It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's P.c. Person

May 12, 1991|By A.M. Chaplin

"I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO GET A LOT of hate mail, but quite the opposite," says Brown University senior Jeff Shesol, creator of "Politically Correct Person," one of the characters in the popular Brown Daily Herald comic strip "Thatch."

The favorable response to the introduction of P.C. Person -- fitted out like a superhero in cape, trunks and iron-clad idealism -- suggests "that the P.C. are a real minority," Mr. Shesol believes. But despite their small numbers, he says, "they make a lot of noise and shut down the discussion, which goes against the idea of what the university is all about. . . . Everyone tells stories about their run-ins with P.C.s. It's really a way of life around here and at a lot of schools."

Mr. Shesol, a Rhodes scholar whose major is American and political history, created Politically Correct Person last fall, "to exemplify all the worst tendencies of the P.C. -- the tendencies to label everyone as sexist, racist or homophobic and not really discuss the issues, to close the debate. . . .

"Labeling people without providing any evidence reminds you of McCarthyism coming from the other side," he continues, adding, "that's a hyperbole, but there's some truth there."

The ascendancy of P.C.-ness "is just going to require the rest of us to become a little more politically active to balance the situation," he continues. "I consider myself pretty liberal . . . but [P.C.-ness] is an illiberal tendency."

Recognition of the phenomenon Mr. Shesol has defined with such gentle but accurate humor is becoming increasingly widespread: A few "Thatch" strips featuring Politically Correct Person appeared in the New York Times some months ago and were then picked up by Newsweek. Before long Mr. Shesol got a call from Vintage Books, which published a softbound book of almost 200 "Thatch" strips April 19. Fans call it the "Doonesbury"

of the '90s.

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