PR on PC

PR on PC

The Fall 1993 issue of Partisan Review was entirely filled by a symposium on “The Politics of Political Correctness” to which
twenty-seven people, most of them professors, contributed. Unlike several famous earlier PR symposia, this one can hardly be said to take up either a timely or a neglected topic. Nor is there any novelty in the universally critical attitude toward their subject of the symposiasts, none of whom defends political correctness even as a well-intentioned enterprise gone wrong.

Three years have passed since the “politically correct” (PC) label came into general use to describe efforts on college campuses to promote or impose approved speech codes for referring to groups victimized by past discrimination and, more broadly, to describe the mechanically applied egalitarian principles justifying these efforts. Just about every major
newspaper and magazine in the country has run lead articles criticizing political correctness, denouncing it as “thought control” in violation
of the First Amendment, or at the very least ridiculing its silly linguistic puritanism. The latter theme has become a staple of the funny
papers (including the liberal “Doonesbury” strip), usually involving the concoction of ingeniously ludicrous equivalents for other
groups of euphemisms comparable to “vertically challenged” for short people. A newspaper columnist making humorous predictions for
the New Year wrote that “every article about political correctness on campus will include the phrase ‘a Hebrew colloquialism literally translated as “water buffalo”.’ ” One in four of the
PR symposiasts lives up to this prediction by alluding to the farcical incident at the University of Pennsylvania to which it refers.

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima