It’s commonplace to hear liberals complain about conservatives denouncing them for being too politically correct. Usually, the classic response from the Left has to do with stressing the importance of “empathy” or “protecting marginalized people.” That’s a very Rousseauian way of thinking, common among liberals — an appeal to emotion. Recently, however, I’ve noticed leftists are taking a bit of a different path: accusing us on the political Right of engaging in safe space culture and having our own version of political correctness, calling it “conservative correctness.”
This argument is either some tenacious assertion that political correctness isn’t really a phenomenon or that the political Right has its own equivalence. It may sound reasonable, but upon further inspection, it is anything but reasonable. When one understands the origins of political correctness and its inherent relationship with left-wing politics, these arguments are clearly exposed as a deceptive attempt to both beguile and harm open debate on college campuses.
Professor Frank Ellis at the University of Sheffield noted the term “political correctness” was first used in the late 19th to the early 20th century when Vladimir Lenin began his rise to power. Ellis said that Marxist-Leninists and Maoists placed a heavy preeminence on being ideologically correct, both politically and theoretically. Essentially, a “forum for discussion,” as Ellis described it, would impede the revolutionary spirit needed to upend the social order.
Consider 20th century Europe, where the Frankfurt School was born in Germany. As pointed out by author William Lind, it was the intellectuals, such as Georg Lukacs, who believed culture needed to be rooted out before it could be replaced by a Marxist one. To do so, “critical theory” came to fruition with the goal of destroying what it perceived to be old ways of thinking.
While the Right is dedicated to authority and tradition, the Left is committed to egalitarianism by upending the social order. The upheaval of the 1960s is a perfect example. The New Left was born and its intellectuals began promoting anti-American hysteria and an all-out revolt against sexual norms. In later years, these very intellectuals would stock college campuses as professors and become the antecedents for the very people promoting multiculturalism, diversity, and “safe spaces.” Writing in Censorship: A World Encyclopedia in 2001, Robert Burt wrote that the introduction of political correctness to the American scene began with these very New Left intellectuals.
Ignoring the fact that political correctness has its origins in the Left is a way to distract against its pervasive presence at universities. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s “Disinvitation Database,” which tracks campus speakers being disinvited due to pressure from students on campus, nearly 62 percent of recorded invitations rescinded since 2000 have come from individuals on the Left.
The Washington Post published a damning piece in which it was noted that at least 76 colleges (now 80) have a list of demands to end what they believe is “structural racism.” The article also pointed out that Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight conducted analysis on the demands and found that many of them related to “increasing diversity,” as well enforcing speech codes and public apologies.
Why is it that the most prominent and expensive cases of college censorship to ensure “civility” always come about when a conservative speaker pays a visit? Cornel West or Linda Sarsour could show up and all you would need are a few police officers and someone to check event tickets. Instead, the uproar occurs when a conservative speaker comes to campus because the most egregious protests always erupt from left-wing individuals trying to enforce a heckler’s veto. In the last year alone, Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter, Charles Murray, Heather MacDonald, and Corey Lewandowski were all subject to campus visits met with vile resistance.
Instead of taking lessons from the “loving Left” on political correctness, let’s call out the troublemakers and make them acknowledge their own origins of upending the social order.
Ziyad Rahaman Azeez is recent graduate of George Washington University where he obtained a B.A. in Political Science.