Irving Kristol famously quipped that a neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. I don’t think Jonathan Chait is quite there yet, but as the muggings continue, there is something astir:
The upsurge of political correctness is not just greasy-kid stuff, and it’s not just a bunch of weird, unfortunate events that somehow keep happening over and over. It’s the expression of a political culture with consistent norms, and philosophical premises that happen to be incompatible with liberalism. The reason every Marxist government in the history of the world turned massively repressive is not because they all had the misfortune of being hijacked by murderous thugs. It’s that the ideology itself prioritizes class justice over individual rights and makes no allowance for legitimate disagreement. (For those inclined to defend p.c. on the grounds that racism and sexism are important, bear in mind that the forms of repression Marxist government set out to eradicate were hardly imaginary.)
. . . That these activists have been able to prevail, even in the face of frequently harsh national publicity highlighting the blunt illiberalism of their methods, confirms that these incidents reflect something deeper than a series of one-off episodes. They are carrying out the ideals of a movement that regards the delegitimization of dissent as a first-order goal. People on the left need to stop evading the question of political correctness — by laughing it off as college goofs, or interrogating the motives of p.c. critics, or ignoring it — and make a decision on whether they agree with it.
The impulse toward what Chait here calls delegitimization was fine for a long time when it consisted mainly of nice white liberals such as Chait screaming “racist” every time they lost an argument to a conservative. Now that it is being used to tell white men such as Chait to pipe down, it’s a problem. Strange, that.
Also, I wonder: Is the prioritization of “class justice” over individual rights really the only — or even the main — reason for the repressiveness of Marxist governments? I’d argue that it isn’t. But, baby steps and all that.