Once upon a time, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, which is to say in the early 1980s, political correctness was an ironical, self-referential way for those on the left to mock their own ideological pretentions. Later, in the early 1990s, the term was seized by those on the right to attack the left for supposed attempts to impose a rigid orthodoxy on the body politic. Politically incorrectness, therefore, became a way of declaring resistance against orthodoxy and conventional wisdom.*
Here’s my problem.
Lately, it seems political incorrectness has degenerated a bit. Preface any remark, not matter how vile or outrageous with “It might be [air quotes] ‘politically incorrect’ to say this, but. . . ” and you’ll likely get away with it. You’re being very brave, you see, and all politically incorrect.
The air quotes are vital.
So the other day I heard one of my nurse colleagues say, referring to Jamaican-Canadian peer, “I’m probably being [air quotes, always with the air quotes] ‘politically incorrect’, but I think she operates on island time.”
And another on a gay colleague: “I might be [air quotes] ‘politically incorrect’ but he’s that way because he had a absent father and a domineering mother.” (Amazing that particular chestnut is still out there. In 2010.)
I think I need to call bullshit.
Using air quotes and the phrase “politically incorrect” does not give you cover for spewing whatever empty stupid thought rattling around in your stegasaurus brain. Being racist or homophobic or whatever does not mean you’re being politically incorrect. It means you’re an asshat jerk, and no amount of [air quotes] “political incorrectness’ is going to fix it.
Unless you’re actually challenging rigid thinking or giving new insight on conventional wisdom, STFU.
Because I really don’t want to have to listen to you.
*The abiding irony, of course, is most attacks against “political correctness” effectively amount to a defence of conventional wisdom.