So yesterday on Twitter someone sent me a link to a video, and asked me whether I’d seen it. The video turned out to be The History of Political Correctness.
“The History of Political Correctness” is an oddity, even on its surface. It’s a cheaply produced 23-minute documentary hosted by a guy named William Lind. The video is festooned with stock footage of marching Nazis and long-haired hippies, and is dedicated to the theory that every left-liberal cultural development of the last half century — from political correctness and the student movements of the sixties to afrocentrism, gay pride, environmentalism, and sexual promiscuity — can be laid at the feet of the social theorists of the Frankfurt School.
This charmingly paranoid thesis is presented in over-the-top terms, as when Lind offers an introduction to the work German philosopher Max Horkeimer:
“Horkheimer wrote, ‘logic is not independent of content.’ That means an argument is logical if it helps destroy Western culture, illogical if it supports it. Such twisted thought lies at the heart of the Political Correctness now inculcated into American university students.”
The video is mostly just loony, but there’s a sinister undercurrent to a lot of the ranting, most notably when Lind turns his attention to sexual liberation and gay rights, which he sees as fundamentally corrosive to society. His views on race and religion are primarily implied rather than stated, but they have been made explicit in other contexts, and an overview of them makes Lind’s perspective clear:
- In 2002 Lind delivered a version of his Frankfurt School speech at a conference of the anti-semitic and holocaust-denying Barnes Review. In that setting, it should be noted, he emphasized the Frankfurt group’s Jewishness considerably more than in the video.
- In a 1999 essay Lind suggested that the United States would have been better off if the South had won the Civil War. In the same essay, he argued that Reconstruction — the period after the Civil War when blacks gained the opportunity to exercise political and economic power for the first time — had done more damage to race relations in America than slavery itself.
- In a 2006 column Lind predicted that Iraq war veterans from the “inner cities” would adopt the tactics of the Iraqi resistance when they returned home to their “ethnic” “gangs,” waging terrorist war against the United States from within.
- In an interview just this October, he argued that “where public transit is heavily used by minorities, everybody else is going to avoid it. They’re doing so not because they’re dirty, nasty racists, they’re doing so out of self-preservation.”
“The History of Political Correctness,” which apparently dates from sometime in the early 1990s, it is having a bit of a surge in popularity right now. (I had never heard of it before I was directed to it yesterday, but a Google blog search turns up a long list of recent hits.) The video has a patina of scholarliness, thanks to the intermittent presence of legitimate historian Martin Jay. But it’s bunk through and through, and it’s bunk delivered in the service of a deeply distorted understanding of American history.