Tags: The | Tyranny | Political | Correctness

The Tyranny of Political Correctness

Saturday, 07 June 2003 12:00 AM

And when we saw SARS coming we knew how bad it could get – and still might.

Political Correctness, however, blind-sided us. We had no idea how bad PC could get. In fact, at first we thought it was rather cute, like some sort of parlor game. Who could be the first in the crowd to remember to call blacks "African-Americans" and NOT to call grown women "girls."

The creep, then the trot, then the gallop, and now the icy tyranny of PC makes me feel like the victim in Edgar Allan Poe's chilling tale "The Cask of Amontillado" in which the dinner guest slowly realizes that what seemed like a silly after-dinner prank staged by his host was actually going to be the end of his life.

Not long ago I wrote an analysis of the New York Times-Jayson Blair affair in which I used the term "chimpanzify" to describe what young Mr. Blair did to the world's newspaper of record. Jayson Blair is black.

(The PC police are working on it but have so far failed to eliminate the term "black" referring to persons of color. They'd love to eliminate "black" and replace it with the unwieldy and inaccurate "African-American." Some of my best friends are white people born in South Africa and Zimbabwe who are now American citizens. Are they "African-Americans"?)

Unlike most other columns I've written, the prevailing reaction from readers this time was neither "You are monstrously wrong" or "You are civilization-savingly right."

Not at all. Instead they called me the nastiest names in the arsenal – for attacking Jayson Blair's RACE!

Get it? "African-American. Chimpanzee. A black person. An ape."

Obviously, those readers concluded I was aiming below the belt by insinuating some sort of kinship between African-Americans and chimpanzees. There was no "Hey, Farber, that was an unfortunate choice of words" or "You've been great on the race issue since junior high school." (Almost all those years on some sort of record: print, radio, causes embraced, demonstrations organized and rallies attended.)

My assailants felt no need at all to weigh possible awarding of benefit of the doubt. They gave you no benefit of any doubt in Nazi Germany if you didn't heil Hitler enthusiastically enough, and they give you none here when you carelessly allow the verbal live wires of a black person and a chimpanzee to touch one another.

(One protester asked me, "If Blair were Jewish, would you have then referred to his making the New York Times "hook-nosed?")

In point of fact I had no intention to mobilize the chimpanzee as an emblem of Blair's negritude. I chose the chimp as an emblem of comic haplessness bopping around snorting and making no sense, an image that I found an apt summation of the New York Timess' behavior in the immediate aftermath of the post-Blair revelations.

You wouldn't think that NewsMax, with its decidedly right-of-center persuasion, would normally be expected to serve as honey to PC bears, a willow tree to PC caterpillars, a sorghum to PC bees.

Before this incident I would have expected a jury of any 12 NewsMax readers to throw my "chimpanzee" case right out of court. No such luck. I may have gotten percentage-wise more denunciations for that wording at the DOW (Deck of Weasels) convention, but they certainly couldn't have been more vituperative.

Don't go pearl-diving through the NewsMax archives looking for that article with that explosive word. After the riptide of bad reaction I asked my editor to change "chimpanzify" to "ridiculize." You see, I plead guilty to a poor choice of words.

And I accuse my assailants of a poor choice of attitude. I'm grateful I have an easier time making corrections than they do.

The adventure reminded me of what should have been a tipoff to the ominous potential of PC. In the late 1970s a popular New York radio talk host was thrown off the air when a caller asked if he intended to watch the Muhammed Ali-Leon Spinks fight the next night.

"I wouldn't give a dollar to watch those two baboons fight," he replied. And that did it.

I had a talk with that abruptly-unemployed talk host. "I wasn't trying to call black boxers baboons," he lamented. "I wasn't thinking anything of the kind. I'd have said the same thing if it'd been one black and one white fighter – OR two white fighters."

I believed him. And I would have used "chimpazified" if the perpetrator had been a north Norwegian albino journalist.

Just as communism exploited the fact that a lot of workers hate the rich, PC exploits the fact that human nature instinctively chooses the most negative interpretation possible.

In other words, whosoever says a black person chimpanzified a newspaper must obviously hold black people in contempt. And whosoever calls a female over the age of 12 a girl is one of those creeps who loves nothing more than disparaging women. Case closed before it's ever even opened!

Speaking of Norway, there's a delightful little song in that lovely country that I first heard as a college student at the University of Oslo and can't quit humming and whistling to this day. That song has two sets of lyrics, one clean, the other dirty.

I noticed quickly that whenever I'd walk down the street in Norway whistling that song, the elderly women would frown and even glare at me. They ASSUMED I was whistling the DIRTY lyrics!

PC has chased us off of one ridge I defended until it became untenable. It's the word "niggardly," meaning "parsimonious; stingy." When the top white assistant of Washington's black mayor Marion Barry used that word a few years ago he was forced to apologize by an enraged black community.

I attacked him – NOT for using that word, but for apologizing. How dare we be asked to apologize for using a word that has absolutely nothingly etymologically to do with race or skin color?

I made that stance my Alamo, my Masada. And like the valiant defenders of both, I lost.

"Barry," said my closest associate and ally. "Give up. That word sounds too awful, I don't care WHAT it really means or doesn't mean. 'Niggardly' won't send mobs of people to the dictionary. It'll send them to the picket line."

And sure enough. We have now a fourth-grade teacher in Wilmington, N.C,. reprimanded for teaching her students the correct use of "niggardly." School officials said it was a non-essential word that could be highly offensive to some students.

How long can it be before somebody at a school like that is expelled for playing a dirty tune on a Jew's harp?

Barry Farber was named by Talkers magazine as one of the top 10 radio talk hosts of all time.

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And when we saw SARS coming we knew how bad it could get â€" and still might. Political Correctness, however, blind-sided us.We had no idea how bad PC could get.In fact, at first we thought it was rather cute, like some sort of parlor game.Who could be the first in the...
Saturday, 07 June 2003 12:00 AM
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