Pages:10 (3132 words)
When Donald Trump launched campaigns for the highest seat in the land, most people – including most political analysts – did not believe he stood a chance. Here was a billionaire known for his brash language and liking for controversy. His role as a reality TV show host made him especially unqualified for politics. Due to the constant need to balance the interests of various stakeholders and ensure that no constituency feels aggrieved, politicians are largely expected to thrive on political correctness. On the other hand, TV show business thrives on controversy and suspense. As a reality TV show host, trump was all business and his direct and no-holds-bared approach endeared him to millions of viewers from across the world. He was uniquely qualified for showbiz, and not politics. In simple terms, here was an individual whose public life revolved around models, buildings, and whose language was for the most part brutally honest or impolite if you may. His disposition, to some, was ‘unpresidential’. However, this inexperienced political new-entrant ended up beating seasoned politicians – with the first surprise coming in the primaries where he managed to clobber a total of 16 seasoned GOP candidates. Later on, he managed to outmaneuver the Hillary Clinton political machinery and clinched the presidency. Today, he continues to confound both friend and foe. Trump’s ascent to the presidency – against all odds and expectations – gives rise to the question: are we in the middle of a cultural revolt against a concept that has all along defined the world of politics – political correctness? If the answer to this question is indeed yes, how did we find ourselves here and what are the consequences?
From the onset, it is important to note that according to Mooney and Evans (2015), political correctness could be defined as the utilization of language in a way that is neither demeaning, nor discriminatory. Thus, from a generalized perspective, political incorrectness could be inclusive of all the measures, policies, as well as language that could be deemed offensive or disadvantageous to a certain constituency. This text largely focuses on the linguistic aspect of political correctness. When an individual says something that could be deemed wise from a political perspective, then such an individual can be said to be politically incorrect. However, it should be noted that from a linguistic point of view, political correctness remains a contentious issue. This is more so the case given that, as the NPR (2016) observes, it pits the concepts of inclusion as well as civility against free choice and free speech. As a matter of fact, Donald Trump has brought this issue up in one of his past rallies. In an August 2015 ‘Meet the Press’ appearance, Trump complained that the culture of political correctness was suffocating free speech (Morini, 2020). In his opinion, one could not say anything without the fear of opponents finding a way of turning it around and misrepresenting what was said. According to some, like Marron (2019), political correctness is responsible of an extremely restrictive socio-political environment. According to the author, prior to Trump (and to some extent even presently), it had become a norm for national interests as well as common sense and truth to be suppressed in an attempt to promote or even advance ideals closely linked to equality and diversity. It therefore follows that as per this school of thought, political correctness not only threatens the safety and wellbeing of individual citizens, but also that of the entire nation. Marron (2019) is of the opinion that political correctness stifles self-expression. This, according to the author, is more so the case given that it enforces on us a duty to not offend other people – often at the expense of truth and honesty.
The problem, however, is that free speech does not have clearly defined boundaries. Indeed, free speech could easily be used as a cover for hate speech - and herein lies the problem. Also, the assertion made by Marron (2019) that political correctness gets in the way of free speech appears to suggest that people have a right to offend. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Otherwise, we would not be having libel law. Regardless, Conway (2020) is of the opinion that deep inside, people do not like being barred from expressing their deepest feelings. To a large extent, when feelings become entrenched, their expressive format becomes an ideology – especially when there is general consensus among the masses. This perspective ushers us into the realm of ideology. In essence, Donald Trump’s political incorrectness stance cannot be divorced from the concept of ideology. It is important to note that according to Kress and Hodge (as cited in Mooney and Evans, 2015), ideology could simply be defined as a set of ideals or ideas whose organization is from a well-defined perspective. Thus, if Conway’s assertion that people do not like being barred from expressing themselves is true, then the contemporary norms of political incorrectness could be identified as a well-entrenched ideology whose crusader is none other than Donald Trump. The President could essentially be an outlet through which deeply held ideologies are coming to the fore. It is on this basis that we, as has been highlighted elsewhere in tis text, are seeing increased normalization of sentiments that could have been considered outrageous and unacceptable two or three decades ago. It is not mandatory for an ideology to be expressly stated or even mouthed. Indeed, there are many of us who keep some specific points of views from our peers (or from the outside world) if the said viewpoints do not have popular support. This effectively explains the reason as to why Trump often ends up performing better even in those scenarios where popular polls have written him off.
