Tag Archives: “politically correct”

Politically correct: a little history



It’s interesting and informative to remember the origins of that phrase “politically correct”, now being thrown, probably accurately, at the young student demonstrators at the University of Missouri, Yale and other campuses.

Literally, of course, the term means an attitude toward public affairs or in general human concerns that is legitimate in that it falls within a certain political framework.

It came alive in the late 1920s and 30s, used by the Soviets and their Communist allies around the world, to describe the views of certain of their followers who might differ on a number of issues.

The arch-typical example, of course, was the world renowned Spanish-French artist Pablo Picasso. Picasso, as much a commercial opportunist as a gifted original artistic thinker, signed on to Communist causes from his sinecure in the West. [It was always more convenient – and healthy – in the days of Josef Stalin’s dictatorial rule of the Soviet Union and arbiter of world Communism to support it from a safe distance.. One did not risk thereby becoming part of the terrible toll Stalin took of his domestic enemies as his ideology zigzagged according to the needs of the Kremlin’s hold on power.]

Among the many dictates for every aspect of Communist life, Stalin had proclaimed “Soviet realism” as the only norm for painting in his realm. That was a sort of poster art, less inspired but as realistic as the then contemporary Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers. Abstract art which deviated from “photographic realism” was taboo, and the product of Soviet artists who dared to stray would never see the light of day, or worst still, they might suffer for even attempting anything original.

So while the Commintern directing world Communism made maximum use of Picasso’s name to support and to recruit for every Communist initiative in the West, there had to be for more loyal members an explanation of the contradiction. It was then that the phrase “politically correct” would be introduced; it was the “but” of why a public figure could be nominally considered a loyal and faithful member of the Party even though the product for which he was famous [and useful to the Party] might stray.

So now we have come full circle. The young “revolutionaries” on the college campuses, who style themselves “leftist” [whatever that may mean in this day and age of a totally discredited Communist and socialist ideology], are politically correct. Though they call for suppression of opposition to their own catalogue of virtues – many of them acceptable to a large part of the public opinion, as for example, anti-racism – it is “politically correct”. That is, it is politically correct to suppress free speech, one of the essentials of the democratic tradition and our own contemporary freedom, if it is in the pursuit of what they consider unassailable noble ambitions.

Liberty and freedom of expression have always been extremely vulnerable in any society. Their defense requires a subtlety far beyond being politically correct. The quote [falsely attributed to Voltaire but much older and anonymous] has to be our guide: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it:”

Our young self-proclaimed idealists are far from understanding, appreciating and implementing this basic demand for human liberty. It is a tragic comment on our times that the university, which is supposed to be the heart of free discussion and exchange of ideas, should be a vulnerable battleground for this old and battleworn principle. And it is well to remind the more vociferous that they are as wrong as their Communist forbears who invented the term politically correct to camouflage their destructive machinations of idealism for totalitarian purposes.



It is not the first time leaders of the civilized world have had to cope with a slide into barbarism which not only threatens international peace and stability but the very foundations of modern morality. Nor is it the first time that American leadership has been reluctant to take on the task of halting the destructive force.

The horrendous beliefs and actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now styling itself as a Caliphate or the Islamic State, is almost  nihilistic as they persecute and kill Muslims — whom they regard as renegade — as well as Christians and Yadizi.

At the same time, we are witnessing another failure of American leadership to seize the issue and pursue it with maximum force. As part of the reluctance of the current American administration to recognize the continuing threat of Islamic extremism, it has historical analogies. It recalls the 1930s-40s’ determined obliviousness to the rise of Hitler and his destruction of European Jewry and the death of millions of Polish and Russian civilians, as well as more recent failures to cope with Kosovo or Rwanda massacres until they reached their zenith.

It is in the nature of ordered societies with democratic traditions to fail to comprehend the abilities and the growth of the enemy. Too often they “project”, as the Freudians would have it, their own beliefs and modus operandi on the competitor or enemy. [Pres. Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry keep up an infernal litany about how Russia’s Vladimir Putin is mistaken in not applying the new norms of international conduct. That’s as though Putin does not know he is challenging what he sees as their restrictions on his behavior.]

In the current scene in Iraq-Syria-Gaza, with the Obama Administration reluctance to be involved, taking halfway measures, using the camouflage of partially effective humanitarian relief, the unfolding events are all too historically typical. Local beheadings, burial alive of victims, recruitment of young psychopaths is all too typical of recent events in the region.

