The Outstater

February 5, 2021

WE FEEL LUCKY to get through a Super Bowl these days without seeing a commercial that includes a corporate message shaming us to mind our political correctness.

The copywriters for Nike and Budweiser can say what they may but Joseph Epstein, past editor of the American Scholar, has written brilliantly about “the good intentions paving company,” a critique of the ever-expanding rules of political correctness. This particular form of idiocy has rolled over Indiana to the point that serious discussion is impossible.

Before getting into that, here is Epstein’s summary of the menace before us:

(“It) makes it impossible to tell the truth about any aspect of identity politics without being thought crude, insensitive, or downright villainous. One cannot say without being thought a homophobe that no one really knows the origin of homosexuality and that the homosexual life can be hard. One cannot counter the Black Lives Matter movement (without being thought a racist) by saying that black lives do indeed matter, which is all the more reason it is a greater tragedy that in the city of Chicago thousands of black gang members have killed other blacks while in recent years there have been vastly fewer police killings of black men and women throughout the country. Nor is one able to suggest without being thought misogynist that men do some things better than women as women do some things better than men . . . Political correctness has made conversation on any of these and many other subjects all but impossible, and in doing so has added substantially to, if not caused, resentment, anger, and divisiveness across the land.”

To revisit cases we have been following here, nobody knows whether the thousands of students from China at I.U. and Purdue, all of whom have sworn allegiance to the Communist Chinese Party, are being monitored for security concerns. Could that be because the amount of foreign tuition equals that from the state itself? Or is it because any concern would equate with racism? In either case, it begs the question of who controls our universities.

Nor will anyone ask whether the state’s recently installed first “chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer” has comments in her background that would disqualify her in regard to equity, inclusion and opportunity. The staff members in the governor’s press office aren’t returning phone calls.

And why should they? These are questions that lead nowhere anyone in officialdom wants to go. In fact, no facts are allowed today in large swaths of the public square.

It is no surprise then that approval of Congress now stands at about 10 percent; that of state legislatures cannot be much higher.

The system is broken and the electorate is suspicious. Yet, nobody who reads the daily dispatches from the Statehouse news bureaus would know that. Storylines develop suddenly only to disappear a few days later without explanation as actual events overtake them. The predictive value of journalism, essential to democracy, approaches zero.

Lawsuits, official investigations, profound inquiries and urgent demands are announced daily but nothing ever seems to happen. Nobody can be sure that some group’s sense of identity won’t be offended, throwing sound policy out the window (effective crime control being especially affected).

Meanwhile, Epstein’s reality of resentment, anger and divisiveness builds. The brows of the supposedly influential have developed odd, unattractive lines. Everybody knows this cannot continue but nobody has an idea of what to do about it — other than to repeat the mantric, factional hooey that is political correctness.

Tonight, keep your “mute” button handy. — tcl


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