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Today, Mark and Steve talk about the prevailing orthodoxy of political correctness.
Mark: Hello and welcome back to the EnglishLingQ Podcast.
Mark here with Steve.
Steve: Hello, this is Steve here.
Mark: Today we thought we would talk a little bit about political correctness.
Well, I guess let’s begin with what happened to you yesterday morning.
Mark: You were reading the local newspaper.
Steve: Political correctness is a term that comes up all the time and I guess we should perhaps begin by explaining what it is.
It refers to the fact that there’s sort of a prevailing understanding that certain points of view are considered acceptable and certain points of view are not and that what is acceptable in terms of political correctness is a certain…call it liberal, call it even left-wing, call it progressive…point of view of so-called intellectuals and people who consider themselves more advanced than the average beer drinking slob.
That they have determined that this is the correct view politically and any view that sort of departs from this is not correct and you’re not allowed to express it.
Now we’re exaggerating.
Mark: But not by much.
Steve: No, but certainly it depends on where you are.
In some circles, like in the university circles, that’s very strong.
One example is I was reading in the newspaper that I read, which is called the National Post, and it’s one of the two sort of more serious newspapers in Canada…
Mark: …national newspapers.
Steve: Even compared to the local newspapers, those are the two national papers and a bit more serious…
Mark: Oh, for sure.
Steve: …less advertising, more serious articles.
The National Post is a little more conservative.
The Globe and Mail, which is the other one, is perhaps a little more…they’re both very much in the center and they have a variety of opinion.
Steve: But, if anything, the National Post is a little more conservative, The Globe and Mail is a little more liberal, so to speak.
Steve: And so there was an article on this whole global warming debate and I confess that I don’t know what the story is on global warming; I know there’s a lot of excitement about it.
There was a lot of excitement about Y2K, so it’s very easy for newspapers to create a tremendous amount of hype over these things.
But, I’m prepared to accept that if, in fact, there’s even a possibility that human beings are causing what possibly could be a disastrous thing for the world then we should do something about it.
Mark: Although, it’s no longer called global warming because, in fact, this decade temperatures have been cooling, so it’s now climate change.
Steve: Climate change.
Steve: Whatever. I don’t know what the story is, but here there’s a debate.
I open my newspaper and this one gentleman is refuting an article written by another fellow whose name is Lawrence Solomon and who has a research organization called Energy Probe.
Lawrence Solomon has raised some questions about the famous Hockey Stick Graph, which was used to explain how all of a sudden the world is getting a lot hotter like the blade on a hockey stick.
So this person whose name was Mann…Thomas Mann, Lawrence Mann, I can’t remember his name…he attacks the position of Solomon.
So I’m quite anxious to read this because I want to know, what are these positions.
He begins with saying that Lawrence Solomon has been writing in that “tabloid” the National Post.
Now a tabloid refers to a newspaper…it used to be called the Yellow Press; sensationalist newspapers typically are tabloid newspapers.
It’s the kind of newspaper that you buy to read on the bus going in to work and then you throw it away.
Typically they have a picture of a pin-up girl in a bikini and the latest gossip about movie stars, that’s what a tabloid is; the National Post is not a tabloid.
So before he gets into his subject he slams the newspaper and calls it a tabloid, which it isn’t.
Then he says this person Lawrence Solomon is in the pay of the oil industry, which, of course, I don’t know if that’s true or not.
Of course Lawrence Solomon is going to deny it, but the point is, what are your arguments?
So my point in all of this is the politically correct side of the equation — and I’ve seen this in so many instances — they don’t feel under any obligation to defend their views because the correctness of their views is a given, so all they have to do is call you names.
What doesn’t surprise me…when you said the guy’s name was Mann it sort of rung a bell for me, so I just looked him up.
Mark: In fact, he’s one of the two guys that created the Hockey Stick Graph.
Steve: Oh, okay.
Mark: Which sort of explains a lot of the vitriol he directed at that guy…
Steve: Michael Mann is his name.
Mark: …in the paper.
What’s more, from what I know about the Hockey Stick Graph, he and whoever worked together with him came up with this graph using whatever models.
It was never corroborated by any other scientific team, body or anything and was grabbed by the people putting together the Kyoto Protocol and pointed out as being this is it.
Here it is the Hockey Stick Graph.
Michael Mann says so, so it’s true.
And, in fact, there’s any number of ways to crunch the data which he used, which was, I think, incomplete as well.
I can’t remember now, but there were two Canadian scientists that published a book totally disputing his findings and saying it was never corroborated.
How can public policy be based on something that was a one off?
Obviously this guy was motivated to show that climate change was human caused and he managed to do so.
It certainly doesn’t prove anything as far as I’m concerned.
Steve: No. It may still be caused by human activity; I’m not arguing either side.
Mark: Right. But if that’s the case…
Mark: …then explain how you did it and have other people match your findings and corroborate and say, yeah, that’s exactly right, we have found the same thing and, okay, then we start to believe you.
