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The Achilles heel of the Left
March 9, 2005 12:48 AM   Subscribe

Is political correctness the enemy from within? (via A&L Daily) Lillian Rubin writes, "...the consolidation of power by the political right in recent years has convinced me that by insisting on political correctness, we not only played a part in impoverishing the national discourse but, in doing so, we also marginalized ourselves politically and lost what should have been our natural constituency."
posted by mono blanco (194 comments total)

 
I don't much care about the background - any question asking if political correctness is the enemy gets a resounding YES! from me. The single biggest scourge of our times may well turn out to be that we have turned ourselves inside out in trying not to offend the most minor of minorities and, in doing so, have completely alienated most of the population.
posted by dg at 12:55 AM on March 9, 2005


First reaction: GAAAH! Formatting!

Response to dg: Shall we define PC before we go any further down the road of divisive absolutism?
posted by squirrel at 12:58 AM on March 9, 2005


On Republicans: I don't take a backseat to anyone in my anger at the right, especially the radical religious right and its neocon partners. Their ideological inflexibility, the way they manipulate the facts to fit their preconceptions and sell their falsehoods to the American public
...
On Democrats: Not that there wasn't truth in our side of the argument; it just wasn't the whole truth. ... And still others told me I should "push the delete button" on my computer before going public with my doubts about the efficacy of bilingual programs, even though these were also the concerns voiced by many of the Latino and Asian families I interviewed.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:19 AM on March 9, 2005


Here's a representative snippet that cuts to the heart of his argument for those who, like me, have had a hard time wading through his blatherly academic prose:

On race, too, we failed to speak out at crucial moments and to face up to self-evident truths. For decades the left has argued that the antisocial behavior of significant numbers of African American youth (dropping out of school, getting pregnant, gang behavior, drugs) is a direct result of the painful realities under which they live and the hopelessness and helplessness their plight generates. Once again, we're not wrong, but we're not wholly right either.

No doubt the prospects of African American youth have been seriously affected by the massive neglect of our public schools, very high levels of unemployment, crushing poverty, police practices that criminalize behavior that's treated like a boyish prank in white suburbs, and a long history of prejudice and discrimination. But as William Julius Wilson, a Harvard scholar who can't by any stretch be called an apologist for the right, argues, there are also behavioral causes of black poverty-decisions and choices that are not the inevitable result of social constraints but of an amalgam of culture and personal behavior that is destructive to both the individual and the community. To believe otherwise is to strip an entire population of any agency and to treat them as if they were as helpless to influence the direction of their lives as leaves tossed about in a hurricane. Well meaning, perhaps, but ultimately condescending.
The upshot: the progressive left has been intellectually dishonest with itself to a degree that has lost it credibility with centrists, and thereby given ammunition to the hard right.

I don't think this can be denied, but I'm open to arguments to the contrary.

As a middle-class white male, graduate school presented daily challenges, both externally and internally imposed, regarding the politics of race, gender, class and sexual orientation. While I'm aware that in the superstructure of American society, I am positioned to benefit from power imbalances along several axes, grad school was nevertheless unnecessarily rife with obstacles designed to hinder me on the basis of my color, class and etc.

That said, I see the progressive movement, and even what is derisively referred to as PC, as a national, even global movement in consciousness raising. By and large, it is a good thing. I refuse to call progressivism a bad thing out of hand merely because some of its adherents apply it with too broad a brush. A movement as large as this, that has such powerful and organized opposition, is bound to get some things wrong. It's easy to argue that "black vs. african american" and so forth aren't doing damage to the credibility of the left, but correcting that over-application of such a large movement must be a matter of fine tuning.
posted by squirrel at 1:33 AM on March 9, 2005


thedevildancedlightly, are you proposing to have caught the author is some contradiction simply because he points out that both the right and the left have been dishonest? Hardly a groundbreaking discovery, that. I suppose it's worth a few points for those who play zero-sum politics a la Rush Limbaugh. Was that a "slam dunk," or did I miss your point?
posted by squirrel at 1:40 AM on March 9, 2005


squirrel

I was hardly trying to "catch" him with anything. His whole thesis is that being PC has a horrible effect that isn't too dissimiar from the manipulation of the truth that he claims the right practices. I was trying to cut through the long, poorly formatted article and bring out a good set of contrasts.

So, no. And I also disagree with you that politics are zero-sum... I believe pretty strongly that partisanship is negative-sum. "Scorched earth" comes to mind.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:58 AM on March 9, 2005


squirrel - Serious question: why did you jump (leap?) to the conclusion that I was against you? Might that tendency to jump to conclusions that people are opposed influence your perception of bias in the media and world?

I simply offered two contrasting passages and from that you suddenly decided what my point was.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:01 AM on March 9, 2005


Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, squirrels gotta leap. Thanks for clarifying your point, thedevildancedlightly.
posted by squirrel at 2:08 AM on March 9, 2005


Chickens. Home. Roost.

Are their any rules to the academic blame game? If so, please post. Also, I've been reading way too many resumes as of late. So teh formatting and teh spellingk really turned me off. Is the format of delivery a direct reflection of the contents value? Hmmm.

If a $100 note had "wuhn hunnered" spelled on it, would it still be worth $100?

Apologies in advance.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:23 AM on March 9, 2005


If anyone wants to see what happens to a group of well-meaning, intelligent, motivated people after too many years of political correctness, just visit Antioch College. A once-proud institution that boasts the likes of Corretta Scott King, Mark Strand, Stephen Jay Gould and John Flansburgh as alumni is now teetering on the edge of bakruptcy, largely because the college has taken political correctness to unprecedented levels of absurdity and contradiction.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:41 AM on March 9, 2005


Shall we define PC before we go any further down the road of divisive absolutism?

Actually, I'm not sure that we can. It has already been used above to describe both non-discriminatory language and affirmative action programmes. The only thing harder to pin down than the aetiology of PC is the definition of PC...

The short definition, it seems to me, is that if one wishes to do something or say something but does not, the force that prevents one can be identified as "political correctness". One can then extend that to the idea that any belief that is self-evidently "right", but which is for some reason not being espoused by anyone else, is being stifled by the aforementioned political correctness.

Rubin has decided that her political views do not fit with those of her liberal friends, but wishes still to consider herself a liberal. Rather than accept the idea of a heterodox liberal consensus, it is easier and more convenient to assume that the "common-sense" positions she espouses would be accepted by everyone, were it not for the terrfiying, if nebulous, armies of PC. This is not a new or controversial position.
posted by tannhauser at 2:47 AM on March 9, 2005


I think this article is saying that anyone who strongly believes their point of view/politics shouldn't fear or try to censor their opposition. I definitely agree with that.

The short definition, it seems to me, is that if one wishes to do something or say something but does not, the force that prevents one can be identified as "political correctness". One can then extend that to the idea that any belief that is self-evidently "right", but which is for some reason not being espoused by anyone else, is being stifled by the aforementioned political correctness.

tannhauser, I think this is too broad a description. Somebody may have their views stifled for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps a more specific definition (imho, of course!): to me politcal correctness is where you admonish somebody's point of view if it is perceived to criticise designated victim groups, whether the criticism is legitimate or not.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:11 AM on March 9, 2005


squirrel: the author is a female , not a male as you guessed. That and the fact she's a psycologist and sociologisty
explains to me her rather prosaic writing style. I think that, because of her field of expertise, she's much more used
to talking then writing. But what makes the article look academic to you ? I ask because I still don't get why prosaic
is often related to academic..I may be wrong, but some bias toward universities and "elites" may be generated by a writing
style that (simply) is no longer appreciated in a world in which we need 48 hours a day.

Here's the "money quote" : We must learn to listen as well, to develop a third ear so that we can hear beneath their rage
to the anguish it's covering up. Only then will we find our way into the hearts and minds of those Americans who have been
seduced and exploited by the radical right into "strangling their own life chances."


I think that's part of a correct approach. Quite simply if you see how the propaganda against "liberal" was built you see that
is pure, unadulterated hate..pretty much _like_ the way it was built against Jews who were considered the source of almost every
problem on earth by the Nazi propaganda and offered as a very convenient object of contempt.

How comes part of the right, who is often pretty quick to blame extremism in left, doesn't blame extremism in right as well or with
at least equal vigor, thus showing enormous hypocrisy ? How comes part of right actually secretely enjoys the propaganda produced by the most vociferous far right while dismissing it as "just crazy talking" yet secretely thinks "that'll teach em lib'ruls ?" Also how comes some people automatically placed themselves in the "lib'rul" side ..not noticing that the word "democratic" and "liberal" are not equal ?

That's part of understanding the psycology behind how a sizable portion of U.S. have been derailed into thinking

1. lib'rul are the scourge of universe !@#
2. being patriotic means you don't question and challenge government EVER
3. that we are in state of war, so no questions are asked in a state of war
4. that there's a perpetual war against terrorism, therefore you should never question the government forever

That's interesting NOT ONLY for americans of any political color, but also to europeans who lives in countries in which media
are highly concentrated in very few hands. MASS media reach million of people and are the best at slowly but steadly influencing
people opinions, preferences and choices...including that of _betting_ their own future.
posted by elpapacito at 3:25 AM on March 9, 2005


"But there's a kind of contempt underlying the passion of Frank's words, a dismissive shrug..." and so forth.

It all pretty much falls into a "well, duh" category for me, but it is good to see people slowly coming to accept the blindingly obvious truth that contempt doesn't play well outside the choir.

In a counterintuitive way, I think the much ballyhooed rise-of-the-blogs and suchlike is going to help the situation--but not by improving discourse (not going to happen as long as it's humans providing it). But mostly by The Right achieving public parity with The Left in the amount of naked contempt in their talk.

It might turn out to be a cure-worse-than-the-disease, though, if enough percentage of the electorate realizes that both sides view them through equal, if differently-shaped, contemptuous lenses.
posted by Drastic at 4:32 AM on March 9, 2005


To be honest, I have thus far only read it very, very quickly and cheated a bit by reading the passage squirrel kindly reproduced.

There is more than an element of truth in this – the American Left seems not to have learned the lessons of Clintonesque triangulation (as admittedly unpleasant as some of those lessons are) and has been intellectually dishonest about many things in an effort to avoid giving offence to anyone (and ammunition to bigots).

PC is a slippery label, more often hurled in abuse than anything else but I think can best be defined as I kind of language designed to avoid any sort of offence to any group, which is also designed to repudiate real and perceived past prejudice. This can end up being linguistically absurd (thus all the ‘vertically challenged’ meaning short jokes). A perverse consequence of this is the often patronising idea that individuals are not in any way responsible for their station and to say otherwise is ‘blaming the victim’ as a converse to the equally perverse idea that they are wholly responsible and to say otherwise is ‘blaming society’.

Problems tend to be multicausal, as should be efforts to address them. I am familiar with William Julius Wilson’s work and the fact that much of it was ignored by ‘progressives’ in America is unfortunate. When Bill Cosby made some similar points in a coarser style he was attacked. Policies and ideas that combine a commitment to equal opportunity and individual responsibility would be an easier sell – and might even make a difference.

The ‘PC’ tendency where commentators seemed to ‘blame society’ for problems deeply offends the common sense and experience of much of the American working class electorate. This is one of the countless mistakes of the Democrats since the 60s – if Joe Sixpack thinks that they are a bunch of tree huggers in league with the Village People and scary women who don’t shave their armpits who want to corrupt his children and let all the bad people out of jail he will run screaming into the hands of theocratic fascists. More often than not, he has.

Some of these points were made in Thomas Frank’s excellent ‘What’s the matter with Kansas?’, though his conclusions seemed to be that (somewhat like the Labour Party in the 1980s – oh dear) playing the same old music louder and switching to populist economic policies would win back this lost constituency, which persists in voting against its interests on the basis of virulent (and futile – this was one of Frank’s best points) opposition to many aspects of social liberalism.

I don’t know what the answer is – but people who did not vote for Kerry are certainly not going to vote for anyone like Howard Dean.
posted by The Salaryman at 4:36 AM on March 9, 2005


It's always seemed to me that being pc in speech is just being polite. It's just calling people what they want to be called. I've always failed to see what's so terrible about that. Now, it can sometime be hard to guess what term people prefer (e.g. native american vs. indian) but if you get it wrong you just excuse yourself and keep talking.

Now, I'll admit there are some idiots who jump on mistakes and get in people's faces about it, but I think it's a mistake to blame the ideology for the idiots. It's a bit like blaming Christ for the Crusades.
posted by Kattullus at 4:39 AM on March 9, 2005


The loss of intellectual credibility of the American left is also a muticausal phenomenon. Fox 'news' combined with the woolly thinking described here plus reactionary tendencies in much of the electorate equals a rout. Its time for something new, before it is too late and everyone is watching Murdochvision in their Hummers on the way to the compulsory prayer meeting. With the AC on 'Max'.
posted by The Salaryman at 4:56 AM on March 9, 2005


It's always seemed to me that being pc in speech is just being polite. It's just calling people what they want to be called.

I think one of the things that has engendered some distaste and bitterness against the PC name game is the changing rules and the rigidity with which they are enforced. It stops looking like politeness after awhile. The average guy may really want to be polite, but then gets criticized for getting it wrong, or worse accused of being prejudiced for getting it wrong.
posted by caddis at 5:03 AM on March 9, 2005


Katullus- I yield to no one in defense of good manners, but the problem is not simply that idiots get in one's face. Most of the anger with PCdom arises from the hay making that it encourages. It's the institutionalized passing out of shoulder chips and the encouraging of people to wear them, rewarding them emotionally, academically, financially for taking offense where none might be on offer. And where, more particularly, those rewards come at the expense of people who thought they were playing by the rules.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:03 AM on March 9, 2005


It's always seemed to me that being pc in speech is just being polite. It's just calling people what they want to be called. I've always failed to see what's so terrible about that.
What is so terrible about it is that, no matter what politically correct term people use to describe someone or a group of someones or whatever, it is almost always simply a case of paying lip service to the concept of treating everyone equitably and has no intrinsic value whatsoever. It matters not a bit what you call someone - it is how you treat them and the respect you pay them that matters. Almost always, political correctness is simply faking that respect.
posted by dg at 5:05 AM on March 9, 2005



PC is a slippery label, more often hurled in abuse than anything else


Now, here's an interesting one. Is it actually ever used as anything other than a term of abuse? I'm not seeing any examples. Have you ever thought to yourself, or heard somebody else say "what a marvellous show of political correctness there. Good work, team!"?

Further, has anyone actually found a proper definition of political correctness, that is one without imho appended to it? Only, we seem to be coming across this:

This can end up being linguistically absurd (thus all the ‘vertically challenged’ meaning short jokes

Now, the "'vertically challenged' meaning short jokes" are jokes, right? That is, they seek to parody political correctness. As such, why are they being used here to exemplify the process of "ending up being linguistically absurd". Is there an example of "ending up being linguistically absurd" that is not taken from a joke made by somebody from the right wing seeking to parody or denigrate a set of political tendencies they group under the umbrella term "political correctness"? Eustacescrubb above declares that Antioch College has been driven to the edge of bankruptcy by political correctness, but without actually explaining what the financial costs of political correctness are, or how they have manifested in Antioch College... the posts after Kattullus' seem to know exactly what political correctness is, at least from its effects, but they aren't telling. Shoulder chips, faked respect... this is all terribly evocative, but not particularly definitive. Could somebody point poor innocent me to a decent reference work not produced by the right wing on political correctness and its discontents?
posted by tannhauser at 5:11 AM on March 9, 2005


It's a bit like blaming Christ for the Crusades.

Why shouldn't you? God's supposed to be omniscient, he knew how it'd end up.
posted by biffa at 5:14 AM on March 9, 2005


biffa: tsk tsk , did you forget about free will ? Even if so-called God is omniscent he's not omni-imposing his will. Indeed he said both Adam and Eve not to eat the goddamned apple, they had the freedom of choice and she decided to get the apple...he ate of the apple too.

So one could blame the Christ for Crusades ? Nawp as they were only made in the name of God Jesus or Whatnot and in violation of Thou shalt not Kill commandment. But I don't read anywhere that Thou shalt not make infidels lifes miserable so that they commit suicide, it's their sin not yours....or maybe I'm missing some important commandment.

Of course then, why did God create a not perfect man who sins if he's perfect and omniscent ? Just to punish him of course for he's a sadic bastard..that kind of person that first hits you then says "eheh, just jokin"
posted by elpapacito at 5:33 AM on March 9, 2005


Most of the anger with PCdom arises from the hay making that it encourages. It's the institutionalized passing out of shoulder chips and the encouraging of people to wear them, rewarding them emotionally, academically, financially for taking offense where none might be on offer. And where, more particularly, those rewards come at the expense of people who thought they were playing by the rules.

Well said IndigoJones.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 6:00 AM on March 9, 2005


It's nice to see that after all these years, there is still no shortage of people ready to blame "political correctness" for the state of the world.

The old anti-PC diatribes have been making the rounds for some 20 years now, usually in response to some moron out in the sticks pushing the political-correctness envelope too far in one isolated but well-publicized instance. Often the matter at hand is absolutely insignificant, but talking heads -- usually on the right -- never fails to make a lot of noise about it.

I see the situation of "political correctness" as very much analogous to that of "no-tolerance" regulations. There are phenomenally stupid examples of "no-tolerance" policies being brainlessly enforced regularly (e.g. student getting suspended from school for taking an aspirin). That being said, no one is blaming the "zero-tolerance" concept in the way that "political correctness" is being blamed. Why is that? It's simply that "zero-tolerance" is a tool of the right, while "political correctness" is associated with the left. And frankly, the left just doesn't even bother trying to defend itself these days -- nor, frankly, has it shown much verve since 1992. I don't know how the left can hope to win contests when it has shown itself repeatedly to be all too content with just lying down and giving up.

Unless the left can wake up and be a little more combative, then it deserves to be in the opposition...
posted by clevershark at 6:08 AM on March 9, 2005


As Milton argued in Paradise Lost:

they themselves decreed
Thir own revolt, not I: if I foreknew,
Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault
(III, 116-118)

Of course taken to its logical conclusion, it also highlights the absurdity of "praising God" for one's innate "gifts" while accepting shortcomings as own's own fault. It's all part and parcel: either it's all God's fault or it isn't. Foreknowledge and omnipotence can be such a drag when you're creating beings endowed with free will.

As for politics, the problem with the Left is too much vitrol and rhetoric, and too little practical action. Whether you like the Fox/Rush crowd or not, they've done a hell of a better job of translating talk into votes and subsequently turning votes into policies than the Left has. Of course they're much better lubricated money-wise as well and have often acted with stunningly questionable ethics, but hey, you can't deny that they've played a much better game of politics than their opposition has. Each side has earned its place in the political pecking order, and the United States has the government we deserve.
posted by DaShiv at 6:14 AM on March 9, 2005


DaShiv: ouch; but yes. But ouch.
posted by squirrel at 6:35 AM on March 9, 2005


I liked the article. It says a lot of things I've been thinking and trying to say for a while.
posted by jonmc at 6:47 AM on March 9, 2005


The original point of what is now called political correctness, which came out of the feminist and black consciousness movements as well as others, was AS AN ORGANIZING TOOL: that is, that we were supposed to be culturally sensitive so as not to alienate people, and so as to build coalitions and get comfortable enough with each other so we could speak frank realities to each other. This is still an admirable goal.

Eustace Scrubb: Tell me about it. Sad alumna here. :(
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:00 AM on March 9, 2005


What clevershark said -- the "Political Correctness" charge was overblown in the 1980's, in the 90's, and is still today. Compare the openess of progressive blogs to places like Freerepublic. Bill Cosby gets a mixed response from "the left" when he challenges the perceived tenets of "the left." When is the last time you saw someone on "the right" speak out against the party line?

The Dems have the DLC. What is the moderate equivalent for the Republicans?
posted by Cassford at 7:02 AM on March 9, 2005


I gotta agree with clevershark strongly on this one. It seems to me that the whole concept of what is or is not PC is quite nebulous. Is it being polite or is it passively enforced newspeak? All too often I hear the "PC" label used to derisively slough off pertinet points, it's intellectually lazy. As a term itself I don't thin PC means anything more than "liberal idea" today.
posted by ozomatli at 7:06 AM on March 9, 2005


clevershark,
I don't think she's blaming pc for the state of the world, just the state of the left. As thedevildancedlightly illustrated with his two excerpts, PC has made us liars, and we hate and criticize the right for being liars.

I've had a growing concern that we on the left have embraced political correctness as our fundamentalism in the face of the christian right. This essay explores that really well. Having come from a strong christian background, i know that it's all about holding your tongue because of certain rules. That's why i left that community. I couldn't ask important questions or voice important problems because it was AGAINST GOD'S WILL.

Political correctness has made it just has difficult to discuss things with many of my liberal friends and acquaintances. Here in Massachusetts, I could get labeled an asshole in many circles for mentioning that i'm against a lot of affirmative action efforts, or partial-birth abortion, or believe homosexuality is more mental than physical (even tho I think they should be able to marry).

Voicing such opinions would not divide the left further, but open up useful discourse and force us to find solutions, maybe even eventually healing the many unspoken divides between groups on the left (black vs gay, christians vs abortion, blue-collar vs college, parents vs legalization, etc.)

so yeah, [this is pretty damn ok]
posted by es_de_bah at 7:08 AM on March 9, 2005


I'll weigh in enough to say that any racial group has a right to not be called pejorative names like Redskin or Wop. However, I hate euphemism in all its forms, whether conservative, like "catastrophic success" or liberal PC, like "differently-abled," or "handi-capable." These sorts of couching of truths serve to insult the intelligence of the listener and much as assuage the emotions of the subject. Also, the time wasted even thinking about and discussing this claptrap detracts from the limited time we have each day to deal with actual issues of actual substance, like the actual poverty of the "disadvantaged classes."
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:12 AM on March 9, 2005


(and, again to clevershark, I think we all think zero-tolerance rules are bullshit too, and they only really get enforced in schools out in the sticks, usually to much merthful media coverage...)
posted by es_de_bah at 7:13 AM on March 9, 2005


Compare the openess of progressive blogs to places like Freerepublic. Bill Cosby gets a mixed response from "the left" when he challenges the perceived tenets of "the left." When is the last time you saw someone on "the right" speak out against the party line?

I think centering the debate of this peice around neurotic linguistic correctness (aggravating though it may some times be) is to miss it's main point: that the left often seems to veiw much of the populace through a contmptuous lens, as someone said above. The right does, too, but at least their smart enough to hide it.

The other part of the problem is that much of the progressive left in the US seems to take any criticism, even from within, as fascistic attacks or some kind of betrayal, which can be incredibly maddening.

Even though several people have tried to connect the alienation of the working/lower-middle class from the left to the social upheavals of the 60's, it's actually been 60's protest veterans, who have (often privately) articulated the same frustrations I've mentioned above.

I actually think the roots of the rightward swing are in the seventies, when many of the 60's ideals curdled, and the country was emroiled in rising crime, poverty, racial tension, rampant hard drug use, and an economy in the toilet.* First, the country turned to Jimmy Carter, a good man who was just plain unlucky. Then came the hostage crisis, which inflamed even more resentment. And straight into Reagan's arms the country ran.

It's a quick and dirty analysis, but I think there's something to it.

*granted, i was but a wee sprog in those days, but I remember the cultural landscape...Patty Hearst, Jonestown and the like were the earliest news stories I remember.
posted by jonmc at 7:14 AM on March 9, 2005


es_de_bah

Your post almost makes the point exactly. What exactly does PC have to do with any of what you said? PC is a strawman, a ridulous strawman built to enclose any disagreeable action taken by someone on the left.

Embracing PC as fundamentalism? How is that possible if no one can even define it?
posted by ozomatli at 7:19 AM on March 9, 2005


ozomatili, Funtimentalist christianity is just as much a straw man. It has only a passing, selective interest in the bible. Just like the PC models created by intelligensia, "fundimental" christian beliefs are created/restructured with each new current event. think stem-cell research.
straw men still lead.
straw men still burn.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:24 AM on March 9, 2005


IMHO, it's intellectual fashion:

It's trendy among many I know to be cynical about anything vaguely progressive, such as the "PC" issues of language and minority rights, mocking them like they might mock someone who wore an obviously 80's hairdo.

For example, even though they are mostly liberals, the knee-jerk reaction to Lawrence Summers speech at Harvard (you know, the one about women's math & science ability) was to mock Summers' critics for their unrealistic ideals. An extremely well educated woman with a daughter going to one of the world's leading engineering schools argued with me that woman are different and likely naturally less able in math and science. 'We tried equality in the 70s'.

It's intellectual fashion du jour, no different than clothing or technology or other trendiness. It's an attempt to look smart or sophisticated or whatever, just like clothes make you look attractive, or hip or professional or whatever. It's intellectual lifestyle. Unfortunately, while clothing fashion is mostly arbitrary and inconsequential, intellectual fashion trends capriciously determine the fate of billions.
posted by guanxi at 7:26 AM on March 9, 2005


es_de_bah

I don't want to come off as an ass, but I cannot really understand what you are saying.

I agree that dimissively writing someone off as a fundamental christian is stupid a wrong.
But the tenets of fundamental christianity can be defined in a literal reading of the bible.

Who are these intelligensia? Are they like the Illuminati? Give me a PC model, please I just want to know if we are both on the same page as to what PC means.

I have no idea what you mean by stem-cell research or your last two lines,
posted by ozomatli at 7:32 AM on March 9, 2005


As part of my work with Campus Progress we hosted an event at Howard University about the future of the black vote. Both Armstrong Williams and Al Sharpton attended and both discussed their issues and criticisms with not just the current application, but the current interpretations of Affirmative Action. So having listened to two of the most prominent black spokesmen for progressive and conservative issues about one of the most significant issues affecting minorites, that people are saying they feel "hindered by PC" to talk about it makes me wonder what the hell they're talking about.

If people were hindered by "political correctness" even a tenth of the amount of times people actually complain about being hindered by "political correctness," there might actually be a problem with it in society.

Until then, "fighting back" against an arbitrary term that 99.99% of the people alive on this planet only use when talking about how much they dislike it is as solely self-satisfying as statements like "keep it up, and (insert party here) will never win," "I don't own a television," and other pretentious crap from people so bored that they actually need to find things in society to be outraged about.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:44 AM on March 9, 2005


es_de_bah: I think the point is that one can say "this is what fundamentalist Christianity believes. These are books written by fundamentalist Christians about the tenets and beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity. These are ten things Fundamentalist Christianity approves of, and ten things FC disapproves of. " That man may be made of straw, but you'd still know if you drove into it. Nobody has managed that with political correctness so far, and yet it is being treated as if it has already been done. Lots of people want to say what they dislike about it without any clear idea of what it _is_.
posted by tannhauser at 7:50 AM on March 9, 2005


the bible advocates slavery and the stoning of disobedient children, while prohibits eating shellfish and mixing sheep and cattle. jesus makes several anti-war and anti-poverty/pro-welfare statements.
'fundimental' christianity is, if nothing else, selective.

it's a huge stretch to say the Bible prohibits stem-cell research if you're going to argue for the war and the death penalty. It's an example of "fundimental" christian thought that is "fundimentally" socially and politcally constructed to create a public outcry...a strawbaby for the strawman...

"intelligensia" (silly word, choice, sorry) - n. them-there high-falutin college-educated writers, teacehrs, and scholars that make up the liberal media and education system...they, collectively, create and reinforce what is considered "acceptable" to say in public...or what is politically correct.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:52 AM on March 9, 2005


The main effect that political correctness has had is to make people decide to censor themselves instead of being honest about their beliefs. Who enforces it? Ourselves.

So while it's easy to blame everything on some obscure concept, one must remember that any "silencing" being done here is self-administered. Will embracing certain viewpoints make you unpopular? Sure. So what?

Do you think John Kerry got beaten because he stood up and said "Yes, I'm a liberal"? Hell no. He got beaten precisely because he did everything he could not to own up to that label (ostensibly because his pollsters felt it would be "unpopular"). Faced with a choice between someone with strong views and someone with apparently no views, the choice seems a no-brainer.
posted by clevershark at 8:02 AM on March 9, 2005


es de bah: it's "fundamental." If you're going to overuse the word, please spell it correctly. Otherwise, I'll fire a nucular missile at you.
posted by jonmc at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2005


es_de_bah: You still haven't defined it. Are you suggesting that there is a guidebook or pamphlet published by the intelligentsia every year telling us what is and is not politically correct, of the type one often finds produced by various fundamentalist Christians? Could you point me towards a copy?
posted by tannhauser at 8:06 AM on March 9, 2005


Are you suggesting that there is a guidebook or pamphlet published by the intelligentsia every year telling us what is and is not politically correct,

Well, the equivalents would be the Village Voice, or any of the free alt.weeklies, which do offer pre-chewed opinions of what's currently OK to believe and what will place you outside the clubhouse.

Like, I said, the right does this, too. But the frustrating thing is that the left dosen't like to admit it.
posted by jonmc at 8:09 AM on March 9, 2005


Rubin is a very interesting person to be making this critique, since so much of her very noteworthy work has been an examination of the kinds of marginal cultures that have often been overlooked. What's interesting about this discussion is that, like all of the critique of PC from the right, it virtually ignores the reasons that PC was and is a necessary construction. It may be unfortunate, and PC may have outlived some of its usefulness, but it was always about including in discussion excluded groups. Racism and sexism are far too frequently simply ignored if discussion of them is not mandated (if only by intellectual fashion).

The right reaction against PC was successful precisely because of the fear and anxiety of the people (mostly white men, mostly working and middle class) who were most threatened (in material ways) by the inclusion of the formerly excluded groups. Rubin indicates this at the beginning of her essay.

Something interesting that Rubin does not address, but that comes up a couple of times here, is a reaction against PC thinking that extends beyond the traditionally dismissive right to young well-educated people on the left. I saw it myself at grad school all the time, people who said that they cared about racism/sexism/classism, but were unwilling to talk about it, and certainly did not want to discuss their own privilege in regard to these categories.

