The other day, I got to wondering why so many who obviously are politically correct deny being so when someone points out to them that they hold such views. I think the answer lies in the way most of us acquire our attitudes and opinions. Few of us are dedicated philosophers or deep thinkers so we form our opinions piecemeal, often over a considerable span of time. We do not suddenly buy into an established ideology or pre-packaged set of ideas. Most of us recognize the foolishness of such a thoughtless swallow-it-whole move.
It is possible to absorb politically correct (and other) attitudes without realizing what is happening. (Image: Thomas Cotterill)
Because of this piecemeal approach, participants in the politically correct worldview have probably absorbed the values one at a time as they encountered them. As is now well known, there is a strong leftist bias in education, the arts, the media, television, Hollywood, and so on. We meet political correctness everywhere. Such views are on the six o’clock news, embedded in sitcoms and dramas, presented in magazines and newspapers, flashed across the big screen in the latest Hollywood blockbusters, embedded in novels, and discussed on television talk shows. We may also encounter the worldview among our already-persuaded family members, friends, and co-workers. Seldom do these isolated examples of politically correct thinking bear the specific label “Politically Correct.” However, the notion that they are unquestionably a good thing is implicit in the mode of presentation. It is often very persuasive.
Over time, item by item, example by example, the value set fleshes out and the bearer of it becomes unknowingly PC. Along their path, however, these philosophical innocents also encounter some critical disapproval of being politically correct (from people such as myself), and not wanting to do anything that might incur criticism, “decide” that they are against it or that they are more moderate and therefore not politically correct themselves.
There is no dishonesty in this. The world around us influences everyone and few of us have sufficient philosophical sophistication (or time) to estimate the significance of our full set of attitudes and values. Most people do not know themselves particularly well and are unaware of how they genuinely appear to others. The unconsciously politically correct quite honestly believe they are no such thing.
The situation sets the unconscious politically correct person on the road to the denial I mentioned at the beginning of the post. The fun begins when someone comments upon the unwittingly absorbed political correctness. Its bearer has no idea that the statement is true and simply denies what they see as an inaccurate assessment of their views. If they suddenly realize there may be some truth in the comment, the denial is often sharp or even angry. They quite naturally become defensive.
Everything that I have said about political correctness is also applicable to leftist values in general. These too are absorbed from teachers, the media, television shows, movies, and so on. There are so few conservative opinion-making influences remaining in Western societies that leftist values and views are assumed to be moderate, centrist, or mainstream. Americans, for example, often mistakenly label leftist viewpoints as merely “liberal.” Yet today’s so-called liberal ideas are a very long way from the responsible and thoughtful liberalism of the nineteen-fifties and earlier.
The last few conservative opinion-making bastions would include Fox News in the US, Sun News Network in Canada, and talk radio in both countries. Both Fox and Sun emerged as deliberate attempts to correct the destructive and unfair imbalance in political and social opinion making. They are conscious counterweights to the deliberate exclusion (or open ridicule) of conservative values and thinking seen in education, the media, Hollywood, and until recently, the publishing industry. It is interesting to note leftist intolerance of competing viewpoints. Had the conservative majorities of the past been equally narrow-minded, the left could never have gained the power that it now enjoys.