Der Spiegel: Has political correctness backfired in America?

posted at 3:21 pm on January 6, 2017 by Ed Morrissey

If you guess that the answer is yes, you’ve been paying attention — and so has German magazine Der Spiegel. Essayist Phillip Oehmke tries to offer a limited and historical defense for political correctness, but ends up condemning it for its descent into “hypersensitivity, feel-good oases or censorship” in the American experience. For those looking to explain Donald Trump’s surprising victory, they may want to start here:

Now, two months after the election, those looking for clues as to how Trump’s victory became possible quickly arrive at the refusal of many Trump detractors — including members of Hillary Clinton’s own campaign team — to confront the uncomfortable fact that there are legions of Trump fans all across the country. It’s almost as if, in the face of Trump, liberal America collectively retreated to a “safe space.” And when they finally resurfaced after the election, Trump had won.

They’ve been demanding it after the election, too — literally. They’ve become a kind of progressive Punxsutawney Phil, popping their heads up out of their safe spaces only to signal four more years of political winter. They want to return to the same unreality that resulted in their stunning across-the-board loss in November, a disconnect from mainstream America that has almost reached satirical heights, as Oehmke points out:

In the last decade, however, the obsession with minorities and their victimhood may have gone overboard. In a much-discussed opinion piece for the New York Times last month, Mark Lilla, a professor at Columbia University, argued that American liberalism in recent years has been seized by hysteria regarding race, gender and sexual identity. Lilla says it was a strategic error on the part of Hillary Clinton to focus her campaign so heavily on African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community and women. “The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups,” he wrote.

Even as the white working class and lower class flocked to Trump in droves, students at Oberlin were busy organizing a protest against the food served at the Afrikan Heritage House. A few students had pointed out that the dishes there were at most Westernized interpretations of the original recipes, a state of affairs which showed a lack of respect toward African traditions. This offense, too, has a term: “cultural appropriation.”

Oehmke mainly focuses on campus-related political correctness, which is easier to spot — but it only accounts for part of the progressive disconnect, and the frustration of Middle Americans with it. Still, this focus is important not just because Academia is the wellspring of obsessive political correctness, but also the presumed source for America’s future. Oehmke asks a particularly good question after noting several examples of special-snowflake eruptions:

What was going on? Where, if not here, did young men and women have the opportunity to mature into citizens, into people who could also confront unpleasant views?

Increasingly, that place has become the private-sector or military worlds, which is why so many of those in Academia resist joining either. Be sure to read it all, and consider how a magazine in Germany could have such clarity of vision about the perils of political correctness in America, and so few in our mainstream media have managed to achieve it.


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