Squirrel provides a fine example when he writes 'grad school was nevertheless unnecessarily rife with obstacles designed to hinder me on the basis of my color, class and etc," as if those obstacles had anything to do with the kinds of material barriers that people in oppressed minorities have to face. I'm not trying to pick on Squirrel, quite the opposite. I'm suggesting that somewhere along the line PC began to alienate the very people who had fought for the inclusion of PC topics on the agenda. It devolved into something primarily about language, so that otherwise well-meaning people could seriously compare the indignity of being accused of being an oppressor in class with the indignity of being denied a house because of being Black. This, then, becomes part of the problem that Rubin is discussing, where national conversations become about style rather than substance. What matters is what we're calling African Americans these days, instead of where all the jobs have gone. Every time the left falls for that trap, or rather brings it on itself, we lose another voter.
posted by OmieWise at 8:22 AM on March 9, 2005


HEY! I'm a psychologist, and I am offended at the premise that we are so used to talking that we can't write. I am also offended at the notions that we want to hug people at random, ask how you feel about that, and wear ugly clothes. In fact, I'm offended at every single stereotype there is of shrinks. I am not German. I do not have a couch in my office. Well, I do, but I don't tell my patients to lie down on it. I do not smoke cigars. I am not a dork with poor social skills. I demand that psychologists be painted in a better light! BY GOD, I WANT SOME PC ACTION DIRECTED MY WAY!
/sarcasm
posted by ScaryShrink at 8:31 AM on March 9, 2005


Shrinks are too damned sarcastic.
posted by jonmc at 8:33 AM on March 9, 2005


the left often seems to view much of the populace through a contemptuous lens, as someone said above. The right does, too, but at least their smart enough to hide it.

I just re-skimmed it, and she does make this point in her reaction to Frank's book. But it seemed like a minor part of it. She seemed to mainly be saying that "the left" is telling the truth on the issues, but that the truth is unpalatable to wide swaths of America because of the way in which the left speaks and the way the left polices debate.

"The left" and "the Democrats" are two different entities. Perhaps what she says is true of the far-left, but it sure isn't true of the Democrats. Can you think of any well-known Democrat other than Kucinich who uses anything approaching the PC language ascribed?

As for contempt -- how contemptuous is her conclusion that the poor sheep have been "seduced and exploited" by the radical right?

I think the so-called faith gap is a much better explanation of what is going on in American politics. We are living in an era of renewed religiosity and the Republicans and the right are more associated with religious faith than the left and the Democrats.
posted by Cassford at 8:36 AM on March 9, 2005


No shit Lillian.

The progressive left is, well, whiney. (And the right is smugly self-satisfied.)

When the left didn't fell as threated by the right as today, the left squandered resources on basically trying to legislate a right not to be offended. That this stifled the very diversity the left claimed it treasured, and trampled on free speech, and in some cases impoverished or imprisoned people of goodwill, the left didn't much care about.

I'm thinking specifically of university speech codes here, but I'm also thinking of Ake Green, and the anti-gay Christian protesters facing 47 years in prison for saying painfully rude things at a Gay Pride Day. As to the impoverishment or imprisonment, look at the enforcement of environmental regulations, and specifically the people prosecuted for "destroying wetlands" and imprisoned for importing the wrong kind of fish.

Indeed, we can see examples here: look at the prickly, almost "I'm waiting to be offended by you insensitive blockheads" attitude in the recent post about the transgenes 4th grader. Note the offense taken to a post headline, not for anything offensive, but because the post doesn't fall all over itself declaring that transsexuality is just great!, and the implication that America is backward compared to Sweden. The same poster, a little later, explains that even if you don't know it you're slurring people (akin to the black left claiming that all whites, whether consciously or not, are racists), and that transsexuals are such special people, then have emotions you're too (it's implied) stupid to understand.

I myself strongly support gay rights and gay marriage and I lived in a gay neighborhood for 11 years. I've gone to gay rugby games and gays bars with gay friends. But one day at a coffeehouse, a girl asks me which bathroom is the women's, and I tell her, that each one is used by either sex -- and that it being in the gay area of town, anything goes. I'm promptly upbraided by an offended homo who overhears this, who tells me! this is our! part of town now! and you'd better not! talk that way! What the fuck? I'm working to secure your right to live unharrassed, and you harass me for making an offhand joke you don't like? What happened to my rights?

That's a question a lot of moderates and conservatives are asking. And no wonder. Affirmative Action is discrimination, pure and simple, the justification being that harming whites today makes up for harming blacks for three hundred years. Ok, but no one on the Left will admit that it's discrimination. Instead you hear a lots of high-minded talk about "diversity", but no one is fooled -- except possibly the Left, which thinks this doesn't create enormous resentment. That's not right, homosexual who

And the Clinton years showed that the ideological left would whore itself out to DLC Democrats: in 1993 when Bob Packwood was accused of sexually harassing women, NOW gave him hell. And indeed, that link is Google's first link on the former Republican senator.

But when Bill Clinton was accused of sexually harassing a state employee while governor, and of using his state police security detail to procure women, NOW gritted is teeth, stared at the ceiling and thought of England Roe v. Wade.

Why did Gore lose in 2000? Because the serious lefties were disgusted by the DLC, and the moderate voters were disgusted by a eight years of a President who seemed to have as his priorities: 1) getting away with shit 2) getting some 3) himself 4) the DLC 5) the Democratic Party, and, at some distance down the list, America.

Let me be very clear: I wasn't a Gore supporter in 2000. I was secretly relieved when Bush won. It wasn't until Ashcroft and Guantanamo that I began to take notice.

And much of that was because the left had become a parody of itself, attacking earnestly not questions of social justice or civil rights or civil liberties, but instead questions like the pronouns to use so as not to offend bi-sexual neo-pagan lesbian transsexuals, while the Democrat Party had become a patronage and power machine that gave us a legion of bright but essentially amoral power-seekers, a negative image of the bright but amoral power-seekers in the corporate world.

For years, the left has become increasingly irrelevant by essentially telling the common man he's an offensive ignorant dumbass, and he should prostrate himself before the temple of The Left to atone for his sins and learn a new Catechism of gender-neutrality, non-binary sexuality, and disgust at his own whiteness and maleness.
And some of these causes by the Left are rooted in real issues -- but all too often those real issues are used as a way to extort or emotionally blackmail or to get the upper hand in an argument: "you offended me, so I win! Now give me my reparations!".
posted by orthogonality at 8:38 AM on March 9, 2005


I have a theory that "political correctness" is a combination of words that have no definition, and are only said because they make a sound.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:41 AM on March 9, 2005


And much of that was because the left had become a parody of itself, attacking earnestly not questions of social justice or civil rights or civil liberties, but instead questions like the pronouns to use so as not to offend bi-sexual neo-pagan lesbian transsexuals, while the Democrat Party had become a patronage and power machine that gave us a legion of bright but essentially amoral power-seekers,

What do you mean "become," dude? 'twas always thus.
posted by jonmc at 8:48 AM on March 9, 2005


Nice rant Ortho. Do you think your brush is wide and conservative enough, or is there some way you could fit more (perceived) evils of the Left into a future post?
posted by OmieWise at 8:49 AM on March 9, 2005


My $.02 builds on this:
to me politcal correctness is where you admonish somebody's point of view if it is perceived to criticise designated victim groups, whether the criticism is legitimate or not.

To me, politcal correctness is where you admonish somebody's point of view or terminology if it could, under any circumstance, be perceived by anyone (no matter how uptight) to criticise designated victim groups, whether the criticism is legitimate or not.

Or, to put it more simply - dogmatically placing a higher value on protecting the self-esteem of members of certain groups than is placed on objectively seeking the truth.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:51 AM on March 9, 2005


OmieWise: thanks for proving the point I was trying to make in this comment's second (non-italicized) paragraph. Question a few factoids and all of a sudden he's Karl Rove. I've heard that routine so often, and it's getting really old.
posted by jonmc at 8:54 AM on March 9, 2005


PC started from a great place of course: elimination of the n-word and all that implies from common discourse.

Now decades later, like a lot of things it's been taken to absurdist extremes. It's come to mean: intellectualism, academia, and thought control emphasizing group concerns over individual responsibility and theoretical nonsense over common sense.

Is it the enemy within? Extremism is the enemy within both the left and right and the country overall.

Democratic party: get a clue. Move away from some of your more lefty policies and toward the center and you can run the world.

Republican party: get a clue. You won by a narrow margin and are vulnerable, trying to take the country hard right will be a mistake, pull back toward the center.
posted by scheptech at 8:57 AM on March 9, 2005


Good Lord, orthogonality, that is some screed. Good stuff, though.
posted by caddis at 9:01 AM on March 9, 2005


jonmc-Come on. I never called him Karl Rove, I did respond to the tone of his post, which equated PC with everything from environmentalism to political imprisonment. If my comment proved your point, perhaps you need a thicker skin.
posted by OmieWise at 9:04 AM on March 9, 2005


That's a question a lot of moderates and conservatives are asking. And no wonder. Affirmative Action is discrimination, pure and simple, the justification being that harming whites today makes up for harming blacks for three hundred years. Ok, but no one on the Left will admit that it's discrimination.

Thankfully, it's because no one like you will admit they have no fucking clue what Affirmative Action actually is, and instead rely on such statements as "it's racist" and -hey!- it's "PC run amok" -welcome to the great 99.99%!- to justify hating it. Seriously- have you read a single document on AA? Studied a single policy? Or in the middle of your declaration that "the left" just calls everyone stupid and ignorant, you just decided to say what you heard repeatedly on some cable talk show?

Please see previous post about the boring, droning sound that emits from statements about how the left needs to be nicer to everyone. Meanwhile, The Right spends its days talking about how places with a race track are the only "real" states in the country. When you start bitching about how pathetic people who call it "the Left Coast" are, wake me.

And by the way, thanks for hating the overall concept of respecting other people's values because- as it always seems to be in tantrums like that- you had a bad personal experience with someone one time.

As far as "extreme lefty policies" goes for the Democrats- could I PLEASE have a fucking example for once? What's "extreme left" in the Democratic Party? The minimum wage? Labor unions? Our pro-life Senate Leader? The midget from Ohio who didn't win a single primary? I love how people act as though Howard Dean, a moderate who hasn't even DONE anything yet- symbolizes the liberalism of the Democrats- it's a perfect metaphor for people's hatred of "political correctness" based on hypothetical situations and nothing more.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:06 AM on March 9, 2005


OmieWise writes " Nice rant Ortho. Do you think your brush is wide and conservative enough, or is there some way you could fit more (perceived) evils of the Left into a future post?"

Fuck, boy, I'm no conservative.

I spent a month in Ohio volunteering for Kerry. My first FPP post here was deleted after being attacked by conservative posters as a rehash of "shrill anti-war groupthink mentality", and my second FPP detailed world-wide condemnation of American hypocrisy on human rights in the light of Abu Ghraib, comparing American tolerance of torture to the average German's complicity in Nazi crimes against humanity.

But I'm also not going to put my fingers in my ears and pretend that the Left does not wrong.

So now that you've taken the time to dismiss my arguments with ad hominem criticism, maybe you'll have time to go back and actually address the issues that I raised?
posted by orthogonality at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2005


Just wanted to pop in with a: good comments, orthogonality.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2005


jonmc-Come on. I never called him Karl Rove,

I used hyperbole to make a point. But the point remains, to a lot of self-styled leftists (especailly young ones, who someone once described as practicing "infantile leftism."), to question or disagree with anything they say, is to be branded a neo-con, or if their feeling particulary jaunty, a fascist. I've seen it here, and IRL over and over, and it alienates tons of people who would otherwise be on your side.

Meanwhile, The Right spends its days talking about how places with a race track are the only "real" states in the country.

Like New York and Vermont?

The constant euating of "uncool" tastes (like NASCAR, heavy metal, country music, etc) and bad politics needs to stop, too. I thought the left was supposed to anti-snobbishness.
posted by jonmc at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2005


Unthinking conservatives --> closed minds that quote the Bible without analysis

Unthinking liberals --> closed minds that defer to some PC "we don't talk about that" censorship

I don't think this is a left issue, or a right issue. It's simply that most people (or at least most Americans; I don't know about other countries) would rather just check a box saying "I'm a conservative, so I like guns, hate abortion, and support abstinence education" or "I'm a liberal, so I support affirmative action, abortion rights, and gay marriage" rather than thinking through the individual issues. "Not thinking" isn't confined to one side or the other, and all these anti-PC rants seem to me to be the Right's equivalent of the Left's anti-Bible-thumpers rants.

What I do agree with, though, is the idea that sticking to some PC script can diminish the very conversations political correctness was supposed to allow us to have. But to some extent I wonder if that's just part of the proces -- I look at the gay marriage push, and I know that many many many gay rights activists are stridently *against* marriage, that there's a huge debate within the community about whether gays should be pursuing some hetero ideal, and yet that debate has been stifled in order to achieve some greater goals for the group as a whole. It seems like a "Quash debate now, get rights, open up debate again when it's not going to damage our cause" tactic, and I think it's going to be effective.

And truthfully, it's a tactic I wish women's rights groups would adopt.
posted by occhiblu at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2005


have no . . . clue what Affirmative Action actually is, and instead rely on such statements as "it's racist"

I do not believe he said it was racist. That was your term. If you do have a clue, f***ing or otherwise, then please enlighten us as to what you believe Affirmative Action actually is.
posted by caddis at 9:17 AM on March 9, 2005


Like New York and Vermont?

Heh. I remember when Bush visited those tracks, just like the ones in... oh. Oh, wait.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:20 AM on March 9, 2005


So... still lots of "to me, political correctness is...", covering a variety of areas. Let's look at:

but instead questions like the pronouns to use so as not to offend bi-sexual neo-pagan lesbian transsexuals

Has orthogonality ever been party to such a discussion? I would hazard a guess that no, orthogonality has not. That is, once again a parodic representation is being represented as a historical fact. It's interesting.

The closest we have come so far to a publication offering any sort of codified definition of what political correctness might stand for as an ideology has been "the Village Voice and other alt.weeklies". Regrettably, as a resident of Briton I don't have easy access to those, so could somebody tell me the contents of the articles on what is politically correct this month that they contain?
posted by tannhauser at 9:20 AM on March 9, 2005


PC in a nutshell:
the left squandered resources on basically trying to legislate a right not to be offended

I too thought it was good comment, although I don't necessarily agree with it 100%.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2005


Like, I said, the right does this, too. But the frustrating thing is that the left dosen't like to admit it.
posted by jonmc at 11:09 AM EST on March 9


Uhh... that's doesn't like to admit it. Just want to be fair since you did the same to a person above.

And on the comment itself, that's what we have you and Joe Liebermann and O'Reilly on the left for jonmc! And a grand public service it is too always admitting the faults of your leftist brethren. Keeps the left honest. Too bad the righties don't have such apologists, huh?

Some would argue it's better to just flat out lie and deny one's faults rather than prevaricate. Others would say a person shouldn't confuse absolutism with correctness or open-mindness with intellectual dishonesty.
posted by nofundy at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2005


And correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't a couple of prominent NASCAR drivers Dems? Wallace, maybe?
posted by jonmc at 9:22 AM on March 9, 2005


You mean this Wallace?
posted by aaronetc at 9:26 AM on March 9, 2005


Like what, Ortho?

The talk about Ake Green, a man convicted in Sweden of hate speech, who then had his conviction overturned?

The unsupported trolling about Affirmative Action being racist? (Please see XQUZYPHYR's comment).

The equating of environmental regulations with rampant disregard for the public good (despite the fact that they protect the public good)? I particularly liked the part where you cast aspersions on environmental laws with scare quotes around the phrase "destroying wetlands," as if wetlands are not actually destroyed.

There was no ad hominem attack in my response, I responded to the tone of your supposed critique. I'm not sure if you're liberal or conservative, although I know you were glad that Bush defeated Gore, but I know that your comment tries too hard to dismiss too many liberal concerns as if they were all bad and all arose from the same base. There are some good points of discussion, particularly those about how to situate and think about Clinton and the DLC and its relation to the Left.

On preview-caddis, when the discrimination is about race then it is racism. Ortho identifies his concerns with AA as about race.
posted by OmieWise at 9:27 AM on March 9, 2005


Many tense problems, and I don't mean problems with tension, in my comment. Please excused them. Thanks in advance.
posted by OmieWise at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2005


You mean this Wallace?

Guess it was somebody else. Jeff Gordon?
posted by jonmc at 9:30 AM on March 9, 2005


for tannhauser:

Differently-abled: This term was coined by the US Democratic National Committee in the early 1980s as a more acceptable term than handicapped

I could look up the etymology of other terms, but if the DNC is spending even 5 minutes thinking up phrases like this, it is wasting time that could be better spent protecting our rights instead of our feelings.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:30 AM on March 9, 2005


PC started out as things the left didn't talk about. Over time it evolved into a way of thinking that prevented the left from discourse about issues that needed addressing.

Now it has morphed into an effect that prevents the left from even thinking about certain topics. In a sense, it is the fundamentalism of the left and it is alienating most of the New Deal electoral base that gave the Democratic Party a real voice on the national political scene.

The corporate conservatives recognized it for what it is and used it to steal the middle class, conventional voters and subvert their new found allegiance to serve the economic interests of the wealthy elite. Witness the new Bankruptcy Act that is on the verge of final passage by the House.

The discourse needs to start now, not when our troops start moving on Iran.
posted by mygoditsbob at 9:43 AM on March 9, 2005


That is part of the problem Omiewise, when you fail to recognize a distinction between racial discrimination and racism. Such attitudes works to stifle debate, especially given what a loaded word racism is in our society. What you are essentially saying, whether you meant to or not, is that to question affirmative action is to be racist. No one wants to be labelled a racist, end of debate. Then you wonder why so many in the middle get fed up with the left?
posted by caddis at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2005


Affirmative Action is discrimination, pure and simple, the justification being that harming whites today makes up for harming blacks for three hundred years.

You are talking about reparations, not Affirmative Action. I don't want to derail the thread, but you are mistaking a "Welcome" sign for a "Keep Out" banner.

The Clinton and Packwood cases were very different. Packwood was accused of sexual harassment by 29 women who worked with him before NOW issued a press release. As far as I know, none of those women was being pushed to make their allegations by a political group. On the other hand, one of Paula Jones' attorneys was Ann Coulter and the intent, stated by Coulter later, was to "bring down the president."

Basically, the right has been very good at doing what ortho is doing in this post -- conflating. Medical malpractice lawsuits are the same as the woman with the hot coffee in her lap. Affirmative Action is the same as racial discrimination. Packwood is Clinton.

As for your experience with the touchy gay person, haven't you ever been told off by a touchy "patriotic" person? I've received it from both ends of the spectrum. The left hasn't cornered the market on crankiness.
posted by Cassford at 9:47 AM on March 9, 2005


Guess it was somebody else. Jeff Gordon?

And you're just straining further from the point, which is that despite its application to Blue States, Team Bush only related to NASCAR as a Red-state culture, and thusly only campaigned at NASCAR events in Red States to solidify that stereotype. In the midst of the complaints about "the Left" stereotyping people, the Right is the side that desperately wants to take cultural conventions that are becoming universal, claim them as their own by calling them "Real America" and villifying Democrats for being against it. Clearly I had no idea what states NASCAR has tracks in, but I knew what states the teevee said they were in- to claim that they're in states that were blatantly ignored by a campaign desperate to imply they don't exist there to begin with is a cop-out. We know damn well that "NASCAR dad" didn't mean Vermont.

But that's sort of the point that stems to the whole hypocrisy of this argument. There are tons of conservatives in East and West Coast states, just as there are tons of Progressive NASCAR fans (and, apparently, drivers). Progressives want openness and diversity in culture, and suggest fairness that the Right has bastardized into the non-existent concept of "PC" to destroy that request for mutual respect.

The only side demanding that there are borders within culture, and then declaring a "culture war" based on those values, are conservatives.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:47 AM on March 9, 2005


Squirrel: 'grad school was nevertheless unnecessarily rife with obstacles designed to hinder me on the basis of my color, class and etc,

Republicans see opportunities, Democrats see obstacles. I'm not suggesting either is right (look..I'm being politically correct) but it's a trend of thought in the parties for sure. I find it resonates right within this thread...ofcourse ParisParamus has yet to chime in.

I guess what is so troublesome about the whole PC issue is the larger picture of how it detracts from reality. We've reached a point where every black is now an African American regardless of their country of origin. So what about the white Africans in this country? You'd almost feel completely stupid to call one an African American.

There are no rules to PC, just 'feel good' tendencies. There is no substance to it, just 'good intentions'. When African Americans decide they are now offended by being called just that, we will all bend and willow as we learn the newest buzz word to appease them (I'm speaking of the white African Americans of course - they are so damned annoying).

Politicians have used PC to devalue their parties into a vast black holes of idealism (or should it be African American holes - hmm...now that's not too offensive). A republican today is almost a 180° turn from only 20 years ago. But via PC their faithful still see them as the party of small government, and small business. Smoke and mirrors politics.

And XQUZYPHYR

"So having listened to two of the most prominent black spokesmen for progressive and conservative issues..ack, ack, ack." Al 'they get the trickle...and we get the down' Sharpton and Armstrong 'show me the money' Williams - two of the most prominent black spokesmen?

Wow, how fucking sad to hear you say that. Al Sharpton and Williams represent everything that sucks about their respective parties.
posted by j.p. Hung at 9:48 AM on March 9, 2005


Or, to put it more simply - [definition of PC] - dogmatically placing a higher value on protecting the self-esteem of members of certain groups than is placed on objectively seeking the truth.

I would second that one bashos_frog.

The main effect that political correctness has had is to make people decide to censor themselves instead of being honest about their beliefs. Who enforces it? Ourselves.

I disagree clevershark. Political correctness is far more insidious and ubiquitous than simply editing our own words. (The following is about my experiences in the UK):-

- It's in the policies of local council. A school band wasn't allowed to play "When I'm 64" by the Beatles because there was one pupil in the audience who was a Jehavoah's Witness and they don't celebrate birthdays (so I guess the thinking was that the person would be offended by the song). School kids as young as 3 celebrate Chinese New Year (all kids in the nursery) but Hot Cross buns are banned because they promote Christianity. These are all just random examples.

- Affirmative action - gender and race quotas for university placements and job placements (official policy for many local councils)

Political correctness isn't just restricted to language - it's also part of decision making and government policy.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2005


I didn't say they were the best, j.p. But they're certainly among the most prominent. Can you name others with more influence right now?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2005


That is part of the problem Omiewise, when you fail to recognize a distinction between racial discrimination and racism. ... No one wants to be labelled a racist, end of debate.

Caddis-Respectfully, I think you are misreading. No one is calling Ortho a racist, nor has anyone suggested that questioning AA is racist. Both XQUZYPHYR and I have pointed out that Ortho said that Affirmative Action is racist, because it was discrimination based on race. No one is attempting to stifle debate on this point. Please reread the posts if you doubt me.

Ortho's comment was unfortunate not because it was racist, but because the consensus that he claims against AA does not exist. If everyone was so sure it was discrimination, not only would it not be a topic of conversation, it would not be a topic of court cases and legislation. In addition, Ortho's insistance that it is a liberal issue fails to account for AA's expansion during Nixon's presidency, and George Bush Senior's signing of the 1991 Civil Rights Bill which included explicit support for affirmative action.

However, I am not sure what difference there is between racism and racial discrimination? My understanding of racism has always been that it is prejudice coupled with the power to discriminate. Perhaps you mean that there is a difference between prejudice and racial discrimination/racism?
posted by OmieWise at 10:00 AM on March 9, 2005


So if the consensus is that polical correctness is bad, is the opposite good? Can anyone define the opposite of PC?
posted by ozomatli at 10:11 AM on March 9, 2005


XQUZYPHYR writes "Thankfully, it's because no one like you will admit they have no fucking clue what Affirmative Action actually is, and instead rely on such statements as 'it's racist' and -hey!- it's 'PC run amok' -welcome to the great 99.99%!- to justify hating it. Seriously- have you read a single document on AA? Studied a single policy? Or in the middle of your declaration that 'the left' just calls everyone stupid and ignorant, you just decided to say what you heard repeatedly on some cable talk show?"

First, when you have a policy that allows once race easier access to certain benefits (jobs, acceptance to college) than another race has, that's by definition, discrimination. And "discrimination" was the word I used, not "racist".

I choose that word carefully, and I purposely didn't go into my personal feelings about Affirmative Action in my previous post, because I didn't want to digress.

I also said that "the left has become increasingly irrelevant by essentially telling the common man he's an offensive ignorant dumbass". I thank you for proving my point by telling me I "have no fucking clue". You go on to ask if I'm merely parroting what I "repeatedly on some cable talk show?" And write (emphasis mine)
Please see previous post about the boring, droning sound that emits from statements about how the left needs to be nicer to everyone. Meanwhile, The Right spends its days talking about how places with a race track are the only "real" states in the country. When you start bitching about how pathetic people who call it "the Left Coast" are, wake me.

And by the way, thanks for hating the overall concept of respecting other people's values because- as it always seems to be in tantrums like that- you had a bad personal experience with someone one time....
Now let me tell you a little story, oh Hero of The Left. As I mentioned, I spent a month in Ohio, pulling 18 hour days at the state Kerry headquarters. Another fellow (I think he was paid staff, not a volunteer like me, but, whatever) named Terry was in charge of distributing "chum" -- campaign promotional materials -- and it being a democratic campaign, that meant Terry did a bunch of back-breaking work hauling boxes to and from trucks, hour ater hour, day after day.

I got off on the wrong foot with Terry, probably because he was usually pretty tired an frazzled by his workload, so I was rather touched when on November third, when we were all miserable having lost, Terry told me, "you're not a real friendly guy, but you're the hardest working guy I've ever seen." This was touching, because Terry had worked far harder than I -- I'd just spent long hours behind a computer; he'd actually been hauling heavy shit, and his hours had been nearly as long as mine.

That same day, Terry, a thirty-something blue-collar black guy with I think a union background, told me what thought we, the Democratic party needed to do to win the next Presidential election: dump Affirmative Action, and abortion rights.

I hope Terry was wrong about that, because I don't want to be in that Democratic Party.

Now I know Terry doesn't have your college education and your exquisite sensitivity to what's offensive, or your ability to tell people they don't have a fucking clue. Terry doesn't know from The Left, he's no capital-I "Intellectual", "all" he knows is what it's like to be a lower-middle-class working (and not behind a desk at a non-profit, but the kind of work that gives you calluses) Democrat in a swing state, trying to make a life for himself and his kids as health care costs go up and union jobs disappear overseas.

But Terry may, unfortunately, be right. If "heros" like you continue to treat criticism of the Left like the Soviets treated "deviationists", continue to tel everyone who disagrees with you that they're ignorant and stupid, and continue arguing for PC frivolities rather than real issues that affect real people -- that is, people who aren't in grad school getting an MLA -- well, you may alienate enough voters that the only way for the Party to win would-be to follow Terry's advice.

Oh, by the way: when Terry and I were putting in our 18 hour days with no weekends off in Ohio, working to defeat Bush -- what were you doing? Posting to MetaFilter?
posted by orthogonality at 10:17 AM on March 9, 2005


And you're just straining further from the point, which is that despite its application to Blue States, Team Bush only related to NASCAR as a Red-state culture, and thusly only campaigned at NASCAR events in Red States to solidify that stereotype.

I'm not straining anything, I was trying to remember. Absolutely true, the Bush team pushes the NASCAR Dad stereotype to court Middle America, but there's no reason we on the left have to buy into it, as we do when some of us use "NASCAR," as shorthand for "ignorant hick." When we do that we merely reinforce stereotypes and alienate people.

That's my point, which can stand right alongside yours. I'm not denying that the right is at fault in a lot of this, but that dosen't recuse us from examining our own part in things.

The only side demanding that there are borders within culture, and then declaring a "culture war" based on those values, are conservatives.

They may have started it, but we go for it hook, line and sinker. Look at all the red vs. blue, metro vs. retro BS that's been flailed around here and elsewehere over the past couple years. A lot of people on both sides of the ideological fence would have you belive that the country is strictly divided into the glib stereotypes of born-again Everybody Loves Raymond-watching, NASCAR watching Toby Keith listening conservatives on one side and chardonnay-sipping, k.d. lang-listening, NPR-loving vegans in volkswagens on the other, when any examination of the body politic that goes beyond superficialities would reveal a far more complex picture.
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on March 9, 2005


Are we at the point now where calling someone "college educated" or an "Intellectual" is an insult?

theoretical nonsense over common sense.



Holy cow, this phrase irritates me to no end. It is devoid of content at best and blatently false at worse. Common sense is always triumphed by theory, thats what a theory is. Common sense is something your gut tells you, knowledge without empirical evidence. A theory is based on empirical evidence.

posted by ozomatli at 10:28 AM on March 9, 2005


I thought I'd suggest that folks take a look at this Spiked Online essay about the problems with (essentiall) PC and its role in opening the door for Creationism in our schools. I just posted it to the front page, but I think that it's an object lesson of some of the things we've been talking about here, and a very interesting take on the evolution vs. creationism grudge match.
posted by OmieWise at 10:28 AM on March 9, 2005


Ortho-

First, when you have a policy that allows once race easier access to certain benefits (jobs, acceptance to college) than another race has, that's by definition, discrimination.

This may or may not be the case, but it is not an adequate or sufficient description of Affirmative Action. Part of the trouble I had with your tone in the first post, repeated in this latest one, is that your unsupported opinions, which seem very conservative to this reader, fail to account for the reality of things like AA. That makes them seem very much like (unconsidered) GOP boilerplate. Your invocation of the hardworking, and Black, Terry, does nothing to bolster the opinions you hold. It seems like you're making a "Some of my best friends are Black" argument for why your position is the right one. You also did that with the "I lived in a gay neighborhood" comment, and it failed to advance your argument there as well.

If you're interested in the very complex philosophical and legal history of AA, check out the Stanford Encyclo of Philosophy article here.

If you would like a quick and dirty set of responses to the kind of gut-level objections you seem to have to AA, see this article on The Ten Myths of AA here.

I'm not, by the way, suggesting that either of those links means that AA is ok, or good public policy, or not evil; but I do think that any of the points raised in them can be debated in a way which your attenuated opinion just can't.
(I'm also not suggesting that you don't have legitimate arguments against AA up your sleeve, but if you do, you have not shown them yet.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:39 AM on March 9, 2005


It's funny how serious this PC issue has become recently, because I remember the term being used (among lefties in the sixties) precisely as a self-deprecating humorous term making fun of our tendency to be too linguisticually polite (crippled: bad; handicapped: OK; differently-abled: PC, hence, ridiculous).

We also made fun of the fact that we were supposed to think of, say, lesbian Native Americans as being superior to us white guys. We knew it was silly at the time. So how did it become so serious and such a liablity to the left.

