The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

PC and Psychological Reactance

Donald Trump is nothing if he is not impolitic. Unlike 99.9 percent of those on the political scene, Trump seems unafraid to violate the tenets of political correctness and in so doing, demonstrates (however crudely) that the PC emperors have no clothes. Glen Reynolds discusses this when he writes:
Back in February, analyzing Donald Trump’s appeal, David Gelernter wrote: “Political correctness. Trump hasn't made it a campaign theme exactly, but he mentions it often with angry disgust. Reporters, pundits, and the other candidates treat it as a sideshow, a handy way for Trump (King Kong Jr.) to smack down the pitiful airplanes that attack him as he bestrides his mighty tower, roaring. But the analysts have it exactly backward. Political correctness is the biggest issue facing America today. Even Trump has just barely faced up to it. The ironic name disguises the real nature of this force, which ought to be called invasive leftism or thought-police liberalism or metastasized progressivism ..."

I thought Gelernter was onto something at the time, and I thought about this passage again when reading the thoughts of a 22-year-old Trump supporter quoted by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. Fridersdorf’s correspondent (whose name is redacted) is a prosperous post-collegian in the San Francisco Bay area — someone who should be backing Bernie, or Hillary, or maybe Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. But instead he’s backing Trump, and so is his Asian fiancée. And the reason he gives is political correctness. “For me personally, it's resistance against what San Francisco has been, and what I see the country becoming, in the form of ultra-PC culture. That’s where it's almost impossible to have polite or constructive political discussion. Disagreement gets you labeled fascist, racist, bigoted, etc. It can provoke a reaction so intense that you’re suddenly an unperson to an acquaintance or friend. ... This is a war over how dialogue in America will be shaped. If Hillary wins, we're going to see a further tightening of PC culture. But if Trump wins? If Trump wins, we will have a president that overwhelmingly rejects PC rhetoric. Even better, we will show that more than half the country rejects this insane PC regime.”

It’s not a coincidence that when leftist protesters showed up at a conservative event at Rutgers University, students responded to the leftists’ chants with ”Trump! Trump! Trump!”
As the Democratic Party, the preponderance of all major media sources (that unofficially support the Dem party), the entertainment industry, and many college students veer to the Left, our society is inundated with Leftist ideology (think: Bernie Sanders), often masquerading as political correctness.

Conservative writer, Theodore Dalrymple (h/t: Instapundit) dissects the PC world, comparing the current tyranny of PC to the much older use of communist propaganda:
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
Dalrymple (a pen name for Anthony Daniels) is not suggesting that PC-speak is communist propaganda, but rather, that PC is like propaganda in the sense that it forces many people to parrot beliefs that they know (deep down) are wrong, fantastical, and even dangerous. In essence, advocates of PC argue that any speech that questions deeply help PC orthodoxy represents an "micro-aggression" and should be stifled or outright eliminated.

Thomas Edsall, writing in The New York Times suggests that "psychological reactance" against PC is at the heart of Trump's support. Reactance is defined as: "the feeling you get when people try to stop you from doing something you’ve been doing, and you perceive that they have no right or justification for stopping you. So you redouble your efforts and do it even more, just to show that you don’t accept their domination." The "domination" that many people feel is the imposition of politically correct ideas that does not stand up to reason, common sense or objective proof. For example, is "multiculturalism" really the road to a utopian society or is it a recipe to a fractured, dysfunctional society? There are arguments on both sides of this question, but the PC brigade would brand one a bigot for arguing the latter.

Many of my progressive friends argue that political correctness encourages civility, discourages bigotry, and otherwise leads to a "nicer" society. Well ... that may have been its original intent, but PC has morphed into something ugly—an near-totalitarian attempt to control speech, and indirectly, to control people's thoughts. As Dalrymple states, its intent is to force people to remain silent when they are confronted with flawed thinking or risk being labeled "racist," "fascist," or "bigoted," or uncaring or ... you know the list.

None of those accusations are is true, and given that, it's high time to confront the subtle intimidation that is part and parcel of PC.  If that's "psychological reactance," so be it.