by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
There is some mystery about the generation of names. “Gay” becomes “gay and lesbian” becomes “lesbian and gay” becomes LGB becomes LGBTQ becomes LGBTQIAPK becomes LGBTTQQIAAP+. We go from “black” to “Afro-American” to “African American” back to “black” to “Black,” and then to BIPOC, and then to whatever that will be five minutes from now.
Political correctness — and I remind you that this is a term the scolds invented for themselves, not something that conservative critics hung on them — is a joint neurosis, which, in moments of particular intensity, can turn into the kind of moral panic we are seeing right now. On the matter of nomenclature, there is a very long magical tradition holding that to have access to the true (and necessarily secret) name of something gives one power over it. (Think of Adam, his dominion over the animals indicated by his having the authority to name them.) A great deal of psychology and sociology is built on that superstition: Take a group of behaviors, give them a name, and treat the synthetic concept as though it were an organic phenomenon. There is no such literal thing as narcissistic personality disorder or white supremacy or capitalism, which do not exist in the sense that Mycobacterium tuberculosis exists, but to give things scientific-sounding names — “political science” spoke to the aspirations of a particularly delusional moment in our history — and to treat them as discrete unitary phenomena gives us a sense of control and power over them.
Another way of understanding this magical thinking of the great American bourgeoisie is that it is the result of market innovation offering jaded consumers new forms of psychic consumption.
At a certain level of material abundance, some consumption shifts away from ordinary goods and services into more experiential forms of consumption.