P.C. — R.I.P.

Original Article

There should be no surprise that former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, who played a role in launching the political career of Barack Obama, was found among the street demonstrators in Chicago who succeeded in forcefully disrupting and shutting down Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s campaign rally on March 11, injuring two police officers who were trying to maintain order.

When Trump proceeded to move to his next campaign stops in Ohio the following day, he came before crowds and naturally addressed the previous night’s unfortunate descent into violence, only to experience another attempt at disruption. Four secret service agents raced to surround Trump after something was thrown and someone attempted to rush the stage. What is going on?

With provocative and occasional unrestrained rhetoric, Trump can be polarizing — sometimes inviting a raucous response. But the real problem that gave rise to Trump is intolerance and the soft tyranny of humorless political correctness that envelopes communication and culture in America.

No one wants to admit it, but the seeds of ideological control characteristic of totalitarian political regimes reside predominantly in the Democrat Party and in its liberal constituencies that dominate the knowledge, information and entertainment industries — the media, the universities, and Hollywood. And because of their leverage, these institutions have a disproportionately large effect on the population at large. Slowly, over the last few decades, but with accelerating pace in the Obama years, the soul of America has been silenced by political correctness. And the nation is weaker and more divided than ever.

It’s time to connect the dots on the growing intolerance of the political left in America. Recently, Forbes reported that of more than 400 of America’s largest and most prestigious colleges and universities, 62% percent maintain policies that restrict a substantial amount of speech protected under the First Amendment. Speech comes in many forms, but typically what is banned is student speech that “feels offensive” or “demeaning” toward groups and causes deemed politically correct.

On many campuses, students who question secular progressive orthodoxies — whether extreme environmentalism and climate change, socialist economics, multiculturalism and accommodation of illegal aliens or Islamists — fear grade penalties, harassment, and outright silencing. In effect, speech codes chill freedom of expression and the competition of ideas. Worse, it turns out that speech codes driven by political correctness foster coddled, weak-minded, and intolerant graduates — ill-equipped for employment and citizenship in the marketplace diversity of viewpoints that is the real world.

Intolerance and political correctness that has subliminally debilitated public discourse and debate has been working its way into government at an accelerated pace since Obama took office. To “fundamentally transform America,” Obama’s stated goal at the inception of taking office, his administration undertook a concerted effort to institutionalize PC in the regulation of key areas of the economy. Healthcare and banking were restructured following the passage of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, while the energy sector — which is nearly 80% fossil fuel reliant — was targeted by Obama executive orders, which were carried out by the EPA.

Even after two different court rulings slapping down Obama and halted EPA actions on emissions, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch picked up the PC mantle on energy in an unprecedented assault on First Amendment protection of speech. Two weeks ago, AG Lynch began actively exploring in conjunction with the FBI, the possibility of prosecuting so-called “climate change deniers.”

But political correctness has even more immediate and deadly consequences when it affects law enforcement, intelligence, defense, and national security.

In spite of Islamists having established an unparalleled record of terrorism — some 20,000 assaults in the name of Islam since 9/11 — the Defense Department has come under the grip of PC, which has forced military training to delink terrorism from Islam. Even after self-described “soldier of Allah” Nidal Hassan killed 13 in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting spree, the Defense Department recorded this incident as “workplace violence.” The DOD bureaucracy had almost no other choice as it was then in the midst of an ongoing purge at West Point and the Naval War College of all “vital references to Islamist ideology driving terrorism or conflating terrorism with Islam.”

The FBI followed suit in 2011 and systematically purged its counterterrorism training manuals of some 900 pages that were considered offensive to Muslims.

The 2013 Islamist Boston Marathon bombers had high-risk profiles known by law enforcement intelligence and could have been stopped, but for political correctness. The December 2, 2015 ISIS-inspired San Bernardino massacre might also have been prevented. A neighbor of the Islamist terrorist couple Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook revealed that in the weeks before the terrorist killing spree, there had been a flurry of activity at their home — with a multitude of package deliveries and Middle Eastern individuals coming and going at all hours. Yet that neighbor chose not to alert the police for fear of being labeled racist or Islamophobic.

There can be no doubt that political correctness puts lives in danger. The wonder is that PC has been in ascendance for so long, and it is an irony of history that it took an unconventional presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to break the PC glass ceiling.

Regardless of who becomes the Republican nominee, if the shield of political correctness protecting the Democrat Party can continue to be exposed and shattered, the GOP is likely to broaden its base, widen its majority, gain influence in the culture, and be more successful in foreign policy and defeating ISIS and radical Islamist jihad.

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.