But the threat is of a larger character and as dire as that posed by Fascism and Communism in the 20th century. For this squalid fanaticism is cloaked in the rationalization that it is based or lives in one of the major religious groups, Islam, with its more than 1.3 billion nominal adherents around the world, in a dozen different cultures. This particular evil, Islamic terrorism, despite the President’s professions of victory, is on the rise and spreading throughout the Muslim world at a rapid pace, even acquiring converts in the democratic societies.

The Obama Administration’s obfuscation of events is further obscured by the current intellectual climate in the U.S. with its enormous influence on world culture. It starts with the whole PC concept, the idea of what is “politically correct” – rationalizing group thinking which abhors and rejects criticism of its basic assumptions. [That speaker in opposition are denied their right to platforms in our most prestigious universities is an affront to the whole tradition of Western discourse and civilization.]

They include the notion that violence and counter-violence are no longer part of the human condition even though daily confronted with evidence to the contrary. Or they may include false definitions of what is Islam and the history of that religion and its more aggressive tendencies for the last 1600 years. It’s no wonder that the nomenclature for “politically correct” – if not its essence – arose among the Communists who were prepared to accept the adherence of important names in the arts and other celebrities so long as they called themselves Communists and echoed its political line even if they affronted some of its fundamental beliefs. [Picasso was the archetypical example.]

A corollary in the general PC agenda is the ability – and the irony — of the Islamicists to deflect criticism and action by their appeal to religious tolerance, now accepted in the Western world for several centuries. Radical Islam has the option, according to some twisted Muslim doctrines, to lie and practice deceit if it is in the promotion of Islamic conquest and conversion. The enemies of the whole American system of civil institutions among the jihadists, therefore, are able to exploit the accusation of “Islamaphobia” to prohibit an open and vigorous debate over the fundamentals of Islam and its relation to this generation of radicals and jihadists and other religions and cultures. This is coupled alas! with less than a hearty chorus of denunciation and avoidance of the jihadists by leaders of Muslim institutions of higher learning and its “clergy”. On the other hand, the fanatic jihadist preachers have full rein to all the avenues of publicity and propagation and recruitment including the new social media.

The second failure of logic — and thereby action — comes out of a false concept of deep intellectual thought which places our leadership above the everyday reactions of individuals. A superficial knowledge of history and application of a secular morality permits large sections of the American elite including the Washington bureaucracy to believe it understands the vast complication of issues thus permitting it to rise above them. By “understanding” all sides of the issues, it argues, it is able to take more judicious positions. That results in false “parities”.[The less than competent Ukrainian state is as “guilty” as their Russian-sponsored domestic enemies; because the Israelis spend their resources and effort on defending their population and therefore reduce casualties; they are on the same footing as Hamas “rising up against its restrictions” and suffering heavy casualties, the Moslem Brotherhood’s professions of commitment to democratic values make them the equal of Egypt’s military dictatorship trying to rescue a nation-state from chaos and poverty; Japan’s remilitarization in the face of a North Korea and Chinese Communist threat puts it on a par with Beijing’s outrageous territorial claims, etc., etc.]

This moral and intellectual ambiguity leads to a failing strategy.

It ignores the well known fact that once engaged in battle, the vagaries of warfare make the outcome always dubious, despite obvious seeming disparities of weaponry. Famous battles throughout history have often, if not mostly, been decided by narrow margins of victory, often later disguised by facile historians with a straight-line backward projection to decision-making. [The Greeks did lose against superior Persian numbers and weaponry at Thermopylae but prepared the victory at Plataea.]

Therefore, “a measured response” in Iraq-Syria now is as likely to fail as those calculated responses led to the Korean stalemate and the final political defeat in Vietnam.

But this time the stakes may be greater for the insidious infection of jihadist conflict is universal, growing, and destined to be with the world for a generation at least. Then, of course, since nothing succeeds like success, the future depends on whether the U.S. and its allies throughout the civilized world can give the jihadists a knockout blow somewhere on the many fronts of the conflict – not excluding the ISIL as a primary target.


Obamacare is politically correct


One of the marvels this amateur historian has found musing over intellectual trends through a long life is how concepts float back and forth, as often as not taking on new meaning about which their contemporary utilizers haven’t a clue.

