Political Correctness: How The Few Try To Rule Over The Many

Real democracy is not just about the rule of the majority, but the rule of rights…There isn’t really a difference in kind in what the dictators and political activist mobs are trying to do (although there is a difference in degree that is very important!).

by Thomas R. Wells at 3 Quarks Daily: The recent history of the term ‘political correctness’ and its association with the contemporary left and the tedious culture wars obscures its true character and ubiquity. Political correctness is real, significant, and arguably the dominant mode of politics since before humans could even talk. It is the few trying to rule over the many by persuading the many that they are the ones in the minority.

The goal of this form of politics is the manufacturing and maintaining of something called ‘pluralistic ignorance‘ where members of a group mistakenly believe that most other members disagree with them. As a result, a well-positioned minority is able to persuade the group as a whole of the existence of a fictitious shared consensus supporting their rule or values. Taken separately, many individuals may recognise that they don’t agree with what is being done in their name. But at the same time they believe they are the only one (or one of a very few) who think this, and so they go along with the thing they disagree with.

How is this rule of the few established and maintained? It is essential that the majority never realise that their views are in the majority, or they will withdraw the grudging allegiance on which the minority’s precarious rule relies. Therefore on certain issues, silence must fall. By one means or another, members of the majority must be dissuaded from speaking truthfully about what they believe in places where others might hear them, believe them, and say ‘Yes – me too!’ For such a cascade of personal disclosures would quickly unravel the delicate fabric of the fictional consensus.

The Emperor’s New Clothes fairy tale is a classic example of this mechanism in action. Each individual can see with their own eyes that there are no clothes. But they are persuaded that they are in the minority because everyone else publicly claims to see them. The reason they each lie is that they believe the declaration that only stupid people can’t see the emperor’s clothes. But they only believe this declaration because everyone else acts as if they can see clothes. Of course, once one person does break the silence, the collective epistemic delusion immediately collapses.

As the fairy tale makes clear, the minority needs not only to prevent the majority from revealing what they actually believe or value. They must also persuade the majority to positively believe that most people see things differently. That means that the dominant views that people hear should be the ones that suit the minority.

This can be achieved by having the minority shout louder than everyone else, until they drown out numerically superior alternative views by their sheer volume. This is what we see in social media, whose structure allows domination by minority views that represent a tiny percentage of what people actually believe, but a very large percentage of what people come to think that others in our society believe. For example, the super woke, super white ‘progressive left’ views that so dominate online politics even outside America are held by a mere 6% of Americans (Pew).

However, there is another method by which to achieve the domination of your minority’s views in public discourse. This is by credibly threatening to punish anyone who dares to express a contrary view. Hence we arrive at the familiar ‘cancel culture’ and the policing of views according to their ‘political correctness’. The disproportionate and public punishment of a few people with the wrong views serves as a sufficient example to cow everyone else into careful self-censorship, and hence ensures continued ignorance about how widely shared those views are.

In a democracy the power to cancel people is somewhat limited by civil rights, since officially people are allowed to have the wrong opinion. This means that the loud people who complain about someone expressing the wrong view on trans rights or Israel can only effectively punish those who are vulnerable to the social pressure they can muster, such as negative online attention to the organisations they work for. Woke activists can’t get Tucker Carlson canceled because he operates in an economic ecosystem immune to their threats. But they can get New York Times editors or university lecturers fired or sidelined because those people work in organisations much more sensitive to criticism from that community. Effectively, then, political correctness in a democracy consists of policing the views that may be aired within the spaces controlled by a minority group.

But political correctness is also an inherently expansionary mode of politics. This is after all a technique for enabling the rule of minorities, so the key limitation on how far it can go is not the numbers of actual supporters a view has, but the effectiveness of its supporters in preventing those who might disagree from being able to come together in organised opposition. Like gangs in a prison, there is a continuing contest between the adherents of minority views to take over new spaces, and hence to subject more people to their rule, as trans rights activists took over key parts of several countries’ medical systems, or Trump activists took over the Republican party. Also like the way prison gangs work, there is very little that a single individual can do to resist such take overs.

Outside democracies things are of course much simpler as the ruling minority has total control of the broadcast media and a free hand to terrorise its people into expressing whatever views they want to hear…

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