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'Politically Correct' Thought Control

By David A. Plotz

WE HARVARD students like to think of ourselves as the intellectual elite, the future movers and shakers and president makers. We think we participate in vibrant, insightful debate with our classmates. We tell ourselves that our brilliant analyses of the issues will solve the world's problems in the 21st century.

What a joke.

Harvard does not have free discussion. We have liberal totalitarianism.

Every debate at Harvard must pay homage to a "politically correct" (PC) ideology. Just the expression should strike fear in the heart of free thinkers. The mere idea--even if half in jest--that there is a correct, defined political agenda that determines a person's merit is abhorrent.

And PC has created its own negation: PW. Politically wrong. If you do not agree with us, you are wrong. No matter how much you have considered the issue, you are wrong. You are wrong. This is not debate, it is totalitarianism.

Harvard's vocal left-wing publications and activist groups--notably Perspective, The Crimson, Committee on Central America (COCA), Anti-ROTC Action Committee (ARAC) and South African Solidarity Committee (SASC)--have reached virtually identical liberal conclusions on what is "correct" and have delineated the sides of campus debate in black and white.

On the one side is the "politically correct:" abortion on demand, no homophobic ROTC on campus, support for HUCTW, divestment now, U.S. out of Central America now, more minority faculty now, no more final clubs now--you've heard all this a million times.

On the other side are the ignorant, unwashed masses. Their views are wrong.

Harvard's sheeplike liberal majority is large enough and accepting enough of this PC ideology to stifle campus debate. Conservatives, creationists, fundamentalists and final club members are automatically condemned for their immorality.

The dominance of the PC is all the greater because it controls the Harvard media. With the exception of the fairly incoherent conservatism of the Salient and the white-bread blandness of The Independent, virtually every Harvard publication espouses the party line. The Crimson has been tireless and tiresome in its editorial support for every PC cause. Perspective and the Subterranean Review go one step further by adding a dash of socialism. Even when the Advocate and Padan Aram approach political issues in book reviews, they never stray far from the party line.

The result of this campus activism and media bombardment is that the only voice that gets heard at Harvard is the voice of the PC.

THE PC ideology is nauseating in its hypocrisy. Although it demands tolerance and acceptance for "alternative" political systems and social mores, the PC totalitarianism of Harvard refuses to listen to its opponents. The Perspective and The Crimson are rabid in protecting free speech rights, but they do not listen when that free speech occurs.

Students who try to argue with their PC friends about abortion are ignored: one student said that an acquaitance of his simply ended the conversation as soon as he said he opposed abortion on demand. Even in Moral Reasoning 22 ("Justice"), a class of 1000 students hissed down a student who voiced support for creationism.

Or take the ROTC debate last spring. Among members of ARAC, for example, support for the mere existence of the military was wrong. The questions of the necessity of the military and of the possibility that Harvard students could change it from within were simply irrelevant. Many of the PC ideologues dismissed the military as homophobic, sexist, racist, classist, anti-intellectual and--God Forbid!--violent. Since the military is so clearly evil, we should not pay the least attention to its supporters.

Of course more people would be offended if they listened to the arguments of the other side, but that's the point. Tolerance is not just letting homosexuals into ROTC, it is making yourself listen to someone who is PW.

Free discussion cannot exist when one side does not listen to the other. In their infinite wisdom, Harvard's liberal leaders have decided on the answers. They do not need to listen, because no one could possibly teach them anything.

THIS smugness makes the PC ideology defeat itself. By dividing the world into the correct and the wrong, PC advocates ignore many of the real issues behind campus controversies.

When was the last time you ever heard anyone discuss South Africa and Harvard without talking about divestment? Harvard could take any number of actions besides divestment to improve the situation in South Africa. What about recruiting Black South African students, or sponsoring forums for anti-apartheid activists? Instead, the PC have framed the debate so that only divestment matters; until Harvard divests, nothing else may be discussed.

Even if Harvard did a million things to help end apartheid in South Africa without divesting, the liberals would still rain condemnation on the administration for not dealing with the "real" issue.

Or consider the issue of minority faculty. Harvard protestors have been vehement in their call for more minority faculty, and savage in their attacks on the administration for not hiring minority faculty left and right. But they never bring up the fundamental issue: few minorities enter academia, so there are few minority scholars out there for Harvard to hire. The PC have limited the issue to one side: more minority faculty hiring. The rest is moot. PC causes suffer because of PC narrowmindedness.

PC TACTICS are equally self-destructive. The ideologues' shrill voices and closed ears drive away the very people that they should try to convince. They preach to the converted. Talking to those who agree with your views may be pleasant, but it does nothing to change anyone's mind.

COCA's fake draft card mailing was a great attention-getting stunt, but it offended and annoyed many who received the notices. Most of the people they sent draft cards probably agreed that American involvement in Central America is troublesome. Those who disagreed, who are the very people COCA should try to persuade, were only irritated by what they viewed as a reckless, anti-military gimmick.

Another example of the alienation of the unconverted occured during the ROTC debate last spring. At an anti-ROTC rally, a member of ARAC read a vicious ad hominem poem attacking a council member for her support of ROTC. The PC are kidding themselves if they think they can persuade the other side by scaring them or slandering them.

Because the PC totalitarianism is so strong, COCA never had to suffer for its overzealous gimmick. Being good Harvard liberals, most students still agreed with their cause, and those that did not were ignored. The point of the PC ideology is to change the world, but if the world is too offended to listen, nothing will ever happen.

HARVARD should take a lesson from John Stuart Mill. If we do not listen to abhorrent ideas, our own are valueless. They become totems that we carry around simply because everyone does. To quote a popular cliche, the essence of intellectual progress is the clash of ideas: when there is only one "correct" idea, everything stagnates in a bath of tepid, kneejerk liberalism.

I am not naive enough to think that if Harvard had a conservative campus then we would have freer debate. Every institution has its truths and standards against which everything else is measured, and as they go, PC is not bad. Imagine if our standard were football success, or keg parties, or sexual activity. I am quite sure it would be much worse than it is now.

But the situation at other schools cannot excuse the totalitarianism of the PC crowd. Until they start listening to what they don't want to hear, we will continue to have a campus devoid of debate. Passers-by Harvard Yard will just hear the sound and fury of the PC-dressed in their uniforms of ripped jeans and old plaid shirts--signifying nothing, preaching at each other about tolerance, while the PW sit in Lamont and read the National Review.

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