Sunday, August 26, 2018

Political correctness

In light of my previous post, I want to talk just a little bit about identity politics and political correctness.

Identity politics is the political struggle for formal and informal civil rights for women, people of color, and those with non-standard sexual and gender orientation, people who have historically been and presently are egregiously discriminated against and oppressed, often with the most frightful violence. Political correctness is the idea that we should resist speech that promotes or suborns discrimination and violent oppression of these groups, and we should especially resist legitimizing such speech, e.g. by giving proponents of sexism, racism, cis- and heteronormativity a legitimizing platform such as a college campus.

There is an unobjectionable controversy here: Where do we want to set the boundaries? What constitutes speech that that promotes, suborns, and legitimizes discrimination and oppression. And what is notable about opponents of identity politics is the absence of any discussion about where this border should lie; instead the argument is that there should be no border at all.

As I've long argued regarding atheism, the substantive issue is settled. Sexism, racism, and cis- and heteronormativity are completely without a factual basis. What remains is the political question: should we impose these norms without a factual basis or construct a "factual" basis to support them?

That's not a terrible argument: it has a long pedigree, going back to Plato's advocacy of the "noble lie" in The Republic, and continues at least through Leo Strauss. But we should recognize the argument for what it is, and avoid getting sucked into an argument about what it is not. The arguments against identity politics and political correctness are not about preserving freedom of speech, or indeed any kind of freedom other than the "freedom" to oppress. They are not about any kind of "truth" of the ordinary liberal variety. Indeed they are contrary to the liberal notion of truth, and intentionally so. The whole notion of the noble lie is contrary to the ordinary notion of truth: we must tell a lesser lie to preserve a greater truth. The liberal notion of truth is too rigid to encompass such a tension.

2 comments:

  1. Your previous post which this post was made in light of was about Jordan Peterson, which seems to raise the question: Is he one of the specific individuals whom you're saying shouldn't be allowed a platform on university campuses?

    ReplyDelete
  2. AFAIK, Peterson seems like just a garden variety jackass, not a racist fuck like Murray or Yiannopoulis, and not an actual Nazi like Spencer. So I wouldn't go to the mat to keep Peterson off campus, at least not now.

    OTOH, if Peterson were speaking at an official university function, I would walk out or not attend. My time is too valuable to waste much listening to a jackass.

    ReplyDelete

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