Lillian Rubin's article was more about the left's inability to be honest about things in general when speaking to others (when we actually speak to them!).
posted by kozad at 10:39 AM on March 9, 2005


Rubin's anecdote about her book was great -- that it wasn't about actually calling people what they call themselves and representing their viewpoints, but about calling people what the left intelligentsia imagined to be most proper, and ascribing them the viewpoint that the left intelligentsia.

I've done plenty of pro bono work in low income communities and I'd say that 90% of the people I've met or worked with from those communities are right-wing Republicans at heart. Derision for alternative family structures, contempt for welfare recipients, loathing of taxes, certainty that the government can't solve social problems, and absolute conviction that crime is the result of personal weakness and immorality and not the result of discrimination or inequality.
posted by MattD at 10:43 AM on March 9, 2005


Derision for alternative family structures, contempt for welfare recipients, loathing of taxes, certainty that the government can't solve social problems, and absolute conviction that crime is the result of personal weakness and immorality and not the result of discrimination or inequality.
Derision for gay couples?
Contempt for people on welfare?
Absolute certainty that ALL crime is a result of weak people?

Is that a conservative stance? Or just an angry one?
posted by ozomatli at 10:51 AM on March 9, 2005


Derision for alternative family structures, contempt for welfare recipients, loathing of taxes, certainty that the government can't solve social problems, and absolute conviction that crime is the result of personal weakness and immorality and not the result of discrimination or inequality.

Aside from the first item, what makes you so sure those are "right-wing Republican positions." Most people of all political stripes that I know don't like taxes much, or at the very least wish someone else (the rich, the poor, corporations, whoever) would pay more instead of them, and most liberals I know have no great love of criminals, they just disagree with conservatives on what's truly "criminal," and realize that nothing happens in a vacuum. Same goes for the government solving social problems. Anyone with a lick of sense realizes that many root causes of social pathologies (dysfunctional families, family violence, addiction, etc) are more psychological than political in nature, and thus will always be with us to some degree. Many of us liberals just think that maybe the government should play a safety net role in helping to insure that the effects of those things don't cripple society.

You're not as conservative as you think.
posted by jonmc at 10:53 AM on March 9, 2005


A theory is based on empirical evidence.
In many fields such as physics and economics, bad theories are often taken seriously just because the math works out nicely.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2005


OmieWise writes "Your invocation of the hardworking, and Black, Terry, does nothing to bolster the opinions you hold. It seems like you're making a 'Some of my best friends are Black' argument for why your position is the right one. You also did that with the 'I lived in a gay neighborhood' comment, and it failed to advance your argument there as well."

You just don't read that well, do you?

I "invoked" Terry because of what he had to say.

As it happens, on the campaign I worked with a lot of black people, and, gosh! even a few Jews. And a lot of white people too. And some Asians. I didn't trot any of those people out, because it was Terry's opinion, not his race I wanted to discuss.

I described his background not to show off my legions of black friends, but to show that Terry is pretty close to being an average middle American, and far closer to that then turgid theorists of the "intellectual" Left.

Of course, you can't see that -- and in your reply you don't even mention Terry's opinion, that the Democratic Party, to succeed, should abandoned affirmative action and reproductive rights.

Was it because as soon as I mentioned a black man, you just automatically assumed that black people are only used in arguments as props to exonerate the person making the argument of racism? Maybe that's why you mention black people, to show just how progressive you are.

I mentioned Terry because I thought his opinion deserved discussion.

If you can only see black people as some sort of lucky rabbit's foot on your charm bracelet of liberal tokenism, a token that gives you +2 protection against charges of racism, that's really not my problem.
posted by orthogonality at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2005


I would love an example sonofsamiam.

There have been incorrect theories thats for sure, but a REAL theory, not just a guess, is based on empirical evidence and offers a model to explain the observed results. If new evidence comes along and breaks that model the theory is adjusted.

It would be disingenous to say Newtonian Mechanics are incorrect because for the most part they offer a completely reasonable explanation for observed events.

It just gets my panties in a bunch to hear people write something off as "theoretical" as if it has nothing to do with the real world. Saying something is common sense gives no insight as to what is really happening, it's a lazy way out of thinking about something.
posted by ozomatli at 11:04 AM on March 9, 2005


Orhto,
give me a break. You mentioned Terry because his opinion coincided with yours, and his race seemed to bolster your opinion. If it was his opinion and not his race that mattered, why did you tell us he was Black?

If you can only see black people as some sort of lucky rabbit's foot on your charm bracelet of liberal tokenism, a token that gives you +2 protection against charges of racism, that's really not my problem

This is my favorite part of what you've written all day.
posted by OmieWise at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2005


Oh, by the way: when Terry and I were putting in our 18 hour days with no weekends off in Ohio, working to defeat Bush -- what were you doing? Posting to MetaFilter?

Amongst other things; it's a great site. Just before I read this comment from a guy who said something like "So now that you've taken the time to dismiss my arguments with ad hominem criticism, maybe you'll have time to go back and actually address the issues that I raised?"

Man, you'd hate that guy.

And for the record, I work for the Center for American Progress. Feel free to decide what factor that apparently makes you better than me at will. Just try not to spit as much foam when delivering your conclusions next time.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:09 AM on March 9, 2005


If you can only see black people as some sort of lucky rabbit's foot on your charm bracelet of liberal tokenism, a token that gives you +2 protection against charges of racism, that's really not my problem

This is a dead-on target criticism of a lot of liberals attitudes on race. Black people are often related to as moral props or Tiny Tim figures, poor suffering darkies who need help their Great White Saviors. How about relating to them as human beings instead, maybe?

Feel free to decide what factor that apparently makes you better than me at will.

There's a phrase for this kind of argument, it's "moral narcissism." Let's make this discussion an argument about who's purer than thou.
posted by jonmc at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2005


> Is political correctness the enemy from within?

Based on this thread so far, filled to the brim with vitriol and personal attacks between people who ostensibly count themselves as members of the same ideological team, I'd have to say yes. We bicker endlessly amongst ourselves while BushCo rolls onward to another legislative "triumph" like the bankruptcy bill being universally lambasted a few threads over.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:32 AM on March 9, 2005


OmieWise writes "Orhto, give me a break. You mentioned Terry because his opinion coincided with yours, and his race seemed to bolster your opinion. If it was his opinion and not his race that mattered, why did you tell us he was Black?"


Son, learn to read.

I explicitly said that I disagreed with Terry, and that I did not want to be part of a Democratic party that abandoned Affirmative Action and reproductive rights, as Terry suggested. His opinion did not coincide with mine.

And why'd I mention Terry was blue-collar? Or union? Or middle-class?

As far as Affirmative Action, it's a policy designed to favor people of one race, to make up for pasted disfavor. Favoring one race over another is discrimination. so is favoring men over women, or Armenians over Turks, or straights over gays.

If we can't admit that and either defend Affirmative Action or abandon it on those terms, we deserve to be laughed at for our inability to be candid with the America people and with ourselves.

Also, it's "orthogonality", not "Orhto". Learn to read more carefully and learn to write more carefully.
posted by orthogonality at 12:01 PM on March 9, 2005


Jonmc, I'm assuming you to mean light-skinned "liberals." I also disagree with your caricature, depending on what you mean by "liberal."

People with darker skin in this country are suffering disproportionately, are they not? They continue to deal with racism both overt and covert. Are things better than in 1963? Yes -- thanks to those white liberal do-gooders you seem to despise who stepped up and joined their darker-skinned friends' calls for progress. Is there still room for progress? Yes, indeed.

I don't think it is at all coincidental that the PC issue seems to be settling on race. Along with religiousity, racial composition is the other big difference between those who vote Dem vs. GOP.

On preview: card cheat, maybe so, maybe so.
posted by Cassford at 12:01 PM on March 9, 2005


Interesting how this turned into a "what the Dems have to do to win" thread.

But I think abolishing the PC mindset is the least of it. It's all in the framing. Hell, if liberals were able to frame issues like conservatives, proponents of gay marriage would be up there at every f*cking rally reciting the Declaration of Independence - "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" - while the American flags fluttered in the background.

Indeed, we and Rubin can bitch about Thomas Frank's contempt, but the main point he's making, which sticks, is it's less what you do than how you do it.
posted by kgasmart at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2005


Well, hrm.

I'm really skeptical of the whole idea of PC. There is an art to coalition building which means that sometimes you engage in discussion about language, words, and norms in the hope that everyone gets along well enough to work together. When people on the left do it, we call it PC. We don't call it PC when the Eagle Forum and the Christian Coalition demand and get certain consessions and edits to the language of the Republican platform, or when key party members jumped to criticize Cheney's rather ambiguous public acceptance of his daughter's lesbianism. Expressing that there are two sides to the story behind the conflict in Israel is PC, but demanding the placement of consevative advocates in universities is "balance." To a large degree, I think that most of the time "PC" is invoked, it's to say, "how dare you use your strict speech code rather than my speech code."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2005


Yes -- thanks to those white liberal do-gooders you seem to despise who stepped up and joined their darker-skinned friends' calls for progress. Is there still room for progress?

I don't despise them. I just think that oftentimes they're blinkered about how they approach things. It just seems that too many self described "liberals," (and believe it or not, I still consider myself a liberal) can't seem to envision black people as anything other than helpless victims or magical badass potency figures (or in a related fashion, tokens of "hipness"*), or as moral props, to show the world how "different," they are from those "other," white people. These are different caricatures of blacks from what racists proffer, but they're still caricatures.

Like I said, black people are just that, people. Nothing more, nothing less.

*it's especially annoying to hear white people using "white," as a synonym for "blandness
posted by jonmc at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2005


I'm also thinking about this after having read an article about the fifty-first anniversary of the "Green Feather" protest at Indiana University in which a group of baptist students stuck their heads out above the sea of political correctness to defend that horribly offensive tract, Robin Hood. The rather modest goal of trying to avoid offense seems to be rather mild compared to the kinds of PC invoked by right-wing administrations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:24 PM on March 9, 2005


Ortho wrote: Also, it's "orthogonality", not "Orhto". Learn to read more carefully and learn to write more carefully.

Ortho wrote: to make up for pasted disfavor.

Try not to be a jerk.
posted by OmieWise at 12:26 PM on March 9, 2005


damn. hit post too early.

to continue: *it's especially annoying to hear white people using "white," as a synonym for "blandness," since it just smacks of self-abasement to seem "cool," or "correct," which seems wrong to me.
posted by jonmc at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2005


To a large degree, I think that most of the time "PC" is invoked, it's to say, "how dare you use your strict speech code rather than my speech code."

KirkJobSluder, as I pointed out earlier, PCness isn't only about words.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2005


OmieWise writes "Ortho wrote: Also, it's 'orthogonality', not 'Orhto'. Learn to read more carefully and learn to write more carefully.

"Ortho wrote:
to make up for pasted disfavor.

"Try not to be a jerk."


You're being intellectually dishonest.

You know my admonishment to "learn to read more carefully" was in reference to
a) your initial claim that I mentioned a black person's opinions only in order to show I wasn't racist and
b) then after I corrected you, your claim that I mentioned that person only because his views coincided with mine when I clearly and explicitly said I didn't agree with his views but thought that they deserved discussion.

Your response is to ignore your misrepresentations, but to snidely point out a typo of mine. It's great as snark, but it's dishonest as debate.

Rather than admit that you twice misread me, you prefer to distract attention from your repeated substantive errors by drawing attention to my poor typing.

Then you are again disingenuous, calling me a jerk for supposedly admonishing you only for your similar typo.

And then, having seen, and even quoted me writing that I prefer to be referred to as "orthogonality", not "Ortho", you persist in using the latter form. That's just petty, and pretty ironic from a guy who's calling me a jerk. (In contrast, I've used your full user name throughout, capitalized as your prefer to capitalize it.)

Your user page implies you're a psychotherapist: doesn't your profession train you to listen carefully to what others are saying, to not to misrepresent what they say, and to find better ways to communicate than intentionally calling people names they've asked not to be called?
posted by orthogonality at 12:56 PM on March 9, 2005


Guys, chill. The article is more or less about people having the courage to listen to each other without attacking -- could we maybe try to emulate that a bit?
posted by occhiblu at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2005


So the opposite of "PC", that would be populism, right?

That's interesting NOT ONLY for americans of any political color, but also to europeans who lives in countries in which media
are highly concentrated in very few hands.


And it scares the shit out of me.
posted by mr.marx at 1:08 PM on March 9, 2005


FieldingGoodney: KirkJobSluder, as I pointed out earlier, PCness isn't only about words.

Certainly. And I'd also like to point you to this story from the other side.

1: IME, people radically overgeneralize from a few cases (frequently of dubious provenance) to the left as a whole.

2: IMO, the same people who are quick to jump over left-wing speech codes, are frequently blind to the fact that the right-wing can be just as anal about their own speech codes. And on this, they appear to be winning in terms of defining what you can and can't say or risk appearing unpatriotic.

3: A more pressing problem in my mind is not about how the left has worked to be inclusive of minority groups, but about how the left is starting to feel exclusive in regards to class and region.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2005


And then, having seen, and even quoted me writing that I prefer to be referred to as "orthogonality", not "Ortho", you persist in using the latter form. That's just petty, and pretty ironic from a guy who's calling me a jerk. (In contrast, I've used your full user name throughout, capitalized as your prefer to capitalize it.)

Your user page implies you're a psychotherapist: doesn't your profession train you to listen carefully to what others are saying, to not to misrepresent what they say, and to find better ways to communicate than intentionally calling people names they've asked not to be called?

Yeah. Try to be more politically correct and call him by the term he wants.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2005


So, we are still not sure if political correctness is based in language, or also covers affirmative action and various other sins?

Speaking of which: Fieldinggoodney, could you provide instantiations of any of your anecdotes? There usually seems to be more to these stories than meets the eye.

As for the opposite of PC - well, if we assume that the utter failure of 114 posts to provide any kind of taxonomically valid or historically coherent definition of the movement and its aims nonetheless allows us to assume with confidence what it is and what it stands for, and staying in the UK, the front cover of popular newspaper the Sun today I think might be a pretty good example. It's populist, it says things that one would expect not to be allowed to say if political correctness were quite the force the right tends to claim it is, it complains viciously about human rights legislation and the problems it causes to "common sense" solutions, and I imagine it will almost certainly contain the words "political correctness" (possibly with a measurement of its sanity) therein.
posted by tannhauser at 1:33 PM on March 9, 2005


Or, you could just be polite and use the moniker he prefers.
posted by caddis at 2:03 PM on March 9, 2005


> Is political correctness the enemy from within?
>
>> Based on this thread so far, filled to the brim with vitriol and personal attacks
>> between people who ostensibly count themselves as members of the
>> same ideological team, I'd have to say yes.


fuller drops in, looks around, smiles, passes on in silence

posted by jfuller at 4:26 PM on March 9, 2005


go twirl your mustache elsewhere, boris.
posted by jonmc at 4:35 PM on March 9, 2005


orthogonality-I didn't actually understand that you wanted your full name spelled out at all times. I took your comment as a snark on my misspelling of Ortho as Orhto, since you snarkily told me to write more carefully. I meant no offense by that, although I was snarking because after what I thought was admonishing me for a typo, you made a typo. If it helps, I'll call you orthogonality to your hearts content (although it is harder to write). I have no preference as to how you abbreviate or capitalize my user name, so I honestly wasn't recognizing your gesture for the civility that you meant it to display.

I didn't respond to your substantive comments because you have responded to none of mine. You've misrepresented PC and liberal views from your first statement. Your defense has been decidedly personal, by insisting that you are liberal you've tried to insist that your views should therefore be taken seriously without explaining why they should be so regarded on their own merits. You've made ad hominem attacks when challenged, suggesting that people who disagreed with you had not done as much for the party as you had; and that regardless of what they have done, it doesn't have the kind of worth that callussed hands represent. I've disagreed with you throughout this exchange, but that's all. For all I know you're a fine kind of guy, even if your tone has been overly confrontational and defensive.

As to poor Terry, you did not say in your post that you disagreed with him, you said that you wouldn't want to belong to a Democratic party that jettisoned AA and abortion rights as planks of the platform. From my close reading, I had no way of knowing that you disagreed with his statements about AA since it's evident from all of your other posts on the subject that you hold it in contempt. You may or may not agree with it (at this point I'm not sure), but your position on it is so reductive that it expresses contempt for a nuanced and complex intellectual issue. And I'm not going to discuss Terry's opinion because I have no idea what it is.
posted by OmieWise at 5:10 PM on March 9, 2005


So, we are still not sure if political correctness is based in language, or also covers affirmative action and various other sins?

No tannhauser - it's you obsessing with this "if we can't define it, it doesn't exist" idea that you keep re-casting. Certainly in the UK there's a very clear idea of what political correctness is : the kow-towing to designated victim groups to the point that we cannot legitimately criticise them without our words/actions being admonished. If you can't wrap your head around that concept, I can't help you further.

Speaking of which: Fieldinggoodney, could you provide instantiations of any of your anecdotes? There usually seems to be more to these stories than meets the eye.

Sure:

"Don't Ban The Bun!", says M.P.

Should pupils study all faiths in school?
(good example of designated victim groups - minority faiths - as being untouchable whereas the majority faith - Christianity - can be attacked - no consistancy)

The Beatles - When i'm 64- Banned (scroll down the page) and here
posted by FieldingGoodney at 5:24 PM on March 9, 2005


the kow-towing to designated victim groups to the point that we cannot legitimately criticise them without our words/actions being admonished.

Actually, it's more along the lines of being unable criticize individuals who happen to be members of designated* victim groups without being admonished. For instance, I'd be the last person to deny that black Americans have been historically victimized, but that dosen't make thinking that say, Al Sharpton, is an opportunistic media whore (and saying so) racist.

*designated by whom, is a whole other subject.
posted by jonmc at 5:34 PM on March 9, 2005


that dosen't make thinking that say, Al Sharpton, is an opportunistic media whore (and saying so) racist.

heh heh.

MetaFilter: an opportunistic...oh, never mind.
posted by OmieWise at 5:40 PM on March 9, 2005


Heh. I knew a man named after one of the great murder ballads would dig where I'm coming from.
posted by jonmc at 5:57 PM on March 9, 2005


I hear you, jonmc. I don't consider myself a progressive or a lefty instead of a liberal, frankly, because I see them as too moderate and too much pandering in the manner you describe. When Kerry said he wanted to be the "second black president" I wanted to curl up into a ball or punch the guy in the head.

But the Mau-Mauing and pandering has been going on since before Phil Ochs was singing Love Me, I'm a Liberal. (Poor Phil Ochs, he'd hang himself again if he were alive today.)

Is the idea that this behavior has increased past some tipping point? I don't think so. If anything, that kind of superficial perspective has receded.
posted by Cassford at 8:40 PM on March 9, 2005


Cassford writes " But the Mau-Mauing and pandering has been going on since before Phil Ochs was singing Love Me, I'm a Liberal."


"And that's why I'm turning you in."
posted by orthogonality at 8:49 PM on March 9, 2005


(Poor Phil Ochs, he'd hang himself again if he were alive today.)

But, who would care, outside of a small circle of freinds?
posted by jonmc at 8:52 PM on March 9, 2005


Fieldinggoodney: You say "admonish", but you are talking about legislation. You seem confused about taxonomies. It seems that, regardless of political correctnss' existence, you are having trouble defining it.

Interestingly, I asked for more detail, which is precisley what you have failed to provide. Each of these "reports" provides no more detail than you first provided. We do get the sources - the Mail on Sunday (not the most reliable of papers, for our American friends), a press release from the MP for Romford which tells us that hot cross buns are being made illegal in schools without any actual examples, and a discussion point on the BBC which actually contradicts your claim:

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) plan leaves Christianity as the main religion featured but also urges the teaching of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, plus other faiths and secular philosophies such as humanism.

Now, there is a bit of a difference between "can you provide evidence?" and "can you use Google?" I hope it isn't politically incorrect of me to bring it up.
posted by tannhauser at 11:27 PM on March 9, 2005


jonmc writes "But, who would care, outside of a small circle of freinds?"

I declare his war is over. He ain't marching anymore. He got a one way tickey home.
posted by orthogonality at 2:46 AM on March 10, 2005


tannhauser, yet again you use this notion that "if you can't define it, it's not really there". Regarding definitions, if enough people use a word to mean the same thing, it creates its own definition. This is how words/phrases get put into the dictionary. Indeed, it does have a dictionary definition:-

1. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

2. Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.


I believe my own short-hand definition I provided earlier pretty much covers both definitions above in how PC manifests itself. tannhauser, to deny this happens is to show the kind of intellectual dishonesty the article linked in this thread goes on about (you seem to view PC as some kind of myth generated by the Right that needs debunking).

I need to provide you more links to show you the zeitgeist that hangs in the air regarding how majority white voters feel in the UK (isn't that what this thread is about - Silent majorities being marginalised?):-

Has political correctness gone mad? (BBC)


Political correctness or poor practice?
(Guardian UK) - article on the climate of fear PC brings)

Political correctness puts disk drives in a spin (OK, a bit frivolous, but shows you the ridiculous lengths PC goes to)

If that's not enough, here's all the latest news on politically correct government policy.

Now, there is a bit of a difference between "can you provide evidence?" and "can you use Google?" I hope it isn't politically incorrect of me to bring it up.

We are communicating via the internet which restricts the type of evidence I can provide to you.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 2:54 AM on March 10, 2005


Argh, that was I do consider myself a progressive and not a liberal. What's that I hear? Nobody cares about my little semantic identity games? Oh...

FieldingGoodney, the "latest news" link you provided proves the point that this PC thing is a red herring. A perusal of things referred to as news on "PC" include everything from an attempt to be more ecumenical in a hospital chapel to Prince Charles' anti-PC hissy fit about people rising above their station. Sure, occasionally people take offense at insignificant stuff. That's been happening for ages.

In my experience, 9 times out of 10 the charge of political correctness is raised when someone is being called out for bad behavior or their privillege is being challenged. Somehow if I say something against the war or (god forbid) the US armed forces in a pub and I am told that I am unpatriotic and should STFU, I can't cry "PC." But if orthogonality makes a joke about gay people and gets told off, then it is "PC."

Hmmmm...
posted by Cassford at 11:43 AM on March 10, 2005


Somehow if I say something against the war or (god forbid) the US armed forces in a pub and I am told that I am unpatriotic and should STFU, I can't cry "PC." But if orthogonality makes a joke about gay people and gets told off, then it is "PC."

Cassford, you've actually described PC very well here. The US armed forces are certainly NOT classed in any way shape or form a victim group, where as homosexuals are.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 11:48 AM on March 10, 2005


Fieldinggoodney: A right-wing site set up against "political correctness" which rather proves the point, an article which is actually about insititutional racism but mentions PC in the title, an actually valid example of somebody getting the wrong end of the stick (I believe John Denham kept his job) and, again, a single, humorous tale (I don't believe hard drives are changing their terminologies). If PC exists as you seem to believe, it is no terribly powerful.

I'm afraid my point is rather more nuanced than "if you can't define it, it's not really there", just as "political correctness" is a rather more nuanced concept than an online dictionary will explain. It is, roughly, that it is being treated as if it were a monolothic and constituted political entity, while not having any of the defining features of such, because it is convenient to do so. This did not seem a complex proposition when I set out, but now I am not so sure.
posted by tannhauser at 11:27 PM on March 10, 2005


This did not seem a complex proposition when I set out, but now I am not so sure.

tannhauser, did you see the dictionary definition of political correctness? It's not some nebulous, vague, intangible concept (well maybe for you, but not for the majority of media and public). What exactly do you mean by PC being a "rather more nuanced concept than an online dictionary will explain". You asked for a definition, got it, and now that you've received it, you shift your position further to make sure PC is still that shapeless, "indefinable" object (therefore you doubt its existance).

A right-wing site set up against "political correctness" which rather proves the point

What exactly does that mean? What is the point you describe?

an article which is actually about insititutional racism but mentions PC in the title

I think you may have skipped over this paragraph before jumping to that conclusion:-

the evidence put forward over the past seven months appears to confirm some of the worst stereotypes of "right-on" social workers, portraying a professional culture where "politically correct" ideas about race and ethnicity took precedence over child protection guidelines.

Your comment:-

If PC exists as you seem to believe, it is no terribly powerful.

If you don't believe it exists, I think you'll also agree with me that you don't believe millions of people who do say it exists - that might be OK for you, but not if you're a politician.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:14 AM on March 11, 2005


You appear to have missed out the words "at first glance" from your quote form the Guardian. You also failed to note the word "appears" inside your quote. This report is from nearly three years ago. Did you follow the findings of the inquiry? Any subsequent reportage? We are up against the limits of Googling "political correctness" again...

On definitions. This really does seem quite simple, at least to me. You are behaving as if political correctness is a monolithic political entity - my words. There are lots of words in the online dictionary that are not describing monolothic political entities. I propose "rutabaga" for starters. Have a look at the definition of "rutabaga". Now, would you say that rutabaga was defined? You would. Would you say that rutabaga was a monolithic political entity? Well, you may. I wouldn't.

So, I accept quite happily that millions of people believe that the concept of "political correctness" exists. I do. You are failing to distinguish between that and the idea that there is a force in the land called "Political Correctness", with a defined set of objectives and power to enforce those objectives. Try looking up "Zeus" in the online dictionary. Does that mean that the idea of a mighty deity called Zeus exists? It does. Does it mean that as I type this the master of the thunderbolt is watching me? Well, YMMV.

A quick check of Snopes reveals this codicil to your tale of political correctness gone mad in California:

Joe Sandoval, the Division Manager who issued the memo, told Reuters that his memo was intended as "nothing more than a request" and not an ultimatum or policy change

Likewise, we might wonder why, if political correctness exists as you seem to believe (the absence of commas is quite important there - "as you seem to believe" is not a subclause, it is a qualifier of the way in which political correctness exists, hence your misunderstanding), the US is currently run by a fellow with some very un-PC attitudes and language. The funny thing about the "silent white majority" you mention is that, as you are currently demonstrating, it is remarkably voluble for something silent. Likewise, if political correctness is the power in the land that the right wing claims, it is a singularly ineffectual one.

Your Campaign Against Political Correctness link has rather proved the point that "politically correct" is a handy shorthand for "things I do not like but wish to suggest are part of an overarching agenda peddled by extremists rather than simply activities not to my taste". From the right viewpoint, anything can be construed as "politically correct". Failed to get a job? Political correctness has given it to a member of what you describe as a "victim group". Didn't get into your first choice university? Political correctness has given the place that was rightfully yours to a quota system. Girlfriend expects you to do your share of cooking and clean ingbecause you both hold down full-time jobs? PC absolutely gone mad. And so on.

I've never found being a white male much of an impediment, personally, but then I have also never felt the need to listen to the right wing telling me how I should behave around people who aren't.

So, sometimes people on the left let concern about disapproval from other people on the left affect how they talkabout both people and issues. This happens quite a lot on the right as well, and the right has its own sets of politically correct phrases - "bogus asylum seekers", "illegal immigrants", "welfare mothers", "political correctness gone mad". If anything, the insertion of these phrases into the national discourse seems far more of a coherent communications strategy than anything identifiable as according-to-Hoyle political correctness.

(Interesting sidenote. It seems that political correctness goes mad in the UK and runs amok in the US. Possibly it was determined in the US that referencing mental illness when talking about the depredations of political correctness would not be politically correct?).
posted by tannhauser at 4:25 AM on March 11, 2005


You appear to have missed out the words "at first glance" from your quote form the Guardian. You also failed to note the word "appears" inside your quote. This report is from nearly three years ago. Did you follow the findings of the inquiry? Any subsequent reportage? We are up against the limits of Googling "political correctness" again...

tannhauser, you completely miss the point of why I linked to the article. The article describes the fears of speaking out that social workers are up against - that was my point.

You are behaving as if political correctness is a monolithic political entity - my words.

Your words indeed. I don't know if PC is a "monolithic political entity" or not because I don't know what a "monolithic political entity" is.

Have a look at the definition of "rutabaga"

I did. It's a European plant having a thick bulbous root used as food and as livestock feed.

Now, would you say that rutabaga was defined? You would.

Yes, I would - because it does have a definition.

Would you say that rutabaga was a monolithic political entity? Well, you may.

Seriously, you've completely lost me here. I don't even know what a "monolithic political entity" is, let alone define a plant as one (at least that sentence sounds funny - to me at least!).

Try looking up "Zeus" in the online dictionary. Does that mean that the idea of a mighty deity called Zeus exists?

Because there is a proper noun in the dictionary to describe a mythological Greek God doesn't diminish the reality that other words describe. I don't really understand your logic here.

The funny thing about the "silent white majority" you mention is that, as you are currently demonstrating, it is remarkably voluble for something silent.

Silent wasn't meant literally. It was meant in a way that their needs are not really being properly addressed whenever political correctness raises its ugly head. Any affirmative action, for example, is to the detriment of anyone who isn't a card-carrying member of the group the AA is intended for. In case you still believe AA is not a symptom of political correctness, I need to remind you of the dictionary definition of political correctness:-

politically correct, adj. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. (my emphasis)

If affirmative action isn't a good example of "redressing historical injustices", I don't know what is.

Your Campaign Against Political Correctness link has rather proved the point that "politically correct" is a handy shorthand for "things I do not like but wish to suggest are part of an overarching agenda peddled by extremists rather than simply activities not to my taste".

This is far too broad a description, and in any case inaccurate (why do you willfully ignore the dictionary definition?). This description may be applied to practically anything, even apolitical.

Failed to get a job? Political correctness has given it to a member of what you describe as a "victim group".

In some cases, your example may well be true. In all cases of people not getting jobs, this is clearly ridiculous.

Didn't get into your first choice university? Political correctness has given the place that was rightfully yours to a quota system. Girlfriend expects you to do your share of cooking and clean ingbecause you both hold down full-time jobs? PC absolutely gone mad. And so on.

You are exaggerating how people rally against political correctness in order to ridicule it. This is a rather transparent method of argument.

So, sometimes people on the left let concern about disapproval from other people on the left affect how they talkabout both people and issues.

Political correctness manifests itself in areas other than how we speak.

tannhauser, you view all complaints of PCness as bogus and/or irrelevant. This is exactly the kind of attitude that turns off a big chunk of the voting population.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 5:59 AM on March 11, 2005


It was always pretty clear that you didn't understand what a monolithic political entity was, FieldingGoodney. That hasn't affected your tendency to behave as if political correctness is one. Since you simultaneously cleave passionately to a dictionary definition of "political correctness", and yet demand for the word "silent" a meaning utterly at variance with its dictionary definition - characterised by an absence or near absence of noise or sound, in case you're wondering - I don't think we're going to get very far.

