"Political Correctness" and Factual Correctness

Note: I am mostly speaking to an American audience here. When I talk about conservatism here, I’m talking about stances that one would associate with the American Republican Party.

I’ve suspected for a long time that political correctness is nothing more than a concept deployed by strong conservatives to portray liberal advocacy of rational ideas as a form of pernicious dogmatism. For example, there’s a book series called The Politically Incorrect Guide to…. There are such guides to Global Warming, the American South, and other topics. And they all seem like silly polemics, rather than rational, factually respectable arguments.

For example, Jonathan Wells’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Evolution and Intelligent Design is simply a factually incorrect treatise on evolution. Intelligent design (which is simply a form of creationism) is just false. A debate on the validity of intelligent design is no more necessary than a debate on the existence of galaxies.

I’ve repeatedly heard strong conservatives refer to the “politically incorrect” use of terms. These terms are often words for ethnic groups. So, for example, it’s “politically incorrect” to use bigoted language. It’s “politically incorrect” to refer to black women as “nappy headed hos”. It’s “politically incorrect” to suggest that feminism is just a tool to elevate unattractive women. And so on and so forth - “political correctness” is a phrase used by conservatives to insult those who advocate respectful, rationally-grounded language. Do you think that it just makes sense to not insult entire racial groups? Do you think that respecting homosexuality is merely the smart thing to do? Well, you’re right on all counts. But you’re also “politically correct”.

So that’s what I think - I don’t think I need to articulate my belief on this matter any further. I’m curious whether or not other dopers agree with me. What do you think?

It’s not JUST that, but yes a hefty chunk of the rhetoric about political correctness is what you describe. Especially these days; the heyday of genuine “political correctness” was some time ago, but was quite ridiculous*. There’s still the occasional incident with things like people freaking out over the word “niggardly”, but it’s a lot rarer than it was.

  • Seasoned humans" as a euphemism for “old people” was one of my favorites. Always made me think of an ogre preparing dinner; “Mmmmm, seasoned humans!”

For many years now, “politically correct” is only employed as a pejorative. In fact, it’s been employed in this way for far longer, and in a far wider circle, than it was ever employed in a positive sense. Those who use the phrase are trying to imply the existence of a vast, dogmatic, progressive groupthink which totally controls the thoughts, words and deeds of everyone to the left of themselves, and therefore to portray themselves as one of a minority still possessed of intellectual honesty, integrity and independence.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, “I know it’s not politically correct to say so, but. . .” actually means something like “I am about to state a view which I know many people will consider to be morally indefensible, and I hope by this phrase to persuade you that its indefensibility is some kind of virtue.”

I think this is often the case, but there are also examples of political correctness as a language that are well, bizarre. You can take a well intended concept and overdo it.

As an example we used to call people immigrating from overseas and the like in my area of work ‘LOTE’ for ‘language other than english’, which was then replaced by ‘NESB’ for non english speaking background. Nowadays we are supposed to use the term ‘CALD’ for culturally and linguistically diverse. I have zero doubt we will see another term again being used in 5 years or so, and another again 5 years after that. All to try and find a polite way to say ‘interpreter likely to be needed’.

Im sure others will be along with any number of examples far more egregious. The goal is often laudable but in practise it can go to strange places.


Here is a little choice selection of the mythological PC-stuff:

Pink locker rooms on Kinnick Stadium

Should cooing at babies be banned?

The councils who ban Latin words because they are ‘elitist and discriminatory’ and confuse immigrants

Snowman is a sexist, racist: UK academic

18 certificate: Why websites could get cinema-style age ratings to tackle offensive online activity

Don’t use the S-word. This is a place of learning, not a school

Banned nude still scandalises

The N-word of the Narcissus

PC brigade ban police from saying ‘gang rape’ as it is ‘too emotive’

Israeli official: Swine flu name offensive

Council bans ‘brainstorming’ and replaces the term with ‘thought showers’… for fear of offending epileptics

eBay renames ‘yellow star’ after ‘Nazi’ complaint

Employer told not to post advert for ‘reliable’ workers because it discriminates against ‘unreliable’ applicants

Christian care home victorious in gay dispute

Spot the difference: How today’s airbrushing PC censors decided Churchill could do without his cigar

Tesco tells farm to stop using sheepdogs because they ‘stress’ the flock

NHS refuses to remove ‘transphobic’ anti-drinking advert

Euro chiefs ban ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’


Cricket team told it can’t call itself ‘the Crusaders’…in case it offends Muslims and Jews

Cambridge University college renames ‘distasteful’ Empire Ball

Censors at BBC ‘gone Laa-Laa’

Atlanta’s Yellow Line Has Some Asians Seeing Red

‘Daring Book for Girls’ breaks didgeridoo taboo in Australia

PC brigade put boot into Dennis ‘the gay-basher’

Women’s refuges told they must admit men

Topless ban to protect Muslims and Asians: Nile

Thought police muscle up in Britain

Failed, for calling a sergeant ‘him’

Ottawa university boots cystic fibrosis from charity drive


Father’s Day cards banned in Scottish schools

Multiple rapist escaped hospital because staff couldn’t interpret politically-correct letter

Met Police forced to spend £15,000 on new mascot - because old one is ‘too male and white’

PC publishers ban dragon from breathing fire in children’s book… because it’s too dangerous

Ice cream names cause debate - are the names racist or Nazi codewords?

