Tag: anti political correctness

Democracy Is Infuriating. Stop Taking It Personally

By Craig Axford | United States

It shouldn’t be that hard to separate the people that are just trying to deflect or stifle debate from those seriously grappling with important questions. But in a democracy that is experiencing a rapid decline in critical thinking skills, it’s the deflectors and stiflers that are currently ascendant.

I’m not a fan of political correctness either as a phrase or in practice. Correctness and politics ideally intersect only when we translate sound ideas into policy. Originally the term referred specifically to the strict adherence to a particular political view or ideology — one was either correctly or incorrectly towing the party line as it were. Assuming Wikipedia’s history of political correctness is accurate, its contemporary usage didn’t begin to emerge until the early 1970s.

Conservatives, in particular, have turned political correctness into a rhetorical bludgeon. Sadly, their opponents have often been willing to oblige them by providing examples of the practice that range from silly or annoying to loud and occasionally violent. Plain old correctness got lost in the increasingly odious political fog produced in our democracy. Being respectful and polite shouldn’t require us to avoid controversy. Nor should being rude and vulgar be construed as refreshing authenticity.

That ad hominem attacks are not merely fallacious, but a sign of weakness and insecurity in the individual substituting them for sound argumentation is no longer widely understood. By labeling those with differing points of view as everything from fascist to snowflake, the person sticking the label on their opponent is attempting to shut down the debate rather than engage in good faith. Having dehumanized the opposition with a label, they have rendered the other’s views unworthy of consideration. Case closed. Thinking, to say nothing of listening, is no longer required.

Another pernicious form of silencing in democracy is practiced by those adopting the intellectually lazy and ultimately relativist stance that they are “entitled to their opinion.” It would seem at first glance that these individuals must also recognize that others are entitled to theirs. However, what they really mean is that having developed an opinion of their own, there’s really no need to listen to anyone else’s. Furthermore, because having an opinion is something they are “entitled to,” having one is also rather conveniently its own justification.

The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” — and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse. ~ Patrick Stokes, professor of philosophy at Deakin University in Australia

No matter where we might fall on the political spectrum, the attempt to silence others by any means is a betrayal of classical liberalism’s most essential principle: freedom of speech. When our attention is upon identity (our own or another’s) or upon our own right to hold an opinion, the ideas that should be the focus of our conversations with one another are minimized and tossed aside. There is no room in a democracy for the practice of citizenship in personalized debates that drive individuals into tribal corners or defensive crouches.

In his book The Age of Anger: A History of the Present, Pankaj Mishra writes, “Survival in the crowd seems guaranteed by conformity to the views and opinions of whichever sectarian group one belongs to. The elites,” Mishra continues, “engage meanwhile in their own factional battles and presume to think on behalf of everyone else. The general moral law is one of obedience and conformity to the rules of the rich and powerful.” In the end, “Such a society where social bonds are defined by a dependence on other people’s opinion and competitive private ambition is a place devoid of any possibility of individual freedom.”

But we need not end up in such a society. Some of us are still old enough to remember a time when most disagreements were not taken personally, or at least did not seem to be. We can remember discussions between Republicans and Democrats, and others too, that ended with everyone leaving as friends and wanting to come back for more. Indeed, we can still find examples of such civility between those with different points of view. The friendly back and forth between the conservative David Brooks and the more liberal-minded Mark Shields each Friday night on the PBS Newshour comes to mind as an example.

To get back to civility we must regain faith in the process. Freedom of expression and of the press are necessary to a functioning democracy, not because we have the right view and others need to hear it, but because having all the views openly debated enables the best solutions to emerge from the debate. Only when each of us is able to smooth the rough edges off our position through friction with other perspectives can the best ideas develop and gain popular support.

Single-party states and authoritarian regimes may be more efficient, but they provide limited space for individuals and groups alike to truly flourish. Pluralistic societies necessarily make us uncomfortable with regularity, but they develop in their citizens a greater tolerance for uncertainty that requires faith in the process to take precedence over faith in an ideology. Personal attacks on those with views we don’t share are an indication it’s an ideology or particular leader rather than the process to which we have begun to devote ourselves.

