Political Correctness Scares Me. Does It Scare You?

By Kyle Williams

Significant fuss has been raised in recent years about political correctness, and the impact that it has on our ability to speak. Concerns about political correctness are often met with the response that it is simply “being nice,” and avoiding language that hurts disadvantaged people. However, such a view ignores the malevolent origins of political correctness and its continuing connection to censorship, and risks putting us all on the path to totalitarianism.

Political correctness, contrary to popular belief, did not originate on University campus, but in the totalitarianism of the 1930s. A New York Times article written in 1934 referred to the requirement for journalists in Nazi Germany to obtain permits, which were handed out for being Aryan and politically correct, and mentioned the need for these journalists to continue to watch what they say after obtaining a permit. The term political correctness also came in use in the US Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s, where it described the proper words to be used and positions to be held by party members. From its inception, political correctness was not about respect, but rather conformity to the orthodoxies of explicitly totalitarian ideologies.

But the use of political correctness to enforce an orthodoxy did not disappear with the US Communist Party or the Nazis. Just take a look at China. Xi Jinpeng has been incredibly insistent in recent years that the best quality a Chinese citizen or Communist Party member can have is party loyalty, with the questioning of the vision of the CCP heavily discouraged and an impediment to anyone wishing to rise in Chinese society. This has even extended out to impact Western companies with interests in China. Earlier this year, Zara, Delta Airlines and Medtronic were all rebuked by the Chinese Government and later apologised for referring to Taiwan as a country on its website. Mariott Hotels was even investigated by Chinese police and had their website shut down for a week in response to a survey which allowed loyalty members to select Taiwan, Macau, Tibet and Hong Kong as the “country” they lived in. Political correctness, as a part of totalitarianism, still lives on in some of the most authoritarian parts of the world.

But what about political correctness in Australia and other Western countries? Surely there is a significant difference between it here in the hands of “social justice warriors” and in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party? Unfortunately, the only difference is in scale and in use. Unlike China, there is a myriad of ways you can fail to be politically correct in Western societies.

Unlike China, there is a myriad of ways you can fail to be politically correct in Western societies.

At UWA, Bjorn Lomborg had his contract to start a think tank, with $4 million dollars of federal funding, cancelled. His crime: to be a “climate contrarian,” suggesting that global poverty was a more pressing issue then global warming. Despite claims that universities support academic freedom and our democracy relies on a “battle of ideas,” on issues such as our response to climate change this now seems far from the truth.

Or take opposition to garments such as the Burqa. Many women around the world don’t get the choice to not wear the burqa. In some cases, they have actively defied the culture and governments of their countries to fight against being forced to wear it, and the values it is meant to foster such as “modesty.” Yet I can tell you from personal experience that a criticism of the burqa, even along similar lines to these protests, on a Western University campus ends badly for the student who dares to speak up.

In these cases and others I have not mentioned, political correctness has been utilised to shut down viewpoints and ideas that challenge an orthodoxy, whether that orthodoxy is on climate policy, race, or a collection of other issues. This is not a product of a free society, where our democratic system demands that we are exposed to ideas that challenge our current beliefs and may even offend us, so we can make informed decisions about the direction our country should head in. Instead, it is on the road to totalitarianism, where orthodoxies are created and are expected to be adhered to. Whereas we may be far enough from the excesses seen in China to avoid seeing the path we travel down, the fact remains that we are on it.

Political correctness scares me. It is an idea by totalitarians and is still used by them today to control ideas and speech, in opposition to foundations of our democracy such as freedom of speech. And in the West it has continued to be used for this purpose, preventing ideas that are opposed to certain orthodoxies from being discussed. Far from being a display of niceness towards disadvantaged groups, political correctness has shown itself to be an insidious control over us, preventing us from speaking easy.