November 1, 2014 – A Twitter exchange I had recently with someone we’ll call “PC Person” regarding free speech versus political correctness went something like this:
PC Person: I’m actually a fan of political correctness. Obviously free speech is a priority, but I don’t like those who aren’t correct.
Me: And I assume you would be the arbiter of what is correct? I’ll take free speech, thank you.
PC Person: That’s what I said…but I think one ought to be politically correct. The two are neither necessarily nor often opposed.
Me: Political Correctness is the antithesis of free speech. By definition it only accepts that which is PC, go figure
PC Person: How do you define political correctness? I don’t get the hate unless it conflicts with free speech.
Fair question. I take PC person at her or his word. A definition of Political Correctness is in order for the conversation to be meaningful.
How to define PC for someone who has accepted it wholeheartedly as a good in the world that is intended to eliminate hate? In truth, I’m sure there are many who accept Political Correctness with good intentions as a way to combat what they perceive as the hate and evil of the world. I believe PC Person is one of these well-intentioned persons.
Political Correctness is a term that was originally used by the Soviet commissars to define the party line, or the way people should think and speak. Under the Stalinist regime, and subsequent leaders of the Soviet Union, people were imprisoned, even executed, or worked to death in Siberian camps for not towing the “party line”, or in other words, for not being politically correct. If you think I exaggerate, I recommend Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago for a first-hand account of the price one paid for not speaking in a politically correct fashion.
The same happened in Communist China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba and in a number of other places where free speech was curtailed by the mandate to be politically correct as defined by others.
Lest, you feel that this is only a diatribe against communism, let me point out that fascists, liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans, religions, schools, governments…and the list goes on…have all practiced their own forms of political correctness over the centuries. Many still do.
Pick your group, and in all likelihood, at some point in their history you will find a form of political correctness in thought and action to which all members were expected to conform.
It is one of the reasons that I believe in the basic goodness of (most) individuals but not in groups. As soon as people band together in groups, the group begins to feel that it has a better idea, a better way of living, speaking or thinking.
I’m sure that statement will offend some readers or maybe all readers. I’m pretty good at offending people at times. Nonetheless, it is true.
But the history of political correctness does not completely define the term in its current usage.
Since the 1980’s Political Correctness has been used to describe the practice of speaking that presents ideas, describes people and develops thoughts that are acceptable to…well that’s the question and the problem…acceptable to whom?
To the PC Group, of course, whatever group it happens to be in whatever era we are living. The power behind the modern day PC Group is highly political. It wants to define things and arguments in such a way that those who have been offended in life will cast their votes with the PC Group.
Disagree? There are too many examples to point out, but here are a couple, that have been espoused by the present political PC Group.
- If you oppose our current president, it is not on principle; it is because you are a racist.
- If you decry the violence committed in the name of Allah and Islam, you are an Islamophobe.
- If you prefer not to see gay men walking down the street in leather chaps with their ass cheeks exposed and their young son on their shoulders, you are a homophobe.
The PC Group would define my opposition to a president who tramples on the constitution and destroys the rights of others, my commitment to defining the violence as Islamic terrorism, and my abhorrence to gay men using their young son as a prop in their “statement” about their own sexuality as Racist, Islamophobic, and Homophobic. I am none of the above.
In fairness, PC Person and others who have sipped the PC Kool Aid see Political Correctness as a good in the world, a way to sensitize us to the societal wrongs and stereotypes that have hurt people in the past and present.
For the record, I am all in favor of not hurting people. As PC Person stated in one of the Tweets mentioned above, “I don’t get the hate, unless it conflicts with free speech.”
Political Correctness always conflicts with free speech.
Let me be even clearer. It’s purpose is to mold thoughts into conformity with the politically, socially, PC Group-accepted way of thinking. It is the antithesis of free speech.
What’s so wrong with that, the PC believers might ask. There is too much hate in the world. People have been treated unfairly, called bad names, had their self-esteem damaged by the meanness and hatefulness of others. We should say things in such a way that we avoid the hate and meanness. It sounds good.
But again, there is the problem. Once we decide that it is more important to say things that avoid hate, meanness, offensiveness, we are saying that we are not free to speak unless what we say conforms to the current definition of what is politically acceptable, by whichever PC Group happens to be in charge.
But people say bad things. Word’s hurt other people. Words can be bad.
Yes, all true.
There is a lot of hate out there in the world. There are also many terrible, ignorant and mean ideas and thoughts.
Racism, bigotry, Anti-Semiticism, Anti-Catholicism, Anti-Christianity, Anti-Muslim, Anti-Education, Anarchy, Fascism, Communism, Nazism, The Flat Earth Philosophy, Believers in Bigfoot, UFOs, and Ghosts. All bad ideas, in my opinion.
Some of you may agree with me; most of you will find something to disagree with. But that’s all right. I am free to think it, believe it and… even say it.
You are free to reject me and my beliefs or disbeliefs. It works great and no one has to tell anyone what to think or how to say it. That is what free speech is about.
Another problem. By shutting down free speech through Political Correctness you also eliminate a great many good and grand ideas. Jesus, Galileo, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, the Founding Fathers, Joan of Arc, to name a few, all suffered to some degree from the Political/Social Correctness of their day. They said and did things that got them in trouble with the PCers. Some were persecuted and even killed for defying the PC Group of the day.
How many other grand ideas and thoughts throughout the history of humanity have been lost to the PC Group?
To those who have sipped the PC Kool Aid, or gulped it down completely, the loss of some good ideas in the best interests of society is a small thing. They would rather have control of the dialogue, make sure that no one is offended, than trust people to think for themselves and maybe come up with a bad idea…or an uplifting one. But make no mistake about it. The control of the Group remains paramount to them, the idea that their baseline for correctness is the one that is followed. The end justifies the means. Whatever it takes, we must be Politically Correct.
PC Person is right, in one sense, in my opinion. We should avoid saying things that are mean-spirited, hurtful and hateful. We should try to understand the needs and plight of others. We should be good people, good to one another. Maybe one day we will be.
But here is the truth that the PC Group never wants to hear. Politically correct speech will never change what is in a person’s heart. Truth and Freedom will.
To PC Person I say simply that there will always be a PC Group who has a better idea…who wants us to be “correct”. Killing six million Jews, enslaving African Americans, feeding Christians to lions, the world is flat, the earth is the center of the universe…all of these were once politically correct ideas, accepted by the PC Group in power.
I reject political correctness.
The human spirit does not yearn for political correctness. It aches for Freedom. Free Speech is the cornerstone of Freedom and Liberty.