In an attempt to win votes, many politicians deliberately preach impossibilities and market falsehoods. Listening to some, you would think they live in an alternate reality – different…
…and insensitive to some. Apparently, several studies have been conducted in an attempt to unravel why politically incorrect language appeals to some voters. In one such study, it was found out that politically authentic language was synonymous with authentic language to some (Travers, 2020). This is to say that when communicators use language that could be classified as being politically incorrect, as President Trump has done on numerous occasions, a section of the audience perceives this to be a seal of authenticity and honesty. According to Travers (2019), the authors of the said study came to the conclusion that whereas political correctness remained a standard of normal political discourse in America, and in most developed countries, politically incorrect language had the greatest impact in as far as assessment of the attributes of communicators were concerned.
It appears that in as far as language is concerned in political discourse, there is no holy grail. This is to say that there is no specific approach to language that will work all the time. However, it should be noted that there is a middle ground approach which, unfortunately, has not been explored in most studies. The said middle ground approach has got to do with adapting language on the basis of the audience one is addressing. This is to say that one could be politically correct in one crowd and politically incorrect in another. However, this is easier said than done in the age of the internet whereby an address to a group of ten could be shared amongst millions – effectively transforming the small crowd to a global audience. It therefore follows that one has to choose a side and stick with it to the bitter or glorious end. Trump’s incorrectness approach won him the presidency in the ear 2016. If it was in the 80s or 70s, the results could have been different. This tells us that political incorrectness is here to stay – at least for now.
It is an undeniable fact that President Trump has legions of followers who are likely to continue supporting him through thick and thin. It is also undeniable that he is a leading candidate in the forthcoming elections. This is regardless of the fact that the President not only criticizes the ideals of political correctness, but also actively thrives in being politically incorrect. We could therefore say that most of the things that have been prohibited by the political correctness culture are no longer considered outrageous. The standards of political speech are clearly changing. As to whether this new perspective will take root, only time can tell. However, there are certain social norms and common language etiquettes on which civilization rests. Human beings are not called upon to air all their private thoughts in public. It would be unwise to mouth what you think of each collogue at the workplace. It could, thus, be argued that these basic standards of language and interaction ought not to be sacrificed at the altar…
Conway, L.C. (2020). How a cultural revolt against “political correctness” helped launch Trump into the presidency. Retrieved from https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2018/02/28/how-a-cultural-revolt-against-political-correctness-helped-launch-trump-into-the-presidency/
Hart, R.P. (2020). Trump and Us: What He Says and Why People Listen. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Morini, M. (2020). Lessons from Trumps Political Communication: How to Dominate the Media Environment. Belmont, CA: Springer Nature.
Marron, M.B. (2019). Misogyny and Media in the Age of Trump. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.
Mooney, A. & Evans, B. (2015). Language, Society and Power. New York, NY: Routledge.
NPR (2016). 'Politically Correct': The Phrase Has Gone From Wisdom To Weapon. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/12/14/505324427/politically-correct-the-phrase-has-gone-from-wisdom-to-weapon
Travers, M. (2019). In New Research, Psychologists Explore The Upside Of Political Incorrectness. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/traversmark/2019/10/09/in-new-research-psychologists-explore-the-upside-of-political-incorrectness/#7935b4c252af
Language Culture Society and Politics during the Trump Administration
Political Correctness (PC) in Modern Politics: An Assessment of the Trump Presidency
When Donald Trump launched his campaign for the highest seat in the land, most people – including most political analysts – did not believe he stood a chance. Here was a reality TV show host and real estate billionaire known for his brash language and liking for controversy.