Political correctness - The enemy of free speech

When political correctness seeks ideological conformity, it becomes a form of tyranny.

Christopher Lindsay Montreal QC

When a person is politically correct they avoid “language or behaviour that any particular group of people might feel is unkind or offensive.” While political correctness can be reasonable in opposing offensive words, it becomes the enemy of free speech when it does not allow for ideological diversity.

Political correctness divides people into groups

Politically correctness is rooted in binary thinking that divides society into groups: oppressor vs. oppressed, advantaged vs. disadvantaged, privileged vs. underprivileged etc. When the world is viewed through this binary lens, any speech that portrays an “oppressed” group in a negative light is considered a violation. The person with a politically “incorrect” viewpoint is seen as taking the side of the oppressor. To those who are politically correct, oppressor groups often include white males, rich people, corporations, conservatives, and pro-life Christians. Free speech is welcomed when these groups are criticized. However, any criticism of an oppressed group (or member of that group) is not tolerated, even if it is true. Disagreement is conflated with hatred. Political correctness is reasonable when it treats minority groups with dignity and respect. On both sides of the political spectrum, there is agreement that certain words used in the past are no longer appropriate today. For instance, we no longer call a mentally-ill person a “lunatic” or a disabled person a “cripple.” Political correctness is also reasonable in opposing racist language. Roseanne Barr, in a racist tweet, compared Valerie Jarrett, an African-American woman, to the offspring of an ape. Barr may have been exercising her right to free speech, but people also have the right to respond to her speech. No one should tolerate racist insults.

Political correctness silences different worldviews

The problem with political correctness is not in opposing offensive words, but rather in trying to silence different worldviews, in particular, conservative and Christian beliefs. When political correctness seeks ideological conformity, it becomes a form of tyranny. Its primary strategy to achieve conformity is through public shaming. For example, if someone criticizes the teachings of Islam, they are often labelled an Islamophobe or a racist. The shame of being stigmatized pressures many people into silence, resulting in politically correct viewpoints becoming the norm in public discourse. A second tactic of political correctness to silence other viewpoints is by being triggered. In many American Universities, certain beliefs that “trigger” a negative emotional response are considered microaggressions. At the University of Minnesota, saying “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” is considered an act of aggression to a non-white person. To the politically correct mind, ideas that trigger negative emotions must be eliminated. A final tactic of political correctness to restrict free speech is through protesting. In the United States, when a conservative speaker is invited to a University, students have often protested until the speaker is disinvited. Rather than allowing for public debate and discussion, the politically correct “mob” tries to silence anyone they disagree with.

Nobody has a monopoly on the truth

Whether politically correct or incorrect, left-wing or right-wing, no one has a monopoly on the truth. Unfortunately, those who are politically correct can be so convinced their point of view is right that they feel morally justified in silencing other views by any means possible. The only way to discover the truth is to consider all sides of an issue: both left and right. However, when political correctness succeeds in silencing opposing viewpoints, the truth can often be lost. People who possess the truth are deprived of the right to speak, and others are deprived of the right to hear. For good or ill, political correctness is a means of social control. In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the state controls how people think through Newspeak: the elimination of words that are considered harmful. Similarly, political correctness controls how people think by eliminating both words and ideas from public discourse. Hence, it is a means of thought control. The chief error of political correctness is that if an idea is offensive to someone, it must be wrong. In reality, when people believe something that is false, the truth can sometimes offend them. The only way to combat political correctness is by exercising one’s right to free speech. In the marketplace of ideas, the truth—if it is not silenced—will eventually defeat falsehood. Christopher Lindsay is the author of Letters from a Madman.  Follow him on Twitter.


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