Political Correctness


#1

I recently took a bioethics course with a serious and thoughtful professor. For the final paper, I suggested the issue of reassignment surgery for trans children, a topic I thought was relevant, important, and philosophically interesting. The professor agreed that the issue was a good one, but seemed hesitant to assign the question out of fear that it might offend students.

I was left feeling deeply troubled. It seemed that the political correctness (PC) frenzy, which had been building momentum for the past several years, had finally reached such a fever-pitch that the most important bioethical topics — difficult issues with serious consequences for vulnerable, marginalized people — couldn’t even be discussed in bioethics departments because of the threat of controversy and reprisal. The PC or ‘Social Justice Warrior’ (SJW) movement, which had sought with considerable success to roll back free speech on campuses across North America, was now beginning to harm the very groups it purported to defend.
Over the last few years I had become deeply concerned about the brazen attacks on free speech being launched by SJW activists in the name of, among other things, anti-racism, anti-sexism, and gender equality. While ostensibly fighting the good fight, SJWs were taking their reformism to new extremes. They were seeing discrimination everywhere, and reading hate-speech into seemingly innocent, or at worst, poorly-worded remarks. Rather than expressing concerns or requesting clarification, they were clamouring for resignations and mandatory ‘sensitivity’ training — a measure which, along with demands for ‘privilege-checking’ and other attacks on ‘unconscious prejudice,’ smacked of Maoist re-education programs.

Armed with an ideology that considers basically any disliked speech to be equivalent to violence, SJWs were getting events cancelled in order to keep themselves ‘safe’ from any and all ideas with which they disagreed. Several talks at U of T have recently been disrupted by protests of this kind.
SJWs were eager to make strong claims — like allegations of racism or sexism — but seemed staunchly opposed to rationally defending any of their theses – even those used to justify censorship, like their persistent equation of speech with violence. Emphasizing ‘impact’ and ‘experience’ above reason and objectivity, SJWs maintained that they didn’t have to explain their experiences to anyone. They asserted the unquestionable right to censor and punish, while steadfastly refusing to justify the tremendous powers that they had unilaterally arrogated to themselves.

More disturbingly still, SJWs openly attacked free speech, academic freedom, and even reason itself — as one notable activist put it, “reason should be wielded as a tactic, not adhered to as a rule.” Proceeding as they did from an intellectual tradition which sees virtually all institutions, including reason and logic, as instruments of oppression by powerful groups, SJWs had few qualms about responding to requests for reasoned argument with grand proclamations of the ‘validity’ of their ‘lived-experiences.’ Similarly, they were perfectly comfortable with using actual violence to suppress ideas and speech that they perceived to be violent.
One can imagine my relief, then, upon learning that a U of T professor, Jordan Peterson, had taken a public stand against neo-political-correctness, expressing his concerns about the rise of the regressive left in a series of YouTube lectures. Academics, Peterson observed, are increasingly afraid to voice dissenting opinions for fear that they may find themselves in the crosshairs of a highly-organized and effective protest-movement which has proven its ability to have controversial speaking events canceled, and get even the highest-ranking university employees fired and black-balled; Tim Wolfe at the University of Missouri and Jodi Kelly at Seattle U are two prominent examples. In such a climate, Peterson observed, the free exchange of ideas — which ought to be the hallmark of higher education — was all but impossible.

Although I didn’t hold out much hope for immediate change, I was glad to see someone standing up to the cadre of activists who had unilaterally appointed themselves arbiters of campus discourse, and I admired Peterson’s courage – risking his reputation, career, and livelihood to defend free speech.
Unfortunately, and predictably, the response to his videos has been far from constructive. As if to prove his point about their suppression of dissent, PC activists ignored Peterson’s arguments about free-expression, and instead zeroed-in on incidental remarks about gender-identification. Peterson, a renowned clinical psychologist, feels that the terminology underpinning recent human-rights legislation is vague and under-supported by the scholarly literature – in particular, he feels that terms like ‘gender spectrum’ are poor descriptors of the extant data.

