Monday, August 01, 2005

Political Correctness

The United Nations passed a resolution urging all nations to take measures designed to eradicate racially discriminatory practices in member states in 1963 which was entered "into force" in 1965.

States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organisations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or act of, such discrimination...
Various suggested actions follow.

Somehow this escaped me, possibly because it has been so ineffectual. Since it was agreed to and signed off on we have had "ethic cleansing" all over the globe and there are no signs that this is likely to stop. The UN is sadly ineffectual in effecting change in the world.

In some nations efforts have been made to create a category of "hate crimes" and in some, efforts have been made to make "racial villification" itself a crime. Some countries that have moved forward on such measure are those of the largely White nations of the British Commonwealth such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Austrialia, and New Zealand according to a Murdoch University (Australia) web site I recently stumbled across.

In the United States, the Second Amendment has trumped efforts to make the verbal expression of racial hatred illegal. And, we continue to experience an apparently endless cultural war between those that would like to see a little civility in our interactions with each other and those who don't want to give up their "right" or the "right" of others to verbally abuse women, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, homosexuals, and whomever else it is that they find worthy of displays of hostility.

Google "political correctness" and what you find is site after site that attacks it. What these nitwits do is lump everything that has been done to protect minorities under the rubric "political correctness" and attack that concept. Interestingly, no one has, to my knowledge, ever defended the kind of concept of "political correctness" that that these overpoliticized nitwits attack.

So, we find such things as efforts to stop public displays of hatred or a lack of respect for others being lumped together under "political correctness" with racial/ethnic profiling by police. The problem with this concept of "political correctness" is it is wildly defective cognitively -- there is no principled basis for determining what is and what is not an example of political correctness. What we get instead is lists of things that in some way or another involve the protection of minorities. What makes it an incoherent concept is that it doesn't weed out things almost no one supports (racially or ethnically motivated genocide) from such things as racial/ethnic profiling or expressing racial or ethnic hatred verball, something which some do and others do not support.

The net result is that when someone ofers up a legimate social reform that libertarians and conservatives hate, the first pejoritive term out of their mouths will be "political correctness." They seem to think that simply labeling it is sufficient to argue against it or is, at least, an effective first step in attacking it. You don't find anyone defending it since there is, as Gertrud Stein might say, there is no "it" to it.

Laws that make certain crimes hate crimes or laws that make the verbal abuse of minorities illegal have nothing whatever to do with the efforts of police to characterize suspicious people. If one of the criteria that alert police to the possibility somone is an IRA killer is that he "has a strong Irish accent," I am down with that since if you are looking for IRA bombers, you don't want to waste time with people who speak Spanish to each other. The key is that the profile not consist of criteria that are so broad as to include everyone or most everyone in a given class -- all Irish people, for instance. The same is true of the use of "ethnic profiling" among those trying to stop terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists. So long as it does not include everyone who has dark skin and who speaks Arabic, but, rather, focuses on a variety of properties a Muslim terrorist might exhibit I see no problem with it. Cops have been using profiles of that sort forever. The problem is that it has too often been used in ways that do include everyone in a given class -- say all Black men driving BMWs in a White neighborhood late at night. However, that sort of use of profiling doesn't help the cops a bit in their effort to catch criminals. The last web site I cited as being one attacking political correctness has a sensible discussion of how racial profiling can be used to help identify Muslim terrorists can be carried out so that it does not impact every Muslim. The problem with his position is that I know of no sensible Liberal who has ever said that the police and others trying to protect the population should not use profiling in just the way he suggests. In short he is attacking the political correctness straw man. But then that is the way of Conservatives.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the "politically correct" pejorative has a lot to do with the attempt to weld language to action in determining the character of an act, whether it be a social exchange or a crime.

An assault becomes a "hate crime" when the beating is accompanied by phraseology like "stay away from white women", but is less likely to stray into the purview of "hate crime" if the transgression is merely statistical, like a "wilding" where all the perps happen to be black, and the victims happen to be white, but no words are exchanged.

As always when there is a dissonance between reality and rhetoric, you'll be on the losing side when your language obfuscates, rather than elucidates, the reality that people observe.

12:28 AM


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