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View Full Version : Was the '80s the beginning of political correctness?



CaughtintheMiddle1990
03-22-2011, 10:46 AM
I wasn't around then, of course, but I've done some reading, and I think in SOME ways the 1980s were even more politically correct than today, and really marked the start of political correctness in this country.

You had the hysteria over games like Dungeons & Dragons, with religious groups claiming it was corrupting the very souls of the youth; You had furor over movies like Conan the Barbarian and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which led to the PG-13 rating coming out (prior to 1985 there was just G, PG, R and X); you had Tipper Gore and her cadre of Washington Moms making the case against free expression in the form of music--Almost a McCarthy-esque witch hunt about the dangerous evils of Rock and Heavy Metal music, with claims it drove teens to suicide and murder.

This was the whole "there's Satanic messages on songs if you play them backwards" era. You had some minor public hysteria in the mid-late 80s over the idea of Satanic cults and teens becoming Satanists and the idea that such cults would overcome and consume the youth and wreck havoc across the country. You had serial killers roving around the nation. And around this same time, you had the real birth of day time talk shows like Oprah and the like which daily questioned perceived social injustices and social issues in what seems today to have been kind of dramatic. You had the whole nutty Acid Rain hysteria as well as the nightmare of AIDs; Even sex became controversial and and dangerous, something to be feared. It just seems in retrospect like the mid 1980s were the era of the Moral Outcry (tm), and the birth of modern political correctness.

From what it seems, this era only lasted from around 1983-1987 or so...By the late '80s and the beginning of the '90s it seems to have tapered off and while we've had political correctness ever since, it was never quite as powerful, or openly powerful, a force as it was then IMO. I mean the '70s were pretty much an "Anything Goes" decade; Disco, Rock N' Roll, Punk, Dirty Harry, Blaxploitation films, Deep Throat; John Wayne and Westerns, Jaws and Star Wars--The '70s were the decade of decadence.

Novaheart
03-22-2011, 10:56 AM
From what it seems, this era only lasted from around 1983-1987 or so...By the late '80s and the beginning of the '90s it seems to have tapered off and while we've had political correctness ever since, it was never quite as powerful, or openly powerful, a force as it was then IMO. I mean the '70s were pretty much an "Anything Goes" decade; Disco, Rock N' Roll, Punk, Dirty Harry, Blaxploitation films, Deep Throat; John Wayne and Westerns, Jaws and Star Wars--The '70s were the decade of decadence.

I think you can find roots of PC going back decades, notably the evolution of what black people wanted to be called. Along side that, Jews went from being Jews to being Jewish people, which is one of the sillier ones but I understand the importance of adding people, which is why I always say "gay people" rather than "gays." That and I think "a gay" or "the gays" is about as stupid sounding as a normal word can be.

I would tie the rise of PC to the human potential movement. No other social engine focussed so heavily on the importance of "languaging" , not to mention verbing nouns.

Transactional Analysis probably had the most impact, followed by EST. The "hippie talk" of both of these moneymaking enterprises is now firmly rooted in our culture. They entered the national bloodstream through a perfect storm of influence: corporate yuppies, entertainers, and academia.

ETA- and therapy. Let's not forget therapy and Psychology Today magazine.

Wei Wu Wei
03-22-2011, 11:05 AM
The moral vacancy of the postmodern world has inspired a "return to the roots" movement by many people who have seen that a life with limits is more fun than a life of partying. Then, post-politics changed the left in America from anti-capitalist leftists to a bunch of politically correct liberals.


The 1980's marked the rise of the religious right. These are people who are going to freak out about anything that could be seen as sinful, from rock music to harry potter. This isn't exactly Political Correctness, it was just a result of the Republican party trying to get a reliable voting base by appealing to their most strongly held beliefs. The gay terror of the 1980's that arose out of the AIDS epidemoc spread homophobia pretty rampantly, so anything that promised to put some restraints back on the crazy society was embraced - including religious fundamentalism.

What you are thinking of political correctness has been the false rebirth liberalism. Ever since Francis Fukoyama declaired that we were at the "End of History" after the fall of the soviet union, politics came to an end.

I know you've been led to believe that socialists and communists were not big parts of this country history and if they were they were only our enemies, but that is simply not true. For a solid century, radical leftists were setting the standard out there for political activism. Since the fall of the USSR, we've been in a state of "post-politics", where everybody subconsciously accepts that the current social order is The Best Of All Possible, so that we are not supposed to talk about alternatives to capitalism.

However, since looking to alternatives to capitalism was always what fueled leftism in the United States, being in an era of post-politics where Capitalism is simply assumed to be the given order of the future has resulted in a new sort of leftism.

This new sort of leftism is post-modern multiculturalism. You know this - there is no right or wrong, racism is caused by intolerance, you cannot say your culture is superior to any other culture, ect. ect. This is kind of stupid too, even though yes it's all relative and yes there's no absolute whatever, you can't say "well they rape women and abuse children and have slavery, but that's okay because that's just their culture!" no sorry that's not okay but this here hilights the limit of multiculturalism or political correctness.

While multiculturalism does have merits and value (it is important to have diverse views and perspectives to solve problems), it is not an end in itself, however modern day liberals treat it as such.

Because modern day liberalism is in no way "political", the most they can do is cling to "identity politics", where everyone finds their little niche, (black female, hispanic gay, transwoman, moderate muslim american small business owner) and more and more their struggle is about being able to express this identity without facing "intolerance".


What I am saying is that multiculturalism and it's twin sister Political Correctness is pointless without radical leftist politics behind it, because the latter collapsed after the so called "End of History", the liberals in this countrry have been left trying to scramble for something to care about that's non-political and we get a sily PC world.


