Home > Dave's Favourites, General Politics, Labour Party News, Terrible Tories > Is political correctness a left-wing concept?

Is political correctness a left-wing concept?

ScientologyI was reading today on “Comment is Fremescent” about how a young man is not to be prosecuted for words written on his banner during a protest against the cult of Scientology, I mean the Church of Scientology. For those of you unfamiliar with this lot, they hate having the word cult used about them, and, at a protest in London, someone put this word on a placard.

The young man bearing the placard was informed by police that under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, he could be prosecuted for “threatening, abusive or insulting” language which potentially could cause “harassment, alarm or distress.” Now I’m pretty certain that if ever I got my wish, a big banner saying “For the Proletarian Dictatorship; Destroy Capitalism!” I’m definitely going to cause distress, so this interests me.

Yet reading down the page, I noticed a few comments pertaining to how all of this was political correctness gone mad. One such stuck out.

“To be fair to the police, inability to grasp this government’s labyrinthine legislation is rife in all areas of the public sector – hospitals, benefits agencies, social services. And why should they have to grasp the vagueries [sic] of political correctness? Their job is to fight crime, not protect people from having their feelings hurt because the middle class centre left can’t contemplate anything more horrid.”

This is an attitude which I’ve come across on several occasions, particularly among the sort who enjoy the caricatures of such Gor’ Blimey merchants as Richard Littlejohn. It is a disturbing attitude because it seems to be how we’re managing to dismiss state sanctions upon freedom of speech as prejudice on the part of a stereotyped ‘middle class centre left.’ That’s all very well but it doesn’t actually do anything to solve the problem .

It is doubly disconcerting because it attributes those sanctions to the left when they are policies of a right wing government, whatever party label it masquerades behind.

Opposition to political correctness is all too frequently exploited by the right for particularly objectionable ends. To give an example, attacks upon attempts to eradicate state-sanctioned displays of religiosity when only 40% of the population even believe in a definite god are one example of just how the right seeks to impose its illiberal agenda. It is particularly irritating because it does this in the guise of defending a Christian minority.

David Cameron, who is leader of a Party that wishes to abolish the Human Rights Act, the very thing giving protesters some shred of protection against the mountains of anti-terror and public order legislation, has attacked Gordon Brown for ‘abandoning the respect agenda.’ One wonders what that even means for Cameron. Are we to let everyone say what they like unless they’re protesting against capitalism, against the government, against Christianity?

Most assuredly it will not be the libertarian backbenchers that get listened to during a Conservative government any more than Labour listens to its back bench socialists.

No doubt some around Cameron agree with the Daily Mail characterisations by Peter Hitchens and the ideas of Lind and Buchanan that political correctness is cultural Marxism, attempting to influence popular culture and “punish dissent…to stigmatize social heresy as the Inquisition punished religious heresy. Its trademark is intolerance.”

It is interesting, therefore, that the organised political left should fall foul of ‘PC’ in the manner described by that Guardian article. In fact I would submit that far from having anything to do with any school of Marxism, political correctness is an myth used to give cultural conservatives a point of focus for their continuing alienation from the liberal tone of society. Political correctness cannot at once be about punishing dissent and about opening up public spaces to other expressions than dominant Judeo-Christianity.

Political correctness, therefore, serves as a handy tool for the major conservative elements in our society, whether the Party bearing that name, or the various organs of the press. On the other side of the coin, if political correctness, respect and tolerance can be used to give moral furtherance to crack downs on our already suffering freedom of expression, no doubt some small-c conservatives would think it a good thing. Political correctness, as well as a tool of cultural conservatism also emerges as of benefit to political centrists.

Far from being left-wing, political correctness is a bastard child of no one single ideology, but of all those ideologies which are in some way tied to the establishment. If the purpose of the state, beyond mere class rule, is to prevent capitalism from undermining itself, then the ideology of the state is no doubt similarly adapted. Political correctness limits dissent, but prevents the dominance of one cultural group to the point where the other cultural groups might find themselves invested in overthrowing the state itself.

At this point I should probably mention something about how left wing and right wing are indefinite concepts. While that is correct, I shall merely posit that left wing and right wing are loosely aligned towards the two immutable powers in capitalist society: labour and capital respectively. Bearing that in mind, political correctness is certainly not a left wing concept and it’s time we started fighting the perception that it is.

  1. May 24, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Interesting how many City of London police have received ‘gifts’ from these nutters too.

    It’s worrying senior police are extending respectability to Scientology – the last thing the force needs is to be influenced by another secretive, elitist organisation. After all, the freemasons got there first; fair’s fair.

  2. May 24, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Thankfully, the case isn’t being pursued by the CPS. It seems that the Scientologists’ policy of wooing the police but not senior figures in the CPS has backfired. Fail to plan, plan to fail!

    On the wider point of “political correctness” being a cover-all that right-wingers especially can attach to anything that they disagree with, it is a real worry. Soundbite politics is always dangerous- look at the way that the epithet “loony left” undermined the Labour Party of the 80s- and this is no exception. I’ve seen it (ab)used as the main objection to all manner of things from the banning of Pancake Day races on Health and Safety grounds, to allowing the building of a Mosque near the proposed London Olympic village, to the rebranding of Scope shops, to the building of a Nelson Mandela statue. In my experience, where the grievance is legitimate, the phrase is redundant and remains unused.

    “It’s PC gone mad” simply means ‘I don’t agree with this and I’m sure that all honest-to-goodness, salt of the earth, two sugars in strong tea blokes like me wouldn’t either’. It’s shorthand for ‘no need to think about what I’m saying too much’. A horrible device that the unscrupulous use to deceive.

    Whenever I see the phrase used I know that the following assertion will either be misinformed, deceptive or a hoax.

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