President Trump’s attacks on the press, his insistence upon personal loyalty, and his affinity for authoritarian leaders represent an assault on a process that has served us well, even if it hasn’t served us perfectly. Similarly, the idea that controversy represents an assault upon our personal feelings or group identity signals that we no longer believe the marketplace of ideas is capable of separating the wheat from the chaff, or that we have lost patience with the time it often takes for it to do so.

In both cases, the willingness to engage in the hard intellectual work of citizenship has been abandoned in favor of slogans and ad hominem attacks. I’m not sure how to persuade those that have given themselves over to the emotional comfort believing in a “strong leader” or embracing the simplicity of an ideology provides. Democracy is messy, which makes any argument for it unappetizing to those that haven’t developed a taste for it.

“To live in freedom, one must grow used to a life full of agitation, change and danger,” de Tocqueville stated after long and careful observation of America. We are now facing the very real possibility that enough Americans have failed to adapt to these conditions to sustain democracy in the United States. Time will tell, but it doesn’t appear we’ll have to wait long for the answer. We should have it by the end of 2020.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

Other articles by Craig that you may enjoy:

“I am large, I contain multitudes”

Walt Whitman understood identity. We no longer do.

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Beware the Beast of Political Correctness

By Addie Mae Villas | USA

As we speak, American culture is going through a massive shift, and in no positive direction. In fact, we are losing societal recognition for one of the most basic liberties: freedom of speech. In modern American culture, there is now a desire to avoid speech that may trigger or offend an individual or group. This shift, the desire for an increase in political correctness, began as a form of common courtesy. However, it has mutated to the point of censorship of both facts and unpopular opinions. The atmosphere created by a politically correct (PC) culture not only spews out misinformation to protect feelings, but twists facts to ensure the happiness of others. This false reality is dangerous on many levels. When left unchecked, it will undoubtedly create a society that blurs the lines between fact and fiction.

Unsurprisingly, PC culture is not exclusive to either economic side of the political spectrum. Although the left shows a number of extreme cases of PC and censorship, the right is no different. In 2017, the Cato Institute, conducted a Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, in which they analyzed Americans’ beliefs on censorship. Simply put, the results were frightening. In it, 53% of Republicans polled favored taking U.S. citizenship from people who burned the American flag. To supplement, 65% of Republicans believed that NFL players should be fired for refusing to stand for the national anthem. Naturally, many individuals simply claim this is national pride. Yet, by supporting restrictions of American freedom, they immediately ruin the very values they claim pride in.

In addition, politically correct Republican culture often leads to blind respect for our law enforcement. While it is true that police officers are valuable members of society, this does not excuse their abuses of power. The shooting of Daniel Shaver is a clear example of said abuse. Though the victim was unarmed and begging for his life, officer Philip Brailsford still shot and killed him. Despite the officer’s murder of Shaver, the Republican party remained silent. Instances like these prove the hypocrisy of the PC right. Though quick to judge the damage caused by the left, many forget that they are guilty of the same faults.

On the contrary, the economic left is equally guilty of a damaging PC culture. Free speech zones on college campuses are a prime example of such damage, with speech restricted beyond certain areas. Moreover, the Cato Institute found that 51% of Democrats support legally forcing Americans to use a transgender’s preferred pronoun. Though doing so is polite, we do not legislate politeness. Such a law is an example of government overreach. If someone wants to misgender someone, that is solely up to the person, not the state, to decide.

After looking at the faults of both sides, which party happens to be the greater offender? The Cato Institute poll found that Democrats are more likely to support banning offensive language. As time passes, the list of offensive terms only increases. In fact, 80% of surveyed Democrats believe that it is hateful or offensive to declare that America should deport illegal immigrants. When so many individuals believe that truths and opinions are derogatory and harmful, civil debate quickly fades away.

In today’s world, discussion is something that needs to happen to prevent a major catastrophe. Currently, Cato reported that 71% of people believe PC has prevented conversations we need in society. One can easily look to oppressive governments to see the damage of restricting free speech. America is rapidly moving in that direction, and a clear change in culture is necessary to protect our liberties.

