How does the right win? By aping the worst habits of the left
One of the problems of war is that you inevitably come to resemble your enemy. Nowhere is this more true than in the battle of the American right, and its Australian derivatives, against the ‘politically correct’ left of the 1980s and 1990s. The PC left, never a group with much in the way of numbers or influence, have long since been routed, but they have been successful in having most of their main ideas adopted by their erstwhile foes.
First, there’s the famous obsession with ‘correct’ language. This was the subject of both justified criticism and innocent amusement when leftists tried to reclassify fat people as ‘gravitationally challenged’, and so on. But now it’s the right who are most keen on this kind of thing.
As an example, I can’t count the number of articles and blog entries I’ve read insisting that unauthorised asylum-seekers must always be called ‘illegals’. The writers, many of whom bewail declining educational standards in their spare time, don’t seem to be worried by the fact that this is an adjective masquerading as a noun. And they appear to be unaware that the same term was used in apartheid South Africa to describe people who broke the various migration and residence laws there.
The victim mentality was another unappealing feature of the postmodern left. No group, it seemed, was immune to oppression of some kind, except perhaps for dead white males. But nothing in the campaigns mounted by the left can be matched by the whininess of right-wingers (led by former whining lefty David Horowitz) complaining that they are under-represented in academic (and media) jobs. By definition, those excluded from academia must be highly educated, and in most cases therefore on above average incomes. Most likely, they have no desire to earn much lower salaries as academics. But, in the classic logic of victimology, explanations of this kind are illegitimate. If a group is under-represented in any field, discrimination is the only possible explanation.
At the same time all the old complaints about ‘hostile climates’ that were once made by lefties are now being resurrected by the right. The Florida legislature is currently debating legislation to stop biology professors hurting the feelings of creationist students by telling them their beliefs are false. And any academic who doesn’t support Ariel Sharon all the way down the line had better keep his or her mouth shut if they don’t want groups like Campus Watch on their back.
Finally, and most revealingly, there’s the postmodern disdain for objective truth. While there was a lot of evasive talk on this point, there’s no doubt that the postmodernist left was eager to cast doubt on the idea of objective truth and to argue that truth, particularly scientific truth, was a socially constructed concept.
Most of this was harmless nonsense, spouted by underemployed literary critics. But to many on the right, it seemed to spell the end of Western civilisation.
Now, however, the right has learned the lessons of postmodernism better than its proponents, who failed to make the obvious point that, if all truths are equal, the truths of those with money and power are the ones that will prevail.
There was a time when rational leftists were embarrassed by their political allies. Now, it is the minority of those on the right who still adhere to old-fashioned notions like scientific truth who have to blush constantly for the absurdities uttered on their side of the debate.