Let's look, for example, at affirmative action. You appear to be saying that it is an example of redressing historical injustice, yes? You have to in order to define it according to your dictionary definition of political correctness (which may be no more related to the real than the dictionary definition of Zeus, but that I think is a level of complexity too far). Since you believe political correctness to be a Bad Thing (tm), you must therefore also believe the redressing of historical injustice to be a bad thing. Yes? Or is it only the redressing of historical injustic that you would describe as "politically correct" that you disapporive of. Your dictionary definition would have us see all actions to redress historical injustice as political correctness, and therefore if you do approve of any redress of historical injustice you must also approve of some instances of political correctness. However, I suspect that you will ascribe political correctness only to those redressings of historical injustice of which you do not approve. Thus, once again, rather proving my point. You may not get it. Others hopefully will.
posted by tannhauser at 6:20 AM on March 11, 2005


Since you simultaneously cleave passionately to a dictionary definition of "political correctness", and yet demand for the word "silent" a meaning utterly at variance with its dictionary definition - characterised by an absence or near absence of noise or sound, in case you're wondering - I don't think we're going to get very far.

Come on tannhauser, you've never heard the word "silent" in any non-literal sense? The term "silent majority" isn't a literal meaning, but can be used when a large group of people have been overlooked. In any case, I think you are ignoring my points and highlighting (rather pedantically) my use of adjectives.

Your dictionary definition would have us see all actions to redress historical injustice as political correctness, and therefore if you do approve of any redress of historical injustice you must also approve of some instances of political correctness. However, I suspect that you will ascribe political correctness only to those redressings of historical injustice of which you do not approve. Thus, once again, rather proving my point. You may not get it. Others hopefully will.

tannhauser, I am very much against any method that seeks to redress historical injustices, therefore according to your last post, I am against any act of political correctness - yes, indeed, you are correct sir.

Instead of trying to redress historical injustices, it's far better to concentrate on the here-and-now social equality issues. You do not fight discrimination with further discrimination - you fight it with trying to push the simple notion that everybody has the right to equal opportunities in life. It's not a complex idea - it's really very simple and requires no checks and balances and promoting of certain races while ignoring others, or gender quotas, or race quotas or whatever. People alive today should not be punished for crimes others committed in the past - this is clearly unfair. So, yes, to repeat, I am 100% against trying to redress historical injustices.

Simple question: do you think affirmative action could possibly alienate a large number of voters?
posted by FieldingGoodney at 9:41 AM on March 11, 2005


As might European union, the right of women to abortion and equal rights for gay men and lesbians. Or indeed European separatism, abolishing abortion rights for women and discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Some people favour certain political viewpoints, others are alienated by them. Popular acceptibility need not be the only criterion for policy.

Now, have you never heard the term "political correctness" in a non-"literal" sense, where by "non-literal" we mean "not on an online the dictionary". Such as "something people who are right wing do not like and wish to associate with a scary dark power". If you demand that we stick precisely to one definition of political correctness because you found it online but deny the same rigidity to your own use of language, you are pretty clearly not a believer in equality even at a linguistic level.

There's a further, rather complex question about whether the right to equal opportunities equates precisely to equal opportunities (I would say no) and whether you can suddenly draw a line under all historical context when considering social equality (only if you are prepared to ignore an awful lot of ambiguities). Not to menton the possibilities offered by cold-eyed pragmatism, which may need to be explained clearly and more effectively.
posted by tannhauser at 3:49 AM on March 12, 2005


As might European union, the right of women to abortion and equal rights for gay men and lesbians. Or indeed European separatism, abolishing abortion rights for women and discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Some people favour certain political viewpoints, others are alienated by them. Popular acceptibility need not be the only criterion for policy.

This doesn't answer my question. Or are you answering "yes" and then providing further examples of what "might" alienate voters? I have to agree with you though : popularity isn't the only criteria for choosing policy. I would hope politicians listen to their electorate though.

Now, have you never heard the term "political correctness" in a non-"literal" sense, where by "non-literal" we mean "not on an online the dictionary". Such as "something people who are right wing do not like and wish to associate with a scary dark power".

This is getting desperate tannhauser. You've worn out this tactic, and I highlighted it many times already. I get it : political correctness is something to not take seriously, therefore we can safely ignore it. Read again the article this thread is about and you'll see it says many people like to believe this.

There's a further, rather complex question about whether the right to equal opportunities equates precisely to equal opportunities (I would say no) and whether you can suddenly draw a line under all historical context when considering social equality (only if you are prepared to ignore an awful lot of ambiguities).

Arbitrary discrimination of any kind works against equal opportunities. By attempting to "redress" the balance, you discriminate against completely innocent people simply to fulfill a quota. Equal opportunities does not mean that, for example, 50% of staff must be female, or 15% black. In a meritocracy, the employer certainly gets to discriminate by merit : he picks the best staff, regardless of gender or skin colour. That might mean he doubles the designated quota for black staff, or he might pick none. Why should he care what colour the skin are of his employees?
posted by FieldingGoodney at 5:12 AM on March 12, 2005


I get it : political correctness is something to not take seriously, therefore we can safely ignore it.

Nope. You haven't gotten it at all, pretty obviously. We could go round again, but I think I have already explained at length why one should take the use of the terms "political correctness" seriously, and think about how the term is construed, what it means and how it is used. If I didn't believe this was a serious issue, I wouldn't be spending, and it seems wasting, time discussing it. You are either unwilling or unable to focus beyond the most basic and self-serving construction of the term, and as such are unlikely to be abe to take seriously or discuss competently the issues around it.
posted by tannhauser at 5:07 PM on March 12, 2005


I have already explained at length why one should take the use of the terms "political correctness" seriously

No you have not. All you've tried to do is subvert the discussion to hammer out your "it's an evil tool of the Right used to spread lies" message. If you believe you have stated its seriousness in any other way, other than to take a swipe at the Right, I can't find it.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:39 AM on March 13, 2005


Oh dear.

Look, Fielding, I honestly don't think you're going to be able to get the hang of this, because you have too much invested in a very specific idea of what "political correctness" means, and that idea depends on a preexisting structure which you are unable to evidence but happy to articulate. As it happens, examples of this unevidenced articulation - or articulation of parody as example - have already cropped up in this thread, and you have provided another one here.

Equal opportunities does not mean that, for example, 50% of staff must be female, or 15% black.

Leaving aside for the moment that you have fudged "equal opportunties", a legislative form, with "equal opportunity", a concept, and that you have failed to consider the disctinction of "the right to equal opportunities" and "equal opportunities", where do those percentages come from? You are based in the UK - can you tell me which UK company is currently required by law to ensure that 50% of its staff are female, or 15% are black?

Now, I have asked throughout why it is impossible to identify "politically correct" in the same way that one might, for example, be able to identify "Liberal Democrat" or "Extropian". Why is political corectness being treated as, and here's that phrase you are finding nearly as confusing as "silent", a monolithic political entity? For example, why are you claiming that political correctness has imposed conditions in which 50% of a workforce in a so-far-imaginary company must be female, or 15% must be black? How has it done this? How has it done this? Was there a meeting of the Political Correctness Agency at which this was decided? Could you present the minutes? You could not. You are demanding that we deal with a scary bogeyman in the same way that you want to deal with it without actually providing any coherent support of why we should, because you are assuming that what are in fact contentions that need to be justified are facts that do not, and frankly your confection of bitterness, rhetoric and factition suggests that you don't have the chops to turn that around now.

So, we're back to the question, which you have so far not actually managed to answer successfully (to try to explain this - a dictionary definition is not a complete answer to the question "what is x", as you have rather agreeably proven with your decision that "silent" can be given a meaning at variance with its dictionary definition) of "what is political correctness". So far, you have reinforced the idea that "political correctness" means "something that can be conveniently applied to progressive ideas you do not like". Which is fine, but which means that your entire costruction of the depredations of political correctness cannot be, as it is merely a brightly-coloured label applied by people without the skills actually to examine the complexities of issues.

If you want to treat political correctness as some sort of policy-making entity, prove it exists. If you want to use it to blame left-wingers, women and immigrants for you not earning as much as you want, there is a vast corpus of literature and media available to support that. Right now you are claiming the former and performing the latter, which is fine but not very interesting or useful., It's the burger and fries of right-wing ideology. Answering the question "what is political correctness" by pointing at various (imaginary or real) instantiations of what you feel to be unreasonable actons and saying "that is!" is not a definition - it is a series of instantiations. That wasn't enough for Plato, and I don't think it has become a complete definition in the interim.
posted by tannhauser at 5:28 AM on March 13, 2005


Equal opportunities does not mean that, for example, 50% of staff must be female, or 15% black.

where do those percentages come from? You are based in the UK - can you tell me which UK company is currently required by law to ensure that 50% of its staff are female, or 15% are black?


why are you claiming that political correctness has imposed conditions in which 50% of a workforce in a so-far-imaginary company must be female, or 15% must be black? How has it done this? How has it done this? Was there a meeting of the Political Correctness Agency at which this was decided? Could you present the minutes?

tannhauser, you must have missed the bit where I said "for example". It's the two words left of "50%" at the top of this post. They are abitrary examples to highlight that equality of outcomes does not provide the individual with equal opportunities. EXAMPLES - not stated fact - E-X-A-M-P-L-E-S. Sorry to clobber you like this, but you've really gone off on the wrong tangent here. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but affirmative action is very much results driven, no? They have quotas to fulfill. This means employing X% of one race, X% of another. AA is an obsession with equality of outcomes. I argued that this is not the best way to work towards the goal that everybody has equal opportunity in gaining a job.

So, we're back to the question, which you have so far not actually managed to answer successfully (to try to explain this - a dictionary definition is not a complete answer to the question "what is x", as you have rather agreeably proven with your decision that "silent" can be given a meaning at variance with its dictionary definition) of "what is political correctness".

I don't understand what it is you have against the method of trying to describe the shared meaning of a word (i.e. a dictionary). Straight question: do you think PC is the figment of the Right's imagination? It's a bogeyman, yes? In no way shape or form, does PC manifest itself in any policing of speech, or affirmative action....no, it's just paranoid thinking from the Right. That's how I take your view. Am I right?

If you want to treat political correctness as some sort of policy-making entity, prove it exists

It's not a "policy-making entity" - it's not an "entity" as I understand the word "entity" - political correctness is a set of ideas based on the ideal of social equality. These ideas manifest themselves in a policing of speech, and affirmative actions. We may choose to groups these actions/policing of speech as "political correctness" or not (as we are arguing now), but the fact that they exist is indesputable.

If you want to use it to blame left-wingers, women and immigrants for you not earning as much as you want, there is a vast corpus of literature and media available to support that. Right now you are claiming the former and performing the latter, which is fine but not very interesting or useful.

What? You're saying that I'm claiming I can't earn as much as I want because of women and immigrants? I am? Wow, I didn't realise I said that - could you point to the bit in this thread where I actually say (or even imply!) that. Not that it's really relevant, but I'm self-employed and am happy with what I'm earning - and if I'm not, I'll just put in some extra hours. I've only said that employers should discriminate by merit, so if that means he hires 31 Chinese workers out of 32 positions that's up to the employer. He might hire 32 women, or 30 men and 2 women, or 32 white men, or 4 white men, 17 black women and 11 Indian women....the employer discriminates by merit (as he or she should). You have argued in favour of affirmative action which must ensure arbitrarly that X amount of (insert attribute) people must be hired. This has nothing to do with equal opportunities.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 8:35 AM on March 13, 2005


Example. n. One that is representative of a group as a whole

It seems you are using one of those "non-literal" interpretations of words again. Sorry to clobber you like this, but if you don't know what the words you are using mean, and instead invent convenient definitions, the whole process collapses into incoherence. If you have made up those statistics, which you have, can you say with confidence that they are representative of a group or whole, apart from the group of things made up to instantiate political correctness?

You keep refusing to accept dictionary definitions, and then demanding that I stick to them. I have explained why this doesn't work. Let's try again. Look up "Hinduism". Does that tell you everything you need to know to understand Hinduism? It does not. That is why we go to classes at university rather than looking up the keywords in the dictionary.

I ask again. can you actually come up with a factual example of a quota system in which the statement 50% female and 15% black is _representative_, in the UK? I'm going to go with "no", but I remain open to pleasant surprise.

Straight question: do you think PC is the figment of the Right's imagination? It's a bogeyman, yes? In no way shape or form, does PC manifest itself in any policing of speech, or affirmative action....no, it's just paranoid thinking from the Right. That's how I take your view. Am I right?

You're incomplete. You're still holding on to the idea that there is only one possible form of political correctness which must apply equally to all situations. It's a hopelessly limiting viewpoint, but one the right wing finds it convenient to peddle. Also, it means you can apply the term "PC" to pretty much anything you want, as if to suggest that every instance of progressivism you don't like is a part some sort of oooo scary monad. Repeat enough times, and you convince at least yourself. As I have said before, I think it's a bit more complex than that, but I don't think I'm going to make much headway on that one, and since everyone else has given up on this thread I am not sure there is a lot of point in continuing to argue the toss.

Incidentally, could you find one place in this thread where I have argued for affirmative action? I don't recall having done that... but perhaps a word I use to mean something else you take to be an endorsement of it.
posted by tannhauser at 9:49 AM on March 13, 2005


tannhauser, firstly I have to tell you : take it easy. You're gradually whipping yourself up into a frenzy here. Let's agree to disagree, but it's getting a little bit personal now (and I can't be bothered with that - it doesn't interest me).

I ask again. can you actually come up with a factual example of a quota system in which the statement 50% female and 15% black is _representative_, in the UK? I'm going to go with "no", but I remain open to pleasant surprise.

You'd obviously overlooked my "for example", but you don't seem to have the grace to say "my bad". Instead you try to wriggle your way out of it as if the "for example" meant "here is an instantation of actual figures past or present". You didn't get it that they were arbitrary figures meant to highlight an arbitrary quota system. Of course when I say "Equal opportunities does not mean that, for example, 50% of staff must be female, or 15% black.", I am making the point of quota systems and how arbitrary they are. The "50%" and "15%" are arbitrary figures. It doesn't matter if they are both 1% or both 99% - they are examples of arbitrary quota settings. I know you understand this, but you reach for the red herring everytime to avoid my point. Perhaps you're afraid to agree with me?

You're absolutely obsessed with the definition of PC, yet steadfastly refuse to even attempt at giving your own definition. As I said in my last post:-

We may choose to group these actions [Affirmative Action]/policing of speech as "political correctness" or not, but the fact that they exist is indesputable.

I couldn't care less if we disagree on what and what isn't political correctness - that's just semantics. The main point is that there is certainly a pattern of policing speech when it comes to designated victim groups, and the fact that affirmative action occurs is also undeniable. I group these under the term "political correctness" - you say otherwise. I say tomato, you say tomato (hmm, that doesn't work well in text, but you get my point!) - the point is this : they exist. Now if this old thread is going to lumber on, I'm willing to discuss the existance and manifestation of policing speech and AA, but I'm not going to discuss semantics with you - it's really pointless.

Re-read the article (or read it!), see what it's about. You sure sound like you have your head in the sand about these things though.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:09 PM on March 13, 2005


Ah. "That's just semantics". Such an evocative phrase. After 145 instances of people using words, and discussing their meanings, somebody decides that, because something is "semantics", it is not a discussion worth having. That there is something real and true, usually one's own beliefs, and any deviance therefrom is mere "semantics".

The definition of "semantics" you are probably aiming for here is the meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form, although at this point who knows? Unfortunately, your argument rests on semantics - on how one can interpret certain words or sentences as "politically correct", and others not so. "Semantics", like "politically correct", "arbitrary" and "silent majority", is more of a rhetorical sound effect than an actual contribution.

So anyway. You demand the right to reinterpret words such as "silence" and "example" utterly independent of their dictionary meaning, and then dismiss "semantics". You claim:

it's getting a little bit personal now (and I can't be bothered with that - it doesn't interest me)

And then add the personal and pointless ad hominems:

but you don't seem to have the grace to say "my bad"

and

You sure sound like you have your head in the sand about these things though.

You may not be able to see the hypocrisy there, but it is pretty plain to a reasonably skilled reader. It's not a mature form of argumentation, but I realise one uses the tools available.

As for definitions of political correctness - you have just stated that you are not interested in "semantics". Frankly, I don't understand why you are wasting time with the onerous assembly of words into sentences in the first place. It is clearly a mendaciously semantical pursuit. However, since it seems that the elenchic method is really not going to cut it here, how about a few propositions?

1) Affirmative action programs exist in some places. I do not believe they are so widespread as you might believe, and certainly not in the UK. They are called "politically correct" by the right. You are assuming that this means that they are "politically correct", and by dint of this that they are bad and wrong. It is a circular argument. If you can come up with a genuine example of a quota system, and discuss its economic and psychological impact, go to.

2) Certain "patterns of policing speech" - now, the funny thing about this is that I don't see much in the way of policing going on here. You get to use Daily Mail terms like "silent white majority", "semantics" - the usual gamut of anti-progressive, anti-rational gambits - and nobody has so far hauled you off to prison. If the only people who are policing are the liberals, and the only people they have the power to police are also the liberals, why on Earth do you care? So, we have policing without a police force. This is already a bit of a problem. We also have policing without a rulebook, barring a resolution by the DNC in the 1980s to refer to people with disabilities as "differently able". We also have policing without a rap sheet. At present, as far as I can tell, no set of standardised penalties exist. The writer of the article that sparked this off complains vociferously of the silencing muffler of political correctness.. in an article, in a magazine. I imagine a lot of writers would love to be so silenced. As far as I can tell, political incorrectness is not so much policed as rewarded. Have you noticed how nobody ever wants to be called "politically correct". Ain't that strange, if it is the only way one can be allowed to speak? Surely, one would desperately seek the status of political correctness, rather than avoid the label like a plague?

3) So, let's say there is some form of code of policing of speech, limited to the American left, and supplemental to that is some support for affirmative action programmes, the frequency of which has yet to be established.

4) As I said above (maybe you should re-read it. Or read it! That is not a personal attack, and if you wish to claim it is you are quibbling over semantics):

So, sometimes people on the left let concern about disapproval from other people on the left affect how they talk about both people and issues. This happens quite a lot on the right as well, and the right has its own sets of politically correct phrases - "bogus asylum seekers", "illegal immigrants", "welfare mothers", "political correctness gone mad". If anything, the insertion of these phrases into the national discourse seems far more of a coherent communications strategy than anything identifiable as according-to-Hoyle political correctness.

5) So, what makes these actions by the left, then, somehow special? Well, they can be labelled as "politically correct", and thus tied together into a magical quilt, touching upon many different and case-by-case instances. What a marvellous gift for the right. And the best part is, everybody swallows this idea. So, in order to avoid being labelled "politically correct", progressives have to disown policies and positions that are defined as politically correct by the right-wing media.

6) How insanely cool is that? A little semantic sleight of hand and the agenda of the left can be controlled by the right. This is great news, since one thing that the right are generally better than the left at is adumbrating right-wing policies and looking like they mean it.

So, "semantics" is rather important here, IMHO, as is what gets to be called "political correctness". If all you want to say is "stuff happens that I don't like, and I would very much like it to stop", then well and good, but in that case why do you need a weasel term like "political correctness"? Why not just say "that disagree with my politics"? What is stopping you from being a rugged individual about this?

Likewise "political correctness is hurting the progressive left" kind of comes down to "things that I think are not the right things to do are, in my opinion, hurting the progressive left". That's fair enough, but when Rubin writes:

But if there were no pressure to remain silent, how do we explain the many times we sat at meetings wanting to dissent but didn't for fear of being politically incorrect? Or the times we wished for a fuller, more nuanced discussion of the subject at hand but stilled our thoughts because we knew they would be unacceptable, that our commitment to the cause would be questioned?

She is basically saying "when I chicken out of saying something for fear of being criticised, it is somebody else's fault". It's a comforting idea, and one that your "silent majority" is prone to clinging to like the raft of the Medusa, but it is not a complete one.
posted by tannhauser at 4:33 PM on March 13, 2005


I see you've completely side-stepped my previous post regarding my rather tautological explanation on how arbitrary figures were used to show the arbitrariness of affirmative action. I guess you understand me now, and feel no further need to comment on it.

Frankly, I don't understand why you are wasting time with the onerous assembly of words into sentences in the first place. It is clearly a mendaciously semantical pursuit.

Stunning hypocrisy from the one who rejects dictionary definitions. I reject talking about semantics with you because it's pointless - you reach for the abstract and esoteric when I request a straight-forward answer. You are hiding behind the idea that words are open to interpretation to avoid answering direct questions. When it suits you, words are openly defined. When it suits you, words have a narrow definition.

It's also highly suitable for you for political correctness not to be associated with affirmative action and policing of speech since both are clearly desirable tools to push policies you agree with (though you won't explicitly say so - again, you avoid be unequivocal on this issue). By not making the association between the term "political correctness" (now a perjorative term - I agree with you) and affirmative action/policing of speech, you put those actions in a better light.

Affirmative action programs exist in some places. I do not believe they are so widespread as you might believe, and certainly not in the UK.

tannhauser, I have not once stated that there were affirmative action (I think it's called "positive discrimination" here) programs in the UK. Not once. My original example was this : Equal opportunities does not mean that, for example, 50% of staff must be female, or 15% black. I do not mention a country. I am against the principle that is positive discrimination (which actually I think is outlawed in the UK). I am arguing against that principle. AA does exist in the US and certainly there are people pushing for it to be lawful in the UK. By the way, you still haven't given your opinion on affirmative action (not explicitly anyway) - AA seems to be hard to defend for you, or perhaps you don't want to agree with me.

As to the word "silent", I know you don't care for dictionaries, but here is the definition of "silent" - notice points 6 and 9 - both use silent in a non-literal descriptive form.

So, "semantics" is rather important here, IMHO, as is what gets to be called "political correctness". If all you want to say is "stuff happens that I don't like, and I would very much like it to stop", then well and good, but in that case why do you need a weasel term like "political correctness"?

This is what it boils down to for you: it annoys you that "political correctness", as a term, now holds some attention and power. It is not a nice adjective to describe someone's wording or actions, and you wish to disassociate it with the policing of speech and affirmative action. That's your view in a nutshell.

But if there were no pressure to remain silent, how do we explain the many times we sat at meetings wanting to dissent but didn't for fear of being politically incorrect? Or the times we wished for a fuller, more nuanced discussion of the subject at hand but stilled our thoughts because we knew they would be unacceptable, that our commitment to the cause would be questioned?

She is basically saying "when I chicken out of saying something for fear of being criticised, it is somebody else's fault". It's a comforting idea, and one that your "silent majority" is prone to clinging to like the raft of the Medusa, but it is not a complete one.


I don't see what's comforting about it. Can you say you've never felt that way before?
posted by FieldingGoodney at 5:21 AM on March 14, 2005


Not one of those 9 definitions of silent means "feeling unrepresented by their elected officials". This is just the sort of semantic dishonesty you seem keen both to condemn and to employ.

Stunning hypocrisy

No, dear boy, irony. Specifically, regarding your tendency to use terms to communicate a sort of angry grunt of dislike without really understanding what they mean. "Arbitrary" (arbitrary figures were used to show the arbitrariness of affirmative action - that’s great: you’re making percentages up to show how silly percentages you haven't bothered to research are. Can I pretend that George W regularly delivers speeches while performing late-term abortions and then use that as proof positive of the hypocrisy of the Republican party? Cheers) and "semantics" are two of these grunty angry noises, “silent” another, hence the paragraph of mild mockery above, “political correctness" the greatest and gruntiest of all. Maybe you should substitute "grunty majority" for "silent majority"?

I do not answer "straight-forward" questions, because I understand that they are not straightforward - they reflect lots of antecedent wiring and unchallenged assumptions which you have not noticed and refuse to recognise because they are convenient. If you believe that whatever you believe is precisely correct and at exactly the right level of complexity, everything else will seem incorrect and either simplistic or overcomplex. It’s a clarity of vision that is in some ways enviable and in others merely awkward.

It's also highly suitable for you for political correctness not to be associated with affirmative action and policing of speech since both are clearly desirable tools to push policies you agree with (though you won't explicitly say so - again, you avoid be(ing) unequivocal on this issue).

So, once again you have failed to consider the idea that there may be some reason *why* political correctness has taken on a pejorative meaning, if indeed it ever _lacked_ a pejorative meaning. It just is, and has always been thus, just as “silent” has always meant “grunty”.

It's also highly suitable for you for political correctness not to be associated with affirmative action and policing of speech since both are clearly desirable tools to push policies you agree with (though you won't explicitly say so - again, you avoid be unequivocal on this issue). By not making the association between the term "political correctness" (now a perjorative term - I agree with you) and affirmative action/policing of speech, you put those actions in a better light.

You've fallen into one of the standard traps here - assuming that somebody who picks you up on lazy thinking is necessarily defending the positions you dislike. There are settings beyond “grunt” and “contented doze”, you know. Let’s try to pick the bones out, shall we?

First up, I’m not sure what “policy” affirmative action would push. Affirmative action is a policy. That is probably just bad phrasing, though – presumably you mean that I do not want affirmative action associated with political correctness because, as the holy books tell us, political correctness is a Bad Thing, and as such the recognition that affirmative action is associated with political correctness would fatally gore any support for it, as right-thinking people retreat in horror, muttering at how close they came in their misguided thoughts to the dreaded PC. This presupposes a number of things. The most obvious is that the term “political correctness” is totally uncomplicated. It is not, for reasons I explained at length above and which must have been drowned out by deafening grunty silence. The second is that I am in favour of affirmative action. I am not. I would like to know more than I currently do about its implementation and effects, and whether it helps, most obviously, to make the communities the employers serve better and more prosperous. I am a pragmatist, you an ideologue. As such, I want to know more about something before deciding whether or not to support it in each case. You can make up figures and then condemn them as unjust. I do not have that luxury. In general, I would favour appointing on merit – if somebody chooses to fill their offices with one type of person they will ultimately suffer for the lack of diversity in their organisation.

The idea that I am in favour of “policing of speech” fails utterly to take into account anything I have said so far about the stupidity of the phrase “policing of speech”. In a sense, I envy profoundly your ability when faced with complexity simply to be silent more loudly to drown it out, but it makes trying to talk to you rather frustrating. Who is policing speech in this fascist PC distopia, FieldingGoodney? Who is being penalised and how? Have you thought about these things? Have you considered what policies I may be in favour of and of which you imagine I am attempting to wrench the sleeves from the flaming curtains of political correctness here? Oddly enough, I have mentioned them above, in the bewildering cavalcade of not one but six paragraphs that you have had to cram into that tiny, convenient nutshell.

As it happens, I favour the right to speak freely, as long as those freedoms do not impinge upon the freedoms of others – most obviously, the freedom to go about one’s business unharrassed. Beyond that, it seems that we are talking about consideration and cowardice, again on a number of case-by-case bases. If your progressive caucus doesn’t like the way you talk, you have the option of trying to win them over to your way of thinking, or joining another caucus, or complaining about it to Dissent magazine or… you’ve totally fallen asleep over there, haven’t you?

Now, I explained at some length why the reflexive grunting of the term “political correctness” was not coherent. One more time, for the back of the class – it does not exist as you envision it. You appear to have become confused by this section, and have fallen back on the far less scary option of finding an opinion that you can easily understand and other and attributing it to me:

This is what it boils down to for you: it annoys you that "political correctness", as a term, now holds some attention and power. It is not a nice adjective to describe someone's wording or actions, and you wish to disassociate it with the policing of speech and affirmative action. That's your view in a nutshell.

No it isn’t. I already put my view in a nutshell, but the squirrels must have stolen it and taken it to their home in the trees. That is why it can be found above. I know it contains more words than would be ideal for grunt-avoidance, but most of them were necessary and some abbreviations were used to balance that out. Go on, give it a whirl

The phrase “now has some attention and power” means nothing without some historical context which you have failed to provide. Presumably you mean that the term political correctness is a stick that the right wing can use to beat people, and at some point either it was not a stick or it was not a big enough stick. You also probably mean that people are paying attention to the unitary entity that you cannot help but imagine “political correctness” as being, which has, rather like Sauron, worked in darkness and deceit for so long and is now being heroically revealed by the sonar grunts of the forces of liberty. That does sadden (if not annoy me), because it means that the grunty forces of silence will be able to use that handy model instead of thinking for themselves, but such terminologies have always existed – back in the day it was godless collectivism, these days it’s political correctness. Plus ca change. It’s just a sound effect which has the handy side-effect of making people who do not see through feel that the person they have accused of it must now recant their previous statement or be damned forever.

Oh, and “correctness” is a noun.

So, I would first suggest you actually read what I wrote above, possibly with the “this is simply a shadow play to justify things what I do not like” blinkers off. Then we might see if it is worth trying to discuss this further. Right now, I’m thinking probably not.
posted by tannhauser at 7:53 AM on March 14, 2005


First off (and finally I hope):-

Not one of those 9 definitions of silent means "feeling unrepresented by their elected officials". This is just the sort of semantic dishonesty you seem keen both to condemn and to employ.

Are you aware that a dictionary only offers examples of how a word can be used, and not explicitly every possible instantion of its use? You're becoming increasingly bizarre in this thread.

No, dear boy, irony. Specifically, regarding your tendency to use terms to communicate a sort of angry grunt of dislike without really understanding what they mean. "Arbitrary" (arbitrary figures were used to show the arbitrariness of affirmative action - that’s great: you’re making percentages up to show how silly percentages you haven't bothered to research are. Can I pretend that George W regularly delivers speeches while performing late-term abortions and then use that as proof positive of the hypocrisy of the Republican party? Cheers) and "semantics" are two of these grunty angry noises, “silent” another, hence the paragraph of mild mockery above, “political correctness" the greatest and gruntiest of all. Maybe you should substitute "grunty majority" for "silent majority"?

I simply don't understand any of that paragraph - seriously - I don't. It SOUNDS like one giant wriggle or clumsy use of sophistry/smokescreen to fudge the direct questions I ask you. You still didn't respond to my plain English response: I used 50% and 15% as examples of arbitrary numerical values. It doesn't matter what they are. That's the nature of anything that is arbitrary. That was my point. You have yet to refute this, so I take that as agreement with my view. (see definition (2)).

