Drinking from a Poisoned Well

Psychological Warfare and 

Anti-PC Fanaticism Are  

A Threat To Peace 

By Steve Rensberry 
Opinion / Analysis

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -  (RP NEWS) - 9/25/2020 - The term political correctness has become thoroughly weaponized in today's socio-political climate. It's a cheap shot meant to tar, knock down, and delegitimize an entire framework of thought and reasoning, but it works.

   Most often it is used as a pejorative term against liberals -- denoting an intolerance toward certain types of speech and offensive behavior -- but a chorus of writers has made the case in recent years that the far bigger and more pervasive threat to the country is right-wing political correctness, also dubbed conservative correctness, or patriotic correctness

It is, as they say, all relative -- especially in terms of linguistics, with the meaning of words dependent almost entirely on the context.

If your world view dominates and is reinforced by social institutions, if your norms and values seem favored in educational, government, and business environments, then to you it is likely going to feel like justified normalcy, something good and right, the way things ought to be, and no more a political matter than the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. If you're the outsider, on the other hand, of course it's going to feel to you like this dominant value system is politically constructed, something false and alien in contrast to your own presumed genuine values. And consequently, the words one uses to describe what's going on are going to reflect that.

Summarizing how those on the right have used the term politically, Moira Weigel writes in a story for The Guardian: “PC was a useful invention for the Republican right because it helped the movement to drive a wedge between working-class people and the Democrats who claimed to speak for them. 'Political correctness' became a term used to drum into the public imagination the idea that there was a deep divide between the 'ordinary people' and the 'liberal elite,' who sought to control the speech and thoughts of regular folk. Opposition to political correctness also became a way to rebrand racism in ways that were politically acceptable in the post-civil-rights era.”

The term has been framed as a contest over civil rights, as a battle between the establishment of social norms, as an exercise in the definition of reality, as a measure of offense sensitivity levels, as a manifestation of cultural Marxism, as Capitalist realism, as a struggle over social framing, and as typical human behavior meant to establish acceptable in-group and out-group behavior.

All of these analyses have some merit, I think. The problem is that the phrase has shifted in meaning over the years, and continues to be used and weaponized in novel ways.

In a piece published in the CS Monitor, Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg claims that the person critical of modern PC culture is largely arguing for a license simply to say whatever they want to say, regardless of the repercussions. “It’s a license to say things that at one time would have branded you as a boor or a bigot. Whenever you’re charged with those things, now you can respond by invoking political correctness. That invests the criticisms with a political meaning, and suggests they’re merely the self-indulgent concerns of an elite that’s out of touch.”

U.S. President George H.W. Bush made an interesting assertion in a 1991 commencement speech he gave in Michigan, tacitly acknowledging the country's long-standing prejudices while joining the trend of anti-PC criticism. "The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land,” Bush said. “And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits."

There is a deeper story to all this, as you might expect, given a term that has meant different things to different people at different times in history, but three of the most disturbing and recent connections are to William Lind, Theodore Kaczynski (a.k.a. the Unabomber), and to President Donald Trump, all of whom appear to view political correctness solely in terms of a liberal-leftist existential type of threat, and an idea and set of beliefs worthy only of complete destruction.

Lind, a paleoconservative, conspiracy thinker and author, is one of the first to have weaponized the term. Working with others, Lind helped develop the theory of fourth-generation war theory (4GW) in the late 1980s, war which would be fundamentally decentralized and mainly psychological in nature. It's clear from reading Lind's writings that he lives in a conspiratorial world aligned with the alt-right, far-right, and the president's own words, a world where the media have conspired with academia and leftist politicians to destroy traditional culture and traditional orthodox values, and therefore must be destroyed. Lind's work can be found here.

Salon staff writer Chauncey Devega notes: “A sub-component of 4GW is William Lind’s conspiracy theory of the internal war for supremacy between what he called 'cultural Marxists' and their ideology of 'Political Correctness' or 'multiculturalism' and the 'traditional American culture' or 'Judeo-Christian culture.' Lind argued that 'cultural Marxists' hate America’s 'Judeo-Christian culture' and were seeking to destroy it. The losers were to be rich, white, conservative, Christian, heterosexual men.”

Trump's core policies, Devega says, are consistent with Lind's writings from 2005, citing his call for a “Berlin-style wall on the U.S.-Mexican border,” support for the Minutemen militia, and likening Latino and Muslim immigrants to invaders. “Lind’s ideas have circulated throughout the right-wing for just over a decade. Trump is just telling the Republican base what they have already heard or read.”

