Reid: It’s time to call out those ‘politically incorrect’ politicians

Good piece by Scott Reid on political correctness (and incorrectness):

But, generally speaking, what is required of us to exhibit so-called “politically correct” behaviour is pretty innocuous. In most cases, it amounts to little more than taking the time to not be a dink. True, you can’t call a female co-worker sugar-shake or snap a towel as she walks by, undoubtedly the world has become a less friendly place for the Mad Men among us. But is that really such a bad thing? Is being obtuse or outright ignorant what actually made America great — or Canada for that matter?

In this context, we see a particularly odious trend emerging in our politics. Increasingly, we are subjected to a stampede of candidates who proclaim themselves proudly to be “politically incorrect.” It’s worn like a badge of honour, as though the self-affixed label instantly connects these politicians to “real” people and signals a willingness to tell it like it is, even if that gets them in trouble.

Of course, this is mostly calculated nonsense. Half of these candidates are simply chasing votes, playing to the prejudices of the perpetually angry and exploiting the willingness of Fox News and its imitators to dress up such sentiments as nostalgic heroism.

Donald Trump offers us a glimpse of where this kind of thing can lead. To keep the “politically incorrect” soundbite machine going, campaigns quickly exhaust legitimate grievances and must begin to manufacture divisions. All Muslims become waiting jihadists. A respected American judge is really a biased Mexican. Mexicans, by the way, are mostly drug runners and rapists. The next thing you know, you’re receiving endorsements from the white supremacist movement. But hey, it’s not really like that.  He’s not racist, he’s just being politically incorrect. So that makes it OK.

For those who comfort themselves that this is a trend limited to American politics, think again. With increasing regularity we see politicians in Canada positioning themselves in similar ways — perhaps not going so far as Trump’s bare-faced bigotry but happily adopting the politically incorrect label as a way to define themselves and draw the gushing admiration of certain media chains. Not everyone slides to the muddy bottom but that doesn’t make the slope any less slippery.

There is a deliberate cynicism in the way this idea of political incorrectness is being used. More and more, it is taken as license to say things that are vulgar, stupid, inconsiderate, bullying and false. And it’s prideful, openly daring people to bathe in their own ignorance and take exception at those who object.

No one is perfect, or even close. No one lives their life without giving offence or harbouring prejudices — conscious or otherwise. I don’t tell “fag” jokes like I did in Grade 5, but I still find ways to be rude and insensitive frequently. It’s doubtful that will ever change entirely. But surely the point is to try to be conscious of these behaviours. To want to correct, not celebrate them. And, at the very least attempt, whenever possible, to be understanding and open-minded.

The next time a politician humble-brags that he or she is “politically incorrect,” ask them what they mean by that exactly. What prejudices are they prepared to embrace? What slurs are just said in fun? Which particular clocks would they roll back? That’s not unfair. It’s just asking them to tell it like it is.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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