They will. The politically correct today will be intolerable tomorrow. At its core, progress demands it.

Reader Discussion

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on April 03, 2019 at 10:56:39 am

Fine essay BUT....

I wonder if Weiner could simply put on offer his ever present gratuitous "excoriation" of The Trumpster AT THE BEGINNING of his essays and simply get it over with.

" Excoriation, after all, is an exercise of free speech too. "

indeed it is! Yet, recognizing this fact, one wonders why the use of this rhetorical device by The Trumpster is not afforded the same respect as is the constant excoriation of anyone or anything thought, practice or belief which is contrary to the Progressive mindset.

After all, it may be said that, at long last, someone, somewhere, somehow is "excoriating" the enervating, debilitating, mindless, delusional fantasies of the Progressive elements that heretofore constituted an unchallenged hegemony over the public square.

Hey, now THAT'S Progress.

Otherwise a very nice essay.

And if one wants to see proff of the tendency for self-immolation, view yesterdays Congressional hearings where a gay feminist is pilloried because she does not support the new (and ever more demanding) *tranny* agenda.

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Image of gabe
on April 03, 2019 at 11:44:34 am

If you're not afraid of words, why don't you ban school uniforms and let us wear what we want to school?
So long as you don't let us wear rap t-shirts with slang lyrics, we'll ban books with those same words.

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Fifty Centipede
on April 03, 2019 at 12:35:32 pm

The self-righteous brown shirts who would destroy history because it does not meet the exacting standards of the present are blinded by the conceit that they are infallible. History is very humbling in that regard, reminding us of the inevitability of human error. We should never lose sight of that lesson.

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Mark Pulliam
on April 03, 2019 at 13:07:03 pm

A reasonable notion of multiculturalism would stress not only the need for racial and gender diversity, but also diversity as expressed by 'old books', old ideas, traditional morality, and the traditional social order. To expunge western history/literature on the grounds that it is 'old' violates the very principle of diversity that multiculturalism professes to uphold; namely, that 'difference' has intrinsic value. I do not expect the Left to endorse Chaucer or Milton, but exempting them from the curriculum just leaves their students with that much less 'difference' and, thus, just that much less wisdom when it comes to deciding what is True.

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Image of Karl
on April 03, 2019 at 13:53:20 pm

Dear Boy:

You miss the point. It is not wisdom that determines Truth in today's environment, it is "Feelings"

Indeed, if i recall there was pop song titled that some years back. It should be the new Marching Song of the SJW's,

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Image of gabe
on April 03, 2019 at 15:34:09 pm

Huckleberry Finn has faced a perennial indictment—the book burners in this case do not know how retro they actually are….

Seriously? An author decrying the excesses of political correctness is criticizing others for lack of originality? This is like a black hole calling the kettle black.

Oh, those naughty, naughty politically correct people, pushing progress. Alas that Weiner neglected to name that era in which everything was correct, and thus no more progress was warranted.

But, of course, no such era existed. I expect that change from the status quo (“progress”) is warranted in every era—even our own, and even if we currently lack the perspective from which to appreciate the need. Moreover, I expect that Weiner would acknowledge the point.

If we acknowledge that progress may be warranted in every era, how then to achieve it? I see three general paths:
1. Reason and debate.
2. After-the-fact sanctions.
3. Before-the-fact or contemporaneous force.

I have a fondness for reason and debate—perhaps not surprising among people who haunt public policy blogs. And I favor reason and debate as tools for PICKING public policies. But as tools for implementing public policies, they have shortcomings. It can be difficult and time-consuming to discuss Kant’s Categorical Imperatives to refrain from murder with a man who is gunning down people in a synagogue. Thus, every society embraces some use of sanctions and/or force.

“Political correctness” is just the latest term to refer to the informal sanction of showing disapproval for violations of prevailing social norms.

Yes, the Weiners of the world decry how political correctness is prompting people to deviate from past practices, and maybe even prompting us to present a “whitewashed” version of ourselves. And I’d agree. Yet we have ALWAYS presented a curated version of ourselves, reflecting the values of those in power in any given day. After all, in 1850 there were no Confederate flags or monuments. Over time people in power CHOSE to create and use them, deviating from the past in a manner that reflected how those powerful people wanted to represent themselves. Likewise, in 1850 no school taught Huckleberry Finn. At some point in time, those in power CHOSE to begin teaching that book (and, presumably, to stop teaching some other book) in public schools. Today, people in power are making different choices, consistent with their views. Some are choosing to discontinue the practice of displaying Confederate flags or monuments on publish lands; others are choosing to discontinue teaching Huckleberry Finn in public schools. Different eras, different sensibilities—and I know of no standard for declaring that the sensibilities of one era are necessarily better than the sensibilities of the succeeding era.

