Everyone seems to be hot and bothered about political correctness. All the fuss, however, seems destined to produce more heat than light.
Pro-life people usually join the chorus condemning political correctness because those identified as ‘PC’ promote abortion on demand and a variety of anti-family positions. I believe that we must view the present attack on political correctness with a certain skepticism.
I understand political correctness as a set of views on society and politics which achieves such prominence that people are no longer entitled to question those beliefs. Only those people who ascribe to that set of beliefs are regarded as right thinking, and those who disagree are effectively denied freedom of speech.
One fundamental truth commonly ignored in all the current attacks on political correctness is that political correctness has always existed in our society.
The fact that a catalogue of liberal views are today labeled politically correct strangely enough, that they are not! The very term is critical and derogatory. The term is used by major media outlets across North America to discredit the PC agenda. Virtually every newspaper and news magazine has articles condemning the phenomenon. Whatever today’s so-called political correctness is, it is not a set of beliefs which one cannot legitimately oppose.
It is true that in many universities a world view is in place which is not allowed to be questioned. It is, as critics suggest, outrageous that universities which purport to be centres of learning should dare to limit debate.
My problem is that I see a much broader based political correctness which goes largely unnoted and uncriticized in the major media and which is just as destructive of pro-life values. This political correctness is one which the media silently promotes. You can be assured that it is indeed the political correctness of the day because those who attack it are labeled as fanatics or crazies or dismissed as dreamers. The real political correctness of today is that of corporate consumerism – that the creation and consumption of goods represents the good life and that religious principles should be excluded from the ordering of secular life.
This is exhibited in the media’s coverage of a wide range of issues. Consider only one. No more villainous figures exist in the Western media today than the Muslim “fanatic” or Islamic “extremist”. Their crime is to advocate that Islamic religious belief should be the foundation of secular society. Because of this rather reasonable viewpoint, they are universally referred to in the West as extremist and fanatic. They earn such approbation because they oppose the West’s view of life as a consumerist adventure.
In a similar way, pro-life people challenge the assumptions of our society. Again derogatory labels are thrown out to discredit this opposition. I believe that the media attack on PC is similarly motivated. It is not attacked because it would place certain values such as equity above profit-making. In essence, a kind of thought control is at work.
American media critic Noam Chomsky sheds the greatest light on this situation. He states that thought control can only exist in a country which has an ostensibly free press.
Where thought control does not exist, says Chomsky, is in authoritarian societies like the old Soviet Union which have a recognizable Ministry of Truth. Such a propaganda arm tells people what is the official truth, the authorized version of events. But as Chomsky points out, the citizenry doesn’t actually believe such coarse propaganda. Rather, citizens know that they must not be found disagreeing with the official position if they want to remain out of trouble. No one’s thoughts are actually controlled, only the expression of those thoughts.
In Western societies we have a very different situation. We believe that we have free media. But the media shares a common viewpoint – that of corporate consumerism – and everything is coloured accordingly. In that way a real kind of thought control can and does exist.
Political correctness is a very real threat to the pro-life movement. However, it is a much more deeply rooted phenomenon than the latest round of PC bashing would reveal. Pro-lifers challenge society at a fundamental level. We suggest that sanctity of each human life must be respected even if that reduces pleasure seeking or interferes with consumerism or profit-making. Because of that, the powerful forces of real political correctness will continue to work directly against us.