Magazine article The Nation

Bush & P.C.- a Conspiracy So Immense

Magazine article The Nation

Bush & P.C.- a Conspiracy So Immense

Article excerpt

Earlier on that alarming day, May 4, that his heart started to beat faster, President Bush visited the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to give a commencement address and to attack "the notion of political correctness." Said notion, he explained, "declares certain topics off-limits, certain expressions off-limits." And "although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred," it had led to intolerance. The man who campaigned on race hate in 1988 had the impudence to declare that "political extremists roam the land, abusing the privilege of free speech, setting citizens against one another on the basis of their class or race."

With the presidential imprimatur, "political correctness" has come of age as a national bogy, following prolonged apprenticeship in the press with cover stories in Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly, New York, plus fulsome accounts in Time, Fortune, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal-the last of these giving P.C. the attention once reserved for the snail darter, the RICO law and yellow rain.

Not a bad showing for something that is largely imaginary, though in the minds of its foes it is all-pervasive, like that other exhalation of fin de siecle American paranoia, child abuse in day-care schools. And indeed the uproar over P.C. and the destructive mania about "ritual abuse" and child abuse in day care (the subject of an excellent PBS Frontline documentary on May 7) address similar terrors, about the theft of innocence, the intrusion of alien molesters into the natural rhythms of an American upbringing. The Satanists who coaxed children onto broomsticks and thence by rapid aerial locomotion to a lonely cemetery and unspeakable acts become, amongst the P.C. cohort, the heirs and assigns of St. Just or the Red Guards, tossing the Great Books of ancient wisdom on the pyres of the new intolerance. …

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