Seizing upon this rather banal statistical distinction, SJWs denounced him as a hatemonger, called for his dismissal, and shamelessly attempted to associate him with neo-Nazis. When the dust settled, they had succeeded in drowning out the substance of his remarks — on one occasion, they did this quite literally with a white-noise machine.

Peterson criticized SJW arrogance and smear tactics, and SJWs responded by dismissing his meticulously formulated arguments out of hand and attempting, rather clumsily, to smear him. The irony would be absolutely delicious if the movement from which this response arose wasn’t so powerful — despite their claims to the contrary.

The backlash against Peterson’s videos is emblematic of the unabashed intolerance, reflexive hostility, and pathological incapacity for introspection which has increasingly driven left-wing commentators like myself away from the modern social justice movement.

Unlike protest movements of yore — including civil rights, gay rights, and the Suffragettes — SJWs don’t simply advance and argue ideas, but they attempt to silence anyone who disagrees with them. Rather than trying to demonstrate that they are right, as those propounding new ideas typically must, they take it as a given they are right, and move straight on to punishing sedition. They attack anyone who disagrees with them, often ruining their lives and careers, and they attack anyone who comes to the defence of the people they’re attacking – a modus operandi reminiscent of the darkest days of McCarthyism.
It’s bad enough when the people trying to muzzle those who disagree with them are obviously right. The whole point of free speech is that being right doesn’t justify silencing one’s opponents. After all, who ever thought their own ideas were wrong?

But the SJW movement is so hopelessly confused and maddeningly fickle that the prospect of their rising powers of censorship is nothing short of terrifying. Not satiated by the traditional right-wing targets of progressive indignation, they eat their own: feminists who criticize the treatment of women in Islam are racist; Muslim women who feel uncomfortable with biological-men using ladies-rooms are trans-phobic; Caucasians who show solidarity with ethnic-minorities by sporting traditional garb are guilty of cultural appropriation. Keeping up with the ever-changing party line, it seems, is a full-time occupation.

Perhaps their willingness to suppress dissent without justification is related to SJWs’ rather odd relationship with truth. As a Western-white-cis-male construction, truth is relative, and logic and reason are tools of oppression, especially when they underlie arguments in opposition to SJW ideas.

Consequently, their theses don’t have to make sense: all that matters is the feeling, impact, and experience of the people on the ‘right’ side of the debate. Not only does this assume correctness without proof, it doesn’t even make sense — how can SJW ideas themselves be ‘true’ when right and wrong are social constructs? I suppose that once one has freed oneself of the shackles of logic and reason, questions of this sort become uninteresting.

SJWs want to be free to insult, vilify, demonize, and ostracize to their hearts content. Whenever anyone has the gall to question one of their manifold, shape-shifting theses, they scream for censorship and censure. They invariably attack even the mildest opposition to their ideas by contorting it beyond recognition, interpreting it as bigotry and oppression, and concluding that the people who expressed it have no right to speak.

Free speech isn’t just a right, it’s a fountainhead of rights — a ‘meta right,’ if you will — whose safeguarding enables marginalized groups to gain new rights despite majoritarian opposition. It is also historically young, and geographically sparse. Throughout history, and around the world, people have fought and died for the freedom to say what they think, regardless of how the majority or powerful minorities feel about it.

A clique of myopic bullies, who use ad hoc jargon and smear tactics to dismiss the fundamental rights of those who disagree with them, threaten to wipe out these important advances in a few hysterical years. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to the countless martyrs to free expression and to future generations, not to let this happen.

Simon Capobianco is a fourth-year student at Woodsworth College studying Bioethics and Mathematics.


#2

Good article.
And I’m not sure if DECKHAM was putting out the ironing or not.

I feel a similar way when I come across the new generation of leftists (sorry if you’re a millennial who doesn’t like labels), while I recognise All of the allegations this article makes my reaction is a lot less academic.
They simply scare the crap out of me.
Facts don’t matter.
Context doesn’t matter.
Scale doesn’t matter.
You’re either a white hat or a black hat, and the black hats don’t deserve to live.
Their use of the word privelage, which at base means their likelihood to be heard based on their social circumstances, is also so twisted that’s its past ironic and well into the realms of doublethink.

