Political Correctness, Or The Perils of Benevolence

The soft despotism of speech codes.

Issue: Winter 2003-2004

All good people agree
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They.
--Rudyard Kipling

"We and They"

The term "political correctness" is such a familiar piece of moral shorthand that it is easy to forget that the phrase has been with us for only about a dozen years. "John or Mary or the University of Lagado is so PC"--it's never a compliment, but exactly what does the charge of political correctness imply? To a large extent, the familiarity of the phenomenon has bred, if not contempt, then at least an unhealthy indifference. Political correctness--the phrase and even more the idea--has had a curious and circuitous career, and the more we know about it the more distasteful and alarming it seems.

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