If the supposedly considerate speech is extended on “right” and “wrong” content, the political correctness will be a threat to itself and a danger to freedom of expression.
”Don’t call me nigger” was the title of a paperback series in the 1950’s published by the Catholic Herder publishing house. The young reader in me back then got a first lesson of what would later be called “political correctness” around the world and what would become an important intellectual movement. PC, meanwhile, as the abbreviation is known, originally comes from the U.S., where in a multiethnic society different groups fight for recognition and representation. In order to help the traditionally disadvantaged, practical equality measures like “affirmative action” (“positive discrimination”) were instituted, particularly quota systems in the education system.
When meeting discrimination against minorities by the majority culture appeared not to be effectively met, an extensive system of alleged view of sensitivities of minorities and outsiders by linguistic twists soon developed, especially in the academic world of the east and west coasts. The white, heterosexual, anglo-saxon man should be no longer be considered as quintessential. The word “Caucasian” has its source in the PC world.
Discrimination in both directions
It is understandable that the group of the blacks in the United States was primarily identified as those requiring most of the political correctness. The scornful words “nigger” and “Negro”, which is a loan word from the Spanish, were initially replaced by “black”. But even this reference to skin color seemed discriminatory, so that today in the stilted and informally used “afro-American” prevails. (…)
Serious business or invented to ridicule?
The iron determination and moral seriousness with which the representatives of political correctness have operated their cause have also led to excesses of which we do not know whether they are serious or were invented to ridicule. We know that today a child may not be called “difficult” any more than it may be called “showing signs of behavioral problems”, the stopover on the way to total political correctness, but as “exhibiting original behavior”. It would be wise to ask whether these tortured words stigmatize these children even more than they already are stigmatized in real life. (…)
There is a special form of PC in the struggle for equality for women. In order to escape the accusation that they are discriminating against their students, American professors have started to use only the plural form of “students” or, alternately, “she” and “he”. In the German speaking countries women have been very successful in this matter and the German language has proven particularly vulnerable against the rape on behalf of PC. All word forms remotely sounding as if they were male have been replaced by the word “inclusive” – meaning: including the female.
The core of the PC is not using names for something or someone oneself would not want be be called because it could hurt or offend. There is a new and different dimension in political correctness when it is no longer just a new new word that is introduced in order to help minorities or help those too weak to emancipate, but if it views and opinions on minorities, the weak or ethnic and religious groups as non-admissible.
A case in point that we have experienced recently in Austria was hardly noticed in the public and in the media, apart from a few commentaries in this newspaper (“Die Presse”, http://www.diepressen.com/) . In (the city of) Traun a parish had invited the German Islamic scholar Christine Schirrmacher to take part in a lecture. Schirrmacher teaches in Löwen, Belgium, and is director of the Islamic Institute of the German Evangelical Alliance. The integration official of the Islamic Community in Austria and member of the Vienna city council for the socialist party, Omar Al-Rawi, intervened in advance of the event, and was successful in demanding that the speech be canceled.
Al-Rawi cited as the the reason for his intervention that the speaker encourages “Islamophobia”. This is an allegation that does not need to be proven, and for which there is no counterevidence, because it is considered simply a position of hostility toward Islam. There is no “Islamophobia” anywhere in Schirrmacher’s speech, which can be read online (http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/oesterreich/386533/index.do) . If it had been held, it would have taken stock of the history of Islam in Europe and included a friendly plea for a “coexistence” between Islam and European-Western civilization. However, Schirrmacher does warn of the advancement of political Islam and a “shariah-friendly” legal opinion among Muslims, which will undoubtedly lead to the establishment of legal double standards.
Small piece of freedom lost
Al-Rawis action follows a thinking and pattern of activity which Schirrmacher knows well: “Some Islamic organisations today urge that nothing negative more about Islam should be published as this is a discrimination of Islam. If it is not written from a Muslim perspective, it is to be stopped.” It will be important to follow closely to what extent the Western society is prepared to defend its hard won press and freedom of expression. In Traun, at least a small piece of it has been lost. Al-Rawis impertinence is not surprising, but it is shocking that the parish in Traun was intimidated by him. He, however, calls it: was convinced. “Mrs. Schirrmacher can speak wherever she wants,“ he generously says, but not where his arm is long enough to reach her.
The former German president Roman Herzog wrote the following words: “Political correctness cannot act as the legitimate limit to freedom of expression.” One could also say that political correctness can and should also cease to be politically correct.
Omar Al-Rawi’s homepage (in German language):
Schirrmacher’s homepage: http://www.islaminstitut.de/
NOTE: translated from the editorial in Die Presse