Via Mediaite, a leftover from the weekend that’s worth your time on a slow news day. I don’t think fear of political correctness is why Hillary Clinton lost, for what it’s worth. Was Hillary any more or less PC than Obama was in 2008, when he piled up a landslide electoral college win and the largest number of votes ever received by a presidential candidate? Hillary lost because people didn’t like her. To some extent Maher is just riding one of his hobbyhorses here.
But I think he also summarizes the average person’s view of left-wing thought-policing well: “I mean, NPR will not use the term ‘homeless,’ people ‘affected by homelessness.’ I’m saying Trump people, independent people, just normal people not here on the coast hear stuff like that and they go, ‘You know what, I don’t know that much about policy, but you know, this is just too fragile. I can’t let these people in the Oval Office because they’re just too weak.’” That’s one part of it. Key to Trump’s populist charm is his DGAF attitude to progressive pieties; he’s a one-man desensitizing program for the hypersensitive. His alpha-male shtick goes hand-in-hand with it. If you’re worried that the left is too “soft,” naturally you’ll like a Republican whose obsessed with projecting his own strength and status.
But “weakness” is only half the equation. The other half is practically the opposite and is articulated in the clip below by panelist Reihan Salam, commenting on this already infamous Scott Kelly tweet:
Did not mean to offend by quoting Churchill. My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support. My point was we need to come together as one nation. We are all Americans. That should transcend partisan politics.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) October 7, 2018
Kelly didn’t apologize for quoting Churchill because he’s hypersensitive. He apologized, as Salam says, because he was afraid. Sins against progressivism, even extremely stupid ones like praising the man who led western civilization against a fascist death cult, are apt to be punished with real sanctions — social if not professional in Kelly’s case, and for many people the sanctions will be professional too. If the progressive Inquisition comes banging on your door, the easiest thing to do is confess your sins, repent, and hope they let you off with a warning. And importantly, per Salam, the rules of what is and isn’t a sin are capricious and can change very quickly. No doubt Scott Kelly was shocked to find that Churchill, of all people, is now an Enemy of Enlightenment. When some righties oppose tearing down Confederate statutes on grounds that they fear statues of Washington and Jefferson might be next, they’re, er, not just whistling dixie.
How many people are really in the progressive mob, though? Maher starts the segment by noting a recent study that showed fully 80 percent of Americans believe political correctness is a problem. That’s correct. Here it is. Note this graph in particular:
There are three shades of right-wing groups there and three shades of left-wing ones, plus a politically disengaged one. Opinions vary on how much hate speech is a problem, but even “devoted conservatives” are up around 50 percent. Virtually everyone, including two of the three liberal alignments, agrees political correctness is a problem. The only group that doesn’t? “Progressive activists,” two of whom seem to be on Maher’s panel here. Eddie Glaude makes a fair point below in noting that there’s no fixed definition of “political correctness” such that it’s easy for people of all political stripes to say they’re against it, but that cuts both ways. Certainly the average “traditional liberal” will be more comfortable with some PC measures than the “devoted conservative” will, but it’s also true that a traditional or passive liberal like Scott Kelly is apt to stumble into violations of new rules of wokeness set by progressive activists. Progressives, who dominate academia and entertainment, set the rules of this game and the rules can change at any time. No wonder other groups, including left-wing ones, don’t want to play it.
Exit question: How many “progressives” on media panels like this are actual progressives in principle and how many are merely traditional liberals or passive liberals who feel obliged to defend political correctness when pushed for precisely the reason Salam offers?