One problem is that while there are problems if cultural antagonisms, with racism, and with more, the root of this problem is not "intolerance" and the solution to this problem is not "more tolerance".

Gingersnap
03-22-2011, 12:07 PM
As Wu Wu notes, political correctness and niche identify politics go hand in hand. As Nova points out, a major shift in psychological fashion helped to legitimize a lot of the elements of identity politics. The 1980s merely saw the mainstreaming of these concepts, the concepts themselves had been around in academic circles for years.

The 1980s was by no means the peak of political correctness in this country. We haven't seen that yet. Every year sees more and more PC restriction, compulsion, and influences. In the 1980s the Democrats worried about Republicans in the bedroom but today liberal thought imposes itself everywhere from what kind of toilet you can buy to the politics of the coffee that you drink. It informs social status and peer pressure in situations ranging from the TV station you prefer to the way you handle courtship, reproduction, marriage and death.

We ain't seen nothin' yet.

Hawkgirl
03-22-2011, 12:10 PM
No, Reagan was President.

Articulate_Ape
03-22-2011, 01:09 PM
I think the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas dog and pony show was what really got the PC movement going in high gear. Since that fiasco, and journalists insisting that it's pronounced "HARE-ass-ment" not "har-ASS-ment", the whole thing spun completely out of control.

I remember telling my friends and family back in 1997 that at the rate PC was going, it was going to destroy this country as we know it. So far it looks like I was right. Everything from the language we speak to the discussions we have to books both modern and classic have been tainted with this Orwellian poison.

The only upside is that you can say the most truly horrible thing or tell the most bald-faced lie and all you have to say is, "I misspoke" and all's forgiven. That phrase has become like the PC version of SERVPRO®: Like it never even happened.

You know what I mean, you pack of filthy thieving scumbags?


Sorry, I misspoke. :p

FBIGuy
03-22-2011, 01:17 PM
I think the PC movement began when George Washington stated he was crossing the Delaware to attack the Hessians instead of calling them "those drunken, German bums."

Odysseus
03-22-2011, 02:00 PM
PC started with the New Left in the Sixties, as a means of restricting speech. As the left marched through the institutions, their ideas of political correctness marched with them. It included Orwellian attempts to neuter language or substitute euphemisms for honest expressions. Thus, one could not speak of firemen, but only firefighters. Chairman became Chairperson. Negro became Black and then Black became African American. Short became vertically challenged. Socialist became Liberal, Liberal became Progressive and all of it became Mentally Challenged, or just Retarded. The idea went mainstream during the 80s, when conservatives began to encounter the phrase more and more frequently, and fought back. Once it became public knowledge, the left tried to pretend that it was something that they had only meant ironically, but anyone whose ever had a conversation with a liberal knows better than that.

Articulate_Ape
03-22-2011, 02:18 PM
I think the PC movement began when George Washington stated he was crossing the Delaware to attack the Hessians instead of calling them "those drunken, German bums."


Heh. :D

Rebel Yell
03-22-2011, 02:46 PM
Short became vertically challenged.

Speaking of which, how is "little person" better than midget? It sounds like you should be pattin gthem on the head eveytime you say little person.

CaughtintheMiddle1990
03-22-2011, 02:51 PM
PC started with the New Left in the Sixties, as a means of restricting speech. As the left marched through the institutions, their ideas of political correctness marched with them. It included Orwellian attempts to neuter language or substitute euphemisms for honest expressions. Thus, one could not speak of firemen, but only firefighters. Chairman became Chairperson. Negro became Black and then Black became African American. Short became vertically challenged. Socialist became Liberal, Liberal became Progressive and all of it became Mentally Challenged, or just Retarded. The idea went mainstream during the 80s, when conservatives began to encounter the phrase more and more frequently, and fought back. Once it became public knowledge, the left tried to pretend that it was something that they had only meant ironically, but anyone whose ever had a conversation with a liberal knows better than that.

Liberals in the modern sense (not the 18th century sense) were called Liberals as early as the 1930s. FDR readily identified as a liberal, as did JFK. There's always been a distinction, at least in politics in general, between Socialists and Liberals. Socialists seek to create a Communist society, and thus destroy Capitalism. Liberals desired and still do to want to make Capitalism even better, to improve on it's flaws.

Socialists do often times trot themselves out as Liberals, this is true, and a a lot of the New Left was indeed friendly to Communism and Socialism. A lot of that Hippie crap was woven into that as well.

But when you compare it to the Older Left, whom the New Left sought to destroy--The lineage from Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ and Nixon--there was always a strong anti-communist stance. "Only Nixon could go to China", for example.

In fact, in some ways, President Wilson began a proto-Cold War against communism by refusing to recognize the USSR because it was Bolshevist, and he was opposed to Bolshevism, and even sent American troops to fight on the side of the whites against the Reds in the Russian Civil War. Little known historical fact.

And of course, Truman made anti-communism a matter of national policy with his doctrine of anti-communism and aiding anti-communist regimes, which was kept to more or less by every President until the USSR fell.

As to the others...I think Negro became Black because after a time, blacks were offended by the label of Negro. It had become sort of derogatory. I still use the term "mentally retarded", but I don't use it with malice like some would, or laugh at something being "retarded."

And you must remember, Political Correctness was not limited to the left. Religious Right people campaigned against things like Dungeons & Dragons in the '80s for it's perceived evil and dark influence on the youth; They also protested when Elvis thrusted his hips on TV in the '50s.

Rebel Yell
03-22-2011, 03:05 PM
I still use the term "mentally retarded", but I don't use it with malice like some would, or laugh at something being "retarded."


Dude, check the sigline.