…not just an irritant anymore, but now a serious threat to American society.
Jonathan Chait tells the story of Omar Mahmood, a student at the University of Michigan, who dared to publish a column satirizing (rather gently, I think) those people who go around being offended at everything. He has been demonized, was fired from his job at the Michigan Daily, and his apartment was vandalized. Chait notes that at a growing number of campuses, professors attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset the oh-so-sensitive students…and that the insistence on “protecting” people from ideas that may upset them has resulted in movements to ban speakers such as Condi Rice (Rutgers), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Brandeis), and IMF director Christine Lagarde (Smith).
Stuart Schneiderman describes how Political Correctness can influence national politics, noting that “When Obama became president, political debate was no longer about ideas. In social media and universities those who opposed Obama were slandered and defamed…Now, with the candidacy of Hillary Clinton looming, the debate will no longer concern Mrs. Clinton’s thin resume and barely visible accomplishments, but about the sexism of those who oppose her.”
And here is Frederik deBoer, a self-defined leftist (who does not much like Jonathan Chait), writing about the ways he has seen Political Correctness at work and the impact it has had on individuals:
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19-year-old white woman—smart, well-meaning, passionate—literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” Not repeatedly. Not with malice. Not because of privilege. She used the word once and was excoriated for it. She never came back. I watched that happen.
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20-year-old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn’t a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20-year-olds from rural South Carolina aren’t born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone.
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33-year-old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22-year-old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war. Because apparently we have to pretend that we don’t know how metaphorical language works or else we’re bad people. I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself.
Frederik deBoer, writer of the above, objects to this kind of Political Correctness at least in part because it drives people out of leftist politics. He says “I want a left that can win, and there’s no way I can have that when the actually-existing left sheds potential allies at an impossible rate. But the prohibition against ever telling anyone to be friendlier and more forgiving is so powerful and calcified it’s a permanent feature of today’s progressivism.”
(Some of us think that the control of speech is an inherent feature of ideologies of the type represented by today’s “progressivism.”)
And here are a bunch of idiotic “Social Justice Warriors” (ie, aggressive wielders of the Political Correctness sabre) raging on Twitter about the US Army’s use of the term “chink”…in the context of a discussion of Special Operations, the specific sentence which resulted in so much fury being “Chinks in special ops’ digital and physical armor pose challenges, experts say.”
I’m reminded of something I read many years ago: a university professor came under virulent attack by a group of radical feminists because he had used the term “bang for the buck.” This phrase originated, of course, in the field of weapons systems procurement and refers to getting the most military capability for the money. But the attackers decided that the term referred to some kind of discount prostitution business and hence that its use was “degrading to women.”
It has long been said that American universities are “islands of tyranny in a sea of freedom.” But it was inevitable that the habits of groupthink and submission to the loudest voices that were inculcated in these institutions would seep out into the broader society and begin to poison political dialog in many contexts–and this process is now well underway.
Tying this post to my last post, Conformity Kills: if a person spends his college years learning to carefully avoid speaking his mind on all matter of politics, social organization, human nature, relationships between the sexes, and many other subjects–what are the chances that he will be willing to speak him mind in a career context where the stakes are high–even if those stakes involve matters of life and death?