The definition of ‘political correctness’ is the only thing to have been distorted in the last decade on a scale similar to that of the price of Freddos. The phrase has been promoted by aspects of the media in a way that has allowed the ‘PC Brigade’ to be stigmatised as a contingent of pedants, on a crusade for the sake of it. Such manipulation has been an intelligent move by the right-wing press, meaning that an institutionalised lament for how political correctness is ‘degrading’ our society is now synonymous with lament for whoever the media chooses; regularly ethnic minorities and certain faiths.
The ambiguity over what PC really is is astounding. One would hope when coming to University, a place of ‘intellectuals’, that such uncertainty would fade. Stumbling across the article Unnecessary political correctness replaces tolerance with intolerance in this very paper therefore served as a momentous kick in the teeth. It seems that even here, a pretentious hub of education, people are still confused. So, what on earth is political correctness?
The best answer to this I have so far come across has been provided by comedian Stewart Lee, who describes PC as: ‘An often clumsy negotiation towards a formally inclusive language’. Yes granted, ‘clumsy’. But what the ‘PC Brigade’ endeavour to do is cleanse our language of the inherent draconian-ism it naturally holds. It is an effort to encompass all cultures in a sensible way. Perhaps I am missing the point here, but does such an effort warrant the description of the ‘great cultural disease of the twenty-first century’ that it received in the previous article?
The bastion of the slogan ‘It’s political correctness gone mad’ is of course the ever-righteous Daily Mail. Members of the ‘PC Brigade’, who are so regularly hounded by the Mail, therefore achieved a smug victory in recent weeks when the Mail conceded that they had ‘got ‘Winterval’ wrong’.
For those not familiar with ‘Winterval’, this is a term that has been employed by various writers of the Daily Mail to claim in an exasperated tone: ‘You can’t even call Christmas, Christmas in some places. You have to call it Winterval so it doesn’t offend immigrants, it’s political correctness gone mad’. ‘Winterval’ therefore served as a simultaneous means of attack on the PC Brigade, and a platform for citing multiculturalism as the cause of an alleged decay in Britain. Worryingly, this myth has permeated society on a horribly successful scale, being referenced by politicians as powerful as David Cameron.
It therefore came as a much anticipated relief, when on the 8th of November, after years of using the term, this appeared in the clarifications section of the Daily Mail: ‘Winterval was the collective name for a season of public events, both religious and secular, which took place in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998. We are happy to make clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas’. Yes, Winterval was manipulated into a context sufficient for attack on whoever was deemed suitable; an insight into the motives of such papers. And no, ‘immigrants’ are not demanding that we stop calling Christmas, Christmas. Whether this apology was a last-ditch and futile attempt by the Mail to remove itself from the Naughty List for the impending Christmas, I frankly do not care. For this is an important victory to be claimed in the effort to eradicate such frightening journalism in our society that is responsible for the distortion of what political correctness is really about.