(Image courtesy of historyofjournalism.onmason.com)

Just Say Merry Christmas; Why Political Correctness is Toxic

By Colin Louis | USA

As Christmas approaches us an annoying caution comes up. Saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.” Today people are more cautious than ever not to offend anyone so they say “Happy Holidays.” This is our new exception of Americans, that we’ll get offended by “Merry Christmas!” By saying “Merry Christmas” you’re not excluding anyone or being racist. Instead, you’re saying a nice seasonal greeting that makes people smile and say thanks. Don’t fear the toxic culture created by political correctness. Also, if you are offended when someone says “Merry Christmas” just smile back and say “Merry Christmas.”

This type of culture is dangerous. It leads to an oppression of intellectual discussion and thought. When we as a society decide what is and is not acceptable to say and think people’s ideas are going to be smashed. Ideas, ideology, and people that are a general danger to freedom in the west should be called out on it. If we’re afraid to challenge someone or something because of the labels it will earn us we have failed as a society of thought. Currently in Europe, politicians fail to recognize the mass immigration problem that is destroying their nations. That’s what happens when your society disregards or even bans criticism of certain ideas. A society where we’re slaves to not offending anyone is not one that will thrive.

“Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
-Ben Shapiro

If a fact offends you then you should reconsider your argument. We’re taught that an argument is based on facts, unless you have opposing facts then you should consider the opposing argument. Pointing out a fact is not hate speech. Depending on context then what you say could actually be offensive. (This still does not merit an argument worthy of censorship.) For example, what if I point out that current issues like Black Lives Matter are actually about Government power and not race. This is because of the hard crackdown on urban towns by the war on drugs that has put low income communities which are typically of a minority population more at risk of police violence. Using this to make the point I just made isn’t racist. Yes, we could have a reasonable debate about the idea and if it’s true or not using facts and data without labels like “racist” being used. Should it be used in a white supremacist context than yes it would be considered racist. Facts aren’t racist, pointing them out isn’t racist. The way they can be used could be racist.

Political correctness is not only anti-fact it is also dangerous. Some ideas have flaws, every ideology should be debated and receive skepticism. As a Christian I welcome productive discussion and debate about my beliefs, principles, and ideas. As should every religion or ideology. Unfortunately political correctness has made it harder to even be skeptical of some possibly bad ideas. A good example would be the recent travel ban imposed by US President Donald Trump. The ban made it illegal for refugees to come from certain nations, if you support the ban or not it is possible to have a reasonable debate about it without attempting to label the ban as Islamophobic when it bans all people from those countries. Not to mention the ban didn’t include Indonesia the most Islamic nation on the planet. The ban was an issue of national security, not religious supremacy. You may think the ban isn’t necessary or not support it for another reason but please don’t assume that everyone who supports it is racist. Obviously all Muslims aren’t terrorists and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong, but when someone supports a security measure because they aren’t scared of PC culture calling them racist is wrong. No longer will you be able to cite facts and evidence to back a claim for fear that you will be labeled. When we fail to recognize various failures or problems for fear of PC culture we are in a very dangerous place.

The corner foundation of tyranny is censorship. Society will silence opposition. Rather than debate someone who disagrees with you it’s much easier to call them racist. Political correctness attempts to do just that, if you don’t follow a long and constantly changing set of guidelines for what is acceptable to say you will be labeled extreme. PC culture forces others and in some cases ourselves to write off ideas that are developed by facts and evidence because they may offend someone. Some in the US will tell you that it isn’t about censorship. It’s hard to believe this when in countries where they’ve gotten the chance leftists have banned free speech they call “hate speech.” Leftists haven’t just banned extreme terms like the N word they’ve also gone far enough in Ontario to allow the government to possibly take children from their families if the parents don’t accept the young child’s gender identity.

So, political correctness is a disease in modern society that disregards reasonable, and factual thought. Don’t fear if you may offend someone because you told the truth. PC culture is denting us, it has infiltrated our thoughts, even our holidays! We can’t surrender the truth. We can’t allow a ruling body to dictate what we can say. We can’t let PC culture destroy the truth.