20 October 2016

What "Politically Correct" Really Means

"What I like about Trump," so many says, "is that he isn't politically correct. He's not afraid to say what he really means."

I've puzzled over what's meant by that. At first blush you might think they're happy to talk like an angry rapper but I know that this people don't talk like that. At second blush you might think they're happy to offend people. I think that is closer to the truth but still not really it. I've watched who they react to and who they bristle at and who they love to hear from and I think I know what "politically correct" actually means.

If you say, "Actually, you can't just say that deficit spending is bad. It really does depend. If you ....," what a lot of people hear is "I'm going to make an excuse for deficit spending ... blah blah blah blah."

What infuriates Trump delights his base. He speaks plainly about complex topics. There is a problem with terrorism? Ban Muslims. There is a problem with job creation? Build a wall. There is a problem with economic growth? Cut taxes.

It's not really that he speaks his mind. It's that he speaks so plainly people don't get lost or confused. He doesn't throw in any "if, then" statements that mark the speech of an expert but can confuse an amateur.

Why isn't simple speech politically correct? Because it makes for bad policy. You can't just "bomb the shit out of them" and expect it to result in good. Among other things, it would help to carefully define them. It would be valuable to explore other alternatives, to take care that whoever "them" is you don't indiscriminately kill their children, etc. Sloppy speech leads to bad policy in the same way that sloppy work in manufacturing or programming leads to a bad product. But Sloppy, politically incorrect speech is so much easier. It doesn't make any demands on the citizens to learn anything or to put out effort. It doesn't make any demands on them to trust experts who might talk in ways they don't quite understand. Bad policy might lead to every kind of miserable reality but it doesn't require the discomfort or hard work of thinking.

Disdain for politically correct speech means that people who are actually ignorant about policy can feel smart about it.

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