Edit: At the same time, the other extreme can be pretty scary too. The so-called MRM and those who subscribe to Nice Guy theory to name just two of many.


#3

“Social justice warrior” (commonly abbreviated SJW) is a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics.

:slight_smile:


#4

The irony is, most self declared SJW’s are the epitome of white privilege.
Personally - I think there is an element of self hate with a lot of them.


#5
Good article. And I'm not sure if DECKHAM was putting out the ironing or not.

snip

'tis my job


#6

I find it annoying that it is assumed that if you are one side of politics or the other you must think a certain way. I am certainly to the left politically but I believe in free speech and think 18C has to go.
I think the only way to counter inflammatory or unacceptable speech is to debate it not ban it.
In the United States (I know I Know) they are talking of banning Huck Finn and To Kill a Mocking Bird from the school curriculum because of the use of the “n” word (as they say). Worse still they are talking about re-writing them!
How about use them to discuss how language has changed, how the context was different at the time, what was socially acceptable etc etc.
When we have come to burning books, or rewriting and therefore dumbing down classics, we know we have gone too far.


#7

You could have told using advance it was an article from an American. I only started reading it because it looked like it was your own work, IT.

For balance I hope you put up an article about the pressure by US fundamentalists to stop teaching of various facts in biology e.g. evolution.


#8

I thought that was just your OP Icey, I was about to give you flack about its length when I finally realised it was an article.

Interesting topic. FYI, for those interested (and can handle Joe Rogan) Jordan Peterson was on the JRE podcast last week. He’s a really interesting guy, and worth listening to.


#9
I thought that was just your OP Icey, I was about to give you flack about its length when I finally realised it was an article.

Interesting topic. FYI, for those interested (and can handle Joe Rogan) Jordan Peterson was on the JRE podcast last week. He’s a really interesting guy, and worth listening to.

I couldn’t write that! lol It wouldn’t make sense after the first paragraph.


#10

Interesting debate.

The movements in the USA to suppress free speech (and they come from both the left and right in political terms), have been written about in fiction for many years; (re-read of Brave New World and 1984 ), but are also endemic in harsh regimes over many centuries all over the world.

When it comes to 18C, it is a real dilemma for me, as I was brought up on the “names will never hurt me” philosophy, and my Mum was as racist as any I have ever met, and calling people ■■■■■■■, abos, wogs etc was standard in our home. I have no idea how that effects any people, as I am an old white male and it is no effect on me. So I took the Politically Correct position of going along with the view that black people are seriously affected, hence 18C is valid.

Then of course, the Adam Goodes saga took off; and I was one who openly boo-ed him, I closely reviewed my reasons, discussed it broadly and know that it was not racist but due to my distaste at his actions.

I would strongly object to the re-writing of history by changing any literature, and support the telling of history truthfully. The best way to combat racism, bigotry, genocide and all that happens that is evil, is to highlight it, not bury it.


#11
You could have told using advance it was an article from an American. I only started reading it because it looked like it was your own work, IT.

For balance I hope you put up an article about the pressure by US fundamentalists to stop teaching of various facts in biology e.g. evolution.

?? not sure what that has to do with this? This article is a leftie writing about other lefties, has nothing to do with your issue.

Oh and btw evolution isn’t a fact, it is a theory…but that has nothing to do with the PC discussion.


#12

The current ‘Notso Safe Schools’ debate is a good case in point of PC going way too far.

Most parents are appalled that Marxist gender theory is being shoved down kids throats. Schools are for education, not for this nonsense.


#13
Then of course, the Adam Goodes saga took off; and I was one who openly boo-ed him, I closely reviewed my reasons, discussed it broadly and know that it was not racist but due to my distaste at his actions.
Same here, except that I stopped discussing it broadly because the people I discussed it with weren't prepared to accept any viewpoint that wasn't "racist" or "not racist". Hell, I even think there was an element of racism in the media judging his actions based entirely on his background. There's no acceptance that it is possible to be both aboriginal AND a crybaby (referring entirely to his actions on the football field, not off of it), with Lindsay Thomas somehow being an exception to that rule.

