Australia's conservative parties, including the reigning Liberal and National party coalition, as well as right-wing fringe dwellers, Pauline Hanson's One Nation and Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives, use fear to great effect in attracting people to them. Their chief bugaboos include Unions, Socialists, Islam, refugees, Safe Schools (ironically, an anti-bullying program), and the ill-defined-but-great-as-an-all-round-bad-guy 'Political Correctness'.
What is this evil and insidious beast known as 'Political Correctness'? Well, it is whatever the fear-adled right-wing say that it is; usually it's anything that they disagree with. In reality, this thing called political correctness is about treating people with respect and being sensitive to their situation or concerns. For example, once upon a time, people who were unable to speak, were called dumb. Some would even carry a sign around their necks stating that the wearer was dumb, or if they were particularly beset, the sign might state that they were deaf, dumb and blind. The politically correct term these days for people who can't speak, is 'mute', for blind it is 'vision impaired' and for deaf it is 'hearing impaired'. Similarly, people were once labelled as cripple or retarded, then they were called handicapped, now they are known as 'having a disability', or even as being 'able challenged'. Back in the day, jobs were often labelled with gender-specific titles, such as policeman, fireman or chairman. Now they are known as police officer, firefighter or chairperson. Homosexuals are known as gay or lesbian, or even LGBTIQ+, which recognises the variations in sexuality. Sex change is now known as gender reassignment. This be the evil beast of political correctness. End of the world, right? Sadly, too many right-wingers see it as such.
The right-wing claim that political correctness is an assault on freedom of speech and that it is a facade that hides the true meaning. Some will even say it is part of a larger conspiracy, for instance, to mask a 'gay agenda' to exterminate gender, make us all gay and end procreation as we know it by sprinkling gay fairy dust over our children. So the right-wing wish to call things as they see it, without some namby-pamby politically correct epithet. Unfortunately, the idea of being sensitive to other people is not a strong suit for the right-wing - when it suits them.
The right-wing trundle out political correctness in a self-righteous, smug way as though they are not riddled with such platitudes. They'll even bust out age-old invectives to prove their pride in being politically incorrect. However, the right-wing is riddled with its own version of political correctness. They will use terms that match their own political or world-view. For example, a white person who shoots up a school or concert is referred to as an 'armed assailant' or a 'gunman', but if a Muslim does it, they are labelled as an 'Islamic terrorist' without waiting for the motive to be determined. The leader of a country friendly to western nations, would be known as President or Prime Minister, however if the country's politics are contrary to western politics, the leader will often be referred to as a dictator or tyrant.
Recently, US President Donald Trump banned seven words from use by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018 budget documents. The offensive words are 'vulnerable', 'entitlement', 'diversity', 'transgender', 'fetus', 'evidence-based' and 'science-based'(1). After all, we can't have a scientific organisation reporting on evidence-based programs in case it offends the perpetually outraged right-wing and disproves their flaky hold on the science of the natural world.
And god help anyone who dares to say 'happy holidays' at Christmas time. Some on the right-wing boycotted Cadbury's at Easter time because of the false reporting that Cadbury's had banned the word Easter from their Easter eggs. While some of Cadbury's products had removed the word 'Easter', or not prominently displayed it, some of this was on products sold all year around or which Cadbury felt was obvious that they were Easter eggs. Additionally, many of their products still had 'Easter' plastered all over them.(2).
These days there are a lot of food products that allow for various dietary sensitivities, whether those be physical allergies (e.g. peanuts), physical sensitivities (e.g. gluten) or religious observances (e.g. halal and kosher). The right-wing had no concern with peanuts, gluten or kosher. However, when food companies started catering to Muslims by having products halal-certified, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the right-wing. There were petitions and boycotts against products such as Vegemite. The Islamophobes linked halal-certification to terrorism even though the Australian Crime Commission stated there was no evidence of direct links between halal-certification and terrorism(3), a finding which was confirmed by a parliamentary inquiry(4). But let not truth stop the right-wing from stirring up fear and hate in the community.
The way these right-wing fear-mongers and hate-preachers tell it, terrorism is the domain of Islam. Other non-Muslim groups who have used terrorism in their political aims are often referred to by the right-wing as separatists or rebels. This includes groups such as Basque 'separatists', Sandinista 'rebels', Tamil Tigers, right-wing military 'juntas' in Central and South America. And then there's the christian Phalangist Party in Lebanon who, under direction of Israel, unleashed the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians, including children and babies, in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982. But that's ok because, you know ... Israel: God's chosen ... genocide doesn't count when God has tapped you on the shoulder ... and yet the rabid right will have the hide to accuse Palestinians of killing in the name of God, when it is clear that Israel is killing in the name of God to ethnically cleanse the 'Promised Land' of those pesky Palestinians who have lived there for thousands of years.
