The use of political correctness as a busy-body boogeymen is certainly not a new thing, but it seems in the last few years outcries against political correctness as some sort of enemy of freedom have outgrown PC itself. People confuse censorship and free speech and want to blame political correctness when their free speech intersects with the free speech of a critic. TL:DR: That’s how free speech works and how PC functions.
The real problem is this idea that political correctness is somehow responsible for the loss of free speech. The real antagonists to freedom is this battle cry of “pc run amok,” and the people who resent any response to their talk and actions that isn’t adulation and validation.
If you’re not high-fiving them and telling them mommy loves them, they scream PC run amok.
If you say, hey, you’re kind of a racist asshole, they scream PC run amok. If you use any tool that they themselves would use to respond to any situation they found disagreeable, they scream PC run amok. Donald Trump gibbers about Megyn Kelly’s bleeding vagina because she dares question the wisdom of his derogatory comments regarding women and screams PC run amok.
Censorship, Free Speech, and Political Correctness
PC, Political Correctness, is simple. It is an attempt to avoid forms of expression that marginalize the marginalized. That’s all it is.
It is an attempt to avoid political partisanship, not force people to skew to political party lines.
It has no operating procedure. There is no requirement for censorship. There is no spokesperson.
Anyone who is demanding that other’s not be allowed to speak is not talking about political correctness, but censorship. PC is all about NOT marginalizing–to say that someone who wants to shut down speech is guilty of pc run amok is a fundamental misunderstanding of PC and free speech.
Free speech is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and it scholars have been writing about it extensively in the centuries since it was formalized. We’ve come to understand that freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want as long as in doing so you are not jeopardizing lives (The analogy frequently used is yelling “fire” in a movie theater when there is no fire. This isn’t allowed because it risks public safety.) or maliciously and dishonestly slander a person’s reputation through seditious libel.
Free speech means not only do you and I and Trump and confederate flag-wavers and critics get to say (almost) anything we want, but others get to respond to it in (almost) any way they want.
Censorship is the practice of erasure, removal of parts of or the entirety of some form of communication or artwork.
Censorship only happens when it happens. Megyn Kelly did not censor Trump when she asked if his crude attacks on women is becoming of a presidential contender. A critic of a book is not censoring the author when they say she should be censored. Both Kelly and the critic are exercising their free speech.
Censorship does happen, but often it’s exactly where people don’t think about it.
When media outlets agree to allow celebrities or politicians to have final say over published content, that’s censorship. The programmer is agreeing to terms of self-censorship in exchange for access. News media outlets do this all the time. Donald Trump wasn’t being censored by Megan Kelly or the ghost of PC; he was actually demanding that Fox censor itself when he said he might not talk to Kelly or Fox news anymore.
It’s common practice for movie studios to show a film to focus groups before its release. If the focus groups hate it, the studio execs or producers will demand changes, often very drastic changes. The studio is censoring itself, and they are censoring their auteurs.
Protesting a theater that shows a controversial movie is not censorship. Picketing outside of Chik-fil-e or KFC is not censorship. If the theater stops showing the film, the protest is still not censorship, no matter how much I want to watch the movie. Legal protest does not prevent movie-goers from attending a screening, and it does not compel the theater to stop showing the movie.
Some people believe that shadowy organizations are killing scientists in what would be an extreme form of censorship.
Book banning and burning is censorship. When a state government removes parts of a science text to appease a religious activist group against the wishes of the school, administration, or parents, that’s censorship. Telling someone they shouldn’t do something—not censorship. Questioning the value of art or policy—not censorship.
Anything that isn’t actually changing the content or message of a text is simply not censorship. It is the converse. It is the response to free speech—further free speech.
Diminishing the power of the word because we’re assholes.
I’m a writer, journalist, adjunct English professor , and poet. I worship the word. I know its power. I’ve had my heart broken by words. I’ve seen careers ruined by words. Political administrations have been toppled with words. Authors have changed the face of commerce with words. We shouldn’t diminish that power every time we say something people dislike.