An interesting example: Back in the early 1930s, worldwide Communism had a serious dilemma. It wanted to exploit well-known adherents, especially in the non-Soviet world. But some of these brightest stars were artists or intellectuals whose work was anathema to Josef Stalin, the monster who had taken over the Soviet Union. Zigzagging intellectually, with the Moscow Trials Stalin had finished off rivals as “saboteurs” and “foreign agents”. The incredible complexity of this travesty was best illustrated in Arthur Koestler’s roman a clé, Darkness at Noon, about victims who remained loyal to “the movement” to their bitter end.

During his long reign, Stalin’s slightest whim became the order of the day. His prejudices on any issue replaced the early revolutionaries’ wildly gyrating experimentation. That intellectual ferment was something; again, they had inherited, even from the tyrannical Tsars, but Stalin called a halt to anything but his “Party line”.

Still, a quintessential instance of Moscow’s problem was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz Picasso. A virtual lifelong émigré, especially after the defeat of his [adoptive] Catalan nationalist comrades, and their allies, the Republicans, in the Spanish Civil War [1936-39], Picasso dominated world plastic arts for a good part of the 20th century. But whatever else Picasso was, he was an incredible innovator. His unparalleled profusion [50,000 items or more] of painting, sculpture, ceramics, drawings and prints made him an enormous celebrity. But after an initial youthful period of “academic realism”, Picasso’s creations were anything but “realistic”.

Stalin, on the other hand, anointing himself as an art critic as well as the high panjameter of everything else, only accepted “realistic” painting, ironically the sort Americans were to honor in Norman Rockwell. So “Soviet realism” was the order of the day through his years as supremo.

Picasso, in Paris’ Bohemian art world, like so many other interwar artists and intellectuals, drifted into Communism. Whatever Moscow’s political “line”, no matter its incredible turns and inconsistencies, he remained a loyal member of the French Party.

Moscow’s conundrum was how to reconcile using this incredibly valuable weapon, Picasso’s popularity, in the war against Western democracy, particularly during the post-World War II Cold War, yet alongside Stalin’s “Soviet realism”? [That even reached into music where the Soviet’s most talented composer, Dimitri Shostakovich, “disappeared” for a time, a victim of Stalin’s ire against innovation.]

For the Communists, Picasso was too valuable a propaganda commodity to be trashed.  Even when they wandered off the reservation with their work as did Picasso and other vedettes [for example, British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell], they followed the world Communist movement’s general instruction.

            That’s how, in the fullness of time, one of the world’s most successful propaganda campaigns got a gigantic boost. Picasso’s father, José Ruiz Blasco, an art teacher and painter himself, was a passionate bird lover, particularly of doves and pigeons, and passed this sensitivity on to his son. So in 1949 after Picasso’s reputation as an artist – and a Communist – was long established, Louis Aragon, a more disciplined if inferior French Communist journalist and poet, went begging. He was looking for a symbol for one of the endless Communist “peace” conferences advocating unilateral Western disarmament. Picasso offered a lithograph of a Milano dove which the artist later simplified into a line drawing

That little dove became universally iconic, the Communist symbol for its on-and-off “peace campaign”. On and off, because after the 1939 Nazi attack resulting in the third Polish partition between the two totalitarian powers, World War II, was “an imperialist struggle” which good Communists should eschew. But when Hitler smashed the September 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact two years later attacking the Soviets with his Operation Barbarosa, the same war became a crusade to save “the Socialist motherland”

Meanwhile, Picasso, whatever his politics, had a certain artistic integrity. Of Aragon’s choice, he said: “The poor man!  He doesn’t know anything about pigeons! And as for the gentle dove, what a myth that is!  They’re very cruel.  I had some here and they pecked a poor little pigeon to death because they didn’t like it. They pecked its eyes out, then pulled it to pieces. It was horrible.  How’s that for a symbol of Peace? “

How, then, were the Communists to cover all these indiscretions, contradictions and outright lies? Always inventive, clandestinely swapping propaganda tricks with their arch-rival Hitler’s genius propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, Moscow came up with a dodge. Picasso – as with similar problematic stars of the Western Communist world – however much through their work or thought defying Stalin’s peccadilloes, were to be labeled acceptable. These luminaries became Communist tools. [Vladimir Lenin, Stalin’s predecessor and mentor, called them nash — “ours” — and others in the Italian Communist hierarchy called them “useful idiots”.] They were excused from the Party’s full panoply of “discipline”, dubbed by Moscow as “politically correct.” For whatever their indiscretions, they were loyal to “the cause”.