I hate the term SJW. It gets thrown around as a cheap label. However there is a certain type of activist that is passionate about activism in general, and not the actual causes they throw a tiny percentage of their weight behind. They’re not really interested in advancing towards a resolution, just upsetting the apple cart in general. An analogy I’ve heard before is that while some activists will be working in getting a wheelchair ramp installed, other activists will be rallying to have the stairs pulled down.


#14

I believe this debate is a significant reason for why Trump got elected.

People are seriously ■■■■■■ off with the extreme political correctness used by the intelligentsia in the US. It’s a massive reaction against them.

There was talk a little while ago that in universities, lecturers/tutors have to specify in advance if they were going to use a word that could possibly give offence, and some clown walked out of a lecture where the word prostitute was used, saying it was ■■■■■-phobic.

The amount of traction I’d give that clown’s view is roughly zero, and tell them that if they can’t hand it, they should get the heck out.

There are still some words and concepts I wouldn’t use, but other ones shouldn’t be clamped on.


#15

I dunno what it’s like in the USA, but in Australian terms I’ll take all this pious concern for free speech rights seriously when their proponents are just as loud in defence of someone like Scott McIntyre as they are in defence of people’s right to be racist.

Who was Scott McIntyre? He was the sbs reporter who a while back went on a huge twitter rant about how much he hated Anzac Day, and that it glorified war and imperialism, and that many Australian soldiers serving in war were thieves or rapists. The silence from the ‘free speech über alles’ brigade was deafening, and everyone clamoured for sbs to sack him, which they promptly did.

‘Free speech’ in modern politics is very very very often just a code word for ‘I want to be a racist or bigot and not get criticised for it’. I’ll start taking it seriously when ‘free speech’ advocates start getting serious about demanding defamation law reform, or increased whistleblower protection, or opposing the runaway use of judicial suppression orders in legal cases of public interest, or promoting anti-SLAPP measures. But they never do. In the Australian context, it’s always all about 18c and the right to be racist. In the US it seems to be more about the right to abuse gays, but it’s really the same phenomenon.

As a brief aside about 18c, something that gets lost in the cloud of bullshit is that not only is is truth a 100% valid defence against 18c charges, but so is good faith - the reasonable belief that what you are saying is true, even if it turns out you were mistaken. 18c targets very narrowly, and it targets deliberate or blatantly negligent lies. I know one of the people who brought suit against Bolt under 18c. What he said was racist lies, plain and simple, and a quick google could have proved it, but Bolt either didn’t bother doing this or else he didn’t want to let the truth get in the way of his determination to write racist lies. The complainants against Bolt had the option to sue him for defamation (and they would have won, easily) but chose to sue under 18c instead because they wanted to make it clear they weren’t acting out of self interest. In a fantasy world where journalistic integrity is a real thing, immefiately after the verdict bolt would have been sacked and have his carrer killed inmediately and permanently FOR MAKING UP LIES IN HIS COLUMN and his editor would have been sacked for letting him get away with it. He and the paper utterly discredited themselves.

Free speech is powerful, and is a powerful weapon. Without stuff like 18c, how do you fight back against people in the media, or in politics, willing to make up deliberate racist lies to attack enemies and invoke prejudice against people they don’t like?


#16

Trigger warnings and safe spaces have their place, in my opinion.
I think they’ve both been…changed…to suit both left and right dogmas.
On the left we have people who think that trigger warnings are for people who have an opinion on a subject, rather than people who experienced some sort of trauma over a subject.
On the right we have people who say they have no use whatsoever and just grow up.

Seems to me there’s a middle ground, and it’s what was originally intended.


#17
Seems to me there's a middle ground, and it's what was originally intended.
Can be applied to just about every socio-political discussion ever held.