But if it’s a one off and if you’re challenged your response is to attack the other party instead of explaining why your findings are correct, well then to my mind that totally discredits your argument.
Steve: See all this political correctness reminds me, more than anything else, of the kind of atmosphere that prevailed in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany.
Steve: I’m serious.
Steve: You know when you were a scientist there you had to come up with Nazi science, Soviet science; objectivity was frowned upon.
Steve: It was the same in Europe, I mean Copernicus or…
Steve: …they were fighting the orthodoxy of the church.
Steve: So that there is an orthodoxy.
And human beings are the same, whether they’re human beings in the 15th century, 16th century, 20th century, 21st century, there is a tendency for this kind of orthodoxy to become established.
Especially if you’re in these sort of intellectual circles, that’s what you have to kowtow to.
Another good example is they talk about dialoging now.
We don’t argue anymore, we dialogue…
Steve: …which is so ridiculous.
The idea is that we shouldn’t present our views with the idea of trying to persuade the other person.
You know we don’t do that…
Steve: …we kind of want to slide closer and closer together so that we can share either other’s views and stuff.
The whole assumption is that you have to buy into the common orthodoxy.
Steve: If I challenge the orthodoxy…there is no dialoging.
Steve: I think you’re wrong…
Steve: …for these reasons and I think I’m right for these reasons and I have no illusions that I can persuade people who believe differently and I’m quite skeptical as to the power of reason.
Like you start from a position and you try to defend it, but why shouldn’t I be free to defend it…
Steve: …to say what I want?
Mark: Because what you don’t understand is you’re wrong.
You don’t agree with me, so you’re wrong.
You don’t agree with the orthodoxy, so you’re wrong.
It’s so obvious that you’re wrong that we don’t even have to discuss it.
Steve: You know it reminds me, I was having this discussion on this List Serve, which is a community of people sending each other emails about language learning.
They were carrying on about literacy and how literacy, they said, was a social construct.
I don’t even understand what that word means.
What is a social construct?
Literacy is can you read, you know?
Steve: But, no, no, it’s a social construct and it’s connected with…this one lady, who was an American, wrote that literacy is…first of all, we have to make sure people realize that once they start to read they’re going to be inundated with propaganda in our society.
Consumerism, capitalism, it’s all bad – I’m serious – and, ultimately, literacy is connected with democracy and republicanism, she said.
Like not as in Republican Party, but republic not a monarchy, you know?
Steve: And so I wrote and I said well, no, that’s not really true.
To me, literacy is just the ability to read.
Steve: You can read the instructions on how to assemble furniture.
You can read a religious tract.
You can read the Communist Party Manifesto.
You can read whatever you want.
Steve: Reading is just the ability to read.
So she sends me a private email.
Really, you know, she says, I don’t understand.
You shouldn’t be so argumentative and you should be trying to get closer to my points of view.
So I just went back to her privately because, first of all, I have no interest in communicating with her privately and I went back and I was quite rude.
I sort of said, first of all, not everyone is an American, so whether you’re a republic or a monarchy or anything else is irrelevant to literacy.
Steve: Second of all, in fact in many cases, those countries which had very authoritarian regimes have been more successful at raising literacy levels, like in the Soviet Union, like in Cuba, like in China, more successful than in democratic countries.
There’s no relationship between democracy, being a republic and literacy; there is no necessary relationship.
I said the trouble with you is that you’re full of all the gibberish, sudo-academic nonsense that you absorb uncritically at university.
Steve: So her answer to me was, please don’t email me again.
Well, you’re the one who emailed me.
Mark: No, but that’s typical.
A lot of people, unfortunately, get brainwashed, more or less, at university by all this politically correct propaganda, for want of a better term.
I mean there is only one point of view, so it’s not surprising that university graduates come out with that point of view and if anyone disagrees then they are certainly not to be argued with or debated with, they’re to be stomped upon.
Steve: Again, on this website with all the English teachers, I mean 90% of them believe that literacy should be taught in conjunction with social change and should be taught with critical thinking, but they never say critical thinking might include the right to totally disagree with what you’re talking about and that social chance could be anything.
We can change in one direction, we can change in another and why is it the obligation of the English teacher to impose his or her social values on this poor Honduran refugee?
Mark: Fundamentally, I mean you’re to teach English.
You’re there to teach English, just teach English.
Who are you kidding?
You’re trying to brainwash people because you’re trying to protect them?
You know don’t mother these people, they’re adults, they can make their own opinions.
Mark: Just teach them the language, if that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.
Mark: That whole attitude I just don’t understand.
Steve: But it’s pervasive.
Mark: It is.
Steve: It’s pervasive in our school systems.
Mark: It’s pervasive and what’s more is we are there to protect you against the propaganda of the big business and George Bush.