People all over the south and the north fly confederate flags. They confuse the free speech of dissenters with censorship, and they act as if criticism against the flag or political pressure is the disease threatening the health of our nation. (You know, the nation they are implicitly proclaiming they wish the south successfully seceded from and destroyed in the Civil War. That nation. That they love so much.)
Donald Trump gets so mad when people evaluate and criticize him. He finds words inconvenient and frustrating. He impatiently waves off anyone who asks if his own words might be destructive and irresponsible or inaccurate and uninformed. He stands firm by his right to talk absolutely vile smack about anyone and everyone, to assert as truth fictions but when someone attempts to put forth the argument that this might not be appropriate behavior for a presidential hopeful, he cries foul on that. To him, questioning his actions is the vile thing.
If we see Megyn Kelly being shouted down by Donald Trump, we should engage in some inkst of our own, because you can be damned sure some MRA asshat is going to virtually high five The Donald for his bravery and authenticity. We shouldn’t dismiss it as if his words don’t matter. We shouldn’t let him get away with downplaying his missteps.
Art and Censorship
There is more nuanced debate around the idea of political correctness and free speech.
Anne Rice, a successful horror and gothic novelist who brought the goth geeks of the world Interview with the Vampire, recently took issue with reactions to a romance novel (For Such a Time by Kate Breslin.)
She had this to say, after a lengthy discussion, on her facebook page.
There are forces at work in the book world that want to control fiction writing in terms of who “has a right” to write about what. Some even advocate the out and out censorship of older works using words we now deem wholly unacceptable.….I think all this is dangerous. I think we have to stand up for the freedom of fiction writers to write what they want to write, no matter how offensive it might be to some one else. We must stand up for fiction as a place where transgressive behavior and ideas can be explored. We must stand up for freedom in the arts. I think we have to be willing to stand up for the despised. It is always a matter of personal choice whether one buys or reads a book. No one can make you do it. But internet campaigns to destroy authors accused of inappropriate subject matter or attitudes are dangerous to us all. That’s my take on it. Ignore what you find offensive. Or talk about it in a substantive way. But don’t set out to censor it, or destroy the career of the offending author.
I dig Anne Rice. I’ve liked her since she made vampires cool (even if ex-girlfriends decided I was the vampire, Louis.)
I have no problem with her sentiments, and I strongly emotionally support much of what she is saying. I wish people wouldn’t threaten, protest and criticize the act of writing, but advocating censorship isn’t censorship. Speaking out against books isn’t censorship. Saying who should not be allowed to write what is not censorship, because no one is actually being compelled to do anything. This is free speech; everyone must be allowed to whine, bitch, and demand, or it is not free speech; it’s special consideration for some and censorship for others.
However unfortunate we might feel the breadth of free speech is, we don’t actually have free speech unless everybody gets to say what they want regardless of how much we disagree with them.
Upton Sinclair devastated the meat-packing industry with the publication of The Jungle. We love the power of the word in that case, but are we to be against that same power if it’s used to “destroy the career of an offending author”?
How can we declaw the party that offends Anne Rice but still preserve that power to be used like by the next Sinclair?You have free speech, so do your detractors. She proposes a call to action against the tactics engaged in by dissenters. She basically proposes that we censor the authors of reviews, emails to authors, and comments—because censorship is bad.
So, for example, I don’t want Donald Trump to stop talking like a misogynist. I want him to stop being a misogynist, but that requires him hearing the dissenters, and I can’t wish for that but also support Anne Rice’s call to quiet dissenters. He can keep saying every asinine thing that comes to his mind, but he is a hypocrite that misunderstands political correctness if he thinks he shouldn’t have to deal with dissent.
The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a word is a good guy with a word.
I already said true free speech is messy. It’s a beautiful mess. It’s not the kind of bloody, punctuating mess we’d get if everybody supplemented their stature with firearms. It is far from perfect. People with money an power get to say things a lot louder than you do, but that is why we have political correctness. It favors the apolitical and it is a watchdog for the marginalized.
