I have often argued with conservative friends that the final ledger on political correctness wasn’t all negative. The casual racism once found in polite company, while certainly not eradicated, is almost unthinkable today. But my unilateral declaration of an end to the kulturkampf was depressingly naive. Because language cops are like pornographers: the stuff that was once seen as extreme has become quotidian, demanding that it be replaced with something even more extreme and confusing.
All of this is the unsurprising result of teaching soft-headed but well-intentioned college students that if we can control language, we can control behavior. But these handy phrases-as-argument both skirt and ultimately suffocate real debate, often demanding feelings be valued above reality (This recent Huffington Post headline says it all: “Anti-Vaccine Mom Feels Bullied”).