Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Moira Weigel on How the Right Invented Phantom Enemy of Political Correctness and Gave Us Trump (with Complicity of "Liberal" Elites)

Moira Weigel in The Guardian on how the right invented the phantom enemy of "political correctness," how leading U.S. intellectuals representing "liberal" elites have colluded with this project, and how it has given us Trump:

PC was a useful invention for the Republican right because it helped the movement to drive a wedge between working-class people and the Democrats who claimed to speak for them. "Political correctness" became a term used to drum into the public imagination the idea that there was a deep divide between the "ordinary people" and the "liberal elite", who sought to control the speech and thoughts of regular folk. Opposition to political correctness also became a way to rebrand racism in ways that were politically acceptable in the post-civil-rights era.


As Trump prepares to enter the White House, many pundits have concluded that "political correctness" fuelled the populist backlash sweeping Europe and the US. The leaders of that backlash may say so. But the truth is the opposite: those leaders understood the power that anti-political-correctness has to rally a class of voters, largely white, who are disaffected with the status quo and resentful of shifting cultural and social norms. They were not reacting to the tyranny of political correctness, nor were they returning America to a previous phase of its history. They were not taking anything back. They were wielding anti-political-correctness as a weapon, using it to forge a new political landscape and a frightening future. 
The opponents of political correctness always said they were crusaders against authoritarianism. In fact, anti-PC has paved the way for the populist authoritarianism now spreading everywhere. Trump is anti-political correctness gone mad. 

At the risk of being a broken record, let me repeat observations I've made over and over here already, as a gloss on Moira Weigel's good analysis: 

Lay Catholic intellectual leaders in the U.S., including those writing for leading "liberal" Catholic journals like Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter, have been perfectly willing to collaborate with the Republican right in this enterprise — and still are doing so, to their great discredit, following the election of Donald Trump. It is important to them to keep the Democratic party in check with rhetoric about how it is losing touch with the "real concerns" of the only kind of working-class people they envisage as real — white ones — because these Catholic intellectuals (in collusion with the U.S. Catholic bishops) want to use conservative working-class whites as a Catholic weapon against abortion, women's rights, and LGBTQ rights.

The price that lay Catholic intellectual leaders in the U.S. are willing to pay for this really toxic enterprise is to pretend that racism never figures into the worldview of idealized white working-class people, especially Catholics ones, and that discussions of racism are distasteful and should be beneath the notice of civil Catholic conversation partners as they discuss the "real" moral challenges facing our society at present. This is, of course, an exceptionally easy price for lay Catholic intellectual leaders to pay when they  remain overwhelmingly white, middle-class or affluent (and heterosexual). 

All those other groups represented by the rubrics "political correctness" or "identity politics": sorry, you have to be content to remain on the outside looking in. You're not what Catholicism is about — we white middle-class/affluent heterosexual lay Catholic leaders are the face of "real" Catholicism.

For an exceptionally ugly representation, from a Catholic right-wing perspective, of Donald Trump's triumph as a victory over "coercive liberalism" to be applauded by "pro-life Catholics, see John Haldane's latest in The Tablet. I find it hard to convey the depths of my moral revulsion at such Catholic normalizing of Trump and the people who voted for him. A man who is now actively working to dismantle healthcare coverage for millions of indigent people, to tear up social safety net programs like Medicare presented as a pro-life champion for Catholics to celebrate?

This is sickening and morally blind in the extreme. I want in no way to be identified with people like this or the leading "pro-life" journalist at National Catholic Reporter who has gloated about how Wall Street is now booming after Trump's election and the transition is going "peacefully."

This is glaring moral blindness directly related to a "pro-life" ethic that postures as respecting life but behaves in precisely the opposite way, with regard to key quality-of-life challenges facing the human community today. We must not ever let ourselves forget that the "pro-life" U.S. Catholic bishops have attacked the Affordable Care Act relentlessly, and stood by in complicit silence (when they weren't endorsing Trump outright) as this election took place. They wanted Trump in the White House.

Their attack on healthcare programs providing healthcare coverage to millions of poor Americans is scandalous beyond measure, and when/if the ACA and Medicare are abolished, the U.S. Catholic bishops should be held directly responsible for what they have done in the name of "pro-life" Christianity.

(Thanks to Jim McCrea for emailing me and others John Haldane's Tablet article.)

(Still suffering from cutfingeritis, and using a laborious hunt-and-peck system to type — so I'll be slow to reply to comments. I do appreciate your comments very much. It will take my finger some days to heal, because I sliced off a good nubbin of the middle finger of my left hand chopping potatoes the other day — the worst such kitchen accident I have ever had, which may be the universe telling me to slow down now, especially after I had just sliced into another finger of the same hand two days before, after Steve finely honed our knives last week.)

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