Teachers say no-one should ‘fail’

Red ink banned from primary books

Christmas CD banned for mentioning Jesus

Three Little Pigs ‘too offensive’

Student unions ban blood donation advertising posters… because they discriminate against gay men

‘Racist’ golly dolls removed from Albert Dock shop

University renames ‘gents’ as ‘toilets with urinals’ - to avoid upsetting transgender students

Arts funding row over sex orientation demands

Motorist told flag could be racist

Another ad pulled - but was anyone offended?

Astro, I’m calling you out.


In the 1876 Currier & Ives published a rather famous picture of George Washington saying farewell to his troops for the Centennial which was altered from the original they had published just thirty years earlier. Keeping in mind the rising power of the prohibitionist, the 1876 version removed all references to alcohol in the image including a decanter of wine on the table and old George himself holding a wine glass in a toast to his officers. Political correctness certainly isn’t anything new here in the United States.

I think that political correctness is about avoiding the truth or softening it at least. Of course there are times when changing the language might be for the good. I sure as hell wouldn’t refer to a grown black man as “boy” and I don’t generally refer to fully grown women as “girls,” but I don’t regard that as a matter of political correctness so much as I do about treating people with respect.
PS: So far as “nappy headed hos” go I did learn one thing. It’s politically incorrect to call them nappy headed but I heard very little outcry about the ho part. Racism is out but sexism is okay? I don’t know, I get confused.

As I understand it African-American came into popular use during the 1986 Democratic National Convention in part thanks to Jesse Jackson. His reasoning was when referring to the race, their culture was implicit and no different than talking about Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans.


Whats the PC term for an American immigrant from Africa that happens to be white? What do you call the race most commonly found in Africa that has nothing to do with America?

African-Americans aren’t, for the most part, American immigrants from Africa who happen to be black. They are people born in America, whose families have been in America typically for several generations, (some of) whose more remote ancestors were black Africans. Something similar can be said of Italian-Americans, etc.

An American immigrant from Africa who happens to be white is a white migrant from, e.g. South Africa. I doubt that the descendants of this group will be numerous enough, and culturally distinct enough, to warrant a distinct label on the analogy of Italian-American, etc. They’ll probably identify as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, or else look to a slightly more remote ancestry to identify as, e.g., Irish Americans or German Americans. Or, if from North Africa, they might identify as Arab Americans.

Nice to see racism is okay when the victim is white.

I’m genuinely puzzled as to how you find any racism in my comments. Am I mistaken to think that white migrants from Africa are not so common in the US as to warrant the need for a particular label?

What did he say that was remotely racist.

As to the OP, quite correct. The use of the term “political correctness” is basically just a way to denigrate objections to bigoted language and attitudes. It’s meaningless, and is not something that actually exists as any kind of genuine ideology.

Are there people who get too easily offended or read ridiculous implications into things? Sure, but that is by no means confined to one political side. If you want to talk about offenderati, it doesn’t get any more thin-skinned than religious conservatives, e.g. “war on Christmas,” etc. The right wing media is filled with crybaby whining about imaginary insults to Christians.

Patriotic correctness is also pretty rampant. God forbid you don’t put your hand over your heart during the National Anthem or get misty eyed every time somebody mentions the troops.

South African-American
Kenyan-American (or president)
What’s the problem? When recent immigrants or their children are sufficiently Americanized to be seen as American, yet hold sufficient cultural ties to their place of origin that the hyphenated-American form can be descriptive, then we employ the nation of origin, just as we do with Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, German-Americans, etc. The term African-American is (generally) employed for the large number of people who were imported to this country before the rise of the African nation-states and who had their tribal places of origin beaten out of them, (pretty much literally). There has been some language slop over the years, (language and usage being rather outside anyone’s control), where the term African-American has been employed to mean black and this often results in silly phrases, but the usage you question has a pretty well-defined answer.

No. I’m pro-science and, by American standards, progressive politically but have the misfortune(?) to be INTP (Perceptive) on the Myers-Briggs scale, while many liberal Dopers are INTJ (Judgmental). Many liberals do forsake their pro-science bent when it’s convenient for their politics.