But as the old saying goes, 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'. While a simplistic interpretation of terrorism, the saying does succinctly summarise the role that perspective has in terrorist activity. Scottish politician George Gallaway made a number of pertinent observations on this when he stated, 'One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. You are totally wrong in saying that in most people’s eyes Hezbollah are terrorists. In most people’s eyes Israel is a terrorist state. It’s the fact that you cannot comprehend that fact that leads to bias that runs through all of your reporting and every question that you’ve asked me in this interview!'. Galloway also stated, 'We want to make reparation to the Palestinian people for the crimes of Balfour which were committed in the building behind me, when one person, on behalf of one country, promised a second people the lands of a third people - the Palestinians. We are determined that we should stop the privatization of basic services of the British people. We are determined to defend the liberty of the British people which is being taken away day by day under the name of anti-terrorism. Ancient freedoms, which we had for hundreds of years, are being taken away from us under the name of the war on terror, when the real big terrorists are the governments of Britain and the United States. They are the real rogue states breaking international law, invading other people's countries, killing their children in the name of anti-terrorism, when in fact, all they're achieving is to make more terrorists in the world, not less, to make the world more dangerous, rather than less. These are our priorities'.
Another of Galloway's poignant criticisms of the west's role in terrorism, 'Stop invading Muslims lands! How can you expect Muslims to love you when you are forcefully occupying their lands and murdering their people?'.
Most terrorism has little to do with religion and more to do with land and power, for instance, the illegal theft and occupation of Palestine by Israel. It's easy for the right-wing to blame Islam while failing to look in the mirror at their own actions. Most of the leaders of western invasions and wars are christian, and many right-wing christian groups cheer on western military actions, as well as Israel's war-crimes in Palestine. For those who like to make terrorism about religion and who revel in xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, Ellen G. White has a great comment, 'Christ tears away the wall of partition, the self-love, the dividing prejudice of nationality, and teaches a love for all the human family'.
Another target of the right-wing's political correctness sensitivity is Australia's public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS. Both have been criticised for promoting 'left-wing' agendas. The ABC has faced particular attacks on their alleged lack of bias. These attacks are by people who want to silence any opinion that differs to their own. It is clear that many of the people who attack the ABC do not listen to or watch it. The current affairs shows, such as Radio National's AM, PM and Breakfast, give equal voice to politicians from Labor and Liberal, in addition to the Prime Minister, the Deputy PM and the Treasurer, regular interviews are given to Matthias Corman and Christopher Pyne.
But why allow truth and balance to infiltrate the right-wing. The coalition government has appointed conservative reporters and critics of the ABC to influential positions, including former Liberal Party politician Janet Albrechtson appointed to the ABC panel(5). This followed the controversial appointment of Michelle Guthrie as ABC Managing Director. While Guthrie was CEO for Rupert Murdoch's Star TV network, she had attempted to bypass China's media ownership restrictions(6). Since then, Guthrie has restructured and gutted the ABC through axing shows and sacking staff(7).
Without a doubt, the rabid right-wing has its own form of political correctness, launching into paroxysms of manufactured outrage and spraying spittle at anything that doesn't conform to their narrow world view.
While the right-wing argues that the left-wing is shutting down their freedom of speech, it is often the right-wing who aims to ban or shut down left-wing commentators and media that gives voice to the left-wing, or to people who stand up against the human rights abuses perpetrated by the right-wing, such as Australia's inhumane and malicious treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, or even to scientists who present scientific evidence that discredits the right's benighted postulating.
Many on the right will argue that their freedom of speech has been curtailed because of political correctness. Yet again, this is complete rubbish aimed at manufacturing outrage and fear among the gullible. No-one is stopping anyone from having their opinion. The problem with the right-wing is that they see any form of criticism as an attack on their freedom, while not understanding or accepting that freedom of speech means that others can voice dissent. This results in the rabid right-wing trying to shut dissenters down by screeching 'political correctness' whenever they feel their diminutive world-view is being threatened, in a manner reminiscent of the 'repressed peasant' in Monty Python's Holy Grail:
'help, help, I'm being repressed - look at the evil socialist making evidence-based, fact-checked, peer-reviewed, scientific arguments against my everything-phobia ... help, help, I'm being repressed'.