Now, I share Weiner’s affection for Huckberry Finn, and I would adamantly oppose efforts to ban the book. But, contra Weiner, I am not aware of politically correct people seeking to burn the book. (They’d be too concerned about the carbon emissions.) Rather, I understand that some people express concerns that their taxpayer dollars are being used to compel children into environments where people will be saying nigger, nigger, nigger at them. Given these concerns, must we conclude that there are no other works in the English language that a public school English class can teach productively other than Huckberry Finn?

I LIKE Huckberry Finn—but unlike Weiner, I don’t venerates it as an irreplaceable part of the “collected reason of ages.” Likewise, I like the Bible, a book of moral teachings—that somehow accepts the institution of slavery. The Bible may be ancient; it may have a lot of merit; but I am not persuaded that it has a monopoly on merit, and I’m happy to consider other—and even more recent—sources for moral guidance. Would Weiner disagree? And if not, would he recommend that accord greater veneration to Huckleberry Finn than to the Bible?

Let us love one another, but not worship one another. That goes for books, too.

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on April 03, 2019 at 15:37:41 pm

An aside:

[L]et us specify what, in an age of political correctness, is obligatory: the N-word that Mark Twain stands accused of using too often in his masterwork is objectively offensive….

Here I suspect Weiner means to say, “To avoid focusing on the rightness or wrongness of taking offense to the N-word, let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that the N-word is objectively offensive.” I don’t begrudge Weiner that statement. But on the off chance that he meant his remark more literally, let me express a contrary view.

First, I don’t embrace the idea that anything IS offensive. Rather, I argue that individual perceivers may TAKE OFFENSE when they encounter certain stimuli. Offense arises solely in the mind of a sentient being. If a tree falls in a wood and says “nigger” but there’s no one to hear it, does it give offense? I don’t see how.

Second, I don’t embrace the idea that the offense arising from this word is objective—arising regardless of context. Thus, right before students read Huckleberry Finn, they read Romeo and Juliette, and must be TAUGHT that “I bite my thumb at you” is a gesture intended to give offense. Likewise, in the absence of an effort at education, I expect plenty of people who don’t speak English could hear the word “nigger” without taking offense. Similarly, plenty of people perceive the word in some contexts—archetypically, in rap music performed by black artists—without taking offense.

Third, and most importantly, I repeat my preference for reason and debate. Part of that preference entails taking pains to avoid doing things that needlessly trigger other people’s visceral fight-or-flight responses that make reasoning difficult. But another part entails learning to discipline my fight-or-flight responses. I should strive to OWN my reaction, recognize it as a visceral fight-or-flight response, and manage it. If I say something “is objectively offensive,” I abandon any sense of control over, or responsibility for, my own reactions; I don’t want to do that.

In conclusion, I suspect that the current sensitivity over the N-word, black face, cultural appropriation, Confederate paraphernalia, etc., will dissipate, and many of the things that provoke the people of today will not provoke their children or grandchildren. Then, Huckleberry Finn may make a triumphant return (or may not; I expect people will continue writing—and discovering—works in English, and some may warrant teaching in public schools). That doesn’t mean that “political correctness” will disappear. Rather, each generation will have new taboos, and members of the prior generation will find new terms for decrying these novel impositions on cherished, venerated customs. Turn, turn, turn….

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Image of nobody.really
on April 03, 2019 at 16:16:35 pm


You are a bright and perceptive feloow as well as quite literate BUT... how can you be so UN-observant.
All that you say re: changing forms of WHAT is politically correct, is on-point. what is deemed proper is variant, time-constrained, etc.

Yet, the difference would seem, to me, to be the level of "compulsion" presently directed at all who do not share the same views.

Here are two examples: (the 2nd will have an incomplete link as this site does not allow the posting of two links in the same comment)



Consider your own experience. No doubt there were times that you found yourself on the opposite of some group advocating X, Y or Z.
Were you ever subjected to this form / level of persuasion?

I was not; I doubt that you were.

No, it strikes me that the current SJW mob manning the barricades NEED to deny any opposing viewpoint as their entire self-image is inextricably bound to the new "humanism". It takes the place formerly occupied by faith; and like any newly converted zealot there is an abundance of energy required to suppress any and all doubts one may personally harbor.