You should use your voice. Post on facebook, write a blog, and say your piece. Gratefully accept that others will do so as well, and understand that sometimes you will be the target of their wrath. Sometimes they will make good points, and, if you’re lucky, they will influence your understanding and decision-making. Sometimes, unfortunately, they will be ass-hats, and you’ll have to hold your ground. Maybe you will influence their understanding and decision-making. Maybe they will continue being asshats.
Anne Rice should not stop her protest against protesters. She should continue to speak and critics and supporters should continue to respond.
That’s the beautiful thing about true, ideologically pure political correctness. That’s the beauty of free expression.
I like the article… though I know very little about the most current hubbub going on concerning Anne Rice… (Loved her books)…
However, I am posing a question for you, so I get what you were thinking on a base level, because it could be simple definitions
…. And I will paraphrase George Carlin kinda sorta, when we bend our words, in any form, to be less offensive to a particular entity we are moving towards a quasi political correctness. His example that he used was that in WWI, men came home and were diagnosed with “shell-shock” mimicking the stress caused by the artillery shells being locked and loaded into the cannons and then being fired… also representing the temporary lull while they loaded in the next shell before the shhhhhh-click— boom that represents Shell Shock… that term eventually became Post Traumatic Stress Disorder… and of course has over time been applied to many trauma based injuries, which isn’t the problem … but what happened with this dumbing down of the term to make it less “offensive”, less in your face is that it took away the very powerful, very in your face emotions that it was originally designed to instill when people heard it, people immediately understood the powerful imagery by those words, and immediately had a strong understanding of the emotional impact and toll it had on our soldiers. (I think it should be changed back to that by the way).
Now, in your context of the article, do you consider this dumbing down of words, and verbiage to lessen the rhetoric quazi pc or quazi censorship? It has gotten to the point on some college campuses that they have issued “pc terms acceptable to use when discussing various populations on campus”. So is that also quazi pc? or quazi censorship? OR have we in the US blurred the lines between the two so badly that there is almost no difference?
Here’s another reason why I ask… would love your take….
I love Carlin. I use him a little bit too much in my lectures, but, replacing “shell shock” with “post traumatic stress disorder” is literally the opposite of “dumbing down.” It’s a more complicated label with a more complicated definition. Shell shock is an over-simplification that doesn’t account for the fact that most people with PTSD don’t get it from mortar fire or even combat. “PTSD” lacks an appealing power, but the point isn’t to impress but inform. PTSD is a psychologically more accurate term meant to best capture what the disorder actually is and not put survivors or sexual attack, for example, in the same ill-fitting terms as shell shock. This has nothing to do with political correctness, except perhaps that some people were hurt by the idea of being shell-shocked, and those particular people had been hurt enough, I think.
I think I regularly prove language can be in your face and not actually offensive. 😛
The article is very specious and emotionally skewed.
I think one thing he’s trying to say should be considered, college students should get more, not less exposure to the world, but what he avoids is a lot of humor has nothing to do with an honest reflection on human nature and is just mean spirited and crass. There’s nothing wrong with that, but maybe it’s the comedians who need to grow up.
And I’ll except that college age students might be too emotionally immature to be able to accept even the emotionally honest reflection, but I think they’re a lot more open to that then the average two-drink minimum crowd on a friday night. I’d really need someone at more of the intersection of this sort of thing like Jamie Killstein to weigh in on that.
Also, college-aged young adults have a greater level of empathy then many adults. They also are navigating an entire new environment and learning about the world in a liberal-arts perspective unmatched by most American high schools. They’re getting their sea legs, in a sense, after being landlocked in ‘merica.
Finally, I don’t often hear good business models regarded with such distain. The author of the piece is talking about colleges trying to retain students the way Chris Rock might talk about prisons trying to retain inmates.
Another good article and I agree with much this; particularly the power of words and about using words to marginalize entire groups of people. One of my own arguments against the “anti-pc” is that its not just the choice of words that are offensive but how they are expressed; in a nutshell there is a wholly intentional purpose and goal to offend others; to intimidate others; to express aggression toward others; it’s bullying with words. The irony is that these same people will be quick to claim abusiveness when this behavior is reciprocated (I think you drew attention to this as well). What people fail to realize (or just plain refuse to accept) is that WHAT they say and HOW they say it has everything to do with how other people will RESPOND. Speak aggressively, with intention to hurt feelings, be abusive, be intimidating; other people tend to react with RESISTANCE and they usually reciprocate. This is what causes about 90% of interpersonal communication errors including a sudden refusal to listen to the other party. But you can’t tell anybody that because “how DARE YOU DISAGREE with MY GOD GIVEN OPINION”.
