Political correctness has united us all—in hatred, says Adam Mansbach, author of Go the F*ck to Sleep. The principle of calling people by the names and pronouns that show them respect is valid, if not critical, but the term has been co-opted and re-tooled to become counterproductive to that ideal. “If you are whining about the way that political correctness and some culture of respect prevents you from being an asshole, then you’re an asshole.” What does political correctness rob you of, other than the freedom to be misogynistic, homophobic, or racist, he asks? However Mansbach is the first to acknowledge that ‘PC’ needs a re-brand, because the terminology matters, especially when it divides people against a principle that most of us would probably agree on. Adam Mansbach’s most recent book is co-authored with Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel: For This We Left Egypt?.
Adam Mansbach: You know even the term "political correctness" at this point I feel like has been compromised, has been diluted, and means different things to different people in a way that is counterproductive. I would vote to retire the term entirely. I guess where I fall is, on one hand if you are whining about the way that political correctness and some culture of respect prevents you from being an asshole, then you’re an asshole. If the political correctness of the world stops you, impinges your freedom of speech and prevention from being misogynistic, homophobic, racist—then fuck you, basically. I guess that’s ultimately where I fall on it.
I don’t really know any artists, any creative folks who feel like some restrictive culture is preventing them from doing their art, you know. The people I see are flourishing in this space. I think respect is important. I think calling people by the words and the names and the pronouns that they choose for themselves is critical. There’s no reason in any sense to do otherwise that I can think of.
But I feel like the term itself, as far back as the 90s, was being bandied about in this spirit of mockery, and I remember books being published, like “The Politically Correct Handbook” and like things that just take it to a level of absurdity.
The simple idea—that people of various marginalized discriminated against groups were claiming ownership of the words used to describe them—was taken and satirized and made absurd by the right, a group of people who are not known for their sense of humor. And it became kind of a battering ram. Like “Oh, you know, we can’t say blah, blah, blah.” And like “Well you can’t say short anymore, you have to say vertically challenged.” And it was very deliberate.
I mean it was part of the war around language which is a very critical part of political discourse. The control of terminology is really, really important in the way that people’s views are shaped. And it’s something that the right has had a lock on surprisingly for a pretty long time, you know. “Pro-life” sounds good but isn’t. But the way that the words and the phrases and the terminology shape the debate is really critical. So the term in my mind goes back to that and yeah, at this point I think we could probably put it to death and come up with something better.