That IS the difference between the silent conformity (such as it is alleged) of the mid-century past and the present rhetorical falderol with which they adorn their supercilious proclamations / schema. It stems from the mistaken / misguided belief in human perfection and the egotistical / narcissistic delusion that they are called upon to be THAT instrument of perfection. To admit of any weakness in this theoretical / rhetorical posture is to DENY their own vaunted perception of themselves.

As for me. I shall repeat:

I believe, indeed, I relish the *collisions* attendant upon human intercourse /exchange.

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Image of gabe
on April 03, 2019 at 16:55:22 pm

You say you prefer reason and debate, but reason and debate cannot go on ad infinitum; the debate must have a decisive terminus ad quem. At that point power must be resorted to to enforce the decision. Political correctness is hostile to reason and debate; it holds that its propositions are the decisive outcomes of past reason-and-debate that it is not appropriate to re-reason and re-debate, but only to enforce. Young progressives are discouraged from investing the time and effort in learning the history of the reason and debate concentrated in their slogans and propositions and encouraged instead to simply add their own mass to the enforcement effort.

And while you are not wrong about the shelf-life of current progressive sensitivities--after all, the Left's sensitivities to bourgeois and reactionary and kulak and false consciousness eventually gave way to different sensitivities--you underestimate, I think, the destructive power of fashionable sensitivities joined to political power (see, e.g., USSR). Progressives can do a lot of damage with their transient sensitivities. If the sole progressive demand were to remove Huck Finn, I'm sure we could all accommodate them and move on. But you well know that is only where they start, not where they end.

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on April 03, 2019 at 18:01:41 pm

1. Person who objects to transgendered people gets harassed: I agree with you in opposing harassment and terrorism against people who express opposition to the transgendered.

But why stop there? Some people disapprove of Muslims. Some disapprove of Jews. Some disapprove of gays. Some disapprove of journalists. Some disapprove of authors. Some disapprove of abortion providers. And to express this disapproval, some people are willing to harass them endlessly, or even MURDER THEM.

Gabe seems to find harassment and terrorism problematic--but either he is ignorant of the fact that people of all political persuasions employ these tactics, or he only objects when politically correct people employ the tactics. In contrast, I object to harassment and terrorism more generally, regardless of the viewpoint being advanced or impeded.

In any event, I don’t see where Weiner discusses people employing harassment or terrorism, so I don’t know what this example has to do with Weiner’s essay.

2. Civil rights laws: Again, I object—because I favor creating the Market Power Affirmative Defense.

But otherwise, this is the nature of civil rights laws: They promote equality. And at the margin, we must trade off some freedom to get some equality—or some equality to get some freedom. There’s no free lunch.

In hiring, should employers be able to discriminate against black or Jewish applicants? If not, then you support racial or religious equality among applicants—but also support impinging upon the freedom of employers. If not, then you support defending the freedom of employers—but at the cost of reducing racial equality among applicants.

And if you agree that society can limit an employer’s right to discriminate on the basis of race or religion, then why not on the basis of LGBT status? True, there are arguments that the federal government is constrained in the kinds of interests it can defend—but states have plenary powers to extend civil rights laws as they choose.

Oh, but religion! Fine—but the KKK practices religion, too. Remember, they’re part of the Christian Identify Movement, and gather around a flaming cross, right? So if you defend people’s religious right to discriminate against LGBT, you also defend people’s religious right to discriminate against black and Jewish people. If you oppose people’s right to discriminate against blacks and Jews, even on the basis of religion, then why not LGBT rights, too? Pick your poison.

I favor Scalia’s decision in Smith v. Employment Division: Government should avoid discriminating on the basis of religion. That means enforcing rules of general applicability in a non-discriminatory manner, regardless of a person’s religion.

But SCOTUS doesn’t really have a consistent view on free exercise/establishment matters. The Court’s basic posture is to side with whoever seems more sympathetic, doctrine be damned. Mostly that means siding with Christians. (While Catholics are less than 25% of the US population, they’ve long been a majority of the Supreme Court.) But they have also ruled in favor of oppressed Jehovah’s Witnesses, Amish, and Muslims, and Native Americans. So there’s a good chance the Court would require religious exceptions.

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on April 03, 2019 at 18:24:41 pm

You say you prefer reason and debate, but reason and debate cannot go on ad infinitum; the debate must have a decisive terminus ad quem. At that point power must be resorted to to enforce the decision.

Well, yes and no. Yes, it helps to render a decision at a given point in time, and to enforce the decision. But no, people can—and generally should—remain open to reconsidering decisions based on new evidence or new analysis.

