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“We’ve fully entered the Second Great Age of Political Correctness”

“We’ve fully entered the Second Great Age of Political Correctness”

“Political correctness didn’t decline and fall. It went underground and then rose again.”

Greg Lukianoff is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He understands the issue of free speech in education better than most people.

He writes at Reason:

The Second Great Age of Political Correctness

The 1994 movie PCU, about a rebellious fraternity resisting its politically correct university, was a milestone. Not because the movie was especially good—it wasn’t. It was a milestone because it showed that political correctness had officially become a joke.

The derisive term “P.C.” had referred to a genuine and powerful force on campus for the previous decade. But by the mid-1990s, it had become the butt of jokes from across the political spectrum. The production of a mainstream movie mocking political correctness showed that its cultural moment had passed.

At the same time, punitive campus speech codes were being struck down. Among the most prominent cases was Stanford Law School, which boasted a notorious speech code banning “speech or other expression…intended to insult or stigmatize” an individual on the basis of membership in a protected class arguably including every living human. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see how a ban on anything that “insults” would be abused: Even showing PCU itself, which makes fun of campus activists, feminists, and vegetarians, could potentially get you in trouble under such a broad and vague rule. The 1995 court defeat of the Stanford speech code marked the end of the First Great Age of Political Correctness.

Some assumed this meant political correctness was a fad that was gone forever. On the contrary, it gathered strength over the next two decades, rooting itself in university hiring practices and speech policing, until it became what people now refer to as “wokeness” or the much-abused term “cancel culture.”

Political correctness didn’t decline and fall. It went underground and then rose again. If anything, it’s stronger than ever today. Yet some influential figures on the left still downplay the problem, going so far as to pretend that the increase in even tenured professors being fired for off-limits speech is a sign of a healthy campus. And this unwillingness to recognize a serious problem in academia has helped embolden culture warriors on the right, who have launched their own attacks on free speech and viewpoint diversity in the American education system.

We’ve fully entered the Second Great Age of Political Correctness. If we are to find a way out, we must understand how we got here and admit the true depths of the problem.


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I must have missed the period where it “went underground.” It certainly didn’t happen in 1994. It wasn’t underground right after 9/11 in 2001. It wasn’t underground during Gamergate in 2014. It wasn’t underground when South Park satirized it in 2015. The South Park arc was particularly interesting in that it specifically satirized what we now call “woke” under the previous term of “PC.” We all certainly recognize that genealogy.

Two points…

1) Look up “Overton window.”
2) Prefiguring even that is the quote from Noam Chomsky:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

I’m not usually a fan of Chomsky’s, but he hit that nail squarely in its head.

PCU wasn’t good….it was great! No need to poke at something you can only dream of making there “Reason” writer.

Political correctness never went underground-it metastasized into the woke culture of the present

What’s at the root of PC or wokeness? A profound refusal to acknowledge the personhood of another human being. This opens the door to the many forms of abuse we see all around us.

If you don’t respect the opinions of another, it’s a small step to denying their status as a human being. Since we’re all made in the image of God, it’s another small step to denying God himself. So here we are. This tells us who our enemy is, doesn’t it?

    Steven Brizel in reply to DSHornet. | December 15, 2021 at 10:39 am

    When you think that your factually unsupported narrative takes precedence over the factually supported differing view of another person, you are engaging in narcissism writ large and acting as if you are Heaven Forbid, God Himself. We are living in a generation that combines the worst excesses of the generation of the flood and the generation of the Tower of Babel as described in Genesis.

    artichoke in reply to DSHornet. | December 15, 2021 at 3:35 pm

    lol it’s great when you go public like this with what you tell each other. Let me help you with a perspective you don’t acknowledge among yourselves.

    We know you’re all people. That doesn’t mean we have to do what you say, or say that some lives matter and be unable to say that some other lives matter just as loudly, or any of the other ridiculous nonsense you’ve decided you have the right to “demand”.

We have to fight to win, not for fairness or to tie. If they fight to win (professionally destroy) and we fight for fairness, they’ll act with impunity and we’ll never be free of it.

We have to fight to win.