In this interview, political scientist Rebeca Morla reflects on the “void” of political impropriety, a concept that interweaves notions such as populism, intolerance and polarization.
To understand incorrectness, you must first refer to what is politically correct. Where does this notion come from and what does it refer to?
Not easy. But being politically correct means avoiding certain forms of expression or action which may exclude, discriminate or offend certain social groups. One example refers to each as an act of inclusion. Do not say black to a person but to an Afro-descendant. We talk to a large extent about language, culture, but also about power relations in society.
Is the notion of political correctness slippery?
We fall into a discussion of subjectivities, because who decides what is offensive, to what extent can we express our point of view on something without offending someone else? Throughout history, there have always been ideas that were considered intolerable and that have evolved over time. Over the years, this has become a form of intolerance towards the intolerant, towards people considered discriminatory or having prejudices.
What do we mean when we talk about political mistakes?
I would like to respond with examples taking the case of the United States. On the progressive side, Democratic MP Alexandria Ocasio calls immigration detention centers concentration camps. On the right side, we have Donald Trump himself, calling immigrants illegal or calling covid-19 chinavirus.
Why does the incorrectness appear to be increasing?
Studies show that people actually perceive these types of statements to be genuine and real, that the politician taking that position is saying what he really thinks and not what he is supposed to say, even if the statements are inaccurate.
Does incorrection give rise to discourses that have not seen the light and which are then the germ of post-truth?
The rise in power is that of those political figures who represent a break with the traditional or who represent the anti-politics, and in part these discourses emerge because the traditional politics has become something that people don’t like, fed up with the corruption and abuse of power, with politicians who far from serving themselves. These are hegemonic power structures that people reject and no longer want. Then these other speeches emerge, because they generate popularity and votes.
Do politicians seem to have taken notice, even in Ecuador?
We see candidates talking beer around or playing volleyball on the beach despite covid-19, they distract from what should matter – the real proposals to get the country out of the crisis – and seek election revenue . The priority should be to start talking about values again. We have to start talking about ‘should be’ again, about what politics as a public service is meant to be.
How much power do politically incorrect people have to seduce people? Are these really new and fresh posts?
No. I see it rather as a reaction of fed up with the discourse and the figure of the traditional politician, so there are people who find in this anti-political narrative a kind of hope and illusion, as if this is the way, when This is not the case. We need to identify empty promises and populist rhetoric.
What is the relationship between incorrectness and populism?
Populism is understood in this context as a discursive tool used by politicians on the left as well as on the right, to divide the electorate, secure the votes of some sectors and pit them against another. And all of this translates into social hyperpolarization, through the manipulation of emotion. It is emotional rather than rational discourse that elicits these reactions which are not healthy for a democracy, because they contribute to violent and intolerant behavior.
The criticism, on the other hand, is that excessive political correctness restricts freedoms and promotes self-censorship.
What do you think?
What you have to understand is that everyone has a point of view that deserves to be respected, listened to and tolerated. The debate enriches political culture. Anyone who does not think like me is not my enemy: on the contrary, it enriches the political discussion, the debate in society, the fact that different ideological positions coexist in freedom and harmony, that is what democracy is .
(Guayaquil, 1992) She is a political scientist and analyst, with a degree in political science and a master’s degree in political communication from the University of La Rioja (Spain), coordinator of the Faculty of Administration and Political Science of Casa Grande University.