Political correctness is hostile to reason and debate; it holds that its propositions are the decisive outcomes of past reason-and-debate that it is not appropriate to re-reason and re-debate, but only to enforce.

Curious. Weiner argues the opposite—that political correctness rejects the past, and focuses solely on the present and future.

Racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, McCarthism—all of these are problems that arguably arose from a kind of mindless social conformity arising from past norms. So I concur that mindless social conformity has its problems—but can we really stuff all of this under the label “political correctness”? If so, then we’re really altering the definition. And if not, then I’d conclude that the damages that the politically correct seek to rectify are vast, while the damages that the politically correct are causing are minute in comparison. That doesn’t justify mindlessness—and certainly doesn’t justify harassment and terrorism—but it puts it in some perspective.

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on April 03, 2019 at 21:13:30 pm

During the twenties and early thirties, my grandfather became prosperous providing people with what they wanted and could not legally obtain. When I was born at the end of 1943, my ration book was an asset in a family that was living on a five acre remnant of a formerly prosperous farm that was acquired by three of his children with war department jobs and recruiting bonuses. My grandfather got occasional part time work and some county assistance and my grandmother supplemented Social Security by working as a practical nurse paid under the table.
While they blamed their state on the Depression but it arose from the simple fact that the repeal of the Volstead Act put a lot of people in his position out of business without a golden parachute.
The state of New Jersey is considering a ban on Hucklebery Finn in the public school curriculum because of the language. In Hartford, Connecticut, the house belonging to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an anti-slavery book which sold to a limited, highly preachy audience. Ms Stowe’s residence is on the same historic site as that of Mark Twain. The adventures of Huck and Jim delivered the same (yet stronger) message against slavery to a much larger readership over a much longer period with humor—a much stronger weapon than melodrama. I realize that the guide described Mark Twain as a “westerner,” sort of glossing over that Sam Clemens grew up in a southern culture and enlisted in the Confederate Army.
When I encountered Huckleberry Finn in second grade it was in Wyoming which did not provide a lot of commentary. As a high school junior, I was given a “whitewashed” version so to speak in southern California. I probably would not just throw the book out there. Mark Twain was a major writer of late nineteenth, early twentieth century American literature. And Huckleberry Finn is probably his strongest work. Would we ban use of Moby Dick as an exemplar of Melville. Don’t answer that—that would be on the PC crowd’s list.
I do know that what is banned does not disappear. When I was in high school minors—those below draft age—did not have the ability to purchase tobacco products. They were also prohibited on school grounds. Draft card and dependent id in hand I purchased cigarettes at ten to fifteen cents a pack. Following in my grandfather’s footsteps I exchanged those packs for fifty cents apiece down the street from the school.
Another note—when the powers that be expressed disapproval of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, I obtained copies which I sold at a fifty percent profit down the street from the school.

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Earl Haehl
on April 04, 2019 at 01:18:48 am

Professor Weiner has an interesting perspective, but I sense an element of the blind men and the elephant in his discussion. The subject of political correctness has many facets and can be viewed from many perspectives. I am not convinced, for example, that political correctness is about rejecting the past. I believe that an argument exists for the opposite view.

If one eliminates the story of yesterday, he is not left with only tomorrow, but also the day before yesterday. The progressive fantasy is not about making a novel and uncertain future, it is as much about returning to an imagined past. The clearest example of this was the Khmer Rouge project of returning to "year zero." There is a reason why the Green New Deal rejects nuclear power as part of the future, and that is that the ideal is some fondly mis-remembered time in the distant past. The campus "activists" want to re-create the Selma of the civil rights era, so they can demonstrate their virtue, now that it is essentially risk-free to do so. The true progressive does not want to start from the present, with all of the uncomfortable history that went into making it, he wants to start from a point that makes the future possible but also safe. What he really wants is to revert, not to some historical reset point, but to a past that exists only in make-believe. Political correctness is concerned with creating and maintaining illusions about the past, and how the present should have been so much better. The goal is not to build a world, but to dismantle it to its mythic historical foundations and rebuild it the way it should have been in the first place. This is why we have Hollywood liberals telling us how great it is that certain tribes in South America live the same way they did centuries ago, as though they do so by choice. It is why economic illiterates gush about barter systems and organic vegetables.

