The History of Political Correctness

Nicely done. According to this, the Magna Carta of Political Correctness is the 1965 essay by Herbert Marcuse, Repressive Tolerance. I guess I have to read it, however distasteful that may be.

The story, among others, is told in greater detail in the excellent book The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Herman (an excellent author).

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a thousand battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

Sun Tzu, of course.

8 thoughts on “The History of Political Correctness”

  1. Wow, Lex, you nailed it. I went back and read the Marcuse essay and found the Ur-text of the gibberish we have been hearing these many years. The internal contradictions are not a bug but a feature. From his postscript:

    Given this situation, I suggested in ‘Repressive Tolerance’ the practice of discriminating tolerance in an inverse direction, as a means of shifting the balance between Right and Left by restraining the liberty of the Right, thus counteracting the pervasive inequality of freedom (unequal opportunity of access to the means of democratic persuasion) and strengthening the oppressed against the oppressed. Tolerance would be restricted with respect to movements of a demonstrably aggressive or destructive character (destructive of the prospects for peace, justice, and freedom for all). Such discrimination would also be applied to movements opposing the extension of social legislation to the poor, weak, disabled. As against the virulent denunciations that such a policy would do away with the sacred liberalistic principle of equality for ‘the other side’, I maintain that there are issues where either there is no ‘other side’ in any more than a formalistic sense, or where ‘the other side’ is demonstrably ‘regressive’ and impedes possible improvement of the human condition. To tolerate propaganda for inhumanity vitiates the goals not only of liberalism but of every progressive political philosophy.

    For this struggle, I proposed the practice of discriminating tolerance. To be sure, this practice already presupposes the radical goal which it seeks to achieve. I committed this petitio principii [begging the question, or taken as given what was meant to be proven] in order to combat the pernicious ideology that tolerance is already institutionalized in this society.

    In other words, there is no such thing as legitimate disagreement with the leftist program. Illegitimate disagreement, which includes everything short of hosannas, should be subject to repression in the name of freedom. The second part of the quote gives away why this repression is necessary: because it is impossible to demonstrate how the leftist program is effectual, necessary, inevitable (pace Marx), beneficial, or even justifiable.

    I agree with Marcuse on his last point: there is no way to argue with a committed leftist. They have already embraced “repressive tolerance” as something clever (Orwell called this mental process “doublethink”) rather than a contradiction in terms. Slavery is freedom, if that’s what the Party says. It is certain because it is impossible.

    It is also the clearest possible demonstration that leftism is religion in different vestments. It is by necessity and by admission an appeal to faith in what cannot be proven, yet fervently held because it is believed to be the highest good. No wonder they find common cause with Islamic fascism.

  2. One thing I don’t understand in this video – why Marcuse (and Frankfurt School) characterized as non-Marxist? I also don’t see originality in Marcuse theory (which, unfortunately, became practice in our times) – it was not only theorized, but brought to it’s logical conclusion in the first decade of existence of Soviet Union, with notorious “Red Terror”, explained as necessary counter-act to centuries of repression and exploitation by the “power classes”.
    Just look at the laws concerning lishentsy – they were established by the same principles. Peasants are illiterate? then they deserve preferential right for admission into universities over “exploiting classes”, regardless of merit. Members of ethnicities other than Russian used to be underrepresented in government jobs – then they will be actively recruited, over other deserving applicants (Stalin’s nationalism and anti-Semitism came later). Children of “kulaks” are cut off any career – but someone who can prove their proletarian roots is given a green light. Those are very mild examples of discrimination, although most widely executed, by law; there were much more gruesome outrageous cases, like infamous Pavlik Morozov, who snitched on his father who supposedly behaved like “kulak”, i.e. accused him of “hoarding grain”.

  3. Tatyana, I the video says that the Frankfurt school were Marxist. The point though was that the industrial proletariat was not acting as a revolutionary class, contrary to earlier Marxist theory, so they looked for other groups to fill that role.

    Also, whether or not Marcuse was original, he was the person who actually had the influence, whether someone had the same ideas earlier or not. The point is, as you put it, his theory became practice in our times.

  4. May be of interest, I read elsewhere:

    “A friend e-mails to say that Texas A & M has an annual contest for the best definition of a contemporary expression. This year it was “political correctness.” And here’s the winner:

    Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.”


  5. Tomw, that is funny … BUT. This thing is a pernicious non-joke that is killing us slowly, slowly but surely, surely nonetheless.

    I chuckle, yes, quietly, dryly, sardonically … .

    But mostly I say … écrasez l’infâme!

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