You are right; people don’t want real discussion or mutual respect anymore; they want ass kissing fan clubs and the power to put other people “in their place” without any consequences; the world does not work that way.
There’s a context to what Rice said — several in fact — that has been overlooked. To begin with, she was right years ago when she spoke out against National Organization for Women (NOW) threatening a boycott of a publisher if they went ahead with the publication of a book — Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho because they thought it was misogynist and would encourage violence against women. However, she seems to think the situation with the nazi-romance novel she has been defending is the same thing, and refuses to hear arguments to the contrary. She was not right about people speaking out about the nazi-romance novel after it was published, when there was no boycott or anything of the kind proposed. In the second case, a member of an association (the RWA) wrote to that group complaining about the book’s receiving two award nominations, and the wider question of diversity and acceptance of difference within the “romance” world. Rice publicly accused that writer of “egging on” a “lynch mob.” By “lynch mob” she specifically meant a few people, mostly Jews, who left negative reviews on the books Amazon page and whom she vilified on her facebook page as “immoral and unethical” “gangster” “bully” “thugs.” That her “argument” got picked up by the Guardian and other main stream press, just shows how far we’ve gotten into the silly season.
Her stance also gave comfort to gamergaters, white supremacist blogs and others, always happy to see the words “political correctness” thrown around as the biggest danger to democracy ever and worse than Hitler (their words).
Another bit of context that hasn’t been picked up on is Rice’s long-standing overreaction to negative criticism of books, her own and others. Google “Anne Rice reaction to negative criticism” and you’ll find out about the time she lashed out on Amazon, and more recently sent her fans after an obscure blogger who had the temerity not only to negatively review a Rice novel, but to use its crumbling pages in a decoupage project. Furthermore, the blogger who Rice credits with “egging on” the attacks, was someone who had written critically of Rice’s antics in the past. Sometimes the attacks on political correctness are personal.
The people screaming about PC are about one thing and one thing only: They want to speak without consequence. They want to say whatever vile, hateful thing they want, and everyone else can either agree with them, or shut up. In essence, they want to silence everyone who does not agree with them.
At it’s very core, “anti-PC” is virulently anti-free speech. It’s a blatant attempt to silence other voices.
That is really all there is to it.
Well, let’s take the case of The 100. Sexuality and race are non issues in the society portrayed. The main character is bi-sexual and a gay (male) couple are regularly featured.
Yet, a lesbian character is killed off and now we have a section of fandom that thinks this justifies threatening and harassing writers, threatening the shows creator, harassing other fans, staging boycotts, bullying the actors, and burning the original book the series was based on.
Are they outright censoring the show? No. Are they creating an environment where the writers don’t feel like they can follow the creative process or explore certain avenues for fear of such extreme backlash? YES. And I’m sorry, but that feels a lot like censorship to me.
This is a circular argument.
It isn’t outright censorship, but it FEELS like censorship, so it’s censorship…?
And since it FEELS like censorship, we should censor it.
First of all, harassment isn’t free speech. It’s harassment. If someone’s life is in jeopardy, that’s not speech, but it seems like the people that dislike “PC culture” are the first to be hyperbolic about choices others make regarding speech.
Book burning is unfortunate, but it’s free speech. Boycotts are the best kind of free speech. It’s call voting with your dollar. I recommend you do it.
To the idiot who wro this article GET CANCER & DIE U STUPID SJW FREAK!!!
Now, normally I would delete this sort of comment, because I don’t want the comment section to turn into an illiterate ghetto that does nothing but depress reasonable people, but I couldn’t resist, I just had to illustrate how some people react to anything that seems to warrant a social just warrior label. Some people reveal way more about themselves than they intend, don’t they?