Once upon a time there existed something in our universities, the media and amongst the cognoscenti called debate. Debate was a process whereby people on both sides of the argument would put their positions and, for the most part, that which was superior became the prevailing order of the day.
This is no longer the case. If you happen to watch the BBC on cable TV and tune into any debate on the topic du jour then you'll see representatives from the left, the hard left and the loopy left all arguing different degrees of the same world view all of which is moderated by a clearly left-leaning presenter. The media has tipped over the edge from being part of the responsible centre-left to the agenda-driven hard left and seem to be in a race to join their compadres on the bilious, loopy left, as far as I can see. The BBC, CNN, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, The Washington Post and even our own Melbourne Age fall into this category. None of these publications provide a fair and balanced message and, indeed, actively work against those they disagree with politically and ensure that 'political correctness' is the order of the day.
So what is political correctness, where did it come from and how are its labels used to stifle debate?
Political correctness has its roots in Marxist philosophy and is sometimes referred to as Cultural Marxism. Bill Lind has a terrific description on the origins of political correctness, which I commend to you. It's our education system, and especially the humanities departments of our universities, that does the most to instil political correctness into the world. Students, unfortunately, are taught more and more what to think and not how to think and in the process are taught a number of labels to throw at their opponents which have the effect of stifling debate. Those labels are: racist, homophobe, Islamophobe, xenophobe, bigot, fascist, Zionist and sexist.
The application of any of these labels replaces the requirement for cogent argument for those that use them, which is handy, as they tend to have spent more time in university forming opinions than actually learning the history and facts about the subject.
If I want to argue the case that men and women are, in fact, not equal, that men are stronger than women, that women are better linguists, that men are better at the sciences or that women are more socially sensitive, with my goal being to make sure that we get the best out of either of the sexes then I am labelled a sexist and that's the end of the argument. The differences between the sexes don't matter and it's equality of outcome that counts. That must be why we have affirmative action for women but not for men.
If I want to argue that forcing women to wear the hijab is a demeaning, disgusting and evil symbol of the backwards, bigoted, sexist, racist and homophobic culture known as Islam then the cultural relativists shout me down as an Islamophobe, or racist, or xenophobe, or all three. And then some. All cultures are equally valid, they tell me, and I should be forced to take counselling in cultural awareness. End of argument. By the way, how is it that feminists defend Islam? It is such a paradox. If I try to go on with the argument by pointing out that Sharia Law includes stoning rape victims to death (because they've been unfaithful) and honour killings then the invective simply rises in volume, along with the bile spewed forth at me.
If I point out that Israel is the only democracy in the Arab world (and a very left wing one, at that), in which a million Arabs live peacefully alongside Jews, in which those Arabs have the highest standard of living in the Arab world (by miles), in which Arabs serve on the judiciary and in which Arabs are elected to the Knesset (their parliament), and I want to make the case that perhaps the reporting out of the Middle East is a wee bit at odds with reality then, bingo!, I'm labelled a Zionist and that's the end of that debate.
Of course, I could go on and on with the examples including the insidious new one applied to those that question the catastrophic predictions made by the Global Warming alarmists - Denier. In the past those on the other side of the debate have been deemed to have received funding from Big Oil. However, too many skeptics started cropping up who were clearly not associated with Big Oil (such as Bjorn Lomberg, Steve McIntyre and Roger Pielke) and so a new pejorative term had to be devised and what better one than Denier? It overcomes the problem with the Big Oil tag and puts skeptics on the same moral plane as fruit loops like David Irving and the Iranian wackjob, Ahmadinejad.
Marxist doctrine aims to control the language in order to control the debate. Political correctness serves this function very effectively and seriously weakens society by only allowing one side of an argument to be 'legitimate'.