Mark: So, instead of that, we’re going to brainwash you with our slant on society.
Mark: Absolutely all sides should be presented all the time.
Mark: There should be no slant of any kind, but they think it’s wrong.
Theoretically, this right-wing propaganda is being pushed at people or consumerism or whatever it is and they’re going to defend these people by pushing their own propaganda.
Steve: Exactly. That’s their agenda in life.
Mark: It’s totally hypocritical.
Steve: I mean they’re quite and perfectly entitled to have those opinions.
Steve: And, gosh, maybe their points of view, from a political perspective, make more sense than mine.
Because they have this hold over the people they’re teaching, if they present them with political opinion, social opinion, they should present them with a balanced perspective, even on environmental issues.
It is not their…you know nothing annoys me more than when I see six and seven year olds taken to a political rally.
Steve: I don’t care whether it’s the fascist league of whatever or save the whales, bomb the bombs, whatever it might be, you shouldn’t take six year olds or eight year olds.
Mark: Right. They’re not interested, really.
Steve: They don’t have an opinion of their own and if they have an opinion it’s the opinion that you fed them.
Steve: So I don’t think that’s fair. Anyway, we’re rambling here.
Mark: I mean my kids are at school here and you know the universities are particularly bad for political correctness, but so are the elementary schools and high schools.
I mean the prevailing thought is certainly politically correct and it definitely annoys me when the kids come home and our teacher said this or that about this or that political situation.
And whether I agree with them or not, that’s not the teacher’s job.
The teacher’s job is to teach Math, Reading, whatever the case may be.
You teach them how to think not what to think.
Steve: Well, you can’t even teach them how to think.
Stimulate them; tell them about things, things that are interesting.
Give them a range of things.
Steve: And the other thing they try to do at school is the, well, you know, today is our nice day or we’re going to be respectful or we’re going to be kind or whatever.
Steve: If the teacher is kind, if other people are kind, the kids pick up on this and, besides which, it’s really up to the parents to inculcate these values.
Mark: Well, for sure.
Come on, you mean that if we say this week we’re going to talk about respect that that’s going to make some kid who otherwise would walk around the playground beating other kids up is going to say, oh, this week is respect week and I’m just going to give out hugs?
I just don’t buy it.
Mark: It probably doesn’t harm the kids, but, on the other hand, that’s time they could be spending doing something useful.
That’s the part that irritates me.
Steve: Exactly. They’re far better off, vis-à-vis their future lives, to learn the skills they need.
Steve: And we’re seeing a decline in the level of our skills.
Get them reading, get them discovering the world.
They’re going to discover more reading than they are from the teacher.
Steve: The teacher’s role should be to stimulate them to go out and learn more things, not to say…anyway, we’ve rambled on here.
Mark: Yeah, for sure.
Steve: I think we’ve…
Mark: …covered this subject.
I guess the point we’re trying to make is that we wish that those who are politically correct – and that includes many in universities and schools and the media — would just be a little more open.
Be open to other points of view, debate other points of view because, unfortunately, a debate just gets stifled and the more and more a debate is stifled about…well, you name it.
It doesn’t matter which subject, the debates are stifled because if you don’t agree with the politically correct point of view not only are you obviously wrong, but you’re to be stamped out and quieted.
Steve: And you know the other thing is this sense that certain kinds of activity are morally good and others are morally bad.
Steve: So working for a nonprofit is good.
But, in fact, most of the people who work in nonprofits, who work there, who volunteer, are relatively well off in our society…
Steve: …and people who have benefited from society, in one way or another, and they’re interested in having their organization grow.
Many of the people at the senior levels of these organizations and government organizations involved with them, they’re flying off business class around the world to conferences.
They’ve got a vested interest in their little empire, which is no different from the vested interest of someone who’s peddling Coca-cola.
Mark: Or who is beating the drum for global warming.
Mark: Like I have a friend who is very much pro global warming or I don’t know if he’s pro global warming, but strongly supports it, but his livelihood depends on it.
Mark: He’s employed by the university to prepare communities in this province on how to best deal with the approaching climate change, so, yeah, he’s going to be a believer.
If climate change doesn’t happen he’s out of a job, so he’s not unbiased, not at all.
Famous environmentalists like Al Gore who made that movie…
Steve: …who won the Nobel Prize…
Mark: …he’s made a fortune off that.
Come on, I don’t believe a word he says.
Steve: Well, I don’t believe that he has any particular answers on that. Anyway…
Mark: Anyway, I think we’ve beaten this topic to death.
Steve: We’ve beat this subject to death here.
Mark: Yeah, to death.
Steve: Okay. We’re looking forward to hearing some angry response from our listeners.
Mark: Absolutely. We wish we had someone with us here who disagreed with us.
Steve: Right. We don’t let them in here.
Steve: No, no, we listen.
Mark: Anyway, we’ll talk to you again next time.
Steve: Okay, bye-bye.