The progressive yearns for the Utopian past, the peaceful and harmonious world that existed before white Europeans invented hurricanes, and famines, and ethnic strife, and carnivorous diets, and disease, and religion that did not have Gaia at the center. They want to return to the time before we knew about Y chromosomes, and radiation. Only they want to keep dentistry, convenient birth control and air conditioning. Progressives do not want to eliminate the past to build a future unencumbered by it. What they want is a historical do-over; a mulligan on their terms. They do not want to erase the past; they want to make us ashamed of how we turned the past into the present. This is not a novel concept. The National Socialists, such as Afred Rosenberg and Heinrich Himmler professed a mythology of Utopian pasts corrupted by historical influences, the heroic Nordic race with its pagan gods, undermined by racial saboteurs. A major purpose of political correctness is myth-making.

One example of this politically correct tactic is the decision by the president of the University of Notre Dame to cover murals depicting Columbus in the new world. The murals were painted in the 1880s and depicted Columbus in a favorable light, while relegating aboriginal North Americans to supporting roles. Progressives objected to the depictions and demanded their removal. Covering the murals does not negate incorrect history of 1492; it rather disapproves of the history of 1885. The murals are historical records, not so much of Columbus, but how Columbus was viewed in the latter half of the 19th century. Progressives do not want to erase Columbus; they want to define him as the despoiler of Paradise. A similar rationale underlies the attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn. The politically correct activists are not trying to protect history, they are trying to advance a narrative about how wonderful the world was and could be again, if western civilization is rejected. The narrative is of course, false. Political correctness is ultimately about undermining confidence in the institutions that have made the modern world. This is why political correctness tries to insinuate itself into every facet of modern life--sports, science, entertainment, education, the military, the justice system, etc. Small myths won't do.

Political correctness is a phenomenon of intimidation, bullying and backwardness. Like all such phenomena, it is not a consequence of hope and virtue, but of fear, envy and magical thinking.

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on April 04, 2019 at 08:09:56 am

Political correctness is a phenomenon of intimidation, bullying and backwardness.

Gabe already suggested that harassment and terrorism are tactics used peculiarly by proponents of political correctness, and here z9z99 kinda agrees. I dispute this, arguing that they seem like tactics used by people of many different viewpoints; please see prior comments.

The progressive fantasy is not about making a novel and uncertain future, it is as much about returning to an imagined past.

Likewise, here z9z99 argues that a quest for an idealized past is a peculiar characteristic of those promoting political correctness. Yet religion scholar Karen Armstrong argues that this is a characteristic of fundamentalist movements generally:

“Fundamentalist movements in all faiths share certain characteristics. They reveal a deep disappointment and disenchantment with the modern experiment, which has not fulfilled all that it promised. They also express real fear. Every single fundamentalist movement that I have studied is convinced that the secular establishment is determined to wipe religion out. This is not always a paranoid reaction. We have seen that secularism has often been imposed very aggressively in the Muslim world. Fundamentalists look back to a ‘golden age’ before the irruption of modernity for inspiration…. All are intrinsically modern movements and could have appeared at no time other than our own. All are innovative and often radical in their reinterpretation of religion. As such, fundamentalism is an essential part of the modern scene. Wherever modernity takes root, a fundamentalist movement is likely to rise up alongside it in conscious reaction. Fundamentalists will often express their discontent with a modern development by overstressing those elements in their tradition that militate against it.”

Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History

Moreover, whatever the merits of z9z99’s thesis regarding THAT understanding of “political correctness,” is would appear to have little relationship to Weiner’s understanding. Weiner complains that political correctness is prompting people to drop the teaching of Huckberry Finn because of its frequent use of the N-word. That usage is most closely associated with the past; discouraging that usage is associated with the future. The word niger and nigreos arise in Latin, so for people to pine for an era before such a word requires quite a lot of pining. Unlike other fundamentalists I’ve known, I can’t recall anyone I would regard as “politically correct” urging us to return to a pre-literate era.

In short, Weiner’s usage of the term most closely correlates with future-oriented utopian movements, not past-oriented ones.

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Image of nobody.really
on April 04, 2019 at 11:27:23 am

"What they want is a historical do-over; a mulligan on their terms. "

We call that a "breakfast ball" when employed on the first tee.

As often happens with duffers such as myself, the resultant shot is nonetheless a shank.

Our SJW friends have executed many shanks and will continue to do so until such time as they realize that an effective swing is NOT dependent upon BRUTE FORCE but rather is tempered, constrained by the physics of the swing and demands that one keep one's eye on the actual ball.

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Image of gabe
on April 24, 2019 at 08:30:20 am

[…] Greg Weiner on why those who do not respect the past will always destroy it in the name of progress. — Weiterlesen www.lawliberty.org/2019/04/03/permanence-progress-political-correctness/ […]

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Image of Permanence and Political Correctness – Kon/Spira[l]
Permanence and Political Correctness – Kon/Spira[l]

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.