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Political Correctness, Meet Patriotic Correctness

Over the years, all of us, whether we're residents of the left, right, or center of the political spectrum, or whether we're transients who don't fit any such label easily and flit about depending on the issue at hand, or whether we have no political leanings at all, have encountered the phenomenon of Political Correctness. Wikipedia.com defines Political Correctness (also politically correct or PC) as, "A term used to describe language or behavior which is claimed to be calculated to provide a minimum of offense, particularly to racial, cultural, or other identity groups .


Some examples of Political Correctness can be found at Global Language Monitor (GLM). According to GLM, one example of politically correct language would be the use of Herstory in place of History, "'Herstory' again attempts to take the male element out of 'HIS story'. Though there are nearly 900,000 Google citations for 'HERstory, they are all based on a mistaken assumption. When Herodotus wrote the first history, the word meant simply an 'inquiry'." A less obvious example of political correctness, per GLM, is: "1a and 1b -- The headmistress of a grade school in Midlothian (Scotland) had to split a grade into two equal classes. Though the split was purely alphabetical, parents objects because those with children in '1b' feared they may be perceived as academically inferior to those in '1a'."

Now, I submit that the concept of protecting the sensitivities of specific sub-populations is not unique to the Politically Correct movement. Allow me to introduce Patriotic Correctness. Since Wikipedia.com has no definition for Patriotic Correctness, I will indulge in creating one: Patriotic Correctness is the use of language or behavior calculated to 1) provide a minimum of offense to individuals who deem themselves patriotic; or 2) serve a specific political agenda as propaganda under the guise of genuine patriotism. This often involves the complete denial of information, however truthful, that runs counter to any stated objective(s) supported by said patriot(s).

Maureen Farrell at Buzzflash.com noted that, "In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, Congressman Marty Meehan (D- MA) discovered the price of telling the truth. 'I don't buy the notion Air Force One was a target. That's just PR. That's just spin,' he said, of the White House's official reason for the president's zigzag across the country. Though hardly treasonous, the Congressman's remarks became a vitriol-battered bone for right-wing pundits -- and death threats ensued." Thus, Meehan committed a Patriotically Incorrect gaffe.

In 2005, John Duffy wrote at the American Democracy Project blog that, "'Patriotic Correctness,' the new PC, is not about regulating the language of the culture wars. Instead, it's about political language, and especially those questions we should not ask and thoughts we should not express because we are in a Time (capital T) of War (capital W)."

"On our domestic shores, we have our own fog of war: call it 'patriotic correctness'," lamented John K. Wilson at the Independent Media Center. Wilson's article (worth reading, lest we forget how out-of-hand Patriotic Correctness can get) reads like a laundry list of examples of Patriotic Correctness. Here are just a couple of nuggets that he reminds us of:

Pressures for patriotism have been felt by people such as 60-year-old Stephen Downs, who was ordered by security guards at the Crossgates Mall in Albany to remove the "Give Peace a Chance" T-shirt he had bought in the mall.

The parade of Patriotic Correctness has been particularly strong in Congress. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) ordered the word "French" removed from all cafeterias in the House, and the cafeterias even put red, white, and blue "Freedom" stickers to cover the name of French dressing packets.

For a counter viewpoint, Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution suggested back in 2001 at JewishWorldReview.com that Patriotic Correctness, "...is one of those little clevernesses in which academics indulge themselves, juxtaposing 'political correctness' to 'patriotic correctness,' in order to create the moral equivalence that is so fashionable in some quarters." Sowell also suggests that charges of patriotic correctness represent, "a new 'McCarthyism' threatening academic freedom. According to this new cry of (leftist) victimhood, conservative groups are 'drawing up enemy lists' of professors who are opposed to the current war against terrorism." Perhaps he didn't realize how right he was. Here's an example of such an enemy list:

"The Texas A&M Professor Watch List is a comprehensive tool for students to both report incidents of academic abuse in the classroom and to understand the risk of academic abuse associated with certain faculty prior to enrolling in the courses they teach," reads the text at the top of the Young Conservatives of Texas (A&M) website. While that is a worthy enough pursuit on the surface, the site only provides examples of left-leaning offenders in a "Hall of Dishonor." (Of course, if they were really creative, the would create a "Hall of Honor" to identify right-leaning instructors...) Note the Patriotically Correct graphic on the left.

As with Political Correctness, strict adherence to Patriotically Correct language and attitudes has its effects on how the events of the day are interpreted. Danny Schechter at SmirkingChimp.com has an analysis of how the entire discussion of Iraq has been framed by Patriotic Correctness (PC itself isn't mentioned until late in the article). "Never ready to challenge the deeper assumptions and interests guiding the war, most of the Democrats instead harp on the stupidity and failures of the war's instigators and managers who are considered incompetent," says the Chimp. The Chimp also offers this suggestion, "Let us articulate what we stand for--not just what are we against. May we oppose the war for the right reasons and absorb its lessons less we repeat them in Iran or other wars that are certain to some if we don't."

Wise words, indeed.

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