But Kristian’s theory [political correctness as a positional good] also explains one aspect of political correctness: the speed at which the accepted and acceptable view moves, heading in an ever-more extreme direction.
He uses the analogy of the music fan who, once the band he’s into has been discovered by everyone else, must find some other obscure outfit as a positional good. Once a wacky idea becomes accepted, the high-status politically correct brigadier must stand out with some new area of concern; this he or she does with one of those articles or blogs in which it is argued that, while progress has been made in one particular battle against prejudice or bigotry, the real war is now against racism in food labeling or the lack of transgender dolls for my children. It doesn’t matter if the issue at hand is inconsequential or, more likely, impossible to overcome; in fact the more so, the better.
Unlike with music, however, the trend is always in one direction and there is no re-centering; it would be as if the mainstream of elite taste in music went from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath to Metallica to Slayer and onto Napalm Death.
I like Napalm Death's instrumentals, but the shouting vocals don't do anything for me.
Recentering in musical taste is a valuable corrective. For example, the Clash went to the Ramones' famous July 4, 1976 show in London and decided that they would play even faster than the Ramones, which they did on White Riot. But then what? Play even faster than White Riot? Instead, by 1979 they were doing Motown and by 1982 they were doing the Chopsticks-like Straight to Hell, which became popular a quarter century later as MIA's Paper Planes.
Politically that’s what much of the commentary in places like Slate sounds like to me – just some guy atonally screaming in my ear about some micro-injustice.
Another aspect of this mindset is the desire to punish people who have insufficiently correct views on doctrine, even if the beliefs they hold were orthodoxy ten or five years ago. I’d really like to conduct a Stanford Prison-style experiment in which people were rewarded (perhaps with a dopamine hit) for punishing those with heretical views, and to see where it led.
Heck, do the experiment without any rewards: inflicting pain on the heretical would be a reward in and of itself for a lot of people.
To make it more interesting, only people with unorthodox views on only one side of the political spectrum would be punished, to see how extreme a group would become towards the other direction in a short space of time. Soon they’d be sacking people for disagreeing with an idea that didn’t exist anywhere in the world before 2001 – oh whoops, sorry, that was real life.
My problem with the liberal-Left is not that its ideas are all bad – on a lot of things they’re right and I don’t consider myself that Right-wing [cue sarcastic laughter]. It’s just that in Britain and America the liberal-Left has had a moral monopoly for so many years that this has pushed it to some extreme positions, encouraged intolerance of other opinions, and created a large moral gulf between the rulers and the ruled. Most people would rather just listen to some Led Zeppelin.