Talking about words and meaning | Rich Elfers

Talking about words and meaning | Rich Elfers

“Patriotically correct”? A new right-wing term to compete with the left-wing “politically correct”? Actually, no. Some Donald Trump conservatives have come up with the new catchword to describe their position. Understanding the origin of the terms can give us an insight into the thinking of some on the right in this highly-charged election year.

“Patriotically correct”? A new right-wing term to compete with the left-wing “politically correct”? Actually, no.

Some Donald Trump conservatives have come up with the new catchword to describe their position. Understanding the origin of the terms can give us an insight into the thinking of some on the right in this highly-charged election year.

The right-wing is the author of both terms. By examining this new paradigm, perhaps we can more clearly see the ideas that have spawned each.

Let us first define the term, “politically correct.” According to “Merriam Webster’s Learners’ Dictionary,” the term is defined as, “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.” A second definition offered is, “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”

The concern of those in the “politically correct” (the progressive) group is sensitivity to the feelings of minorities, whether sexual, racial or religious. Words have power and, contrary to the childhood mantra – “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” – words can and do hurt us, and others.

The phrase “politically correct” arose in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through books like Roger Kimball’s, “Tenured Radicals” and conservative author Dinesh D’Souza’s book, “Illiberal Education,” this term labeled liberals as promoting self-victimization and multiculturalism in higher education.

Conservatives, according to Will Hutton in his book, “Words Are Really Important, Mr. Blunkett,” discovered that, “by leveling the charge of ‘political correctness’ against its exponents – they could discredit the whole political project.” In other words, by making fun of “political correctness,” they could weaken the liberal argument.

To a certain extent, this strategy has worked quite effectively. Now, because of the attacks, liberals, for example, have changed their self-description to the historical term, “progressive.”

What about the new phrase, “patriotically correct?” A definition was hard to find but, according to the online Urban Dictionary, “Colin Kaepernik sitting during the national anthem as a form of protest is NOT patriotically correct.”

The Urban Dictionary defined the term as, “The way every true American citizen should speak or behave, regardless of whether they are American born or legal immigrants.”

When I did an Internet search of the term, I came up with a series of pictures and sayings about Donald Trump’s campaign. One Trump political sign says, “I may not be politically correct, I am PATRIOTICALLY CORRECT!!!” Trump’s mantras like, “Make America Great Again,” limiting the power of the press by allowing it to be sued for being too critical of political candidates – namely Donald Trump – ending globalization, setting up trade barriers to bring back American jobs, deporting illegal immigrants, being able to own assault rifles and building a wall across our southern border, all seem to fit the definition of “patriotically correct.”

“Politically correct” or “patriotically correct”? Both terms are ways of defining what is proper or improper conduct according to conservatives, especially to Trump and his supporters. Apparently, the First Amendment right of free speech does not play a part. The only patriotism that is acceptable to Trump supporters seems not much different in attitude from the political correctness label stuck upon liberals – intolerant and restrictive.

The more the right tries to portray itself in opposition to those on the left, the more similar in attitude they become.


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