Say all you want about the idea of 4GW, but one thing that plays heavy is the use of deception and propaganda, enacted through a prolonged conflict involving embedded enemies and a deliberate blurring of the lines between ordinary citizens, activists and combatants.

I would encourage you to read Devega's article in full, given that it was written in 2016 before Trump was first elected, and about as relevant today as it was then. “Trump is reaping what the Christian Right, Fox News, conservative talk radio, Christian radio and television, and the blogosphere has sown,” Devega says.

And that brings us to Kaczynski. It doesn't take long to realize that he was a nut -- a former mathematics professor and certified right wing extremist who railed in a lengthy manifesto against political correctness, cultural relativism, identity politics, class warfare, and leftism in general. Kaczynski, born in 1942, is currently serving eight life sentences without the possibility of parole, incarcerated in the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. 

Kaczynski feared an all-powerful government, hated the modern technological world, and idolized primitive, historical civilizations where people were free from “non-productive” work (meaning work that doesn't contribute to the basic necessities of life). If this brings to mind a life of perpetual slavery with no time to actually live and enjoy the fruits of one's labor, or to create and invent, you can be forgiven. You can also be forgiven if this raises a red flag with respect to actual human history and the brutality and bloodshed that has taken place, not to mention the fact that half the world likely would die if industrial and agricultural-based systems were destroyed.

“A return to primitive society would soon entail a return to primitive, tyrannical forms of governance as a result, not a new age of liberty,” this entry on Wikipedia states.

I know there have been some who have praised Kaczynski's manifesto as ingenious and actually rational, but to me it is nothing but a delusional, conspiratorial, anti-liberal hack job, providing plenty of fodder for both critics and extremists, but not really saying much of anything except to show Kaczynski's incredible ignorance of human history. Although there were early attempts to describe Kaczynski as a left-wing “ecoterrorist,” his manifesto makes it clear what his real target is: leftism and all of the “politically correct” thinking that goes along with it.

Consider this (delusional) excerpt: “Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to bind together the entire world (both nature and the human race) into a unified whole. But this implies management of nature and of human life by organized society, and it requires advanced technology. You can’t have a united world without rapid transportation and communication, you can’t make all people love one another without sophisticated psychological techniques, you can’t have a “planned society” without the necessary technological base. 

After alleging, in so many words, that “leftists” (and only leftists) are ruled by weak emotions and a lust for power, Kaczynski states: “We use the term 'leftism' because we don't know any better words to designate the spectrum of related creeds that includes the feminist, gay rights, political correctness, etc., movements, and because these movement have a strong affinity with the old left.”

Equality is another one of his targets, as well as a target of Lind's and Trump's, suggesting the push for equal opportunity for minorities is merely a political power grab, and a dire threat to the entire country.

Another telling excerpt: “The leftist wants equal opportunities for minorities. When that is attained he insists on statistical equality of achievement by minorities. And as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educate him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on. It’s not enough that the public should be informed about the hazards of smoking; a warning has to be stamped on every package of cigarettes. Then cigarette advertising has to be restricted if not banned.”

Why Kaczynski should be offended having to treat “disabled people, fat people, old people, and ugly people” with respect, and not spit on them or insult them, or to treat other people in society in a humane fashion, says a lot about his level of disdain for other human beings, as well as about his deep-rooted bigotry. He rails against identity politics, but plays the game himself even more intensely. He rails against the left as being totalitarian and petty, but advocates for a system and culture that would turn out to be even more so. He attempts to discredit entire groups and cultures as being a threat to the very existence of the nation and western civilization, but wants to destroy those groups himself in order to dominate and control every aspect of society with his own all-embracing, totalitarian mandates. He paints the left as dehumanizing and violent, then goes on to kill three people and seriously wound 23 others through a terrorizing mail-bombing campaign that lasted from 1978-1995.

Where does Donald Trump and those he surrounds himself with get their ideas? From the very same poisoned well of ideological bigotry and ignorance.

For Further Reading:

A Phrase in Flux: The History of Political Correctness

Anti-PC is 'Political Correctness' for the Right

Right-Wing Political Correctness, Censorship, and Silencing

Political Correctness is Rampant on the Right

Conservative Political Correctness and Colin Kaepernick