Phi Beta Cons

Measuring P.C.’s Metastasis

Donald Downs makes the important point that we higher education critics must seek ways more systematically, as opposed to anecdotally, to document our claims of the dangers that ever-increasing political correctness poses to freedom on campuses. All too accurately he also zeroes in on how p.c.’s institutionalization prevents researchers from accomplishing this:

 …many cases have taken place beneath the radar screen of public awareness…it is very possible that the [reported] cases…are merely the tip of the iceberg. But we do not know.

A colleague…said that “political correctness is not dead — it has metastasized.” If so, political correctness may no longer have to deploy public persecutions to accomplish its ends. Instead, it can rely on more subtle forces, such as changes in attitudes and the soft despotism of social and academic conformity. (Contrary to its pretensions, the modern academy is hardly immune to Tocqueville’s famous observations concerning herd instincts and the tyranny of the majority). Consistent with the metastasizing theme, the stifling of dissent might often take place inside of the smaller subunits of universities, where everyday life carries on beneath the radar screen of public knowledge. One is reminded of another Frenchman, Michel Foucault, who taught that modern power usually manifests itself in more subtle ways, in the nooks and crannies of polities and institutions rather than in the glare of the public sphere. [boldface mine]

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