Obama energy strategy: one part black magic, two parts propaganda

Again, and again, we must return to energy, the mother’s milk of the economy where the Obama Administration’s ham-fisted tactics are strangling the baby of recovery in the crib.

In his June 29th press conference, the President again singled out rebates to push U.S. fossil fuel production in his demand for tax increases for an economy already threatened by double-dip recession. The proposal compounds regulatory mischief: blocking oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico while Chinese and other foreign companies drill off Cuba almost within sight of Florida beaches, forfeiting 250,000 jobs. “Regs” threaten West Texas fields contributing 20% of U.S. new production because of an obscure lizard. The White House dallies over a pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands crude to Texas refineries. While Moscow pushes Arctic prospecting, Juneau can’t get Washington to open up 14.7 million acres of state land with the critical Alaskan pipeline faltering from declining throughput.

Mr. Obama’s token strategic oil release – into the international crude pool rather than reducing U.S. pump prices – was one more feint in Mr.

Obama’s ideological war on fossil fuels. [Never mind ignoring the reserve’s national defense character; it was never meant as a price instrument – nor political toy.]

All this is done under the rubric of protecting the environment. “Junk science”, as many highly qualified skeptics believe, may underpin claims fossil fuels consumption decisively impacts climate change. It will take decades to know, given our shallow data for changing climate through the ages.

But “junk economics” is all too evident in the Administration’s energy strategies. Granted, impediments to cheap energy were inherited from previous governments and imperfect markets. But Mr. Obama’s drive for “renewable sources” mimics earlier Carter Administration’s abandoned “alternative energy” skeletons still littering the landscape.

Mr. Obama’s wind power subsides are indeed producing jobs – for China and Spain – with transferred American companies’ technology. Chinese windmills and solar panels are exported to the U.S., often replacing American manufacture.

The vignette of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger entertaining the possibility of Chinese “high-speed rail” proposals with federal stimulus funds – just before California all but bankrupted — is quintessential of a mind set. High salaried propagandists for tax free non-governmental organizations [NGOs] promote “the environment” through advocacy of “mass transit”, citing China’s example. They fail to note deficit-ridden Chinese government railways – whose two top executives recently were arrested for stealing tens of millions – blackmailed European and U.S. companies for technology transfers in exchange for a phantom Chinese market. Now Beijing attempts exports while their own projects operate with anemic passenger loads — at lower speeds because of faulty engineering. The misrepresentation is all too typical of limitless, mindless propaganda pumped out on a daily basis, for example on that other Washington subsidized enterprise, National Public Radio, by the Obama cheering section.

In fact, a whole new era in fossil fuels is beginning. So-called “peak oil”, the crisis posited when diminishing reserves supposedly would meet rising consumption, has vanished. New vistas have developed worldwide with expanding deep-water drilling technology – a Norwegian billion-dollar floating platform in deep water off Rio de Janeiro, a good example. New fields await discovery in our own Gulf of Mexico – the less than cataclysmic British Petroleum oil spill notwithstanding. Recovering Iraq with the world’s second largest reserves, many yet untapped, is returning with 10 million barrels a day.

Even more spectacular, a new era for natural gas suddenly has emerged with new technology exploiting vast shale reserves lying deep below rock formations in a dozen countries, not the least the U.S. [An ironic comment on priorities: Beijing is investing government billions into American companies to get at that technology.] Of course, there already has been a half-baked university “study” by enviromentalistas arguing “fracking” – the process of getting at that gas – would poison ground drinking water. The study produces not a single instance nor does it explain the risk with most such deposits lying well below aquifers.

“Politically correct” spokesmen and the mainstream media promise black magic energy solutions, for example, electric cars, ignoring almost three quarters of our electricity for recharging batteries is met with coal and gas – much less the enormous costs and problems of grid expansion required for a massive changeover.

This conjuror’s trick has gone wrong; Mr. Obama is actually cutting the beautiful young lady in half as he cripples the energy sector.