The second is that I am in favour of affirmative action. I am not.

It only takes you about 30 posts to come out and say that.

I would favour appointing on merit – if somebody chooses to fill their offices with one type of person they will ultimately suffer for the lack of diversity in their organisation.

This is a contradiction in terms. What if all the most suitable people lacked obvious (dare I say politcally correct) "diversity"? Or, what do you mean by diversity? What do you consider as "diverse"? That's a seriously loaded word you used there.

OK, I'm still trying to fathom your views on political correctness. You don't accept it is a policing of speech. You don't accept it's anything to do with affirmative action. You don't accept the dictionary definition of the word. You don't accept the article provided and its views on political correctness. You've consistantly implied it's nothing but a myth but (ironically) you are too scared to air this view explicitly. Instead, you hide behind the smokescreen that political correctness is too big and complicated to even begin to describe or understand or debate. If this is really true, why are you trying to debate with me?

tannhauser, I appreciate your putting time into your posts (as I am doing), but I have to say that coherence and eloquence are a sign of good communication, not an intellectualism that borders on, and sometimes spills over to, sophistry. It doesn't make you more "right" the more abstract your ideas are; conversely prosaic views are no less "wrong". After all, we are supposed to be discussing realworld issues here.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 9:16 AM on March 14, 2005


Are you aware that a dictionary only offers examples of how a word can be used, and not explicitly every possible instantion of its use? You're becoming increasingly bizarre in this thread.

As I have said, the issue here is your inconsistency, for which see below.

coherence and eloquence are a sign of good communication

Indeed. I am finding you incoherent and ineloquent, in part because of grammar and spelling, in part because of your mantic repetition of certain words and phrases, but primarily because your responses seem to be dedicated to a wholly fictitious construct of this discussion. For example, having in a moment of beautiful clarity stated:

I simply don't understand any of that paragraph

You then click, whirr and reset to your fantasy argument, where your inability to understand something means that you are right about something else:

You have yet to refute this, so I take that as agreement with my view.

Read slowly and try to understand: you are using terms with no real meaning except "I do not like this". "Arbitrary", "semantic", "silent majority", and ultimately "political correctness". To which we can now add "sophistry" and "smokescreen". These last two are buzzwords - they mean "I do not understand the argument, so I will tell myself that the argument is untrue". Which is fine for maintaining a hermetic fantasy in which you are the two-fisted, plain-speaking champion of the world, but makes you a singularly pointless discussant.

It only takes you about 30 posts to come out and say that.
m
And if the aim of this thread was to find out what I think about things, that observation would have any worth. As it is, it does not. You clearly feel that my positions on a variety of issues are the most interesting things in this discussion. At this point, you may be right, but that is a reflection on the level of discussion rather than the importance of my beliefs.

This is a contradiction in terms. What if all the most suitable people lacked obvious (dare I say politcally correct) "diversity"? Or, what do you mean by diversity? What do you consider as "diverse"? That's a seriously loaded word you used there.

To you. I meant diversity of experience, diversity of culture, diversity of education - things that are useful to a business in offering a broad skill set and a flexible workforce. Therefore, an organisation without employees with diverse backgrounds and abilities will ultimately suffer.

I cannot help the fact that your buzzword-driven method looks at the word "diversity" and immediately leaps to scary images of quotas, political correctness, affirmative action and so tediously on through the grunty playbook. There are other definitions of the word, you know.

OK, I'm still trying to fathom your views on political correctness.

Up there. Six numbered paragraphs.

You don't accept it is a policing of speech.

I don't accept the phrase “policing of speech”. It is, as it stands, a fatuous and empty phrase, as it assumes a whole bunch of stuff that you are refusing to examine – how, by whom, with what effect and so on – about the idea of policing. I have asked these questions above. You are not apparently reading them. I have explained this above. You have not apparently read that explanation, and you uncritically trot out the same buzz-phrase without trying to tie it into any “real-world” application.

You don't accept it's anything to do with affirmative action.

Again, not what I said. You appear not to be reading anything I write, preferring instead to supply your own idiosyncratic interpretations of a few key words. Clearly it is something to do with affirmative action – otherwise, why would they make your silent majority grunt at the same frequency? I don't see what it boots to cry political correctness as if that cry were enough to brand something as partaking of a unitary evil.

You don't accept the dictionary definition of the word.

I find it incomplete, as the dictionary definition of the word “Hinduism” does not tell you everything about Hinduism. Which I said above, and I cannot think of a simpler way to express a pretty basic concept. Are you aware that a dictionary only offers examples of how a word can be used, and not explicitly every possible instantiation of its use? Or does that only apply to “silent”?

You don't accept the article provided and its views on political correctness.

I think Rubin has fallen into a similar trap to yours on political correctness, which is to identify individual instances as somehow instantiating a vast, amorphous blanket of behaviours that can profitably be united into an overarching concept rather than dealt with on a “real-world” basis. I think that Rubin has clearly not been silenced, thus making it pretty clear that the idea of political correctness as some form of “policing of speech” is incomplete. I think the idea that the right peddles an idea of “liberal elites” in order to alienate blue-collar voters, and thus conceal (with, since it seems to be the fashion, sophistry, and possibly even a smokescreen) that voting for the Democrats would serve their own interests far better than voting Republican is perfectly reasonable. However, then to start railing about political correctness using uncritically the definitions provided by the right wing is to fail to understand the fairly obvious point that the acceptance of the uncritical use of the term to mean “stuff I do not like, and wish to represent as some sort of vast, terrifying conspiracy rather than a particular person at a conference acting like a dick, or a particular employment practice I disagree with” is part of the right-wing project, and thus self-defeating. There is another question about whether the best response is to change the language in which progressive politics expresses itself, to aim to explain more clearly to the people most likely to be affected by it what their policies actually mean and why they are a good thing (which is something I think Rubin and I might agree on, but has very little necessary connection to “political correctness”, rather than, say “clarity”), or, which I suspect is the position you would adopt, to shed wholesale all the ideas that you think are “politically correct”, which could only clearly be held out of perversity, and be more like sensible people. Where that ends I don’t know: is arguing for a woman’s right to choose politically correct and thus to be discarded? Social security? Medicare? As I have mentioned above, although clearly not loudly or slowly enough, PC is a protean term – it can be applied to any progressive utterance you don’t like. Seventy years ago my grandfather was campaigning for equal pay for black workers in the Cardiff docks, and was being accused of Bolshevism – the PC of his day. Words come and go, but smears are eternal.

This is not difficult. I have explained it above. You have seen that as a smokescreen of sophistry. Funnily enough, these cliché terms are also common components of right-wing smears – appealing to a fear and distrust of book-larnin’. They feel to any reasonably able user of English like root canal work.

You've consistantly implied it's nothing but a myth but (ironically) you are too scared to air this view explicitly.

Nope. I have explained the quasi-mythical status of political correctness in six numbered paragraphs above, and have expanded on it both before and after, which paragraphs and which expansion you have apparently not read, or cannot comprehend. If the former, I see little point in continuing this conversation. If the latter, I see little point in continuing this conversation, because you are apparently not able to follow basic arguments that do not support your own position. Or perhaps you are simply scared to the point of incomprehension?

Instead, you hide behind the smokescreen that political correctness is too big and complicated to even begin to describe or understand or debate.

No, only too complicated for you apparently to understand any possible interpretation or suggestion about it apart from your own uncritical acceptance of right-wing orthodoxy. Once again you appear either not to have read my posts or not to understand pretty basic statements. As I keep saying, I have made some propositions about the construction and application of the term “political correctness” above that you seem unwilling or unable to consider or respond to.

If this is really true, why are you trying to debate with me?

It isn’t, but that remains a very good question. You don’t seem to be reading what I am writing beyond the grunty words, which is frustrating. In the manner of what I believe our PC masters demand we call the differently-educated, you write everything you cannot comprehend off as “sophistry” or “smokescreen”. Have you considered the possibility that you might just not be qualified to have the discussion? Primarily, I am at this point driven by two impulses. First, simple irritation at seeing you misrepresenting everything I say, either through malice or incompetence. This is an ignoble urge, and I feel bad both about it and about it. Second, the concern that somebody who is not you may still be reading this, in which case I have some duty to my own words not to leave them so mangled. I am not debating, because that suggests I have any hope that this might have any impact on your beliefs at all, which I do not think is likely. It’s more an errata sheet.

Now, if we are discussing “real-world” issues here, why don’t we start with affirmative action? Find me an actual, real-world example of what you feel is an unacceptable piece of affirmative action, that is not one you have made up in your head, and explain, with reference to the real world (not to your ideological opposition), its negative consequences. Surely you must be able to do that, especially since you believe that all affirmative action is ipso facto unacceptable, and therefore any example at all can be used? If you can’t, your entire opposition is revealed to be unconnected to any sort of real-world consequences and based instead simply on dogma... this, after all, is the suggestion given by your inability to provide any actual examples of active affirmative action programmes. That’s fine – dogma is a fine and sweetly-grunting thing – but let’s not pretend that pragmatism and ideology are the same thing, eh?
posted by tannhauser at 11:18 AM on March 14, 2005


OK, I'm still trying to fathom your views on political correctness.

Up there. Six numbered paragraphs.


I didn't realise the 6 points you raised here represented your view of political correctness, but if they are, I take it those 6 points represent a right-wing conspiracy to shut up the left ("how cool is that?!"). You've said as much in almost every post you make, yet are afraid to just come out and say it. Why is that?

Hey consider this tannhauser: that opponents of political correctness might be rallying against petty, heavy-handed measures at social equality rather than be simply the anti-progressive dinosaurs you paint them as. Maybe they believe there are better, less heavy-handed ways to progress to a more truly equal society? From all of your posts, I don't think you've even thought about this possiblity. You want to believe all opponents of PCness are right-wing conservatives. Not true.

One thing I'd like to take you to task on:-

As far as I can tell, political incorrectness is not so much policed as rewarded. Have you noticed how nobody ever wants to be called "politically correct". Ain't that strange, if it is the only way one can be allowed to speak?

You and I live in different worlds, and indeed, you live in a different world to the author of the article who most certainly doesn't think she will be rewarded for speaking politically incorrectly (that's what she's afraid of doing). Why is she afraid? This article wouldn't exist if people really were rewarded for speaking politically incorrectly. Where did you get that idea from?

Have you considered the possibility that you might just not be qualified to have the discussion?

You have seen that as a smokescreen of sophistry. Funnily enough, these cliché terms are also common components of right-wing smears – appealing to a fear and distrust of book-larnin’. They feel to any reasonably able user of English like root canal work.

Well you've outed yourself as an intellectual snob now. It's the desperate tactic of one who can't rely on the weight of his own arguments.

Now, if we are discussing “real-world” issues here, why don’t we start with affirmative action?

I'm surprised you can't Google up some of your own links regarding this. Anyway, I'm sure there is enough to get your teeth into here:-

adversity.net

As to the negative consequences, I'm sure you will find much evidence on that site. (Of course I expect you to rubbish all of the collected evidence on that site to maintain your myopic view).
posted by FieldingGoodney at 12:57 PM on March 14, 2005


You know that bit where I said that you weren't paying any attention to what I was saying, and instead winning arguments in your own magic head? Well..

As far as I can tell, political incorrectness is not so much policed as rewarded. Have you noticed how nobody ever wants to be called "politically correct". Ain't that strange, if it is the only way one can be allowed to speak?

You and I live in different worlds, and indeed, you live in a different world to the author of the article who most certainly doesn't think she will be rewarded for speaking politically incorrectly (that's what she's afraid of doing). Why is she afraid? This article wouldn't exist if people really were rewarded for speaking politically incorrectly. Where did you get that idea from?

Well, from the election of George W Bush to the leadership of the free world, for starters, but that hardly matters, right now, because you have managed to prove exactly why the only point of this discussion is for the benefit of any spectators.

Can you see what happened there? I said that nobody wanted to be called politically correct. You said that the author of the article is afraid of speaking in a politically incorrect fashion. One is calling, one is doing. You have made up something I didn't say in your head having not actually understood what I wrote but having instead reacted to some grunty words in what I *did* say. I really don't want to be an intellectual snob, but if not mentioning that you are so bad at reading as to make coherent discussion impossible makes me that, then I'm afraid I must. If you can actually read and respond to what I have written, try it.

Meanwhile, I asked:

Now, if we are discussing “real-world” issues here, why don’t we start with affirmative action? Find me an actual, real-world example of what you feel is an unacceptable piece of affirmative action, that is not one you have made up in your head, and explain, with reference to the real world (not to your ideological opposition), its negative consequences. Surely you must be able to do that, especially since you believe that all affirmative action is ipso facto unacceptable, and therefore any example at all can be used? If you can’t, your entire opposition is revealed to be unconnected to any sort of real-world consequences and based instead simply on dogma...

And you can't do it. All you can do is google "racial quotas" or some other handy grunty phrase and provide a link to another grunty site. You have until this moment never actually bothered to learn about any actual instance of affirmative action and its consequences and think about it. You have never bothered to think about the "real world" implications - your opposition has been based on received dogma. And you wanted to talk about "real-world" solutions.... that's marvellous. Really, that's wonderful. You really have no idea how funny that is, do you?
posted by tannhauser at 1:18 PM on March 14, 2005


You know that bit where I said that you weren't paying any attention to what I was saying, and instead winning arguments in your own magic head? Well..

As far as I can tell, political incorrectness is not so much policed as rewarded. Have you noticed how nobody ever wants to be called "politically correct". Ain't that strange, if it is the only way one can be allowed to speak?

You and I live in different worlds, and indeed, you live in a different world to the author of the article who most certainly doesn't think she will be rewarded for speaking politically incorrectly (that's what she's afraid of doing). Why is she afraid? This article wouldn't exist if people really were rewarded for speaking politically incorrectly. Where did you get that idea from?

Well, from the election of George W Bush to the leadership of the free world, for starters, but that hardly matters, right now, because you have managed to prove exactly why the only point of this discussion is for the benefit of any spectators.

Can you see what happened there? I said that nobody wanted to be called politically correct. You said that the author of the article is afraid of speaking in a politically incorrect fashion, according to her definition of "politically incorrect" - except of course that she is using her apparent political incorrectness to promote her book, so appears reasonably happy to talk about it, but let's not go there right now. One is calling, one is doing. You have made up something I didn't say in your head having not actually understood what I wrote but having instead reacted to some grunty words in what I *did* say. I really don't want to be an intellectual snob, but if not mentioning that you are so bad at reading as to make coherent discussion impossible makes me that, then I'm afraid I must. If you can actually read and respond to what I have written, try it.

Meanwhile, I asked:

Now, if we are discussing “real-world” issues here, why don’t we start with affirmative action? Find me an actual, real-world example of what you feel is an unacceptable piece of affirmative action, that is not one you have made up in your head, and explain, with reference to the real world (not to your ideological opposition), its negative consequences. Surely you must be able to do that, especially since you believe that all affirmative action is ipso facto unacceptable, and therefore any example at all can be used? If you can’t, your entire opposition is revealed to be unconnected to any sort of real-world consequences and based instead simply on dogma...

And you can't do it. All you can do is google "racial quotas" or some other handy grunty phrase and provide a link to another grunty site. You have until this moment never actually bothered to learn about any actual instance of affirmative action and its consequences and think about it. You have never bothered to think about the "real-world" implications - your opposition has been based on received dogma. And you wanted to talk about "real-world" solutions.... that's marvellous. Really, that's wonderful. You really have no idea how funny that is, do you?
posted by tannhauser at 1:22 PM on March 14, 2005


As I say, your posts are getting more and more bizarre - firstly with your non-sequitur quote regarding GWB - what on earth are you on about? What's this got to do with a woman being afraid to speak out because of a politcally correct atmosphere? What's GW Bush got to do with the atmosphere of her workplace?

Can you see what happened there? I said that nobody wanted to be called politically correct. You said that the author of the article is afraid of speaking in a politically incorrect fashion, according to her definition of "politically incorrect" - except of course that she is using her apparent political incorrectness to promote her book, so appears reasonably happy to talk about it, but let's not go there right now.

Now I'm lost in the fog of your logic here - this appears to be an irrelevancy, since surely she fears the reaction of others to her politically incorrect actions/words? How is this different from being labelled "politically correct"? Both involved being identified as either politically correct, or politically incorrect. You make the distinction of doing/"calling" - but both lead to "calling" anyway.

You asked:-

Now, if we are discussing “real-world” issues here, why don’t we start with affirmative action? Find me an actual, real-world example of what you feel is an unacceptable piece of affirmative action, that is not one you have made up in your head, and explain, with reference to the real world (not to your ideological opposition), its negative consequences.

I gave you this link:-

adversity.net

It turns out to be a well researched compendium of instances of Affirmative Action taking place. You cannot deny the detail of this website. It's education section alone details, state-by-state, affirmative action policies. Many articles link off to separate websites so you can't just say it's one source of information. It's a body of evidence, cataloguing in great detail examples of affirmative action. It has links from the late 90's right up until February 2005.

And you dismiss it!! :-

All you can do is google "racial quotas" or some other handy grunty phrase and provide a link to another grunty site.

This is the moment you unveil your stubborn bias toward your own argument - you are unwilling to be moved in the face of so much evidence, even though you requested it. Now I've provided it, you cannot face the prospect of saying "thanks - I didn't know there was so much information on affirmative actions. Now I know. I learnt something".

I'm genuinely curious - what's your obsession with the word "grunty"?
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:15 PM on March 14, 2005


It's the best word to describe the unthinking squealing that is generated unthinkingly when you or your ilk see a word you don't like, which saves you having actually to read what is written.

Now, very slowly, not that you are going to read this in any meaningful sense of the word. I asked you to provide some "real-world" description of affirmative action. You failed. You demonstrated that you had never actually thought about or studied a single incidence of affirmative action to support your dogmatic opposition. You just googled. You cannot understand this distinction, but as I have said I do not think you are likely to learn anything because you do not read. Others may. You can instead fantasise about what I am too scared or stubborn to say, because you are basically fantasising this entire discussion - picking up the odd keyword and feeding it into your delusion. If I had wanted the results of a google search, I could have done it myself. I expected better. You failed utterly to provide.

If you were a bit brighter, you might have remembered that I said I did not have a position on affirmative action. You have had to edit this out in order to continue your fantasy in which there is - you guessed it - a monolithic concept of PC. Maybe I should fantasise about what you are afraid of saying? How about "Gosh, I appear to have failed utterly to demonstrate any experience of these things I claim knowledge of, and have nothing to offer but the google toolbar. I am ashamed. I should probably shut up now"?
posted by tannhauser at 11:41 PM on March 14, 2005


It's the best word to describe the unthinking squealing that is generated unthinkingly when you or your ilk see a word you don't like, which saves you having actually to read what is written.

You are reduced to ad hominem now you're no longer able to support your arguments - how about stay on topic. It's actually easier to simply accept when somebody has comprehensively proven the existance of something than it is to deny the elephant standing in the livingroom - cut yourself some slack and stop ploughing such a lonely furrow.

I asked you to provide some "real-world" description of affirmative action. You failed.

I provided real-world examples, as you and I well know. Have you exhausted every link on that site? Have you even looked at one? It seems not, which is willful ignorance. You asked me to provide you evidence and I have - the site features, in great detail, literally 1000's of examples of real-world affirmative actions taking place in colleges, workplaces, government and the armed forces of the US. The organization running the site has been running for EIGHT YEARS. In the light of all this, and in context to the length of this thread, you're not interested in anyway by the contents of this site? You don't think it has anything to offer, despite the fact it represents 100's of independent websites (literally, via deep-linking) that provide realworld examples of affirmative action? You are locked stubbornly to your argument at the expense of your integrity.

Why are you even questioning the existance of AA, when it's official US government policy? Do you think AA is a myth, when nobody in the US, including its own governments, is denying its existance?

If I had wanted the results of a google search, I could have done it myself. I expected better. You failed utterly to provide.

Now that made me smile. You asked me to provide you with real-world examples of affirmative action here:-

Find me an actual, real-world example of what you feel is an unacceptable piece of affirmative action, that is not one you have made up in your head, and explain, with reference to the real world (not to your ideological opposition), its negative consequences.

I did that, without doubt. Or did you mean through some means, other than the internet?

You demonstrated that you had never actually thought about or studied a single incidence of affirmative action to support your dogmatic opposition.

As I mentioned earlier, in the UK we refer to it as "positive discrimination". Of course I'd heard of it. If you mean "have you studied this academically" no I have not. Have you? Why is this a necessary qualifier to debate this? Now that you're losing the argument, you are desperately trying to reframe it.

Here's a Google search ready-made. It features the neutral term "affirmative action" (both proponents and opponents use this term).

If you were a bit brighter, you might have remembered that I said I did not have a position on affirmative action.

You did say you weren't in favour of it earlier.

How about "Gosh, I appear to have failed utterly to demonstrate any experience of these things I claim knowledge of, and have nothing to offer but the google toolbar. I am ashamed. I should probably shut up now"

If you feel your argument is stronger than mine, why the need to continually insult me? It's just bad form to throw insults as you do anyway, but as I keep saying, it's a sign that you can't support your own arguments.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:07 AM on March 15, 2005


You are reduced to ad hominem now you're no longer able to support your arguments - how about stay on topic. It's actually easier to simply accept when somebody has comprehensively proven the existance of something than it is to deny the elephant standing in the livingroom - cut yourself some slack and stop ploughing such a lonely furrow.

You misunderstand. This is not ad hominem. Possibly ad caudicem. I am referring to the fact that you do not read what I write, and if you do read it you do not understand it, because as soon as you read one of your hot words the grunting takes over. Take “diversity”. I simply meant by its use, as any reasonably able reader would have been able to realise, the advantages that accrue to a business that has a wide range of skills and experiences to draw on. However, it is a grunty word for you, so as soon as you read it your brain started up the grunty subroutine, and you were off and barking about affirmative action, racial quotas and ooooooooo scary political correctness. Again. So, the contention that I am unable to support my arguments seems strange when I am struggling to think of a point where you have actually successfully addressed one of them. That is, not attempted to boil it down into a single sentence, and then told me that I am too scared to say what you would like to have been said, but actually addressed.

As for comprehensive proof of existence – I have no idea whether you are referring here to a monolithic entity known as political correctness, affirmative action or something other, and I am not sure you do either. If the question at issue were “do affirmative action programmes exist” – if I had ever claimed they did not – you might have got somewhere. It is not. I believe you may be misreading a) the idea that political correctness is not equivalent as a concept to “affirmative action programmes”, which I have tried to explain in the simplest terms available to me and b) my request that, rather than using imaginary percentages, you refer your critique of affirmative action to any specific factual instance.

I have explained at some length my response to Rubin. You have apparently not read that response. You have attempted to summarise my discussion on the use and applications of “political correctness” into single-sentence summaries that fit your own needs, and have little relation to what I actually wrote. You are, functionally, not reading my posts. This is insulting and disrespectful, or a sign of a level of reading comprehension too low to make this discussion profitable. Either way, the probability is that you are going to believe that you are right anyway, and will simply misread anything I say to fit your belief. Fun for you, but I sincerely hope not fun for anyone left reading this.

Or did you mean through some means, other than the internet?

My God. He’s got it. He’s finally got it.

I have not denied the existence of affirmative action. You have made that entire exchange up in your head by some tortured misreading of what I have written – see above. I have questioned your competence to talk about it. I have asked you to demonstrate any knowledge of any application of affirmative action in the “real world” you claimed knowledge of and further claimed was the only valid court – that is, to show that your opposition is not based on dogmatism but knowledge. You have demonstrated, by then googling “affirmative action bad”, that you have never actually considered the impacts of affirmative action in a single, actual case.

You’re an ideologue. Ideologues, particularly right-wing ideologues, claim that they are talking “common sense”, that they are dealing with the “real world”, with the suggestion that anyone who disagrees with them must be some sort of ivory-tower academic. Most have the sense actually to have a couple of real incidences to back up their claims. You haven’t and didn’t. So, confronted with a request to relate your dogmatic opposition to any actual case, you ran to google. The idea that you might actually have examined a single instance of affirmative action before you proclaimed that it was wrong and that your understanding of the “real world” made that contention unassailable never occurred to you. I think I would find this massively endearing were it not so common a technique.

You demonstrated that you had never actually thought about or studied a single incidence of affirmative action to support your dogmatic opposition.

As I mentioned earlier, in the UK we refer to it as "positive discrimination". Of course I'd heard of it.

Once again, you have not managed to hold onto simple English. It’s right above your comment, Fielding. You quoted it. It said “you had never actually thought about or studied a single incidence of affirmative action to support your dogmatic opposition”. See it? In glorious stereo? Your response is a response to the imaginary statement “you have never heard of affirmative action”. Which was never written. Lord knows where you got it from.

If you were a bit brighter, you might have remembered that I said I did not have a position on affirmative action.

You did say you weren't in favour of it earlier.

Bit more complex than that – I said I would like to know more about what it does in specific cases and its impact on the environments around the instantiating case - but never mind. Point being, in the interim you had to make up in your head that I was a supporter of affirmative action - This is the moment you unveil your stubborn bias toward your own argument (that affirmative action, which you seem to be conflating with political correctness, which I am either in favour of or refuse to admit, as is self-evident, is exactly as you describe it, is either non-existent or great) - to fit in with your ideas. This is wilful misrepresentation, although you may well not know that you are doing it – see grunty subroutine above. You can’t keep these pretty simple statements straight from moment to moment – thus, as I said, this is now an errata sheet rather than a discussion.

If you feel your argument is stronger than mine, why the need to continually insult me? It's just bad form to throw insults as you do anyway, but as I keep saying, it's a sign that you can't support your own arguments.

I have supported my arguments at some length, with reference to the source text. Unfortunately, whenever I say something you either ignore it or respond to something completely different that you would have liked me to have said, ignoring anything awkward to your dogmatic construction and, it seems, any long paragraphs. This is why this discussion is not an argument or a discussion in any meaningful sense – thus, errata sheet. It is also why I am getting irritable, which I know is bad behaviour and for which I do feel bad – because I am clearly wasting my time.

Of course, I see your behaviour as insulting. You do not perceive your tactics – use of dismissive buzzwords like “sophistry” and “smokescreen”, constant misreading and misrepresentation of what I am saying, pointless insertions of direct speech where you fantasise about what I would say were I not too scared - as insulting. I do.

I believe that according to the FieldingGoodney rules of engagement I should now make up something that I can claim you are too scared to say – perhaps “Gosh, I wish I were not so scared of admitting my reading problems. I’ve gotten myself into a right two-an’-eight and no mistake”. How’s that? Irritating, isn’t it?
posted by tannhauser at 4:40 AM on March 15, 2005


This is getting bogged down. Let me be really concise here.

My point of view is quite simple, and I can summarise it succinctly:-

1. I believe you can accurately describe the term political correctness to include affirmative actions and a policing of speech specifically regarding designated victim groups (acknowledged to have suffered injustices historically) simply due to its popular useage, and also dictionary definition (which mentions PC includes a "redressing of historical injustices")

2. I believe Affirmative Action exists because it is official US government policy, and have heard instances of it being used prior to discussing this thread, and know there are many, many sources available on the net to tell me it exists. I believe AA is obsessed with an equality of outcomes, not equal opportunities, and I think this is wrong.

3. I believe political correctness isn't some cardboard cut-out bogeyman of the right-wing, and that anyone who opposes political correctness isn't necessarily opposed to equal opportunities - they (like myself) believe there are better methods to achieving this.

That's it. I believe those points are concise, with plain English useage sufficient to convey their meaning.

Your argument is a mess of dead-ends, cross-purposes, contradictions, false-starts, bogeymen/strawmen attacks, and an obsession with pseudo-intellectualism to patch up the integrity and lack of consistancy your argument lacks. I would really welcome a concise, no-nonsense, unequivocal summary of your argument in your next post so I can simply identify it.

Or did you mean through some means, other than the internet?

My God. He’s got it. He’s finally got it.


Hold on, you did say this : Find me an actual, real-world example of what you feel is an unacceptable piece of affirmative action, that is not one you have made up in your head, and explain, with reference to the real world (not to your ideological opposition), its negative consequences.

I'm confused. Did you mean : find me an actual case of affirmative action that I've been involved with? Or have witnessed first hand? If that's what you meant, I can only say : I live in the UK. Positive discrimination is outlawed here (as I've maintained). Or what did you mean? Use any means other than the internet? If so, how, given we only have the internet to use here? Can you please be specific here. Are you rejecting the internet outright as a source of knowledge? That's a desperate attempt to discredit my (100 or so) sources, or a laughable way to reframe the entire argument. Or finally did you mean: "I realise there are hundreds of real-world cases listed in adversity.net (the link I provided), but I'm too lazy to pick one out, so you do it and tell me about it"? I actually think you are being consistant this time though, as you choose to provide absolutely no sources to back up your own argument (perhaps because you can't since your argument is as confused as I am to its identity) - your link to the Sun newspaper notwithstanding (which was just for ridicule).

As for comprehensive proof of existence – I have no idea whether you are referring here to a monolithic entity known as political correctness, affirmative action or something other, and I am not sure you do either.

I was referring to affirmative action - I thought the context made that clear enough.

You've wanted me to highlight a specific case where affirmative action existed, and had negative consequences. I gave you a multitude of cases - however, you've been too lazy (frankly) to pick one out of the many, so I will do this for you:- Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Now that I've delivered this single case to you, are you willing to discuss it, or was this just an exercise of proof-of-existance?

Your last two paragraphs don't make any sense - they seem like angry ramblings (what is your obession with "sophistry" and "smokescreen"?).
posted by FieldingGoodney at 7:04 AM on March 15, 2005


Dude, _spell check_.

1. I believe you can accurately describe the term political correctness to include affirmative actions and a policing of speech specifically regarding designated victim groups (acknowledged to have suffered injustices historically) simply due to its popular useage, and also dictionary definition (which mentions PC includes a "redressing of historical injustices")

You have failed to explain what “policing of speech” means. Again. I did ask about this, but you either did not read or did not understand it. It seems unlikely you will get any more able to understand why this is a problem now. This statement also admits that your definition is incomplete – you cite two things you believe it includes, but not actually what it is. This has been pointed out to you before. I have queried the necessity of grouping these two disparate projects into a single term, and what benefit that generates except the creation of a convenient Aunt Sally for dim right wingers. You have not managed a coherent response. This is not surprising, but the fact that I have had to say it again is robbing me of my will to live.

