At The Guardian yesterday Arwa Mahdawi explained her theory of populist correctness which, in contrast to political correctness seen across the political spectrum, comes pretty much exclusively from the alt-right.
From the gender-neutral ashes of political correctness a new sort of PC culture has risen. You could call it populist correctness: a virulent policing of language and stifling of debate that is rapidly and perniciously insinuating itself into daily life in Trump’s America and Brexit Britain.
Stifling debate has sometimes worked to bring down a society, though one could argue that both the US and the UK have traditions of public debate that are old and deep enough to withstand some pushing from the authoritarian right. The so-called alt-right, a name chosen to obscure the white supremacy and racism, is thankfully not the entirety of the right wing; there are many on that side of the spectrum who sincerely believe in small government and big corporations as representing the salvation of us all. At the moment, though, it’s the alt-right that has the floor, and they’re not the type to relinquish the floor voluntarily. But far more of us are repelled than attracted by their presentation, and I predict that what might look solid right now will come crashing down around the players, who after all are carrying toolboxes bereft of anything other than their own egos. They are fragile and threaten unexpectedly to explode.
As well as silencing opposing opinions by branding them elitist, populist correctness works to rebrand ideas, creating a new vocabulary for a new world order. The right prides itself on being straight-talking, on calling a spade a spade, but when it comes to calling a Nazi a Nazi or a racist a racist — well then, things are more vague. They are the “alt-right”, please. Use unacceptable terminology and they will get very angry indeed.
But what’s this? I thought an easily triggered outrage button was the preserve of politically correct liberals? From the vitriol the right heaps on “sensitive snowflakes”, you’d think they have skins as thick as elephants. Far from it: nobody is offended by quite such a wide range of banal things as conservatives. Everything from insufficiently Christmassy Starbucks coffee cups to Budweiser ads to Kermit the Frog’s lack of trousers seems to cause an outpouring of outrage. And, while jokes about minorities or women may be considered just banter, don’t even try joking about white people — that’s reverse-racism! Indeed, many triggered rightwingers recently deleted their Netflix accounts in protest against a new comedy show called Dear White People.
These folks seem to need a safe space.