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the blog

Thursday Feb 8, 2007

Conservative Correctness

The ginned-up controversy about John Edwards' campaign bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, partly driven by Michelle Malkin, moves me to share a personal story.

As I have mentioned before, Michelle and I went to Oberlin together in the early 90s and are still friends.

Outrage against "P.C" reached a critical mass while we were there. (1990 was when Newsweek ran its "Thought Police" cover story.)

While this hysteria was way overblown nationwide, Oberlin was the kind of place where P.C. unofficially reigned. Offering a contrarian viewpoint -- especially when using bombastic language -- could lose you friends. I speak from experience, and I know Michelle has her stories too.

But of course, we all weren't even 21 then. We were all works-in-progress, learning how politics worked, trying on different styles of debate and activism, figuring out how to communicate creatively and effectively.

I'd like to think we all learned lessons from such experiences.

While I still retain my strong belief in free speech and desire for honest debate that led me to join the P.C. backlash of the day, I also realized that I had to change the way I approached politics if ever wanted to build bridges and make a positive difference.

Michelle certainly learned lessons from her time at Oberlin as well. She said on C-Span once:

I was editor of my high school newspaper, but not really politically energized yet. That happened at Oberlin. And that's where I first really encountered the vicious response you can get when you stand up to a political orthodoxy. It's an extremely liberal campus.

And even if -- even if you tread very lightly on political sacred cows, there was a huge negative response, especially from somebody who was a minority, standing up and saying, Well, all these self-appointed minority groups in campus don't speak for me.

And I think that's a theme that I've carried throughout my journalism career, and it's certainly something that's central to this book because I talk about -- in a section of the book, I talk about hate crime howlers, and there are a number of these ethnic grievance groups and pro-illegal-alien lobbying groups who -- you know, who claim to speak for all minorities and immigrants and their families in this country, with an agenda of keeping our borders as loose and open as possible.

Which is why I don't understand why Michelle has become a "hate crime howler."

Michelle is by no means alone in promoting a "Conservative Correctness" (see the War on Christmas, the Dixie Chicks, Dick Durbin's torture speech) where if you say something impolitic about the president, the war, interpretation of scripture, etc. an attempt is made to shame the speaker, pressure associates and stifle debate.

The kind of thing conservatives used to complain about. (Actually, still complain about.)

I understand why most conservatives play this game. Because to them it is a game.

Because they're hypocrites and bullies. Their interest in conjuring up a phony narrative of the nature of liberals, and the joy they derive in getting under the skin of liberals, supercedes any interest in intellectual consistency.

But I happen to know Michelle (despite what her public persona might convey) is a thoughtful person who prides intellectual consistency, to point of breaking with her conservative brethren at times.

So I don't understand.

In any event, "Conservative Correctness" should be called out for what it is. Mischief making.

For whatever excesses have occurred under the umbrella of "P.C.," at least the intentions were generally honorable -- mainly, trying to rid society of debilitating bigotry.

"Conservative Correctness" is not well intentioned. It's simply just about intimidating people who disagree with you.

And it will not end with this episode.

John Edwards should not think he can stave it off by whacking his bloggers. Other candidates should not think they can avoid it by watching their words and vetting their staffs.

Because C.C. is not guided by principle. It does not wait for an actual transgression. It is happy to selectively quote, distort and manufacture outrage.

Therefore, it is C.C. that needs to be dismissed and ignored, so our campaigns can be real debates over issues, and not a string of ridiculous distractions.

That's what the anti-P.C. crowd always wanted, right?

UPDATE: Edwards refuses to cave, keeps his bloggers. Matt Browner-Hamlin suggests next steps. And the Mahablog weighs in on the C.C. movement.

Posted by Bill Scher on Feb 8, 2007 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Elections
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