Ed. Note: After two prominent intellectuals, a New York Times reporter and an award winning British media personality failed to debate the question ,“Be it Resolved: What You Call Political Correctness, I Call Progress,” former Fault Lines contributors Mario Machado and Chris Seaton attempted to succeed where four others failed. Bellow Mario’s argument.
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
–George Orwell, Animal Farm (Original Preface)
Let’s begin with stating the obvious: for some many of my fellow primates, there are some words that are just too much to bear. These words need to be diluted so that the chance of someone being hurt or “offended” becomes impossible.
Yes, these folks are fine with words either being banned outright or replaced with more antiseptic ones, at the expense of reason and the English language. For those who have respect for language (especially those who make a living off of it, along with the First Amendment), and who don’t require they be treated like backward children, that state of affairs is something that must be addressed and corrected. The stakes are high, amigos.
Those on the other side, who with a straight hysterical face will tell you that “words are violence,” will claim that no measure is too stiff, no punishment too severe so long as no feelings are hurt and everyone’s sensitivities remain one-hundred-percent intact. Notice how another cherished concept of civilization – a sense of nuance and proportion – has now been thrown overboard as a result of this “movement”?
It’s not so bad that Hollywood, in part because of Trump Derangement Syndrome, has become a beacon for bullying gangs that will excoriate anyone that goes off the politically-correct script (no pun). Make one remark off-the-cuff that may offend one member of the tribe for one second, and it is off-with-your-fucking-head, amigos. No matter how perfect or swift the contrition by the offender, their careers will go up in smoke.
Speaking of Trump, a lot of this censoring is done in the name of “things have never been so nasty, so uncivil.” Really? During the 1800 presidential campaign, John Adams referred to that fellow from Monticello, another founding father, as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” In 1828, Andrew Jackson’s opponent called him a murderer, an adulterer, and a pimp. So the current political climate of naughty words does not justify these cries for civility.
Raising the sights a bit, let’s talk about academia. A majority of students think that words are violence. One would think that a basic academic (pardon the expression) explanation would put such a foolish position to rest: “Junior, violence is blunt force that can cause physical injury. By definition, words can’t do that.” But you may get called a white supremacist or a Nazi before Junior’s rusted brain wheels start spinning.
But it gets worse, much, much worse. The professors and the administrators – yes! those who are supposed to be in charge – have become the proverbial hostages to the students. They’re terrified of putting these brats in place, lest they be reported and lose their jobs. This is in part because they know their spineless colleagues will not come to their defense.
So what are we left with at these universities? Trigger warnings, cry-ins, de-platforming of speakers, riots. The last two usually occur when the really bad speakers come to town. Nothing says “I’m a smart, strident, dependable person who deserves a paycheck” like breaking a Starbucks window with a sledge hammer because someone was uttering politically incorrect stuff at an event where attendance was not compulsory. These are the professionals of our future who will enter the workforce en masse without calloused sensitivities, all because of the campaign for political-correctness-for-all.
What happens when these political-correctness warriors get off the academic teat of appeasement and are lucky enough to get a job? What will they do when their boss is a ball-buster, who also happens to have the temerity to use “incorrect” gender pronouns? Will they curl up into a ball, toughen up, or simply report it to the higher-ups in the hopes of having a competent leader thrown out?
With regards to the last question, which involves someone snitching out another for using language that’s forbidden by the tribe, the American Bar Association has joined the party. ABA’s Model Rule 4.8(g) is full of vague, meaningless tripe that forbids lawyers to:
engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law
Let’s say you finally found the right lawyer who puts you first, and is in the best position to get you out of a serious jam. This rule can be used to take his license, should anyone perceive he said something considered “harassment,” and perhaps that leaves you with lawyers who will cower should a prosecutor threaten with putting you in a cage if she doesn’t capitulate. There you have it ladies and gentlemen, how far the termites have spread.
I will come full circle, and finish with our beloved language, and how political correctness has been used to trivialize things that cause real pain and suffering. Freaking out because you’re facing a lifetime of banishment from this country and don’t have the coin to pay for your defense? Well, you’re not entitled to a lawyer, because the deportation process is “administrative” and not punitive. In an immigration jail and hate the conditions? How bad can it possibly be, buttercup? They’re not jails, but rather “service processing” and “transitional” centers.
You’re in prison awaiting trial, and you got thrown in a filthy hole? Calm down, drama queen. It’s not a hole, but a “secure housing unit,” or SHU. Facing life in prison, so you want your lawyer to pulverize the government’s parade of rats? Understandable, but make sure he only addresses him as “cooperating witness” during cross and closing argument. Is all this progress? Very far from it.