2. I believe Affirmative Action exists because it is official US government policy, and have heard instances of it being used prior to discussing this thread, and know there are many, many sources available on the net to tell me it exists. I believe AA is obsessed with an equality of outcomes, not equal opportunities, and I think this is wrong.

Did anyone ever suggest it did not exist? They did not. You made that up in your head, God alone knows from what source material. This was discussed at length in my previous post, which you also managed to ignore or misread. Do we see a theme here? Otherwise, you have an emotion. Well done.

3. I believe political correctness isn't some cardboard cut-out bogeyman of the right-wing, and that anyone who opposes political correctness isn't necessarily opposed to equal opportunities - they (like myself) believe there are better methods to achieving this.

Has anyone accused you of being opposed to equal opportunities? I don’t think so. I certainly haven’t. Maybe you could quote?

Your argument is a mess of dead-ends, cross-purposes, contradictions, false-starts, bogeymen/strawmen attacks, and an obsession with pseudo-intellectualism to patch up the integrity and lack of consistancy your argument lacks. I would really welcome a concise, no-nonsense, unequivocal summary of your argument in your next post so I can simply identify it.

So, my argument lacks lack of consistency? Thanks! It seems, then, that there is no need to restate it. Thanks again for your praise. What was it you were saying about eloquence and coherence? The fact that something is incomprehensible to you does not make it a mess of dead-ends, cross-purposes, contradictions, false-starts, bogeymen/strawmen attacks, and an obsession with pseudo-intellectualism - it merely makes it incomprehensible to you.

Since you have not managed so far to understand what I have written, and have shown no interest in it rather than an imaginary version of it, what does it profit me to try to restate it? I don’t think a complex concept should be boiled down to terms so simple that you, FieldingGoodney, can understand it if by doing so it loses its meaning, which I suspect it might. If there is anyone else still subjecting themselves to this who would like a summary, I would be happy to work with them, but I honestly don’t think it’s worth the effort if it is just you, as you have so far proved yourself unable to get past buzzwords and misreading.

Can you undertake to understand what I write if I stick to really simple English, and not squeal so hard it drowns out the meaning and you have to supply your own? If so, we could give it a go, but I don’t fancy our chances.

Did you mean : find me an actual case of affirmative action that I've been involved with? Or have witnessed first hand? If that's what you meant, I can only say : I live in the UK. Positive discrimination is outlawed here (as I've maintained). Or what did you mean? Use any means other than the internet? If so, how, given we only have the internet to use here? Can you please be specific here. Are you rejecting the internet outright as a source of knowledge? That's a desperate attempt to discredit my (100 or so) sources, or a laughable way to reframe the entire argument.
Or finally did you mean: "I realise there are hundreds of real-world cases listed in adversity.net (the link I provided), but I'm too lazy to pick one out, so you do it and tell me about it"? I actually think you are being consistant this time though, as you choose to provide absolutely no sources to back up your own argument (perhaps because you can't since your argument is as confused as I am to its identity) - your link to the Sun newspaper notwithstanding (which was just for ridicule).

The idea that “we have only the Internet to use here” as an excuse for relying on Google is a pretty sad one. We also have text, and thus our own knowledge, which is where you are coming up empty right now.

I meant, dear boy, show any knowledge of your familiarity with the idea of affirmative action in the “real world”, rather than googling the words “affirmative action”. You demonstrated at that point that you had not in fact ever looked at the specifics of a single case in which affirmative action policies were in place. Essentially, that is, that you were an ideologue without any real interest in the real world you appeal to. I may be wrong, but it seems unlikely. Simple fact. You couldn't point to a single instance of Affirmative Action from memory, despite claiming a) authority and b) "real world" knowledge.

You clearly did not understand why I referenced the Sun, and again I do not expect that to change because any explanation would be drowned out by frantic grunting, but in brief: somebody asked what the opposite of political correctness would be. This was my suggestion. No ridicule intended.

I was referring to affirmative action - I thought the context made that clear enough.

So, you have brilliantly argued for the existence of affirmative action? You are priceless. What did I just say?

Once again, you have not managed to hold onto simple English. It’s right above your comment, Fielding. You quoted it. It said “you had never actually thought about or studied a single incidence of affirmative action to support your dogmatic opposition”. See it? In glorious stereo? Your response is a response to the imaginary statement “you have never heard of affirmative action”. Which was never written. Lord knows where you got it from.

To which we can add the imaginary statement “there is no such thing as affirmative action”. Wow. You really knocked those totally imaginary arguments out of the ballpark. What imaginary foes do you intend to take on next? I vote the Sith. They are due a whupping.

Your last two paragraphs don't make any sense - they seem like angry ramblings (what is your obession with "sophistry" and "smokescreen"?).

No, dear boy, they don’t make sense to you, because you are unused to the idea of language as something other than a convenient means of demanding pie. Let’s try again. Your constant misrepresentation of my statements, although apparently cretinous and self-serving rather than actually malicious, is insulting and offensive to me. As is your habit of imaging what you would like me to say in your simplistic little fantasy world, as parodied by:

I believe that according to the FieldingGoodney rules of engagement I should now make up something that I can claim you are too scared to say – perhaps “Gosh, I wish I were not so scared of admitting my reading problems. I’ve gotten myself into a right two-an’-eight and no mistake”. How’s that? Irritating, isn’t it?

And demonstrated with a scorching lack of self-awareness with:

Or finally did you mean: "I realise there are hundreds of real-world cases listed in adversity.net (the link I provided), but I'm too lazy to pick one out, so you do it and tell me about it"?

This is a standard bruising technique of the dim in arguments, but it is cheap, insulting rhetoric.

As for “obsession” – would you like to count up how many times you have accused me of being “obsessed” with something? You seem to be obsessed with obsession…

It’s partly limited vocabulary, I realise, but it is also, again, cheap-seat rhetoric, and again insulting. The fact that you are not bright enough to realise that you are being insulting does not prevent the insult.

”Smokescreen” and “sophistry”, along with “pseudo-intellectualism”, your latest encopretic offering, are basically, as I have mentioned above to your lop-eared incomprehension, emotional sound effects, mating calls issued by dim right wingers to identify potential mates. They don’t mean anything – they are just insulting terms for people who are saying things with which you disagree or, in your case, who are saying things you are misreading and twisting into imaginary arguments with which you disagree. This was the burden of the two paragraphs you found incomprehensible, which you may well again find incomprehensible. My hopes are not high.
posted by tannhauser at 8:30 AM on March 15, 2005


tannhauser, how about address the following (which you requested) before I continue any kind of discussion:-

You've wanted me to highlight a specific case where affirmative action existed, and had negative consequences. I gave you a multitude of cases - however, you've been too lazy (frankly) to pick one out of the many, so I will do this for you:- Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

And...... - please calm down - please please please. Take a breath and respond to the instance of affirmative action I have provided to you (which you requested).

And this thing with grammar : c'mon. I've let a few of your own mistakes/clumsy phrasing go (e.g. "I feel bad both about it and about it") because it's petty to attack somebody's grammatical slip-ups or spelling mistakes. It's (as I keep repeating) just a method of attacking the style when you can't successfully attack the substance.

Get a grip man - chill out - and respond to the link.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 12:48 PM on March 15, 2005


Dude, your limited reading skills are not a point of mockery. They are the reason why I am giving up trying to talk to you like an able being.

You are not able to recognise the many misreadings or total failures to read that have made your refutations of completely imaginary positions utterly insubstantial, therefore there is no point in trying to talk to you like an adult. If anyone else is still reading this, and would like to talk about political correctness, I would be happy to. The only kind of discussion you appear willing or able to have is not one that is worth having, so I'm thinking probably I should leave you to your straw men and imaginary victories.

As for the link, well:

The Court held in a closely divided decision that race could be one of the factors considered in choosing a diverse student body in university admissions decisions.

So, it seems that, although they ruled against affirmative action programmes, they accepted the validity of race as a factor in admissions policy. Is that what you wanted to demonstrate? The importance of recognising race as a factor in admissions decisions? It's a fascinating turnaround... looks like you are bigger on diversity (in the "PC" sense) than we could ever have imagined.

Further, since this happened in 1978 and the effects of the ruling have not been described, what exactly are the negative consequences you describe? You don't have any idea what the effect of that ruling on the student body or the university was, do you? In fact, you have no idea of what has happened in the last 27 years in that university, do you? Maybe you should google it? I believe I mentioned above that you seem unable to provide any "real world" evidence here apart from what you found yesterday on google, suggesting you have not really thought very much about the practicalities of this matter before settling into ideological opposition.

Since the reflexive grunting at the first mention of affirmative action has utterly drowned out the rest of that post, I daresay there won't be much in the way of a satisfactory answer, but that's cool. I'm managing my expectations.
posted by tannhauser at 3:50 PM on March 15, 2005


Further, since this happened in 1978 and the effects of the ruling have not been described, what exactly are the negative consequences you describe?

Not much to you or me, but one guy was prevented from getting a position in medical school because of his skin colour, despite having better grades than those who were accepted (who had the "right" skin colour):-

Bakke had twice been rejected by the medical school, even though he had a higher grade point average than a number of minority candidates who were admitted

And yes, it does state that Bakke is white.

He had to drag the university to the Supreme Court to finally get his position in medical school. How many people don't bother? Are you a proponent of reverse discrimination?

You didn't see what was wrong with that picture? It seems you have selective compassion when it comes to social equality. What's the matter? - The victim here isn't a member of your syndicate of approved victim groups? As for it being 1978, go read adversity.net - they have cases running up to Feb 2005. What you say? "Feb 2005!! That's history! Give me ones from this month!" (that's a parody of how you constantly reframe arguments everytime you lose them by the way)

I believe I mentioned above that you seem unable to provide any "real world" evidence here apart from what you found yesterday on google, suggesting you have not really thought very much about the practicalities of this matter before settling into ideological opposition.

I've asked you several times before, but what do you mean by "real world" and why does it always appear in inverted commas? If this is a lame joke, it's another distraction away from your lamentable (oh, buzzword warning!) POV - which is currently a grey mush, becoming more and more indistinct.

You are showing (or betraying) an interesting pet peeve of yours : you don't like the idea of the internet and how it's made information easily available (surely the lack of links you provide is testimony to this, as well as your reluctance to discuss any links I put forward). You can't stand that I can get my hands on cases of affirmative action examples in a couple of clicks. You'd rather they were kept out of the public domain, left obscure (therefore not "real world"?). And all because you choose to recalcitrantly defend your "argument" (whatever it is now). Hey, if you had an argument of substance, you could easily defend it with some sources. Prove me wrong and do so.

Also your.....well....OK, you say "obsession" is one of your negative keywords, so I'll think of another....your fixation.....yeah, (random word replacement time) - your fixation with left-wing and right-wing. You think I'm a right-winger because you've called me that several times. That aligns me to the Conservative party in the UK. You're basically calling me a Tory. Sorry pal, way out. Try again. My views are not right-wing - as I said (and you never respond to), it's not only right-wingers who are opponents of political correctness. I know : how awkward not to have that strawman to burn, but there you go - your opponents are of a complexity you can't put into a simple summary and......hey do these words sound familiar? :-)
posted by FieldingGoodney at 4:51 PM on March 15, 2005


In case you think my evidence of affirmative action (and its negative consequences) is inadequate, here is a recent case:-

Flint Firefighter Awarded $150,000 for "Reverse Discrimination"
(Feb 2005 no less!)

Do you have the temerity to argue against this case, or are you willing to show some kind of intellectual "amnesty" and admit that affirmative action does indeed have negative consequences (which you asked me to prove)?
posted by FieldingGoodney at 8:10 PM on March 15, 2005


Straw man. Two words.

So, you've provided lengthy ad hominem, nothing much of interest, no attempt to address the many deceits and self-delusions in your misrepresentation of my position (for the record, I did not say you were a Tory. I said you were a using the rhetoric of the dim right wing. Many Tories are not dim. A dwindling number are not even particularly right-wing. It is certainly possible to use the rhetoric of the dim right wing without being a Tory. Exhibit a - you). Pointless insulting speculation of the order of:

You are showing (or betraying) an interesting pet peeve of yours : you don't like the idea of the internet and how it's made information easily available (surely the lack of links you provide is testimony to this, as well as your reluctance to discuss any links I put forward).

Much as expected.

Actually, my only problem with the Internet here is that you substitute Google for having any knowledge or understanding of the issues, and instead throw out links randomly, because you have no idea of what constitutes a worthwhile level of debate. This is a game anyone can play, although the amount of ability and engagement of the individual might affect the quality and the interpretation of the data available. For example, let's have a look at Bakke:

Even in Bakke—the closest thing to a landmark affirmative action case—the Court was split 5-4, and the judges' various opinions were far more nuanced than most glosses of the case indicate.

Or, going back to the principle that race was an acceptable criterion for selection stated by the Supreme Court in Bakke - which you utterly failed to notice and have utterly failed to respond to:

The Court held in a closely divided decision that race could be one of the factors considered in choosing a diverse student body in university admissions decisions.

That's from Infoplease, which you favoured as a source of information; the court report states that the problem of the programme was in the view of the Supreme Court not that it considered race, but that it was not the "least intrusive" way to serve:

admittedly compelling state interests of integrating the medical profession and increasing the number of doctors willing to serve minority patients.

That is, that considering racial proportions in the intake of the school's students was not only acceptable but a necessity for serving the interests of the state - more on that below.

If we actually look at the Supreme Court's papers, we see that the situation is a bit more complex again, as you would expect given that your understanding of Regents of UCal vs. Bakke is based on a one-paragraph summary you got from a link from an anti-affirmative action web site.

Now, your contention that he was rejected as a result of his whiteness is unsafe on a number of levels. Most obviously, race was not the only criterion for application through the "special" stream - the option existed for those identified as economically or educationally disadvantaged. Let's have a look at the actual summary of the trial process, shall we?

Respondent, a white male, applied to Davis in 1973 and 1974, in both years being considered only under the general admissions program. Though he had a 468 out of 500 score in 1973, he was rejected, since no general applicants with scores less than 470 were being accepted after respondent's application, which was filed late in the year, had been processed and completed. At that time, four special admission slots were still unfilled. In 1974 respondent applied early, and though he had a total score of 549 out of 600, he was again rejected. In neither year was his name placed on the discretionary waiting list. In both years, special applicants were admitted with significantly lower scores than respondent's. After his second rejection, respondent filed this action in state court for mandatory, injunctive, and declaratory relief to compel his admission to Davis, alleging that the special admissions program operated to exclude him on the basis of his race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a provision of the California Constitution, and § 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides, inter alia, that no person shall on the ground of race or color be excluded from participating in any program receiving federal financial assistance. Petitioner cross-claimed for a declaration that its special admissions program was lawful. The trial court found that the special program operated as a racial quota, because minority applicants in that program were rated only against one another, and 16 places in the class of 100 were reserved for them. Declaring that petitioner could not take race into account in making admissions decisions, the program was held to violate the Federal and State Constitutions and Title VI. Respondent's admission was not ordered, however, for lack of proof that he would have been admitted but for the special program. The California Supreme Court, applying a strict scrutiny standard, concluded that the special admissions program was not the least intrusive means of achieving the goals of the admittedly compelling state interests of integrating the medical profession and increasing the number of doctors willing to serve minority patients. Without passing on the state constitutional or federal statutory grounds, the court held that petitioner's special admissions program violated the Equal Protection Clause. Since petitioner could not satisfy its burden of demonstrating that respondent, absent the special program, would not have been admitted, the court ordered his admission to Davis.

That's a big, heavy block of text, so let's take a look at the trial court judgement:

Respondent's admission was not ordered, however, for lack of proof that he would have been admitted but for the special program

Bakke did indeed get higher GPA scores than applicants who got in through the "special" stream. However, and no doubt you *ahem* already knew this, his GPA score on the second run-through was also higher than many who applied and were accepted through the "standard" stream - that is, if it was purely a question of mathematics, Bakke would have been accepted as part of the 84%, regardless of the fortunes of the 16%. However, he was not accepted, and therefore presumably was not accepted for reasons other than his grade point average or his race (or more precisely his qualification for the "special" stream). In fact, if we have a look at the Michigan Law Review 2002, we find an article by Liu quoting Justice Powell:

Not only is there no sound basis for inferring that the sixteen-seat set-aside caused Bakke's rejection, there is also no basis for believing that Bakke was excluded from the special program based on his race as opposed to his lack of disadvantage. Justice Powell, finding it was not "fatal to Bakke's standing that he was not a 'disadvantaged' applicant," determined that "[d]espite the program's purported emphasis on disadvantage, it was a minority enrollment program with a secondary disadvantage element." But disadvantaged white applicants were allowed to apply and did apply to the special program, and "[a]applicants from minority[] [groups] but non-disadvantaged backgrounds [were] referred to the regular admissions process."Had Bakke claimed disadvantage and applied to the special program, he would have had a legitimate claim of race discrimination. Yet on the facts of his case, Bakke's claim of race discrimination seems inapposite. Being nonwhite by itself would not have qualified him for special consideration, and Bakke adduced no facts indicating that he was economically or educationally disadvantaged.

Full article can be found here. It's a bit of a slog, but a very interesting read.

Short version, just in case: all else being equal, if Bakke had been black and not economically or educationally disadvantaged, he would have been placed in the standard stream and rejected for the same reasons. Checking the court report above, we find that Bakke got his place because a negative could not be proven:

Since petitioner could not satisfy its burden of demonstrating that respondent, absent the special program, would not have been admitted

It's a legal technicality. At the trial court level he had to prove that he would have been admitted were it not for the existence of a special stream, and failed. Next level up, UCal had to prove he would not have been admitted were it not for the existence of a special stream, and also failed.

So, your gloss one guy was prevented from getting a position in medical school because of his skin colour, despite having better grades than those who were accepted is incomplete, or to be correct about it just plain wrong. If you had looked into the "real world", rather than relied on a single Google search and an anti-affirmative action link site, you would possibly not have fallen into that convenient self-deceit. Actually, it means that somebody who had been rejected twice by a medical school for reasons unrelated to race *or* academic performance got in, and somebody else did not get in, even though the person who did not get in might have had qualities utterly unrelated to his race or academic performance that would in the opinion of the examiners have suited him better to go to medical school. It's the use of legislature to force somebody judged unqualified into a position at the expense of a more suitable candidate. What does that remind us of? It sounds to me like political correctness. Gone mad.

This, you see, is the problem. Not that you use the Internet, although having known anything about the cases you are pontificating about would have been useful, but that you use it instead of intellectual curiosity or ability, or even really any interest in the subject matter - you just pull out a couple of words that seem to support your argument without any thought of the wider context. It's one reason why, as I have mentioned, this is an errata sheet rather than a discussion - you lack the necessary ability to focus past your own polemic and actually read and understand what other people are saying. I've done this once. I may not have the energy to do it again after another frenetic rant follows this and ignores or misreads everything in it.

So, anyway, we can see that the Supreme Court upheld the importance of considering race as a criterion in creating a diverse student body in UCal vs. Bakke, and we can see this principle being upheld in more modern times:

The Supreme Court (5–4) upheld the University of Michigan Law School's policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students because it furthers "a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."

This from the 21st century. It turns out that the Supreme Court does not see affirmative action as an issue of redressing historical wrongs:

In the Michigan cases, the Supreme Court ruled that although affirmative action was no longer justified as a way of redressing past oppression and injustice, it promoted a "compelling state interest" in diversity at all levels of society.

"Compelling state interest". Recognise that form of words from Bakke? That is, affirmative action is not, in the eyes of the body you have decided to hold up as the arbiter of what is just and that redressed the injustice that "political correctness" did to Allan Bakke in your eyes, a matter of redressing historical wrongs, and affirmative action programmes can exist that do not seek to redress historical wrongs, and indeed should exist. Therefore, affirmative action is not in fact, by your definition, an issue of political correctness, unless it seeks to redress historical wrongs, which it need not, and indeed which it did not in the case of UCal vs Bakke. Funny old thing.

While we are sharing links, you might also want to take a look at a link already posted above: Ten myths about affirmative action. I could google "affirmative action yay" and deluge you with unexamined link after unexamined link if you like, but I think one person at the party doing that is quite enough, eh? Besides which, as it turns out affirmative action need not be connected to the redress of historical wrongs, as stated by the Supreme Court, and so it wouldn't really be on topic...

On John Linker - this appears not to be a case of affirmative action but of racial discrimination. Could you provide the court papers? Only, it seems that he was passed over not as part of a programme of affirmative action but specifically due to the non-approved actions of one person. Are you able to understand this distinction? I suspect not, since you are randomly spitting out links, but let's have a quick think. Linker's first case, at trial court level, was rejected because Linker had no direct evidence and insufficient circumstantial evidence of race discrimination. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision citing "undisputed unfortunate comments of the chief regarding non-minorities in the workplace" - that is, that the compensation was due because Theron Wiggins had used terms disparaging of "non-minorities" (or majorities, presumably) in the workplace.

Hey, you know what would have sorted that out? Some policing of speech. If only Theron Wiggins had been a bit more politically correct, eh? In fact, this court decision was clearly political correctness gone mad. I wonder what your response would be were I to cite a case in which the only evidence that could be produced to support a claim of racial discrimination had been some workplace banter? I imagine they'd be able to hear the frenzied grunting in Michigan.
posted by tannhauser at 5:43 AM on March 16, 2005


Seriously, you've spent a lot of time and effort there trying to defend affirmative action, yet you say you have no views on it. I detect you are simply a contrarian, opposing anything I put forward.

To the meat of your point:-

all else being equal, if Bakke had been black and not economically or educationally disadvantaged, he would have been placed in the standard stream and rejected for the same reasons.

Race was a factor as the court proved. Just because it wasn't the ONLY factor is a red herring. And in any case, the criteria for affirmative action is irrelevant and arbitrary - it still means lesser qualified people got places in medical school and the more talented were rejected.

You're already writing off the 16% who get entry because they met arbitrary criteria that had nothing to do with their ability, and concentrating on the standard stream - very convenient of you. Key question: Why must there be two streams of entry, meaning that able students have less chance of being accepted? This is clearly a negative instance of affirmative action you inadvertantly point out. I will repeat : criteria is irrelevant here. I'm against any AA criteria. You might as well say "people with blue eyes are favoured" or "people who's family earn 20K or less" or whatever - it is not based on merit, when it should be. You already stated you prefer a merit-based system earlier in this thread - now you're trying to defend the opposite. See what I mean about cross-purposed argumentation?
posted by FieldingGoodney at 8:05 AM on March 16, 2005


You didn't read any of the difficult stuff, did you? Read the court report and the article by Liu examining it and get back to me if you have anything worthwhile to say. Meanwhile:

So, your gloss - one guy was prevented from getting a position in medical school because of his skin colour, despite having better grades than those who were accepted is incomplete, or to be correct about it just plain wrong. If you had looked into the "real world", rather than relied on a single Google search and an anti-affirmative action link site, you would possibly not have fallen into that convenient self-deceit. Actually, it means that somebody who had been rejected twice by a medical school for reasons unrelated to race *or* academic performance got in, and somebody else did not get in, even though the person who did not get in might have had qualities utterly unrelated to his race or academic performance that would in the opinion of the examiners have suited him better to go to medical school. It's the use of legislature to force somebody judged unqualified into a position at the expense of a more suitable candidate. What does that remind us of? It sounds to me like political correctness. Gone mad.

Seems to stand.

I am not defending affirmative action, as you would have realised if you had read and/or understood what I wrote - I have yet to reach a conclusion on affirmative action, and suspect it may need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, which is a real-world approach you are unable to comprehend - just filling in some of the gaping holes in your poorly-researchd examples.

Also, the Supreme Court has ruled that affirmative action need not be aimed at the redress of historical injustice. Therefore, you are off topic. This is all above in the large sections of my post you have failed utterly to read or address. Read it, see if you can come up with anything worthwhile to add apart from ad hominem timewasting, and then... well, then deliver a volley of high-opitched grunting, probably, but we can hope.
posted by tannhauser at 8:55 AM on March 16, 2005


Oh, and how about:

On John Linker - this appears not to be a case of affirmative action but of racial discrimination. Could you provide the court papers? Only, it seems that he was passed over not as part of a programme of affirmative action but specifically due to the non-approved actions of one person...

Linker's first case, at trial court level, was rejected because Linker had no direct evidence and insufficient circumstantial evidence of race discrimination. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision citing "undisputed unfortunate comments of the chief regarding non-minorities in the workplace" - that is, that the compensation was due because Theron Wiggins had used terms disparaging of "non-minorities" (or majorities, presumably) in the workplace.

Hey, you know what would have sorted that out? Some policing of speech. If only Theron Wiggins had been a bit more politically correct, eh? In fact, this court decision was clearly political correctness gone mad.


You seem not to have read down that far. In case you didn't follow the link you posted, this is about the Michigan firefighter. His name was Linker. He was a dancer.
posted by tannhauser at 10:14 AM on March 16, 2005


tannhauser, for somebody who hasn't reached a conclusion on affirmative action, you make a very good impression of someone supporting it. You inadvertantly (sorry, I'm using the same word I used before - now you may flag this as a "buzzword") stumbled across the fact that affirmative action uses arbitrary criteria as judgement rather than a clear-cut merit-based judgement. I know you're conflicted here because in this thread you've argued for the case of a merit-based system of judgement. You've also argued against it (clearly defending AA as having no negative consequences).

I have yet to reach a conclusion on affirmative action, and suspect it may need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis

Can you give me a single case (hypothetical or real) where Affirmative Action is necessary?
posted by FieldingGoodney at 10:17 AM on March 16, 2005


Can you give me a single case (hypothetical or real) where Affirmative Action is necessary?

Sorry to butt in, but from a UK perspective, the nearest equivalent we probably have here is trying to take into account for university entry that applicants from more privileged backgrounds tend to get better results in their qualifications than applicants from less privileged backgrounds. In an uncorrected use of these results, then applicants from more privileged backgrounds will get into universities in larger proportions than the fraction of society which they (numerically) represent. There are a multiplicity of underlying social reasons why this is the case. However, the statistics seems to indicate that less privileged applicants tend to perform as well as more privileged applicants where they are given the opportunity to attend equivalent universities. This would seem to suggest a case where taking into account social differences is called for to maximise the utility of the education system.
posted by biffa at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2005


biffa, this isn't a private conversation here (although it feels like it) - cheers for your contribution.

applicants from more privileged backgrounds tend to get better results in their qualifications than applicants from less privileged backgrounds

Any proof of this? Considering the rising averages of A-level result passes, this seems a moot point - there are plenty of students from poorer backgrounds who are already qualified to enter universities - they don't need actually need any help.

However, the statistics seems to indicate that less privileged applicants tend to perform as well as more privileged applicants where they are given the opportunity to attend equivalent universities.

Do you have those statistics to hand?

This would seem to suggest a case where taking into account social differences is called for to maximise the utility of the education system.

Now this is an assumption made on something you haven't proven yet. There's already a fuss made over the quota systems which offically don't exist (as they are technically illegal), yet most people know about them - you are entitled to your opinion on this, but really I'm after some results to show that affirmative action works.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2005


Also biffa, how do you know that a person with lower grades has potential to do well at university? They may have lower grades simply because they are not good enough. I don't think they should have the name of the school on UCAS forms - that simple.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 2:09 PM on March 16, 2005


Hey Biffa - welcome to the conversation.

FG - there's a distinction between buzzwords and simple limited vocabulary. It's cool - we can flag either if you'd like. Meanwhile:

tannhauser, for somebody who hasn't reached a conclusion on affirmative action, you make a very good impression of someone supporting it.

Nah. Ideologues interpret anything not in line with their worldview as representing the most convenient line of opposition. I'm still learning about it, and retain an interest in the effect it has in the real world.

Can you give me a single case (hypothetical or real) where Affirmative Action is necessary?

Well, according to the supreme court, the consideration of race as a factor in creating a diverse student body and, ultimately, having doctors who were prepared to treat black people in UCal vs Bakke - I linked to the court report above - did you read it?

I have to admit, I had never even considered that as an argument - here I was, all assuming that the 70s was all love beads, loon pants and political correctness _everywhere_. So, the Supreme Court at least felt that there was a compelling state interest (their words, not mine) in taking steps to ensure a mixed student body, so that further down the line black people could get medical attention, and would not a) get sick and not be treated and b) get very, very angry about the absence of doctors prepared to treat them. That was identified by the Supreme Court as a social good, which judgement has been restated in a number of cases since. Nothing to do with redressing historical wrongs, but addressing what they perceive as a practical issue to create beneficial practical effects. Whether these beneficial practical effects can be quantified... well, that's another question, and one I'm still looking into.

Also biffa, how do you know that a person with lower grades has potential to do well at university?

Now, that is a very good question. Usually, the answer may be an interview process - see below. Like the interview process, in fact, that decided that despite his high scores Allan Bakke, regardless of his race (read the Michigan Law Review article for this if you didn't follow my brief summary), would have been a waste of a place that would have been better given to another applicant.

They may have lower grades simply because they are not good enough. I don't think they should have the name of the school on UCAS forms - that simple.

Not quite that simple, pretty much inevitably. I don't know how these things work nowadays, but in my day you often found yourself going up for interview, particularly for high-prestige universities. As a white guy from a public school, I am likely to have a lot more in common with the people who interview me for Oxford entry than somebody from an inner-city comprehensive - if the fellow from an inner-city comprehensive has even been given the impression that they can apply for Oxford with a hope of getting in, which is another question.

There's a broader question about the risk that people, if not moderated, to promote people they have things in common with - this is mentioned in the "10 myths about affirmative action" site I linked to above - have you had a chance to look at it? The site also mentions, I think, that it is illegal to promote somebody over another, better-qualified person on account of race, which rule cuts both ways - which brings us back to the Linker case, which you appear to have forgotten about:

On John Linker - this appears not to be a case of affirmative action but of racial discrimination. Could you provide the court papers? Only, it seems that he was passed over not as part of a programme of affirmative action but specifically due to the non-approved actions of one person...

Linker's first case, at trial court level, was rejected because Linker had no direct evidence and insufficient circumstantial evidence of race discrimination. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision citing "undisputed unfortunate comments of the chief regarding non-minorities in the workplace" - that is, that the compensation was due because Theron Wiggins had used terms disparaging of "non-minorities" (or majorities, presumably) in the workplace.

