13 November 2009

I've had it up to here with political correctness.

Political correctness does not exist, at least not in the way it's being used by pundits and politicians. The term itself -- in its current usage -- gained currency as a neat right-wing sound bite to dismiss any allegations of racism or sexism. Oh, you think I'm being derogatory when I use the n-word to describe Blacks? You're being "politically correct." You don't like that I refer to women on college campuses as sluts and candidates for the MRS degree? You're being "politically correct."

In other words, the term has provided a nice cover for neanderthal behavior and has effectively become a blanket term for anything liberal, progressive, or simply sensitive to multiple perspectives. Now, for some reason, the right wing has decided to deploy "political correctness" to discuss the Fort Hood shootings (I'd say to politicize the shootings, but let's face it -- everything is always already political, and here we have the most pungent ingredients for a political soup: army base, nation at war, Muslim shooter publicly critical of US role in Iraq and Afghanistan...). From his perch in cloud cuckoo land, Charles Krauthammer actually throws out this rubbish:
Have we totally lost our moral bearings? Nidal Hasan (allegedly) cold-bloodedly killed 13 innocent people. His business card had his name, his profession, his medical degrees and his occupational identity. U.S. Army? No. "SoA" -- Soldier of Allah. In such cases, political correctness is not just an abomination. It's a danger, clear and present.

The "political correctness" in this case was the initial response of news agencies -- surprising, actually -- not to rush to judgement. In the absence of any information other than the shooter's name and religious affiliation (because we have to remember that information on his business card, radical cleric contacts, and even his specific statements before and during the shooting weren't known until a few days later), the media didn't supply all those missing details.

I fail to see how that equates to political correctness.

When Timothy McVeigh perpetrated what had been until 9/11 the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil, I don't remember the media immediately seizing upon McVeigh's U.S. upbringing and his Christian faith...although of course as details came out they paid quite a bit of attention to the militia movement and white supremacists.

And it's not simply Krauthammer who's trying to link the Fort Hood shooting to the term "political correctness." On comment boards from national papers like the Post to small town local papers, letter writers and anonymous online posters are decrying the "politically correct" military (ha!) and media.

Krauthammer, by the way, doesn't do himself any favors when his major source of information about Hasan's radical ties come via a report on NPR, the right-wing's target that conveniently kills two birds with one stone: liberal media and government waste.

Apparently, what Krauthammer, writing in the comfort of one week's reflection and subsequent news stories, mistakes for political correctness is actually journalistic integrity (which is itself a nearly dead object).

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