#18
I find it annoying that it is assumed that if you are one side of politics or the other you must think a certain way. I am certainly to the left politically but I believe in free speech and think 18C has to go. I think the only way to counter inflammatory or unacceptable speech is to debate it not ban it. In the United States (I know I Know) they are talking of banning Huck Finn and To Kill a Mocking Bird from the school curriculum because of the use of the "n" word (as they say). Worse still they are talking about re-writing them! How about use them to discuss how language has changed, how the context was different at the time, what was socially acceptable etc etc. When we have come to burning books, or rewriting and therefore dumbing down classics, we know we have gone too far.

I agree with everything you’ve said, but I don’t agree with the removal of 18C.
When powerful people libel based on race (or gender, or sexual orientation, or etc.) it is not just a crime against the individual but a crime against society.
And I think it should be recognised as such.

Edit: What HM said.


#19
You could have told using advance it was an article from an American. I only started reading it because it looked like it was your own work, IT.

For balance I hope you put up an article about the pressure by US fundamentalists to stop teaching of various facts in biology e.g. evolution.

?? not sure what that has to do with this? This article is a leftie writing about other lefties, has nothing to do with your issue.

Oh and btw evolution isn’t a fact, it is a theory…but that has nothing to do with the PC discussion.

Think that perhaps it is not a Left / Right issue and certainly Jordan Peterson is no Left Winger. It actually goes across Politics and is all about societal norms and perhaps the advent of identity politics.

Why do you get working class people in USA, Australia and Canada voting for obvious rightwing Parties with rightwing policy ? It is more about needs than ideology and a general mistrust of the large Parties in Australia’s case.


#20
I dunno what it's like in the USA, but in Australian terms I'll take all this pious concern for free speech rights seriously when their proponents are just as loud in defence of someone like Scott McIntyre as they are in defence of people's right to be racist.

Who was Scott McIntyre? He was the sbs reporter who a while back went on a huge twitter rant about how much he hated Anzac Day, and that it glorified war and imperialism, and that many Australian soldiers serving in war were thieves or rapists. The silence from the ‘free speech über alles’ brigade was deafening, and everyone clamoured for sbs to sack him, which they promptly did.

‘Free speech’ in modern politics is very very very often just a code word for ‘I want to be a racist or bigot and not get criticised for it’. I’ll start taking it seriously when ‘free speech’ advocates start getting serious about demanding defamation law reform, or increased whistleblower protection, or opposing the runaway use of judicial suppression orders in legal cases of public interest, or promoting anti-SLAPP measures. But they never do. In the Australian context, it’s always all about 18c and the right to be racist. In the US it seems to be more about the right to abuse gays, but it’s really the same phenomenon.

As a brief aside about 18c, something that gets lost in the cloud of bullshit is that not only is is truth a 100% valid defence against 18c charges, but so is good faith - the reasonable belief that what you are saying is true, even if it turns out you were mistaken. 18c targets very narrowly, and it targets deliberate or blatantly negligent lies. I know one of the people who brought suit against Bolt under 18c. What he said was racist lies, plain and simple, and a quick google could have proved it, but Bolt either didn’t bother doing this or else he didn’t want to let the truth get in the way of his determination to write racist lies. The complainants against Bolt had the option to sue him for defamation (and they would have won, easily) but chose to sue under 18c instead because they wanted to make it clear they weren’t acting out of self interest. In a fantasy world where journalistic integrity is a real thing, immefiately after the verdict bolt would have been sacked and have his carrer killed inmediately and permanently FOR MAKING UP LIES IN HIS COLUMN and his editor would have been sacked for letting him get away with it. He and the paper utterly discredited themselves.

Free speech is powerful, and is a powerful weapon. Without stuff like 18c, how do you fight back against people in the media, or in politics, willing to make up deliberate racist lies to attack enemies and invoke prejudice against people they don’t like?

Scott McIntyre has every right to voice his opinion on Anzac Day, and every freedom to do so, but when it infringes on the reputation of his employer - whom fairly or unfairly he is expected to publically represent in a positive light even in his free time - that may be treated differently. Now you may disagree with that, and fair enough, but I think it’s more of a debate over what rights and expectations an employer has of their employees, versus a consideration of free speech.