Playing the "PC" Card

y.r.rani at y.r.rani at
Thu Dec 7 14:27:22 UTC 1995

I agree that this forum is not the place to debate the various components
of fascism or how it plays out comparatively among German Nazis, Indian
Hindutvadi(s), or US Republicans.  Subcontinental politics are of great
interest to most of us on this list, though the purpose of the Indology
discussion group has a different focus.

I would, however, like to raise a question about political correctness
among my respected colleagues.  The Internet, with its cloak of anonymity,
offers the ideal forum for individuals to throw insults at each other via
"slamming" and "flaming" that they would never lower themselves to when
communicating face to face.  On this medium we must be particularly careful
to observe the rules of polite decorum while not hedging the issues.

Ulrich Windisch wrote:
>It was mainly not what I said, it was the way I did which made some of you
>insulted and that is not the words I choosed but it is political
>correctness I offended against.

But, in fact, it was the opposite; it was the *words* you used and not your
*message* that were perceived as offensive.

As we know, the term "political correctness" arose in the early days of the
US Communist Party which required its members to "tow the party" line and
not refute or disagree with the center.  The term has now been co-opted and
reapplied with a pejorative application  to refer to academics, who
supposedly constrained by "political correctness," refrain from teaching
the truth and calling the proverbial spade a spade.  Hence, PC has come to
mean a treatment of materials that is afraid to challenge the established
paradigms and therefore is indeed something to be avoided.  But, if "PC"
means that we do not use insulting terms while making our points, such as
not using the "N-word" or  calling a woman  "Little Lady," but that we
generally abide by the rules of decorum and polite social intercourse, then
it is not a hindrance to communication but an aide, for who will listen if
they are insulted?  It seems to me that all this anti-PC talk is just an
excuse to throw rough language around and while refuting someone's ideas,
also call their morality, maturity or other personality traits into
question.  As stated above, this sort of discourse is never productive and
in fact negates the good points made by the perpetrator.

It is my sincere hope that modern professionals will feel constrained to
show respect to one another while discussing controversial topics on the
Internet just as they would in a classroom or on a panel discussion.  Basis
rules of polite debate are certainly not PC!  It is not PC that demands
considerate address, it's just plain ole' traditional human kindness.   I'm
really sick of people using the PC card to defend their right to throw
insults.  A little tongue in cheek irony is always a cute device,
challenging ideas with which you do not agree is always to be welcomed by
all parties in an open discussion, but it is not a PC-ness that constrains
us from derisive and rude comments when arguing points with our colleagues.
It is just the basic rules of scholarly debate.  Why allow the anonymity
of Email to give us the opportunity to be less than human?  PC has come to
mean something negative that precludes accuracy but it is invoked as an
excuse to use personal insults when making a point.

Ulrich Windisch also wrote:
>real discussion even if its getting a bit harsh only can take
>place if political correctness is not something standing in the way.

I guess that depends on how you use and define political correctness.  If
it a fear of dealing with the topic, then it is obviously a negative
barrier, but if it is observing the rules of polite debate, then it is
nothing more than the way that our mothers tried to raise us!

Yvette C. Rosser

   TOO SURE IT IS ALWAYS RIGHT."  *  Justice Learned Hand


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