It has occurred to me that I don’t know what the term “politically correct” really means. Of course, I’m aware of the dictionary definition: “Conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.” That’s pretty vague.
Thus I was excited by the prospect of reading a three-part series in the Scientific American Blog Network called Decoding Trump-Mania: The Psychological Allure of Hating Political Correctness, by Melanie Tannenbaum.
In Part 1, posted August 14, 2015, she posits: “The research showing that people high in ambiguity intolerance feel so profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of uncertainty, they will often prefer a slightly negative yet certain outcome to a potentially-more-positive, uncertain one. In other words, people may find Donald Trump to be disagreeable, abrasive, or downright unlikeable. But because of his reputation for ‘telling it like it is’ and ‘being honest to a fault,’ they also feel certain that they can believe Trump when he says he’s telling the truth.”
In Part 2, posted August 15, 2015, she asks, “Given obvious flip-flops like Trump’s shifting stance on abortion” and taxing the rich, why does he still resonate? “When people say things that are non-normative, unexpected, or non-self-serving, those things are seen as more likely to be true, and outside observers are more likely to think they have a good chance of really knowing the authentic, deep-down, true personality of the person saying them. It doesn’t matter what those statements objectively are.”
In other words, if he insults Hispanics, blacks, John McCain and veterans, and Carly Fiorina and other women, and suggests he’d marry his daughter if she weren’t, well, his daughter, NO ONE would say these outrageous things if he didn’t believe them to be true.
Part 3 was supposed to come out the following day, but didn’t appear until September 8. Tannenbaum gets to the heart of my question: “When something [such as being PC] is this ambiguous, it leaves a lot of room for different subjective interpretations — what social psychologists refer to as construals. Construals, broadly, are the different ways that people perceive and understand the world around them — and these interpretations are subject to bias from anything ranging from the stimulus’s local context and environment to personal ideological biases and political affiliations.”
For instance, what is the character to the right? Seen with other letters, it’s the letter B. In a roster of numbers, it’s the number 13.
Tannenbaum takes on the conservative and liberal biases of the term, and if you read nothing else, peruse those sections. She concludes:
In the end, the fervor over political correctness seems to stem from the fact that we’re all using this phrase completely differently. But hopefully, with a little more understanding of where the “other side” is coming from — and with a little more insight into the flaws in our own logic — we can start to figure out a way to move forwards.
Which I can only hope involves removing the phrase “politically correct” from our vocabularies forever. I’m just about sick to death of it, and now we have all the proof we need that it’s too vague and subject-to-interpretation to be helpful anyway. Who’s with me?
I’m not sure she’s “proved” it, but I DO agree with her conclusion that it’s a meaningless term.
Back in June, Bill Maher predicted Donald Trump’s success.