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PC: causes, symptoms, and treatments

August 25, 2016

Donald Trump has a number of pet peeves, real or adopted, that he has articulated (using the term loosely here) during the current presidential campaign. One of them is political correctness, which is enjoying a revival as a discussion topic due to the Republican nominee’s focus (again, loose usage) on the issue.

Since conservatives want to treat PC like a disease, it may be helpful for the purposes of this discussion to use the paradigm of epidemiology to organize my observations on this understandably volatile topic.

Definition

Political correctness is the display or attempted display of sensitivity toward marginalized groups by steering clear of offensive labels, descriptions, or implications in one’s speech and actions. An act may be described as offensive due to its pejorative, stereotypical, or subhuman descriptive content, or it may be an act that communicates a generalization about a marginalized group.

The immediate question regarding this definition that presents itself is why PC is presented here as a disorder. The answer is far from exact or satisfying, but it relates to a perception of excess. Notably, other activities or actions performed to excess are re-classified into disorders such as compulsions or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Oddly, political correctness, when diagnosed, is taken as its own unique disorder, regardless of degree. Hmm.

Symptoms

The most common symptom across all types of political correctness is empathetic outbursts. These may manifest as correcting another’s speech or actions, or pointing out potentially hurtful messages or labels.

Other symptoms, which usually co-exist with these outbursts, include thinking outside of one’s personal experience, and chronic identification with marginalized groups. These congruent symptoms may culminate in an inflamed liberal political outlook.

It must be noted that actual members of marginalized groups are not classified as politically correct when they point out hurtful comments or actions directed toward their own identities. They are simply complaining and making excuses. (Please see entry for “hypochondria.”)

Causes

Political correctness is either contracted communicably or it is self-inflicted.

When contracted communicably, it is the result of exposure to other politically correct individuals who present the core ideas of the disorder in a rational and/or persuasive manner and pass it along to the affected individual.

When self-inflicted, it is the result of one’s own rational thought and inherent, although sometimes dormant, sense of empathy.

Risk Factors

There is no consensus on the risk factors for PC behavior. Growing up in a diverse environment involving contact with marginalized populations is often cited, but some individuals develop the disorder without a high degree of heterogeneity in their environment.

A controversial theory links political correctness to intelligence.

Treatments

There is no known cure for political correctness. As has been cited by folk wisdom, once one’s mind is open, everything can, in fact, fall out. The pervasive human predilection toward empathy also reinforces the often irreversible impact of political correctness.

The most potent treatment is recruitment into white nationalist groups or other such bastions of homogeneity that seek to reinforce identities that are already central or predominant in the individual’s social context. (Some people are saying that Donald Trump’s rallies are anti-PC-geared events using this treatment method. I don’t know… you tell me.)

Secondary treatments include verbal harassment by conservatives, shaming by one’s overbearing mouth-breathing uncle, and large doses of Fox News coverage.

Prevention

Planting one’s head in the sand and operating in a world devoid of context and nuance have proven to be invaluable tools in the prevention of political correctness.

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