The Iron-Fisted Tyranny of Political Correctness

In the span of a few years, the dictatorship of relativism has given way to the tyranny of political correctness. Under the first regime, universal truth was supplanted by personal truth; under the current one, it is exchanged for outright falsehood. Consider the rise of statements such as,

Sexual orientation is inborn and fixed.
Gender is not inborn or fixed, or binary.
Homosexuality is not abnormal, unnatural, or disordered.
Marriage is a matter of love not gender.
Children flourish as well (or better!) with same sex caregivers as with their biological parents.
Islamic terrorism is not driven by religion.

Each is factually false (as are all politically correct statements) and, yet, advanced through tautology, pimped out in sophistic lip gloss, and enforced by intimidation, has become Western orthodoxy. So entrenched is the groupthink that those who challenge it can find themselves outside of the camp of polite company.

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Think not? At your next social gathering, try explaining why you believe marriage is not the right to marry “whomever you love.” If the guests don’t blanch as if a skunk had leapt out of your pocket, it will set off a wave of fidgeting even among Christians who have made rationalizations for gay friends or relatives or who fear coming across as bigoted and intolerant.

The Cost of Dissent
While sharing your beliefs over cocktails can result in social shunning, owning a business, supporting a cause, or belonging to an organization that runs afoul the PC canon puts you at risk for everything from public shaming to loss of livelihood.

Just ask bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein who were fined and put out of business, not for refusing to serve homosexual customers, but for declining to create a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Or David and Jason Benham who lost their popular HGTV program, Flip it Forward, for statements David made about genderless marriage. Statements that would have been uncontroversial a decade ago, and, in fact, were uncontroversial in 2008 when presidential nominee Barak Obama told Rick Warren, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

Or Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, who were threatened with the cancelation of their show and financial ruin, not for anything they had said or done, but for membership in a church that affirms the natural heterosexual design of marriage.

Then there’s the state of North Carolina that is being boycotted by entertainers, professional sports organizations, and Fortune 500 companies for legislation that, in accordance with physical reality and common sense, protects girls in rest rooms from the prurient enthusiasms of males.

Most recently, St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, a Catholic institution, is being sued for declining to perform an elective hysterectomy on a transgender woman.

As PC agitations have spread from the boardroom to the bedroom to the bathroom, many people have chosen to remain silent or self-censure their remarks to avoid the untoward attention of the thought police. It all serves an Alice in Wonderland reality with a history.

Tracing the roots
The PC culture is a product of progressivism that approaches reality as a social construct that must be changed to achieve the claimed progressive ends of prosperity and peace. Originating under communism, political correctness was institutionalized in the 1930’s to promote the Party’s reality “above reality itself,” writes Claremont Institute senior fellow Angelo M. Codevilla.

For all progressive movements, the supernal reality is the creation of a new humanity in a utopian existence where all conflicts and contradictions are resolved: in Communism, by dismantling all class distinctions; in Freudianism, by overcoming sexual repression; in social liberalism, by gaining public acceptance for any and all lifestyle choices; in secularism, by exalting science and extinguishing religion. Each requires a revolution against realities that do not bend to the “realities” of progressives.

For instance, a scalpel and lifetime supply of hormones cannot change a sex chromosome from a Y to an X; a judicial ruling cannot make a same-sex coupling a marriage (any more than it can make two sodium atoms salt); free, no-consequence sex ends not in a Freudian utopia, but in a post-Sexual Revolution dystopia of marital infidelity, divorce, STD’s, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and abortion; and, despite the rise of secularism in a time that has seen more religious persecution than in any other, the religiously-affiliated population is increasing and projected to rise from 84 to 87 percent of the global population by 2050.

“Soft” Exploitation
The job of political correctness, Codevilla explains, is to overcome these and other intransigent realities by silencing dissent, delegitimizing opposing points of view (particularly those informed by the moral foundations of Western civilization), marginalizing people who hold them, and possibly criminalizing those who act on them. So, the revolution rages on.

With no compelling vision of truth, beauty, goodness, or conspicuous value added for the masses, the progressive interest is not in winning society over with rational argument and civil discourse, but in subduing it with the threat of social censure, or worse. The sad irony, to paraphrase economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s quip on Communism, is that “Under Capitalism man exploits man; under Progressivism, the situation is reversed.”

The success of this “soft” exploitation requires the clever appropriation of language by the PC architects. Terms like justice and equality are retained, but their definitions and applications are changed.

Justice, in the classical understanding, is giving people their due; in the Christian view, it is giving them what they need; to the progressive mind, it is giving people what they want, or what the ruling class has decided they need which, under the umbrella of social justice, includes economic justice, climate justice, environmental justice, resource justice, and reproductive justice.

Equality, according to our nation’s founding, is about equal opportunity and the fair and unbiased treatment of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Its progressive stepchild is about equal outcomes, which, by necessity and contrary to the principle of equal treatment, disadvantages some people through progressive tax structures and diversity, inclusion, and affirmative action policies. Whereas, the former gave birth to the great social movements of abolition, emancipation, women’s suffrage, and civil rights, the latter has sired everything from the legalization of abortion and same-sex “marriage” to bathroom laws and the elimination of honorary distinctions in public schools.

Engaged in a movement with no definable end—there is always “progress” to be made, an enemy to defeat, a wrong to right—progressives are always sniffing around for some reality to deconstruct and another to create. Which explains why the legalization of same-sex “marriage” was followed so rapidly by the recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. And why LGBT activists and their sympathizers are not satisfied with winning legal battles and gaining their rights; offenders (bakers, florists, photographers) must be punished and ground into the dust.

Such fulfills a deep yearning for personal absolution. As Codevilla rightly notes, “feeling better about one’s self by confessing other people’s sins, humiliating and hurting them, is an addictive pleasure the appetite for which grows with each satisfaction.”

But for the victims of PC and those who refuse to be cowed by its tyranny, it produces resentment that can build into a counter revolution—one which, arguably, Donald Trump’s improbable ascendency to the presidency, over the best crop of prospects the GOP has ever fielded, is the opening salvo. If so, whether it will be the end of one tyranny or the beginning of another, one thing is certain: it will be a bumpy ride; so fasten your seat belts.


  • Regis Nicoll

    Regis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. He is the author of Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.

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