Hey, you know what would have sorted that out? Some policing of speech. If only Theron Wiggins had been a bit more politically correct, eh? In fact, this court decision was clearly political correctness gone mad.

posted by tannhauser at 1:35 AM on March 17, 2005


Well, according to the supreme court, the consideration of race as a factor in creating a diverse student body and, ultimately, having doctors who were prepared to treat black people in UCal vs Bakke - I linked to the court report above - did you read it?

Some white doctors weren't prepared to treat black patients....how prevalent was this? Were white doctors beyond help here? Instead of tackling racism, they let it fester (and how would such overt racism be allowed, as late as the 70s? Nobody complained?). I would prefer it if you can give me some figures here - or else it's just supposition (and doesn't satisfactorily answer my question).

My problem is this: the most talented people are missing out on positions because of pre-existing racism (I'm assuming this to be true). Instead of a doctor earning his place through talent and hardwork, he's given a pass because he's black and "therefore is willing to treat black patients" (seems a spurious assumption on a level of apartheid). However, accepting it as truth, this seems like such a heavy-handed method in tackling a problem. You don't think there are other methods available to ensure that all patients get treated? (methods that would ensure the best doctors are available in the first place). Remember, many countries agree with my point of view as they make such practice illegal - you're arguing for a rather extreme policy here. Doesn't make it wrong per se, but you have to wonder why many countries are reluctant to go down this road.

As a white guy from a public school, I am likely to have a lot more in common with the people who interview me for Oxford entry than somebody from an inner-city comprehensive - if the fellow from an inner-city comprehensive has even been given the impression that they can apply for Oxford with a hope of getting in, which is another question.

What do you mean by "a lot more in common"? Wealth? Taste in art and music? Hobbies? Skin colour? If this is significant criteria for choosing students, in my opinion the interviewer has failed his duty. You're really pigeon-holing people here (or let's say - your interviewer is) - of course general personality is an important factor (by that I mean : level of enthusiasm, demeanour, etc) as well as ability, but you are saying that interviewers are incapable at their job, therefore AA is necessary. In fact you expand on this by saying "people, if not moderated, [will] promote people they have things in common with". The "if not moderated" sounds like you're campaigning for universal policy. What is strange is you continually deny you support AA.

tannhauser, you've painted yourself into a corner here - you're basically saying that affirmative action is all good all of the time. You never accept that there may, just may be instances (see adversity.net) where it spectacularly fails people. As I say, for somebody who has no particular view on AA, you really do defend it very well.

I maintain my view that this is the wrong way to seek social equality, and it fails all of the time because it does not seek to get the most suitable people into each position. It also continues the obsession with race and other attributes that should be arbitrary when deciding the value of a person. It succeeds in driving a wedge between people because of constantly highlighting these arbitrary differences.

FG - there's a distinction between buzzwords and simple limited vocabulary

More condescension. I normally brush over your pedantry regarding spelling and grammar as it's not germane to the debate - I'm guessing there's some deep wound you're trying to exorcise through this passive-aggressive tick. It was annoying to begin with - but the regularity of such comments has now made it a curiousity.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 4:44 AM on March 17, 2005


Some white doctors weren't prepared to treat black patients....how prevalent was this? Were white doctors beyond help here? Instead of tackling racism, they let it fester (and how would such overt racism be allowed, as late as the 70s? Nobody complained?). I would prefer it if you can give me some figures here - or else it's just supposition (and doesn't satisfactorily answer my question).

Yeah - the 70s was a good hundred years after Topeka vs Brown, wasn't it? Ahem.

It seems you haven't read the passage that I helpfully pulled out for you:

The California Supreme Court, applying a strict scrutiny standard, concluded that the special admissions program was not the least intrusive means of achieving the goals of the admittedly compelling state interests of integrating the medical profession and increasing the number of doctors willing to serve minority patients.

It is not supposition. It was a finding of the California Supreme Court. You are deceiving yourself, which is unfortunate, and attempting to deceive other people, which is unsurprising but unwelcome. The Supreme Court found that the quota system for _disadvantaged_ (not black, but I realise you will not process that) applicants was not an acceptable means of achieving that aim, and therefore the system was altered. I have explained and provided a detailed study discussing the relevance of that to Allan Bakke's case, which you have not read. You are maintaining your view, but you are not supporting it with any reference to the "real world" (in quotes because I am quoting you, by the way). It's an ideological position uninformed by any available facts, which is fine but is a religion, not a proposition.

I, conversely, did see adversity.net. I followed the links you gave me, presumably without looking at them, of affirmative action "spectacularly failing people". I gave you more information on those cases, which you have not read. I told you what the Supreme Court that you were holding up as the arbiters of justice actually said, which you have ignored. I provided resources on these cases, and the best you can manage is:

- you're basically saying that affirmative action is all good all of the time

I am clearly not. You are again deceiving yourself and attempting to deceive others. I am suggesting that instincts to surround oneself with people like oneself need to be acknowledged and dealt with - not necessarily through legislation, as I have said before and you have failed utterly to comprehend because you were too busy grunting at the first mention of the word "diversity". Could be simple consideration on the part of the allocator of places, or a bit of training, or an awareness of the interests of the institution or the state. It's quite a complex question, of course, which I think may be where your problems lie. For example:

Instead of a doctor earning his place through talent and hard work, he's given a pass because he's black and "therefore is willing to treat black patients" (seems a spurious assumption on a level of apartheid).

you have clearly not read the court report on UCal vs Bakke - not even my brief excerpt. Bakke was not rejected because he was white, nor was his place given to a disadvantaged (not black, but I realise you will not process that) applicant. That streaming system was, however, judged unfair and discontinued. You might want to take a look at myth 10 on the "10 myths about Affirmative Action" site that you have not yet looked at - it might provide a bit of balance.

I have stated already that I am not arguing for affirmative action across the board, and perhaps not at all - that I would probably argue for considering it on a case-by-case basis in terms of its effects. In some cases, affirmative action legislation may fail people spectacularly, in others it may not (although, of course, in your magical head it must always fail people spectacularly, because it is bad and wrong, as we have established. I do not yet have enough data to state that confidently, because I am interested in the real world) - like social security, health care and the court system, all of which I also feel should be subjected to intelligent and considered examination and review rather than ill-informed polemic supported by cases you have not read more than a couple of paragraphs about.

On spelling and grammar - actually, you started this with

coherence and eloquence are a sign of good communication

in your campaign against book-larnin' sophistry, which is it turns out quite as unacceptable as practical experience, legal reports, expert analysis or anything else apart from your ideological pronouncements. I merely pointed out that one of the problems in your communication was that it was at times so badly written as to be opaque. Frankly, if I started being pedantic the corrections would take over - for example, a passive-aggressive tick (rather than "tic") would be one that refused to suck your blood, but made you feel really guilty about it. Trying to impute emotional problems to people who disagree with you, as:

I'm guessing there's some deep wound you're trying to exorcise through this passive-aggressive tic(k)

is another cheap rhetorical trick, of essentially the same school as your "are you too scared to say x?" gambits. It's not a mature form of discussion.

So, anyway, those examples from adversity.net. How about the damning case of affirmative action spectacularly failing that firefighter, eh? John Linker?

On John Linker - this appears not to be a case of affirmative action but of racial discrimination. Could you provide the court papers? Only, it seems that he was passed over not as part of a programme of affirmative action but specifically due to the non-approved actions of one person...

Linker's first case, at trial court level, was rejected because Linker had no direct evidence and insufficient circumstantial evidence of race discrimination. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision citing "undisputed unfortunate comments of the chief regarding non-minorities in the workplace" - that is, that the compensation was due because Theron Wiggins had used terms disparaging of "non-minorities" (or majorities, presumably) in the workplace.

Hey, you know what would have sorted that out? Some policing of speech. If only Theron Wiggins had been a bit more politically correct, eh? In fact, this court decision was clearly political correctness gone mad.

posted by tannhauser at 6:30 AM on March 17, 2005


tannhauser, at some point back in this thread we split off in two directions. You're clearly emotionally embroiled in this discussion - that much is self-evident in your rather aggressive language and sense of persecution. I come back here out of detached interest now - I do wonder which way your argument will turn. It now seems to have swung away (not for the first time) from championing affirmative action.

I am suggesting that instincts to surround oneself with people like oneself need to be acknowledged and dealt with

"Like oneself"? You failed to elaborate the first time - I guess you won't when I ask a second time - but what criteria are you using here? Shared sense of humour? Hobbies? Personalities matching generally? This is where your argument gets mushy. What has earning capacity or skin colour (or other arbitrary factors that AA consider important) necessarily got to do wanting to be around people "like oneself"? Maybe now a small bell in your head is ringing : yes! One size does not fit all! However, it must do if you employ hard-coded policies like AA.

Instead of a doctor earning his place through talent and hard work, he's given a pass because he's black and "therefore is willing to treat black patients" (seems a spurious assumption on a level of apartheid).

you have clearly not read the court report on UCal vs Bakke - not even my brief excerpt. Bakke was not rejected because he was white, nor was his place given to a disadvantaged (not black, but I realise you will not process that) applicant.


I was responding to this (as you well know):-

Well, according to the supreme court, the consideration of race as a factor in creating a diverse student body and, ultimately, having doctors who were prepared to treat black people in UCal vs Bakke did you read it?

It specifically mentions the subject I raised. You're trying to attract attention away from the direction that argument was going in, it seems (not for the first time).

tannhauser, your repeated copying and pasting of the same article excerpt (including your angry summation at the bottom) is just childish - I mean, can't you just supply a link back to the original comment?

As for not reading your sources, I have read them - well the Morgan Law Review I had to skim through because it's 65 pages long and I have a life outside of this thread. It's unashamedly biased in favour of AA - the very title "Causation Fallacy" gives that away. Then there's your second and final source "10 Myths of Affirmative Action". It's final summation is this:-

In the absence of sweeping societal reforms -- unlikely to take place any time soon -- does affirmative action help counteract the continuing injustice caused by discrimination? The research record suggests, unequivocally, that it does.

It assumes there are no other alternatives to affirmative action other than "sweeping societal reforms" (seems like rhetoric as they don't wish to elaborate the shape such reforms could take). Although the article tries to dess itself up as a sober report, the content reminds me of the kind of article I expect to see on MSN. I disregarded it. However, you're insistant I respond:-

-------------

Myth 1: The only way to create a color-blind society is to adopt color-blind policies.

It reasons: all else being equal, color-blind seniority systems tend to protect White workers against job layoffs, because senior employees are usually White

It describes how a colour-blind society doesn't work by describing a colour sensitive one.

Myth 2: Affirmative action has not succeeded in increasing female and minority representation.

You have technology and the current state of the economy to thank for that. Employment has been on the rise for all areas of society. To attribute this directly to AA (as if these people would be out of work without it) is very very glib. It doesn't even breakdown the facts by type of job, which is all-important.

Myth 3: Affirmative action may have been necessary 30 years ago, but the playing field is fairly level today.

It goes onto mention the wage gap. If this is true, why don't employers simply have all-female staff and cut their wage bill by 24%? I'm not disputing that there are employers out there who deliberately pay less to some people, but there is already an Equal Pay Act to protect employees from this kind of discrimination. Or does AA co-opt any kind of social equity law as its own?

Myth 4: The public doesn't support affirmative action anymore.

Well if you put it in such stark terms, of course it's a myth.

Myth 5: A large percentage of White workers will lose out if affirmative action is continued.

A "large percentage"? I would agree, that's a myth. Globalisation, down-sizing etc (as the article mentions) are bigger threats.

Myth 6: If Jewish people and Asian Americans can rapidly advance economically, African Americans should be able to do the same.

This is an interesting one, and I partially agree it's a "myth" of sorts since there are social and cultural factors not applied to the myth.

Myth 7: You can't cure discrimination with discrimination.

Logically this is true. At least it admits it is discrimination. They see a cure of discrimination as an equality of outcomes. They then say "look - we've 'cured' discrimination!". And they wonder why discrimination still continues.....

Myth 8: Affirmative action tends to undermine the self-esteem of women and racial minorities.

I don't know....I wouldn't exactly feel great if even there was a possibility I was given a position due to my social standing or skin colour.

Myth 9: Affirmative action is nothing more than an attempt at social engineering by liberal Democrats.

I'll leave American axe-grinding to Americans.

Myth 10: Support for affirmative action means support for preferential selection procedures that favor unqualified candidates over qualified candidates.

Here are their descriptions of the various forms of AA:-

The mildest form of affirmative action selection occurs when a female or minority candidate is chosen from a pool of equally qualified applicants

A somewhat stronger form occurs when female or minority candidates are roughly comparable to other candidates (e.g., their college entrance scores are lower, but not by a significant amount).

A still stronger form of affirmative action occurs when qualified female or minority candidates are chosen over candidates whose records are better by a substantial amount.

The strongest form of preferential selection occurs when unqualified female or minority members are chosen over other candidates who are qualified.

It then describes how popular each level of AA is regarding the public. It never once actually denies the myth is false.

-------------
posted by FieldingGoodney at 9:10 AM on March 17, 2005


tannhauser, your repeated copying and pasting of the same article excerpt (including your angry summation at the bottom) is just childish - I mean, can't you just supply a link back to the original comment?

Not angry, dear - amused. I could do that, though, yes. Can you respond to it? So far, you haven't.

***

On John Linker - this appears not to be a case of affirmative action but of racial discrimination. Could you provide the court papers? Only, it seems that he was passed over not as part of a programme of affirmative action but specifically due to the non-approved actions of one person...

Linker's first case, at trial court level, was rejected because Linker had no direct evidence and insufficient circumstantial evidence of race discrimination. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision citing "undisputed unfortunate comments of the chief regarding non-minorities in the workplace" - that is, that the compensation was due because Theron Wiggins had used terms disparaging of "non-minorities" (or majorities, presumably) in the workplace.

Hey, you know what would have sorted that out? Some policing of speech. If only Theron Wiggins had been a bit more politically correct, eh? In fact, this court decision was clearly political correctness gone mad.


***

It now seems to have swung away (not for the first time) from championing affirmative action.

So, hang on - I am clearly in favour of affirmative action, and yet my argument has swung away (not for the first time) from championing affirmative action? Your argument is the simplest since "meat tasty". How on Earth can you not be able to keep it straight?

I was responding to this (as you well know)

Actually, I don't. I've tried to explain this before - you express yourself unclearly and often incomprehensibly. It's hard to work out a) what you are talking about and b) what weird misinterpretation of the previous comment you are working from. For example, what on Earth is the connection between:


Instead of a doctor earning his place through talent and hard work, he's given a pass because he's black and "therefore is willing to treat black patients" (seems a spurious assumption on a level of apartheid).


and

Well, according to the supreme court, the consideration of race as a factor in creating a diverse student body and, ultimately, having doctors who were prepared to treat black people in UCal vs Bakke - I linked to the court report above - did you read it?


Which was itself a factual response to the question

Can you give me a single case (hypothetical or real) where Affirmative Action is necessary?

You claim this is a spurious argument, but there was no argument. I told you only what the Supreme Court said. You have failed to address it, except by claiming that it never happened. This is pretty much par for the course.

Now, as to:


"Like oneself"? You failed to elaborate the first time - I guess you won't when I ask a second time - but what criteria are you using here? Shared sense of humour? Hobbies? Personalities matching generally? This is where your argument gets mushy. What has earning capacity or skin colour (or other arbitrary factors that AA consider important) necessarily got to do wanting to be around people "like oneself"? Maybe now a small bell in your head is ringing : yes! One size does not fit all! However, it must do if you employ hard-coded policies like AA.


Suddenly, I'm back to supporting affirmative action. Could you try to keep your misrepresentations straight through a single post? As for likeness... well, let's try an object lesson, not that it will help. When I was at university, the teaching faculty was, I think without exception, white. Most of it had been educated at public school, and there were far more men than women in the faculty. The students were, coincidentally, to a man or woman white and largely privately educated. On the plus side, the range of schools from which the students had been drawn had widened considerably through efforts to educate interviewers to the idea that having a common set of experiences of secondary education with the interviewer did not necessarily make one a better candidate. The student body had far more women, proportionally, than previous years, because it had been made clear to the faculty that it was desirable to have an approximately equal division of men and women, insofar as the standard of applicants permitted. Some colleges had only fairly recently started admitting women, and without pressure from within and without to accept that women had something to offer the university, this would not have happened. I happily admit that an interviewer who judges a candidate on anything other than their suitability for the position for which they are a candidate is failing as an interviewer, but the metrics of suitability are subjective - as has been made pretty clear in both the Supreme Court notes and elsewhere, Bakke was not admitted to Davis for reasons unconnected to his race or his academic performance. As such, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that institutions with a particular culture might need help to establish a level playing field. Does that involve legislation? It may, it may not. Then there are broader societal issues - for example, the ease of access to medical treatment for all in 1970s America - and how pressing they are will presumably also affect what is to be done. The Supreme Court decided then and restated in Grutter vs. Bollinger that diverse student bodies provide a compelling benefit to the state, which might affect one's determination to create them. These are complex issues which do not easily accommodate a doctrinaire approach.

Fortunately, a doctrinaire approach does have its armaments.

I disregarded it.

Ah, there one is. Your refutations are rather more simplistic than the "MSN-level" article, and with a phrase like It never once actually denies the myth is false I hope to be able to demonstrate to you how difficult your English is to follow sometimes. Do you mean that it does not disprove the truth of the myth? What it does say is that the statement:

Support for affirmative action means support for preferential selection procedures that favor unqualified candidates over qualified candidates.

Reflects a form of "affirmative action" that is in fact illegal under US labour law - the favouring of unqualified candidates over qualified candidates - that is one that is not in fact affirmative action according to EO11246:

Much of the opposition to affirmative action is framed on the grounds of so-called "reverse discrimination and unwarranted preferences." In fact, less than 2 percent of the 91,000 employment discrimination cases pending before the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission are reverse discrimination cases. Under the law as written in Executive Orders and interpreted by the courts, anyone benefiting from affirmative action must have relevant and valid job or educational qualifications.

Do you see? You could argue that, although that is illegal, it still goes on (although that would not be about affirmative action but about the law), or that although that is illegal other forms of affirmative action are both legal, controversial and wrong, but you appear not to have followed the argument well enough to explore either of those. Likewise, you don't seem to have read any of the discussion - the response:

I don't know....I wouldn't exactly feel great if even there was a possibility I was given a position due to my social standing or skin colour

has nothing to do with the text of the response, for example. That's kind of it - you don't know. You actually don't know if you do owe the work you get to your skin colour, either, although you are obviously never going to get your head round that idea because you assume that there is no possible way in which being white or male might be advantageous, and so all affirmative action is therefore by definition providing others with an unfair advantage on what was previously a level playing field. This may be true, but I'm not totally sold - the CEOs of most Fortune 500 companies do seem on balance to be largely male, for example.

So, on another possible facet of your absence of knowledge... you appear again to have zoomed in on a few words or phrases and responded to them in the belief that you are responding to the entire argument, or indeed any substantial part of it. Just in case there is some fault in your browser that makes the text invisible, here it is:

Although affirmative action may have this effect in some cases (Heilman, Simon, & Repper, 1987; Steele, 1990), interview studies and public opinion surveys suggest that such reactions are rare (Taylor, 1994). For instance, a 1995 Gallup poll asked employed Blacks and employed White women whether they had ever felt others questioned their abilities because of affirmative action (Roper Center for Public Opinion, 1995d). Nearly 90% of respondents said no (which is understandable -- after all, White men, who have traditionally benefited from preferential hiring, do not feel hampered by self-doubt or a loss in self-esteem). Indeed, in many cases affirmative action may actually raise the self-esteem of women and minorities by providing them with employment and opportunities for advancement. There is also evidence that affirmative action policies increase job satisfaction and organizational commitment among beneficiaries (Graves & Powell, 1994).

Of course, if that is too simple for you, you could have a look at:

National Organisation of Women on affirmative action - some interesting statistics to disregard

Business advantages of a diverse workforce. The site this comes from seems to be a bit less biased than adversity.net. Have a sniff round it, I suggest.

Executive Order 11246 - the genesis of the phrase "affirmative action", coined by famous lefty PC pinko Lindon Johnson.


There's some interesting stuff about Texas which may be relevant here, if anyone else is still reading. Hopgood vs Texas in 1996 resulted in a ruling that race was not to be considered in consideration of applicants to university - that is, overturning the idea that there was a compelling interest in diversity that justified doing such. As we saw, Grutter vs Bollinger reasserted that the compelling state interest represented by the existence of diversity in student intakes justified consideration of race in examining applications, but for a period in Texas the consideration of race was made illegal in considering applications. You would expect the Universities of Texas to rejoice at their freedom from the dead hand of affirmative action, but in fact, in the period during which race was not allowed to operate as a factor in selection, the 10% policy was introduced instead, in which the top 10% of any accredited high school in the State of Texas automatically gained admission even up to the flagship University of Texas. This was an attempt to keep some diversity in applications, using Texas' highly segregated school system as a lever. Interestingly, according to the most recent report, although the Top 10% applicants had lower SAT scores than those accepted through the "classic" process, they consistently outperformed them through the freshman year, as they did the previous year. That is, the top 10% entrants did not look as good as potential students, but turned out to be better students. Which brings us back to Allan Bakke - GPA is not the only criterion for entry.

As an example of a policy that does not (ostensibly) consider race but does, by attempting to remove perceived advantages both financial and cultural that are prejudicial to the chances of talented students in minority groups, this is quite interesting. It is also interesting that one of the arguments used by UMich in Grutter vs Bollinger was that students generally achieve better results in culturally and racially diverse environments - that is, that ensuring representation of diverse races and cultures also helps the majority members on campus. That presents an interesting and utilitarian case for the consideration of race as a factor in admissions policy.

I remain undecided, although of course this is no longer a discussion about political correctness, a rhetorical and/or taxonomic concept, but affirmative action, a legal concept. I would probably cautiously incline towards the view of Supreme Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, that affirmative action in the Johnsonian sense remains a useful tool to compensate for ingrained privilege in certain circumstances but that its application should be with the ultimate aim of rendering itself obsolete. However, unless one is to adopt a crudely doctrinaire position in either direction - which is certainly a grunty grunty option - there are an awful lot of considerations to weigh up, and many different environments to consider.
posted by tannhauser at 12:13 PM on March 17, 2005


When I was at university, the teaching faculty was, I think without exception, white. Most of it had been educated at public school, and there were far more men than women in the faculty. The students were, coincidentally, to a man or woman white and largely privately educated. On the plus side, the range of schools from which the students had been drawn had widened considerably through efforts to educate interviewers to the idea that having a common set of experiences of secondary education with the interviewer did not necessarily make one a better candidate.

Now I get your background loud and clear, and no wonder! You're from a privileged background of sorts - I get it now. You see the world through a prism of privileged learning. You see a white patriarchy oppressing anyone who isn't white and isn't male. How can you not? You went to university and saw the whole world run by a bunch of old white male cronies. You extrapolate your experiences onto the rest of society and *bang* - you start to see life clear and simple. To you, anyway.

I see you refer to NOW as one of your sources. Are you interested in intellectual honesty, or do you kowtow to the popularism within the circles you move? I would guess, given your privileged background, an organization like NOW has a certain amount of kudos (God only knows how, but I know how these things work). I rarely discredit sources based on the source itself (well maybe MSN polls and such like are laughable), but not NOW. I've seen too much propaganda pass from that organization to give it the time of day. For you to pass it off as a creditable source shows a strange innocence about you, given your self-proclaimed knowledge. Seriously, and I'm really hoping you answer this : do you respect NOW?

Again you spent another post defending affirmative action. OK, you're undecided whether it's a good thing - as you keep saying. No, I'm not contradicting myself, just a summary of your thread. Hey tannhauser, did you peruse adversity.net? Might give you a clue, you know. There's more than just the two cases we discussed on here. Like, maybe about 2000 other cases.....you know, if you're undecided and all that - hey, why not check some of them out?

I would probably cautiously incline towards the view of Supreme Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, that affirmative action in the Johnsonian sense remains a useful tool to compensate for ingrained privilege in certain circumstances but that its application should be with the ultimate aim of rendering itself obsolete.

That soundbite delivers an edifying, judicious, and even-handed message, but it's not how AA is applied in real life, as adversity.net testifies. Earlier in this thread you said you were a pragmatist and not an ideologue, but this is an ideal. It's never applied in the way it should be because artificial discrimination will yield to the whims of those who make the rules. It sends out the wrong message to people that amount_of_effort + talent <> success; instead it's x+some_talent=success (AA board meeting decide the "x"). It doesn't work in general, and in principle I am against it. Many countries have deemed it illegal. You argue for it in every post you write. Make erudite-sounding posts that to you sound "right" and "reasonable" all you like, but they have no application (as has been proven) in the real world.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:55 PM on March 17, 2005


Well, since I have actually referred to the findings of court cases and changes in policy in the real world, I would have thought that not even my quote privileged unquote background would have affected the workings of a Supreme Court in a nation largely indifferent to me, but you may be right - I just don't understand. My eerie telepathic powers.

Oddly enough, before political correctness became such an issue you would have been expected to kowtow (a term from the British Empire's contact with China, by the way, with a fascinating history) to me, so we should probably thank Heaven that political correctness has provided you with the means and the resources - after a fashion - to dissent.

So, we have established that you will enjoy the fruits of this newly liberal society without wanting it to do anything you dislike. That's fine, but probably not the basis for anything resembling a discussion. You have chosen to ignore quite detailed discussions of the findings of legal entities on the very areas you claim sovereignty over - unless you feel the Supreme Court is some sort of nest of PC vipers, which at this point is perfectly possible. To avoid having to go around the houses again, I think I will probably drop out of this one. Let's have a drink sometime and not discuss it.
posted by tannhauser at 4:19 PM on March 17, 2005


Count me in the Political Correctness myth as ultimate straw man camp. What clevershark, ozomatli, Cassford, XQUZYPHYR and tannhauser said.

As for the back and forth on affirmative action:

Today, conservatives and liberals alike invoke King's dream of a color-blind society in ways that I can only guess would deeply sadden and anger King. For to be blind to color in the United States in the year 2000 is to be truly blind...

Let me quote from a correspondence I had with a very bright, and very white, man I met at a journalists' conference, where he and I argued about affirmative action. He wrote to me:

"Where is your evidence of widespread contemporary racism? I literally don't see it. In my view, the overwhelming majority of Americans, and 99 percent of our leadership, embrace Martin Luther King's principles as pronounced in his "I Have a Dream" speech. Where do you see racism?"

Where do I see racism? Well, we could start with a study by the Council of Economic Advisors for the President's Initiative on Race hardly a radical group. They detailed how, on average, whites are more likely than members of racial/ethnic minorities to:

· Attend primary and secondary schools with smaller class sizes;
· Have access to computer technology in public schools and at home during primary and secondary schooling;
· Attend and graduate from a four-year college or university;
· Earn higher salaries;
· Retain employment during a downturn in the economy;
· Be covered by health insurance and consequently gain access to health care;
· Survive certain life-threatening illnesses;
· Experience more favorable housing conditions (less crowding, less crime, less litter and deterioration, and fewer problems with public services); · Spend a smaller percentage of household income on housing;
· Have unimpeded access to home mortgage loans and home ownership;
· Own stocks, mutual funds and IRA accounts; and
· Gain a substantial net worth.

Council of Economic Advisors, "Changing America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being by Race and Hispanic Origin," September 1998

Where do I see racism? Not just in those statistics, but in the stories I read and hear from non-white people about what it is like to live in this country. And I see racism in this clamor for color-blindness.

I have often heard this comment from well-intentioned white people: "I don't think of Joe as black. I just think of him as a person." Such a statement could only be made in thoroughly racialized and racist society. Why?

First, think of who makes such statements -- almost exclusively white people. I have never had a black person say to me, "When I see a white person, I don't see the color, I just see the person." Few say that because being white historically has not been associated with degradation, dehumanization, denigration. Being white does not make one's humanity problematic...

...I'll end by quoting from myself, from my response to my white correspondent who couldn.t see racism. My final words of that correspondence were:

"I think people in this country tend to see life as an auto race -- we're all in separate cars, racing each other, competing for advantages, seeing our success as requiring someone else's defeat. That's a short-term view, and it's the wrong way to understand ourselves. I think life is like an ocean voyage with one ship. We're all on the same ship. We're all in the same boat. When a leak springs in one part of the ship, we're all in trouble. On this voyage, there's no dry dock to head to make repairs. Life is lived out on the water, plugging leaks and caring for each other."


34 words, 41 shots
posted by y2karl at 8:35 PM on March 17, 2005


y2karl writes "whites are more likely than members of racial/ethnic minorities to [list of purely economic advantages, none about Jim Crow or lynching or involuntary servitude or even "lingering cultural effects" of slavery, elided]"

Sounds to me like an argument for an "Affirmative Action" based on the wealth of one's parents, not the color of one's parent's skin.

I mean, I suspect Robert Johnson's kids (and Colin Powell's and Ron Browns's) got into just about any college they applied to, and are having no trouble finding jobs. And Maya Keyes, despite being kicked out of her parents' house (and her daddy-supplied job) for "teh ghey", seems to be landing on her feet.

What I can't see is why Tyrone from the Projects should get admitted to the University of Michigan when Cleetus from Appalachia can't, when both have the same SAT scores.

While I make no excuse for three-hundred years of slavery and Jim Crow, I don't know how much worse off it makes you than 300 years of grinding poverty and yes, discrimination by other whites against "poor white pecker-wood trash".
posted by orthogonality at 10:01 PM on March 17, 2005


Every time I think I've got out...

I mean, I suspect Robert Johnson's kids (and Colin Powell's and Ron Browns's) got into just about any college they applied to, and are having no trouble finding jobs. And Maya Keyes, despite being kicked out of her parents' house (and her daddy-supplied job) for "teh ghey", seems to be landing on her feet.

What I can't see is why Tyrone from the Projects should get admitted to the University of Michigan when Cleetus from Appalachia can't, when both have the same SAT scores.


