Former Liberal staffer Peta Credlin has warned that the “talons” of political correctness have made it “almost impossible to have an honest discussion” about Islamic fundamentalism, climate change, race and identity in Australia.
The TV presenter sounded the alarm at the launch of academic Kevin Donnelly’s book A Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide at the City Tattersall’s club in Sydney on Monday, in front of a crowd that included Credlin’s old boss and former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Credlin said that in Australian political discourse, “words matter, language matters, and who controls it matters most”, and called for the impact political correctness was having on public debate to be examined.
“25 years ago, when this fixation started to take hold of Australian discourse, we laughed it off, we mocked it even … We thought that Australian common sense would see it off,” she said.
“Since that time, the initial tentacles of political correctness have become talons and have clawed their way into the various institutions and organs of Australian life,” Credlin said.
She praised Dr Donnelly for “tackling the way language is silencing us”, and lamented that when pointing out “the obvious truths that the Koran offers numerous justification for infidels … you are immediately labelled an Islamophobe.”
“If you question the new left orthodoxy on these issues, you’re not just wrong, you’re bad.
Credlin also noted language was “effectively deployed” by the Yes same sex marriage campaign by using the term “equality”.
“Equality in the west is our birthright. And it implied opponents of change disagreed with the very principle of equality…
“Now that issue has come and now gone, but there are other issues that still need to be fought, especially climate change and gender politics,” she said.
Also present at the launch were former house speaker Bronwyn Bishop and The Australian’s cartoonist Johannes Leak, whose illustrations appear in the book.
When speaking of his motivations in writing the book, Dr Donnelly noted the case of an American university academic teaching a class about the book Huckleberry Finn.
“He was admonished and actually criticised by using the word nr. He said ‘it’s in the book, how can I teach Huckleberry Finn without mentioning the word nr?”
Dr Donnelly said that as an academic, he was most concerned that political correctness “relies on emotion rather than reason”.
“As a teacher this is one of the main things that I’m most upset about. If you talk about rhetoric, it’s okay to use persuasive language, to appeal to experts … to be reasonable, to be logical, is what we argue in terms of rhetoric. But political correctness is the opposite, it’s more about emotion,
“The expression ‘I think therefore I am’ probably captures the Enlightenment, but it’s now become ‘I feel therefore I’m right’. Now, that to me is a serious problem,” Dr Donnelly said.