If you could boil Donald Trump’s message down to a single theme, it might be fair to characterize it as a war on political correctness. To liberals, this means he’s trying to use racist language to attract racist voters. To conservatives, this means he’s simply telling it like it ease – a nice change of pace from the usual, blow-dried politicians we’re used to. To those who don’t have as much skin in the game, though, it seems like a trivial crusade to base a presidential campaign around.
After all, does it really matter if we call them “illegal aliens” or “undocumented immigrants?”
Does it really matter if we call them “children of immigrants” or “anchor babies?”
Does it really matter if we call it “violent extremism” or “radical Islamic terror?”
If people are getting their feelings hurt, wouldn’t it be easy just to use whatever language they prescribe? We can still believe in all the same policies without using offensive words, right? Let’s be mature.
This attitude, though understandable, drastically underestimates the power of language.
Human beings like to think of themselves as rational, logical creatures who always use facts and statistics and education to determine what they believe about the world. The truth, though, is a little messier. The truth is that we’re highly emotional, and we’re extremely susceptible to little psychological tricks that subtly push us in one direction or the other. No American will admit that advertisements have any effect on them; the fact that the advertisement industry exists at all is fairly conclusive evidence that they’re wrong.
See, no one wants to support “illegal immigration.” That would be absurd. But plenty of people can get behind “amnesty.” Plenty of people can support “undocumented workers.” No problem. It’s the same concept, but the psychological effects are completely different.
These PC rules aren’t meant to protect people’s feelings. That’s just the cover story. The real aim is to change minds by wrapping issues in such a thick blanket of gobbledygook that no one really knows what anyone is talking about. The real aim is to push the window of conversation to the left and make it “offensive” or “racist” or “misogynist” to even espouse certain viewpoints. It’s a lot easier to win an argument when your opponent isn’t even allowed to challenge you.
Yes, when we blow the doors off political correctness, there are those who will get their feelings hurt. Buttons will be pushed. Tears may ensue.
But that’s a damn small price to pay to make sure that certain ideas remain on the table.