Remember when racists had to resort to totalizing theories about hygiene and dietary habits that could be easily debunked? “Barack Obama only wants to be President so he can increase his access to grape soda,” your grandpa would say from the couch, and everyone would leap to correct him while your mother burst into tears in the kitchen. Those were the salad days, before A) Xanax and B) political correctness, the phenomenon so vague that it explains any minority’s success better than an extra calf muscle ever could. Consider the case of recently-crowned Miss USA Rima Fakih. To the casual observer, she’s just an insanely hot chick—albeit one with six to ten male relatives who, when they see you talking to her on the train, will insist with terrifying intensity that you come to their barbecue. She’s also a Muslim. To a trained eye like Daniel Pipes, that makes her the latest example of political correctness run amok. And thus do we return to the best theory that ever happened to contemporary racism.
Pipes enumerates five Muslim women who have won beauty pageants in the last five years, including the much-coveted titles of Miss Nottingham and Mademoiselle Picardie. “They are all attractive,” he acknowledges, “but this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action.” Five women in five years in five contests worldwide is hardly surprising frequency, unless you are surprised by predicted statistical variance. Yet Pipes claims that “my suspicion is borne out” by the selection of Anisah Rasheed as Miss A&T and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2005. Here Pipes appears to use “borne out” in its classical sense, to mean “placed into a time machine and sent to five years ago, before I had it.” Clearly, though, the success of six Muslim women in regional and college beauty contests over the last five years can mean only one thing: political correctness dominates our society. Why else wouldn’t white people win everything?
Lest you dismiss Daniel Pipes as some conservative vampire hunched over his blog on the fringes of Pricksylvania, you should know that A) he was a Bush appointee to the board of directors of the US Institute of Peace and B) Gretchen Carlson agrees with him, however briefly. “Did the Muslim-American win because of the whole PC society that we find ourselves in?” Carlson asked on Fox & Friends. I dunno, Gretch—by “whole PC society,” do you mean the one where a self-described half-Catholic, half-Muslim woman can’t win a swimsuit competition owned by Donald Trump without two white people calling it a racial injustice on their television show?
The beauty of the “PC society” theory is that it addresses that classic vulnerability of racist worldviews, the counterexample. Before 1993,* when your landlord used your broken faucet as an opportunity to observe that black people in the United States have developed a thug culture, you could offer as a refutation the many African Americans who held prominent positions in academic and professional fields. Now, the success of such people is cited as proof that America lies in thrall to political correctness. By changing the argument from “minorities cannot be successful” to “minorities succeed only because whites are oppressed,” the exception is made to prove the rule.
The essential supposition—that white male Christians are somehow superior to all known and presumably yet-to-be-discovered minority groups—remains unchanged and beautifully unfalsifiable. Short of straight-up quotas and campus speech codes, both of which have all but vanished, the concrete manifestations of political correctness are nonexistent. Like racial identity itself, you know it when you see it in someone else. No one is in favor of political correctness. Like the imagined conformists who hate blue jeans or the liberal media that makes Fox News the nation’s highest-rated news network, political correctness is the mainstream that no one is part of. That’s why false rebels from Andrew Dice Clay to Sarah Palin have made it a stalking horse for their worst ideas. It explains everything, because it is nothing.
Whatever political correctness describes, it’s not some conspiracy to elevate minorities above their station to satisfy popular opinion, because popular opinion invariably opposes it. Nor can it be a national culture prejudiced against white men, since such a culture would have no need to make itself PC in the first place. It seems that “political correctness” describes any situation in which a member of some minority group distinguishes himself as an individual. Seen in this context—a world in which individual identity is subordinate to ethnicity and religion—political correctness reveals itself as a familiar worldview. It is the racist worldview, and it’s no wonder that people like Daniel Pipes see it everywhere.