In the United States, the rabid right melted down when NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick dared to remain seated during the national anthem, and on later occasions to kneel, because he wouldn't stand to show pride in the flag of a country that continues to oppress and kill black people. Some military veterans showed support for Kaepernick, saying that they fought for his freedom to make this expression. The right however, wanted him sacked, sanctioned, jailed. The anger was palpable. There were boycotts of NFL games and Kaepernick received death threats. Don't cross the perpetually outraged right-wing. Kaepernick's actions did not affect anyone else, he wasn't trying to stop the national anthem being played, but the rabid right certainly tried to stop him.
One of the lies that the right-wing loves to revel in, is the rubbish claim that they are prevented from saying Merry Christmas, and can only say things like Happy Holidays. Even that doyen of bullshit, President Donald Trump, stated that under his rule, people could again say Merry Christmas ... implying that they had been prohibited from saying it before he rode in like a knight in shining armour. However, former president Barack Obama never stopped people saying 'Merry Christmas'(8). This was yet another example of Trump's many lies aimed at manufacturing rage and hate in his gullible followers. There is no war on Christmas, no-one is stopping anyone from celebrating Christmas, but the perpetually outraged rabid right create one and then blame 'political correctness' for it.
One of the mantras used to explain the actions of terrorists, is 'they hate our freedoms'. Which is not the issue, however, it is becoming increasingly obvious that many on the right-wing hate our freedoms. They don't want to see the left-wing express their freedom of speech, or see LGBTIQ+ free to marry those they chose, or Muslims free to worship at the Mosque they wish to or wear the clothes they chose.
The right-wing is constantly squawking about their right to freedom of speech, yet most just want the right to not have their myopic views or fatuous beliefs challenged. Nineteenth century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard accurately nailed the problem with this approach when he said, 'People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use'. Little thought is given to much of the arguments put forward by the rabid right.
What is it that the rabid right wishes to say that they can't say now? The only thing that might land them in trouble is racist or hate speech. Is this what they are so angry about? That they want the right to be hateful and racist? It says a lot about their character.
The following pyramid was designed by Ellen Tuzzolo for Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-Violence. Even though it was designed for US audiences, much of it is applicable throughout the world. It shows that Covert White Supremacy is socially acceptable, but just because something is accepted socially, doesn't make it right. It is this insidious racism that 'political correctness' aims to address in order to stop the rise of Overt White Supremacy. Similar pyramids could be developed for other targets of bigotry, such as homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia.
|Original designed by Ellen Tuzzolo for the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-Violence|
Challenging bigotry and ignorance does matter. Calling out and challenging mindless assertions and hate speech does matter. Those who disagree with the claims of the right-wing should not be silenced. They have freedom of speech too.
1. The Washington Post, Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilprin, CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity, 15 December 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.
2. Snopes, Dan Evon, Easter Bannies, 24 March 2016, https://www.snopes.com/cadbury-banned-easter/. Accessed 27 December 2017.
3. ABC News, RMIT ABC Fact Check, Fact Check: Does halal certification fund terrorism?, 21 April 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-14/fact-check-does-halal-certification-fund-terrorism/6383238. Accessed 27 December 2017.
4. Parliament of Australia, Jean Murphy, Halal certification in Australia: a quick guide, 30 August 2016, https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/HalalCert. Accessed 27 December 2017.
5. The Guardian, Amanda Meade, Conservative commentator Janet Albrechtsen appointed to ABC panel, 2 July 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jul/02/conservative-commentator-janet-albrechtsen-appointed-to-abc-panel. Accessed 27 December 2017.
6. The Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Knott, The tumultous News Corp past of new ABC boss Michelle Guthrie, 17 December 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-tumultuous-news-corp-past-of-new-abc-boss-michelle-guthrie-20151217-glq4xf.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.
7. The Sydney Morning Herald, Debi Enker, The news is sad for ABC viewers under Michelle Guthrie's rule, 12 October 2017. http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/the-news-is-sad-for-abc-viewers-under-michelle-guthries-rule-20171009-gywwmj.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.
8. The Independent, Maya Oppenheim, Trump claims he saved 'Merry Christmas' from assault, despite Obama having said it every year, 25 December 2017,
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-merry-christmas-assault-twitter-barack-obama-a8127921.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.