COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, August 27, 2016 – Political correctness, commonly abbreviated to PC, is a term that describes language, policies, or measures intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. An extreme extension of old fashioned good manners, PC has linked up with victimization and bullying and is deployed to target many individuals, a tactic particularly favored in academia and the media.
Recently the University of Chicago, the Editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and 2016 Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have all struck a blow to the trend of “trigglypuffs” and perpetually scared millennials who have been wreaking havoc, particularly at America’s colleges and universities.
Each of the four, in their unique way, has struck a blow for freedom of speech, starting what some would say is a long overdue reversal in the previously relentless advance of political correctness.
In a 2000 address titled, “The Origins of Political Correctness,” Bill Lind opined on the practice of PC:
“If we look at it analytically, if we look at it historically, we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious.”
Lind goes so far as to compare political correctness as it is practiced on college campuses today to Marxism:
“. . . both are totalitarian ideologies. The totalitarian nature of Political Correctness is revealed nowhere more clearly than on college campuses, many of which at this point are small ivy covered North Koreas, where the student or faculty member who dares to cross any of the lines set up by the gender feminist or the homosexual-rights activists, or the local black or Hispanic group, or any of the other sainted ‘victims’ groups that PC revolves around, quickly find themselves in judicial trouble. Within the small legal system of the college, they face formal charges – some star-chamber proceeding – and punishment.”
The most recent push-back on political correctness has come from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose harsh rhetoric has driven a Mack truck through Americans’ PC sensitivities. He has brought the art of name-calling to a level far beyond any self-respecting school yard, branding his political opponents: “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Little Marco.” Trump has called comedian Rosie O’Donnell “disgusting” with a “fat pig face” and Arianna Huffington “ugly inside and out,” and asserted that supermodel Heidi Klum is “no longer a 10.”
It’s not pretty, yet despite the well-meaning advice offered by colleagues, campaign advisors and family members to tone it down a bit, the Trump beat continues. With Sinatra’s, “I gotta be me,” refrain playing softly in the background, Trump this week finally got around to uttering the “B” word:
Listing the ways in which he would make life better for African Americans living in poverty, he suddenly shouted out, “Hillary Clinton is a bigot, who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.”
Political correctness is a bone of contention between the two presidential candidates. Trump, on a CNN program, said that Democrats’ reluctance to repeat the words, “radical Islamic terror,” hampers efforts to combat terror.
“‘The first thing you need is a president that will mention the problem. And he (Obama) won’t even mention what the problem is,’ Trump said. ‘Unless you’re going to say that, you’re never going to solve it.'”
As if the nation needed any more divisions, political correctness has come to be a favored term often employed by those in power to offer some degree of distance between harsh political realities and their attempts to manage them. But, led by the politically incorrect Trump, citizens have become increasingly dissatisfied by the ‘prettified words’ of political correctness, especially when they’re used to cover the truth.
Trump’s populist movement was echoed in Great Britain this year as those comfortably residing within Britain’s politically correct establishment came up against their own people. In reaction, UK citizens ended up voting to leave their country’s domineering handlers in the European Union, headquartered in Brussels. Rush Limbaugh referred to the break in England, as in the U.S., as the emergence of two new classes: Country Class and the Elites.
“‘Brexit is just the latest example of what we are all up against when we consider ourselves to be the country class . . . versus the ruling class. Elites versus commoners, the establishment versus non-establishment, what have you,’ Limbaugh explained.”
Under direct attack by the country class speech employed by Trump and his supporters, Hillary Clinton has felt the need, if only temporarily, to toss political correctness aside for purposes of the national election. Responding to Trump’s use of the “B” word, for instance, she countered with her own, the dreaded “R” word:
As in, “Donald Trump is a racist.”
Fighting Trump’s populist language and Republicans’ long-standing criticisms of her habit of not naming Islamic terrorists, ‘Islamic terrorists,’ Clinton has adjusted some of her high-falootin,’ politically correct language away from the Kennedy School of Government and nearer to the rest of us out here in the street.
Talking to CNN reporter David Wright in June, Clinton answered Trump’s attacks that she’s too politically correct and by announcing that she’s not afraid to say “radical” Islam. “From my perspective, it matters what we do more than what we say,” Clinton told CNN’s “New Day.”
Academic political correctness
Universities have long served as incubators for societal change. One only must go back to the sixties and the influence of college campus revolts on America’s war in Vietnam, or to the Green Revolution in Iran, or to the students’ stand-off in China’s Tienamen Square, to note the power of the young flexing to enter the real world.
Additionally, the street demonstrations in Cairo against President Mubarak showed the power of the internet, a tool largely inhabited by the young to facilitate and help organize gatherings and street demonstrations.
But moderation is not a hallmark of the young. They and their professors have taken cultural awareness and sensitivities to extreme lengths, as they have opposed anything they define as offensive language or challenges by those who insist on being different in their views.
Recognizing a disturbing swing of the pendulum away from free speech, in 1999, University of Pennsylvania professor Charles Kors and Boston civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate founded FIRE, the “Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,” to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.
According to FIRE’s web site,
“. . . freedom of speech is under continuous threat at many of America’s campuses, pushed aside in favor of politics, comfort, or simply a desire to avoid controversy. As a result, speech codes dictating what may or may not be said, ‘free speech zones’ confining free speech to tiny areas of campus, and administrative attempts to punish or repress speech on a case-by-case basis are common today in academia.”
University of Chicago
One college university, the University of Chicago, has seen fit — surely unwittingly — to join up with Limbaugh’s ‘country class’ by outlawing stilted ‘pretty’ politically correct speech and its attendant exclusionary ramifications on campus. University of Chicago President, Robert J. Zimmer, and his Dean of Students in the College, Jay Ellison, have joined forces to make their campus a political-correctness free zone.
No more safe spaces. In its place, they are advocating dialogue, free and open speech, healthy questioning and intellectual growth.
In a message to incoming freshman, Ellison notes that the desire for ‘safe-spaces’ from discomfiting speech or ideas will not override the academic community’s interest in rigorous debate. “Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship,” Ellison wrote.
“You’ll find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”
Ellison goes on to say that Chicago’s “commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”
FIRE’s Kors and Silverglate couldn’t agree more with the University of Chicago’s Zimmer and Ellison:
“Freedom of speech is a fundamental American freedom and a human right, and there’s no place that this right should be more valued and protected than America’s colleges and universities. A university exists to educate students and advance the frontiers of human knowledge, and does so by acting as a “marketplace of ideas” where ideas compete. The intellectual vitality of a university depends on this competition—something that cannot happen properly when students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing views that might be unpopular with the public at large or disfavored by university administrators.”
On August 25, editors of The Wall Street Journal applauded Zimmer’s free speech initiative on campus, stating in an editorial,
“For a change, we come not to bury a college president but to praise him. His name is Robert Zimmer, and . . . the University of Chicago president defends the educational and societal virtues of free speech on college campuses. Let’s hope he wears body armor to the next faculty meeting.”
The battle to erase politically correct sensitivities is far from over. But one can see society slowly shifting back towards more truthful language. The harsh presidential campaign, the Brexit vote in England, and the words of enlightened university leaders such as Zimmer, give us hope that free speech, in all its forms — the good, the bad, and the ugly — will return to society.
Freedom of speech laws were not particularly written to defend speech with which we agree. Freedom of speech laws guarantee dissenters’ freedom to present views with which we disagree. This First Amendment right is the foundation upon which America was built. Universities and our elected representatives must fight for the people’s right to speak, to disagree, and even to be disagreeable.
That’s America. It’s called freedom.