The clear example of this was seen in a recent thread where the concept of “race” was challenged. It was patiently explained that the human population can be clustered by genetic characters, using trivial and well-known statistical techniques, but the liberals trotted out one confused and mistaken objection after another in their refusal to accept that. (Now one can object that racial differences are too tiny to be useful predictors; and one can object that racial differences should be concealed for social purposes, but instead “politically correct” liberals simply deny the very notion of statistical clustering. These are the very same liberals who shriek “anti-science!” at AGW deniers.)

(BTW, I am not just another right-wing idiot. :smiley: As I said, I’m a progressive with the misfortune(?) to be Perceptive. :smiley: )

If that is what you mis-read into that discussion, it would explaion why you are confused, here.

Based on a review of that list, it would appear that the UK is far more infested with political correctness than the U.S. ever was. :stuck_out_tongue:

There are no genetic clusters for “race.” That word has no biological application for human beings. That is not “political correctness,” that is a fact. You can use the word “race” for arbitrarily selected genetic clusters if you want to, but that doesn’t actually make the word mean anything. Homo sapiens is not divisible into “races.” That’s biology, not politics.

I am almost afraid to respond to this, but you are mischaracterizing the argument. Very few people argue that there is no genetic clustering. What the argument revolves around is whether or not the concept of race is a usefully correlated to that clustering. The answer is usually no.

The most solid and useful evidence of clustering is in medical conditions. Sickle cell anemia in the U.S. is by far most common among African Americans. Is it a “black” disease. No, it turns out that in Africa, only populations from the malaria belt have a propensity for this trait. And it turns out that “white” populations in the malaria belt also tend to have the sickle cell trait. So we have a genetic disease linked to certain populations but to any specific race.

The same thing happens with other traits, such as endurance. It has been noted that long distance running has been dominated by Kenyans and Ethiopians for a while. Does that mean “blacks” are better at distance running? Well, no. It turns out that a population in the area of the border of the two countries has a high incident of a genetic trait that tends to make better endurance athletes, but another population not too far away in has the opposite but related trait that make for poor endurance, but good burst performance. These extremes are controlled by the number of a certain gene that each person has. Most populations on earth fall between these two extremes. But the biggest difference is actually within one race.

Which is the problem. Population variation in most traits maps poorly to the 19th century concept of 3 main races. And historically, most attempts to link the two have been done in effort to scientifically “prove” racist stereotypes. That is why anytime anyone starts talking about genetics and race together there is an extra level of skepticism.

If a geneticist published a study showing that a specific population in Africa had genetic propensity for concrete versus abstract reasoning linked to the incidence of a specific gene sequence it would be taken seriously. If a chemist gives a speech saying he is convinced Africa is doomed because they have an obviously genetic defect in rational thought he will be quickly and loudly criticized.

On preview, also what DtC said.

My point exactly.

If anything, the right has outpaced the left in displaying the kind of whining, paranoia, and victim-playing that characterizes political correcteness. And in addition to the hypocisy, right-wing PC–unlike left-wing PC–has no basis in historical reality (although I suppose Vietnam-era troop-dissing is an exception, but look how it’s been expoited in suppressing opposition to military action).

And this demonstrates, umm, ignorance about what sort of genetic characters are used in the population clustering which correlates with “race” as understood by the layman.

Let me boldface the following: Faulty conclusions can be derived from incautious use of the race concept. Moreover the simplistic network and clading diagrams one sees are misleading. But this is all beyond my scope here. I simply claim that genetic clusters can be detected in the human population, that these correspond with the layman’s term “race”, and that to pretend otherwise is indefensible.

Yes, whites in malaria belts may be observed to have the protective gene – that’s natural selection. But such genes aren’t what we’re talking about! We’re talking about microsatellite genotyping based on “Short Tandem Repeats,” the same characters used for identifications on CSI, etc. These characters (which are used mainly because testing for them is inexpensive) don’t pertain to useful genes, and thus are unrelated to any useful or detrimental mutation.

I continue to be amazed by the confusion. In the other thread someone posted a link to a paper showing that clustering using such microsatellite genotypes correlates very strongly with self-identified race. The objection to such clustering that was repeated a few times was based on the question whether labradoodles disprove the idea that labradors and poodles are valid dog “races.” :confused:

If anyone wants to argue this further, I hope they’ll indicate how well they understand the techniques of statistical clustering, and whether it’s the “labradoodle problem” that’s confusing, or what.

Based on a review of that list, it would appear that the Daily Mail invents/exaggerates things to give its suburban reactionary readership a justification for having moved away from the cities that masks the truth of them just not liking black folk.