Understanding Conservative Political Incorrectness

How do we understand the contemporary conservative pride in political incorrectness?

One of the core principles of contemporary conservatism today is that identity — race, gender, sexuality — should neither entitle anyone to rights, nor imprison them in an ideology. Identity, conservatives argue, is something that liberals use to create constituencies around “special rights,” rather than human rights, and to insist on sameness rather than forms of social equality that acknowledge difference. Furthermore, identity is used to police and shame, and rejection of “political correctness” had particular power in the movement to transform people whose utterances might be otherwise understood as eccentric or odd into free speech heroes.

The recent Twitterstorm over pop star Kanye West’s support for Donald Trump is one manifestation of how greeting African American conservatives with disbelief and scorn feeds conservative beliefs that liberals are not interested in rational discussions about ideas, but only controlling speech, especially the speech of traditional civil rights constituencies like women and people of color. Thus, West’s April 25th tweet that “the mob can’t make me not love” Trump, that the two were brothers who shared “dragon energy,” and that West “love[d] everyone,” caused explosions of outrage on the left that tweets by, say, Trump supporter Kid Rock, don’t produce. Speaking directly to a conservative audience, West embraced his individualism and defended his right to be black in his own way. “I don’t agree with everything anyone does,” West argued. “That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.”

Prominent women in the conservative movement see liberal feminism as the opposite of what gender equality should look like. Christina Hoff Sommers, who describes herself as an “equity feminist,” recalls the collapse of her relationship with liberal feminism as having begun at a conference panel in the 1980s, where her dissenting views caused her, in her own words, to be “excommunicated from a religion I didn’t even know existed.” Capitalizing on old stereotypes of feminists as ugly and humorless, Ann Coulter announced at #CPAC2012 that “all real females are right-wingers, and I can tell you that based on experience — and my bodyguard will back me up on this — all pretty girls are right-wingers.” And radio host Laura Ingraham, who rose to prominence as a conservative campus activist in the 1980s, has been a prominent spokesperson of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, a group that has specialized in discrediting women who speak out about sexual harassment since its inception, since the 1990s.

To read the rest of this post, published on May 9 2018 at Public Seminar, click here.

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