Very interesting and worthwhile point - and I think many would agree with you, in the sense that UMich adding points to applicants' entry scores based on their race alone was judged unfair, IIRC, in Gratz vs Bollinger. Maybe this is where Texas' 10% law or Florida's "talented 20%", which works along similar lines, is interesting - they aim to allow people from less wealthy backgrounds to get into university, and it just happens that many of those are black or hispanic. The fact that some families struggled to get together the $40 application fee is pretty humbling... On the other hand, maybe we could with a following wind name, given a following wind, the wealthy and powerful black or hispanic Americans whose children will have the advantages listed above, and I think it would take a much longer time to list the white equivalent - disproportionately so - so perhaps wealth, race and opportunity are all tilting the plate here.
posted by tannhauser at 11:56 PM on March 17, 2005


y2karl, I don't think anyone here is going to dispute the fact that racism exists in the US (notwithstanding my skepticism of black patients not getting treated in hospital). But what does this then say for affirmative action, which has been in use since the 70s? As I've repeated many times, equality of outcomes doesn't mean you get rid of discrimination. I agree with the first half of your link. A quote:-

But race is, of course, very much a fact in a social sense, and a fact we cannot forget. Racial groups exist because people take them to be real. Invoking reason and religion, anthropology and science, people with power have created and imposed racial hierarchies, and those hierarchies have been used, and are still used today, to unjustly enrich some people and impoverish others. The consequences of that categorization and oppression are as real as the scars that racism leaves on people's bodies, minds and souls. (my emphasis)

Affirmative action is obsessed with race, amongst other things. It's fixated with equal representation of race in many instances of its use, or heavily favoured to particular races. It identifies people by their race first, or gender first, or social background first, and the content of their character second.

Also:-

"I think people in this country tend to see life as an auto race -- we're all in separate cars, racing each other, competing for advantages, seeing our success as requiring someone else's defeat. That's a short-term view, and it's the wrong way to understand ourselves. I think life is like an ocean voyage with one ship. We're all on the same ship. We're all in the same boat. When a leak springs in one part of the ship, we're all in trouble. On this voyage, there's no dry dock to head to make repairs. Life is lived out on the water, plugging leaks and caring for each other."

I agree - and there are many ways to help each other. As an anecdote, look at universities in the UK. It used to be that the Local Education Authority would financially help poorer students. They would pay your university fees. This was great for many underprivileged students (like myself) who couldn't afford the fees. Those who could afford had to pay for themselves. This kind of welfare I am all in favour of. To me, this creates an equal opportunity. Since 1998 however, all students must pay for their education out of their own pocket, regardless of their background. To me, this is unfair and far more of a barrier for people than not getting the right grades. Simply put: there are a lot of bright students who have the grades to get into Uni, but cannot because it's too expensive. The poorer students can still pick up student loans to help them through the course, but they're often left with a huge debt at the end that takes years and years to pay off.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 1:02 AM on March 18, 2005


But what does this then say for affirmative action, which has been in use since the 70s?

Quick factual correction. The term "affirmative action" was first used by Kennedy in 1961. Executive Order 11246 was ratified in 1965 under flaming liberal PC lefty Lyndon B Johnson. His famously left-wing, liberal successor to the Presidency, Richard Nixon, said while imposing the Philadelphia order in 1969:

"We would not impose quotas, but would require federal contractors to show 'affirmative action' to meet the goals of increasing minority employment."

This in response to the refusal of the craft unions to allow black workers to work. Although of course I would accept FieldingGoodney's assessment of the accessibility of medical treatment for black people in 1970s California over the findings of the Supreme Court in the 1970s, the Philadelphia Order, and the one imposed (in the wonderfully-named United States vs Paradise) on the Alabama Department of Public Safety attempting to redress its stout refusal throughout the decade to employ black peace officers - the only example I can think of of the United States having to take action in order to impose a quota system - suggests that the picture in the 70s may not have been quite such a rosy one as FG believes. Still, you can prove anything with facts, can't you?
posted by tannhauser at 3:24 AM on March 18, 2005


"We would not impose quotas, but would require federal contractors to show 'affirmative action' to meet the goals of increasing minority employment."

You take that on good faith - do you not recognise the difference between a law and how it can be applied? Even in the UK where positive discrimination is illegal, it's still used in some areas to meet government "targets". I'm also interested in your views on my anecdote regarding UK universities and how financial help can be a more effective method of equaling opportunity.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 6:09 AM on March 18, 2005


do you not recognise the difference between a law and how it can be applied

Factual correction - the statement you quote was made by Richard Nixon in 1969, as you might have read above. As such, if you were interested in charting how the law had been applied, you could track it through the next 26 years, or the 30 years since the EO for that matter. I have provided information on some of the key cases - Bakke, Paradise, Hopgood, Grutter, Gratz, which you have chosen to ignore. Quota systems, most obviously, have been legally challenged, just as other discriminatory practices have been.

You seem to be mixing up affirmative action and illegal employment practices - as you did in the case of John Linker. Remember him?

As for tuition fees - on another factual tip, I believe all UK citizens doing full-time undergraduate courses had their tuition fees paid by the government before 1998. If I were devil's advocating (since I support the idea of free tuition for all as a general principle, for what it says about a state's commitment to education), I'd say that, if anything, this meant that people who _could_ afford tuition fees were taking money from the education budget that could otherwise have gone on hardship grants to needy students like yourself. You may be thinking of means-tested student grants, which meant that students were allocated living funds in inverse proportion to their parental income.

More generally - I mentioned the "top 10%" law in Texas above, and its equivalent in Florida. When affirmative action was outlawed in California, a similar programme was introduced. These were on one level avowedly race-neutral programmes but also used the segregation of public schools to ensure what the Supreme Court later reinshrined as a compelling state benefit - a culturally diverse student body.

The paying of tuition fees and means-tested student grants should encourage people from lower income brackets to apply for university courses, which is in my view a very good thing - although I am not sure why affirmative action for minorities is so bad in your book but affirmative action for financial underachievers is OK. After all, if you are white and poor, since you have not faced any of the obstacles a member of an ethnic or cultural minority might have faced in accumulating wealth, you are clearly either incompetent or lazy. Why waste a university place when the applicant demonstrably lacks ambition or ability?

(That was a reductio ad absurdum, by the way, and does not reflect the views of the management)

Joking aside, Biffa said above:

from a UK perspective, the nearest equivalent we probably have here is trying to take into account for university entry that applicants from more privileged backgrounds tend to get better results in their qualifications than applicants from less privileged backgrounds. In an uncorrected use of these results, then applicants from more privileged backgrounds will get into universities in larger proportions than the fraction of society which they (numerically) represent. There are a multiplicity of underlying social reasons why this is the case.

Commenting on the Top 10% law in Texas, I said:

for a period in Texas the consideration of race was made illegal in considering applications. You would expect the Universities of Texas to rejoice at their freedom from the dead hand of affirmative action, but in fact, in the period during which race was not allowed to operate as a factor in selection, the 10% policy was introduced instead, in which the top 10% of any accredited high school in the State of Texas automatically gained admission even up to the flagship University of Texas. This was an attempt to keep some diversity in applications, using Texas' highly segregated school system as a lever. Interestingly, according to the most recent report, although the Top 10% applicants had lower SAT scores than those accepted through the "classic" process, they consistently outperformed them through the freshman year, as they did the previous year. That is, the top 10% entrants did not look as good as potential students, but turned out to be better students. Which brings us back to Allan Bakke - GPA is not the only criterion for entry.

So, your argument that subsidised tuition fees may encourage applicants from lower income groups is a good one - although hardship grants that offset the cost of tuition fees for poor but able students might address this also. However, it doesn't address the issue that students from lower income groups, which groups often include a disproportionate number of members of ethnic or cultural minorities, may not be in the right environment to produce the same sort of results in their SATs or A-levels as students from higher income groups, even though they would perform as well or better once they reached university. As an obvious example, a higher-income family is more likely to be able to send their child to a selective fee-paying school, which may have better facilities, smaller class sizes, a higher general academic standard and emphasis and fewer pupils with emotional or educational needs that require disproportionate amounts of tutorial attention.

So, yes. I'm all for increasing the opportunities for the economically disadvantaged, and also for the educationally disadvantaged. However, while financial support for people who would not otherwise be able to pay for tuition is something I support - just as I support subsidised healthcare for people who can't afford private health insurance, and don't particularly mind paying high council tax despite the fact that I don't use the youth drop-in, drugs counseling, Internet-enabled libraries, sports facilities or many of the other services that it funds - I don't think it's a complete response.
posted by tannhauser at 7:40 AM on March 18, 2005


Helping students financially who have the qualities to hold a position, such as the right grades, is a good thing since they have proven their potential (as much as they can in the education system anyway) and are the likeliest bet (given the good grades) to repay the investment back through taxes in the future. This also upholds the trust between students and University - you get the grades - you get your place. This is completely different to trying to create a diverse (choose your criteria) student population. One is an investment based on good form, the other is based on creating a certain "mixture" of students (the attributes that determine the mixture - well, who decides those?). I just wonder how a student hoping to get into university would feel if the selection policy had two streams of entry - personally I would not feel in control (i.e. if I get the grades, is that still enough?). If I felt my gender or social background or race would actually help me get a place, I may feel less inclined to try my best. If I knew there was a fixed passmark - this would seem rather straightforward and my goals would be clearer. I'd also feel that I've earnt the right to get into the Uni if I got a place - maybe that's just me - but I think confidence is a big factor in doing well (i.e I'm capable of getting in on my own merits).

I see many people who would be labelled as an ethnic minority do very well in the UK without the need for positive discrimination. They succeed at Uni and in the workplace through their own talent and hardwork. Alternatively, I've also seen people, regardless of race, unable to get a foothold in either education or career through a lack of money (trapped in low earnings). Then again, my Vietnamese friend who runs his own acupuncture shop is more vociferous than me when it comes to this kind of discussion - he thinks you can do anything you want through hardwork.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 8:54 AM on March 18, 2005


If I felt my gender or social background or race would actually help me get a place, I may feel less inclined to try my best.

Well... many would say that your gender, social background and race may have already helped you in a variety of ways throughout your life to date. You don't accept this, which is entirely your right, and decline to consider any factual evidence that might affect that faith in either direction, which is also your right. As has already been said and ignored, if you assume that everything is already equal and the playing field is totally level, you are going to see affirmative action as unfair privilege that disadvantages white men. That's just how it works. As for maybe that's just me, see:

Although affirmative action may have this effect in some cases (Heilman, Simon, & Repper, 1987; Steele, 1990), interview studies and public opinion surveys suggest that such reactions are rare (Taylor, 1994). For instance, a 1995 Gallup poll asked employed Blacks and employed White women whether they had ever felt others questioned their abilities because of affirmative action (Roper Center for Public Opinion, 1995d). Nearly 90% of respondents said no (which is understandable -- after all, white men, who have traditionally benefited from preferential hiring, do not feel hampered by self-doubt or a loss in self-esteem). Indeed, in many cases affirmative action may actually raise the self-esteem of women and minorities by providing them with employment and opportunities for advancement. There is also evidence that affirmative action policies increase job satisfaction and organizational commitment among beneficiaries (Graves & Powell, 1994).

So, maybe it is. As a white male you are probably better qualified to talk about what a member of an ethnic or cultural minority would feel about this than a member of an ethnic or cultural minority, on the plus side.

On:

Helping students financially who have the qualities to hold a position, such as the right grades, is a good thing since they have proven their potential (as much as they can in the education system anyway) and are the likeliest bet (given the good grades) to repay the investment back through taxes in the future.

See:

Interestingly, according to the most recent report, although the Top 10% applicants had lower SAT scores than those accepted through the "classic" process, they consistently outperformed them through the freshman year, as they did the previous year. That is, the top 10% entrants did not look as good as potential students, but turned out to be better students. Which brings us back to Allan Bakke - GPA is not the only criterion for entry.

On hard work and merit.

However, it doesn't address the issue that students from lower income groups, which groups often include a disproportionate number of members of ethnic or cultural minorities, may not be in the right environment to produce the same sort of results in their SATs or A-levels as students from higher income groups, even though they would perform as well or better once they reached university. As an obvious example, a higher-income family is more likely to be able to send their child to a selective fee-paying school, which may have better facilities, smaller class sizes, a higher general academic standard and emphasis and fewer pupils with emotional or educational needs that require disproportionate amounts of tutorial attention.

Hard work in a school with modern equipment and small class sizes, surrounded by pupils who are all aiming to excel in the subject and thus seek to extract the maximum possible value from the teaching available is likely to be proportionately more useful in terms of results than hard work in an underfunded comprehensive with language issues, large class sizes, limited resources and no ability to select its pupils. Logically, therefore, a child who has both ability and works hard in the latter may have lower results than a child with the same ability and tendency for hard work, but would do just as well in a university environment. It seems therefore that you want to penalise people for being poor by demanding higher levels of ability and application than their wealthy equivalents before you let them have the financial support that would allow them to go to college before letting them into college. That's fine - it's a system that minimises risk and cost by ensuring that more people who get into college can afford to pay for college than would otherwise be the case, but it is not a very equal one, nor does it provide equality of opportunity, unless equality of opportunity is represented by a race in which both parties have equality of opportunity because both their lanes are scattered with shards of broken glass, although it just so happens that one of the runners has shoes on. If the other fellow is a good enough runner and dedicated enough, he still has a chance of winning....

Hmmm. Your arguments seem to be highlighting the advantages of some form of affirmative action for the economically or educationally disadvantaged. This is enlightening. I remain undecided, but I'm certainly seeing some coherent arguments for...

Ultimately, I feel candidates for university places should be selected on the grounds of how well the institution feels they will do at that university. That may or may not involve a number of different criteria - Allan Bakke was rejected, despite a GPA that was higher than many white men of comparable social standing who got in because it was felt he would not do well at that university. I was given a 2 "E" offer because it was felt with sufficient confidence that I would do well at the university that my A-level grades were not particularly important. There are all sorts of ways to judge potential to do well and while grades certainly figure they need not necessarily be held as absolute, without a "streamed" solution.

So:

Alternatively, I've also seen people, regardless of race, unable to get a foothold in either education or career through a lack of money (trapped in low earnings).

Has already been answered:

I'm all for increasing the opportunities for the economically disadvantaged, and also for the educationally disadvantaged.

We're not actually talking necessarily about race when we talk about affirmative action or diversity-oriented selection policies like the 10% law - nor are we necessarily talking about streams. All this has already been mentioned in this thread.

posted by tannhauser at 5:18 PM on March 18, 2005


Crikey. That was shouty. Sorry. Will try again:

If I felt my gender or social background or race would actually help me get a place, I may feel less inclined to try my best.

Well... many would say that your gender, social background and race may have already helped you in a variety of ways throughout your life to date. You don't accept this, which is entirely your right, and decline to consider any factual evidence that might affect that faith in either direction, which is also your right. As has already been said and ignored, if you assume that everything is already equal and the playing field is totally level, you are going to see affirmative action as unfair privilege that disadvantages white men. That's just how it works. As for maybe that's just me, see:

Although affirmative action may have this effect in some cases (Heilman, Simon, & Repper, 1987; Steele, 1990), interview studies and public opinion surveys suggest that such reactions are rare (Taylor, 1994). For instance, a 1995 Gallup poll asked employed Blacks and employed White women whether they had ever felt others questioned their abilities because of affirmative action (Roper Center for Public Opinion, 1995d). Nearly 90% of respondents said no (which is understandable -- after all, White men, who have traditionally benefited from preferential hiring, do not feel hampered by self-doubt or a loss in self-esteem). Indeed, in many cases affirmative action may actually raise the self-esteem of women and minorities by providing them with employment and opportunities for advancement. There is also evidence that affirmative action policies increase job satisfaction and organizational commitment among beneficiaries (Graves & Powell, 1994).

So, maybe it is. As a white male you are probably better qualified to talk about what a member of an ethnic or cultural minority would feel about this than a member of an ethnic or cultural minority, on the plus side.

On:

Helping students financially who have the qualities to hold a position, such as the right grades, is a good thing since they have proven their potential (as much as they can in the education system anyway) and are the likeliest bet (given the good grades) to repay the investment back through taxes in the future.

See:

. Interestingly, according to the most recent report, although the Top 10% applicants had lower SAT scores than those accepted through the "classic" process, they consistently outperformed them through the freshman year, as they did the previous year. That is, the top 10% entrants did not look as good as potential students, but turned out to be better students. Which brings us back to Allan Bakke - GPA is not the only criterion for entry.

On hard work and merit.

However, it doesn't address the issue that students from lower income groups, which groups often include a disproportionate number of members of ethnic or cultural minorities, may not be in the right environment to produce the same sort of results in their SATs or A-levels as students from higher income groups, even though they would perform as well or better once they reached university. As an obvious example, a higher-income family is more likely to be able to send their child to a selective fee-paying school, which may have better facilities, smaller class sizes, a higher general academic standard and emphasis and fewer pupils with emotional or educational needs that require disproportionate amounts of tutorial attention.

Hard work in a school with modern equipment and small class sizes, surrounded by pupils who are all aiming to excel in the subject and thus seek to extract the maximum possible value from the teaching available is likely to be proportionately more useful in terms of results than hard work in an underfunded comprehensive with language issues, large class sizes, limited resources and no ability to select its pupils. Logically, therefore, a child who has both ability and works hard in the latter may have lower results than a child with the same ability and tendency for hard work, but would do just as well in a university environment. It seems therefore that you want to penalise people for being poor by demanding higher levels of ability and application than their wealthy equivalents before you let them have the financial support that would allow them to go to college before letting them into college. That's fine - it's a system that minimises risk and cost by ensuring that more people who get into college can afford to pay for college than would otherwise be the case, but it is not a very equal one, nor does it provide equality of opportunity, unless equality of opportunity is represented by a race in which both parties have equality of opportunity because both their lanes are scattered with shards of broken glass, although it just so happens that one of the runners has shoes on. If the other fellow is a good enough runner and dedicated enough, he still has a chance of winning....

Hmmm. Your arguments seem to be highlighting the advantages of some form of affirmative action for the economically or educationally disadvantaged. This is enlightening. I remain undecided, but I'm certainly seeing some coherent arguments for...

Ultimately, I feel candidates for university places should be selected on the grounds of how well the institution feels they will do at that university. That may or may not involve a number of different criteria - Allan Bakke was rejected, despite a GPA that was higher than many white men of comparable social standing who got in because it was felt he would not do well at that university. I was given a 2 "E" offer because it was felt with sufficient confidence that I would do well at the university that my A-level grades were not particularly important, although had I *got* 2 Es I might have needed to explain myself. There are all sorts of ways to judge potential to do well and while grades certainly figure they need not necessarily be held as absolute, without a "streamed" solution.

So:

Alternatively, I've also seen people, regardless of race, unable to get a foothold in either education or career through a lack of money (trapped in low earnings).

Has already been answered:

I'm all for increasing the opportunities for the economically disadvantaged, and also for the educationally disadvantaged.

We're not actually talking necessarily about race when we talk about affirmative action or diversity-oriented selection policies like the 10% law - nor are we necessarily talking about streams. All this has already been mentioned in this thread.
posted by tannhauser at 6:16 PM on March 18, 2005


Well... many would say that your gender, social background and race may have already helped you in a variety of ways throughout your life to date.

I don't know - if this is the case, why (in the UK) are more girls going to university than boys (assuming the view my gender is more privileged) and in general, that boys are lagging behind girls in education? How can it be that British-Indian students outscore white students?

As has already been said and ignored, if you assume that everything is already equal and the playing field is totally level, you are going to see affirmative action as unfair privilege that disadvantages white men.

C'mon - I have said none of this. Certainly discrimination, based on race, sex and social background takes place. I said it when I agreed with y2karl just a few posts up. I simply disagree with the way affirmative action tackles the problem. There are anti-discrimination laws in place - people can put their jobs on the line if they wish to ignore these laws and turn down suitable people for positions because of some criteria that has nothing to do with their ability (and yes, there are many complaints of this, at least there are many reported in the media - I think that is a good thing).

Hard work in a school with modern equipment and small class sizes, surrounded by pupils who are all aiming to excel in the subject and thus seek to extract the maximum possible value from the teaching available is likely to be proportionately more useful in terms of results than hard work in an underfunded comprehensive with language issues, large class sizes, limited resources and no ability to select its pupils.

If this was a uniform rule (assuming it's true), my answer would be to improve the comprehensive schools - reduce class sizes, get better teachers, better materials for teaching with, and I would say that this is a good example of affirmative action treating symptoms and ignoring causes. However, I don't think it tells the whole story anyway. In the UK, A-level pass-mark rates have been increasing year-on-year, across the board. There could be many reasons for this : easier exams (many have suggested this), more diligent students, better teaching, or general change in syllabus (more focussed on course work than purely exams). Or a combination of some or all. Whatever the reason, you can't just put success or failure down to one thing, as you're suggesting.

Hmmm. Your arguments seem to be highlighting the advantages of some form of affirmative action for the economically or educationally disadvantaged. This is enlightening. I remain undecided, but I'm certainly seeing some coherent arguments for...

"Some form of...." - hmmm. Welfare <> affirmative action. For a start, welfare (which I would include to mean financially helping someone pay for their education) is there for the entire population should they need it. I can't say the same for Affirmative Action (as I have no control over who they decide is worthy of AA).

Ultimately, I feel candidates for university places should be selected on the grounds of how well the institution feels they will do at that university. That may or may not involve a number of different criteria - Allan Bakke was rejected, despite a GPA that was higher than many white men of comparable social standing who got in because it was felt he would not do well at that university. I was given a 2 "E" offer because it was felt with sufficient confidence that I would do well at the university that my A-level grades were not particularly important, although had I *got* 2 Es I might have needed to explain myself. There are all sorts of ways to judge potential to do well and while grades certainly figure they need not necessarily be held as absolute, without a "streamed" solution.

This is discrimination by merit, and there's nothing wrong with it. Judging somebody's potential, as far as I know, has nothing to do with their skin colour, gender, or social background.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 7:19 AM on March 19, 2005


But you said that grades were the only valid way to determine whether somebody should be given a place at an academic institution, didn't you? How does that square with allowing judgements based on assessments of potential to do well, which may not be reflected by grades? I am confused. If you're cool with "potential to do well"as a dominant criterion, what was the problem with Bakke?
posted by tannhauser at 4:36 PM on March 19, 2005


But you said that grades were the only valid way to determine whether somebody should be given a place at an academic institution, didn't you?

No. (read my quote on personality). Grades should be the first pass - there should be some universal, objective measure that a student can be measured by in the same way everybody else is (as I have explained). Interview determines personality, willing, motivations etc (stuff to do with content of character and all that.). Colour of skin, gender or social background should not determine whether a person can make a good (X).

I think we've burnt enough rubber in this thread. I really appreciate your time and effort here (seriously). It got heated at times but that's how longer debates happen (short of agreement!) - anyway, good on you for trying to balance out my arguments - and I tried to balance out yours - consensus not really reached on much - but anyway, I hope we end with a mutual respect - and agree to disagree. See you around the filter.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 6:19 PM on March 19, 2005


I'm not sure I follow you entirely. You said in the post you linked to that enthusiasm and demeanour were important, but:

Grades should be the first pass - there should be some universal, objective measure that a student can be measured by in the same way everybody else is (as I have explained).

Now, if we go back to Bakke, who as we have established was not selected despite having higher grades than many of the white students who were selected for the course, we note that Justice Powell observed that the chairman of the admissions committee “found Bakke ‘rather limited in his approach’ to the problems of the medical profession" and said he had "very definite opinions which were based more on his personal viewpoints than upon a study of the total problem."

That is, Bakke had less potential to succeed, in the chairman's opinion, than other students (white *and* black, with higher *and* lower grades).

Would it be the case that Bakke should have been admitted if anyone with a lower score than he had was also admitted, right? Grades being the first pass... Regardless of the qualifications of the people with a lower score, or their suitability for the course and potential for success, he can only be excluded if there are more people with his grades or higher than there are places, at which point the interview process can become a way to winnow. Or does everyone get admitted to the second round who has grades above a certain level, and then everyone is winnowed out from there according to personality and without reference to achievement? In which case one need not achieve academic results beyond a certain required level - excellence is not rewarded, and in fact could be penalised if your studies had taken time away from the development of a good demeanour. Universal grade inflation has no impact on this, if it is _universal_, although our comparatively uncomplicated system of letters makes it harder to work out who has done better than whom - maybe there's a case for introducing a more mathematically exacting standard?

The idea of selection through grades first and everything else subsequently also doesn’t seem to take into account any factors which might affect school grades but not performance at university - high class sizes is an obvious one, as is limited teaching resources, but dyslexia might be another, or a traumatic event (the death of a parent, say) during the period during which the grades were assessed. It's not judgment on merit, therefore, but judgement on grades. So:

Colour of skin, gender or social background should not determine whether a person can make a good (X).

Is a fine sentiment, but it excludes the middle "colour of skin, gender or social background, or indeed other factors may affect the conditions under which the grades that have enshrined as the non-negotiable first gateway to entrance to the mechanisms to make one a good (x) are achieved". Next question being at what point the process has to just say “stop whining and adapt”. Personally, I would agree with you that one should aim to tackle that further down in the process, through, as you say, improving conditions in state schools, and also by making young people more aware of their own possibilities and employers and academics aware of the contribution _all_ people can make to their industry. We're talking basically about social justice here, I think, which addresses race and class issues - it's notable that these days a lot of abuse is directed at people who would have been in the white tent a generation ago - Eastern European and Albanian immigrants, Romany travellers, the ubiquitous "chav". Joseph Harker says of this:

Racism is simply the sharp end of disadvantage. And since minorities in this country remain almost totally excluded from positions of power, the inequality is easy to see - it's there in black and white. Redressing this inequality means, first, treating people openly and fairly, for what they are rather than how they appear. If we can eradicate institutional racism, we will have helped to rid organisations of the old-boy network which has denied opportunities to women and many other "outsiders". If we can correct the underachievement of many inner-city black boys, then we will have found a way to improve the performance of sink-estate white kids.

If Britain can tackle the endless problems of underachievement, injustice, discrimination, inequality and alienation as they affect the minority races, then it would be well on the way to redressing the imbalances which affect the overwhelming majority - all those who in some way are excluded from the groups who hold the key to power and patronage.


Speaking _as_ the white elite, I am obviously deeply sniffy about this idea, but you can't make an omelette without dismantling some privilege once in a while.

Incidentally, your link to the Literacy Trust contains the comment:

However, a fall in achievement among Bangladeshi pupils from 33% to 30% and a below average rise in the performance of Pakistani children means the gap between the highest and lowest achieving ethnic groups has widened.

Just below the top-line statistics. As such, it might be worth all of us having a think about why this gap has widened and what might be done about it. We seem to agree that discrimination exists, but I'm not sure what you think one should _do_ about it, apart from work harder if you happen to be in a group that experiences discrimination.

Emotional involvement with the idea of affirmative action has dragged the discussion away from the broader consideration of the use of the term political correctness, which is a shame as quite a narrow bit of nation-specific social policy has obscured a much larger question about how accusations of political correctness allow the right to marshal populist positions against progressives, and that unless there is a way to challenge that the ground simply gets pushed further and further. For example, the Sun's campaign against gypsies is still going strong, and the British Conservative Party only today promised to change the law on trespass specifically to target gypsies. Funnily enough, Howard said he does not believe in "special rules for special interest groups", which has a rather familiar ring to it. Political correctness will no doubt be identified as having gone mad by lunchtime, and the idea that there may be other ways of dealing with travellers than criminal law will thus be placed under the unqualified umbrella of politically correct interference in the British way of life.

I think we've probably run out of road on affirmative action, and I hope some food for thought has been provided on both sides. It's been fun looking through the background material, and you've forced me to firm up a lot of my historical understanding of the term and its legal interpretations, for which thanks, even if I still can't work out whether it's a good thing or not. There may be some life left in the thread for other people to talk about PC, but I think it may be lain to rest...
posted by tannhauser at 4:29 AM on March 21, 2005


I'm forced to respond to your deliberate out-of-context quote . It's a bit untactful to grossly misrepresent my views considering my last post, but anyway:-

I'm not sure I follow you entirely. You said in the post you linked to that enthusiasm and demeanour were important, but:

Grades should be the first pass - there should be some universal, objective measure that a student can be measured by in the same way everybody else is (as I have explained).


If you willfully quote me out of context, you are absolutely right. However, if you simply added the next sentence to the quote, which says :-

Interview determines personality, willing, motivations etc (stuff to do with content of character and all that).

.....you would see it's an entirely consistant view (as you very well know. Why try this tactic when I'm only going to highlight it in the next post? Maybe you took my last post as an opportunity to do so).

tannhauser, of course you're free to keep making comments on this thread, but as you will have read, notwithstanding audacious misrepresentations of my posts*, I am done here.

* please don't take that as an opportunity to keep doing it though! :-)
posted by FieldingGoodney at 8:52 AM on March 21, 2005


Oh dear. I seem to have been misunderstood.

It's a consistent view in the sense of being consistently incomprehensible, which is why I asked what it meant. As far as I can tell, it could mean one of a few things. Either that one judges first by grades, and therefore that one cannot deny somebody whose grades are higher a place at University in favour of somebody else whose grades are lower (a), only determine which of the borderline cases with equal levels of achievement should be allowed in and which excluded. This would seem to be the logical conclusion to be drawn from your previous insistence on the injustice done to Bakke (because applicants of his gender, race and social status leapfrogged him despite having lower grades on the strength of personality).

Or, (b), that having grades above a certain point qualifies you to "pass the first test", after which you and all the others who pass the first test have your slates cleaned and then go through the"second pass", which is given out on the basis of personality and does not refer back to grades, which are important only in defining the group to be interviewed.

Or, (c) a hybrid whereby grades form the "first pass", and then interviews decide who will ultimately go up, taking into account their grades, so a bit of slippage on personality might be compensated for by slightly better grades.

Actually, (d) I think it goes round the other way - you have the interview and are then told what grades you will need to get onto the course, or at least you did in my day and I don't think it has changed. Therefore, from the information available from interview - predicted grades, extra-curricular activities - a hypothesis about how well the interviewee will perform as a student and what sort of allowances should be made for him or her in terms of the grades the institution would generally expect a prospective student to have to study at that university is constructed.

It's just unclear to me what you mean by "first pass" here. Is it pass as in exam, pass as in ravine, pass as in aeroplane? My incomprehension is not some sinister tactic, and I don't think such insinuations are very adult or very useful - it's simple bafflement in the face of poor expression of clear thinking or perfectly crystal expression of unclear thinking (either is fine).

Since you have ignored every source I have provided, every historical document I have cited and every commentator I have quoted, including the parts of your own citations that you did not trouble to read, and neglected every question I have raised in favour of a set of personal attacks based around an apologia for an opaquely-expressed position, I'm not entirely sure what the difference between you outside the discussion and inside the discussion is but I can see a brave new world of errata ahead of us...
posted by tannhauser at 11:40 AM on March 21, 2005


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