What Has Political Correctness Done To Us?

Is PC culture healing or tearing our society?

As Johnson & Johnson announced that they would stop selling skin-whitening lotions, and Colgate started to consider renaming Darlie toothpaste, the ageless debate around whether political correctness (PC) has gone too far heralded its reinvigoration.

Concerns about political correctness have moved into the limelight for years, while the proponents of the concept believe that putting the mindset into practice is an optimal fashion to avoid themselves from hurting the minorities’ feelings, and to gradually transform the current society to a Utopia without discrimination. An open letter published in early July by Harper’s magazine with 153 signatories has further expressed concerns on this issue.The endorsers hold it as certitude that, with PC culture dominating the society, the liberal values that have forged the West since the Enlightenment will be diminished.The way to defeat bad ideas is by open discussion — that is, exposure, argument, and persuasion — not by attempts to silence or wish them away. Since the discrimination doesn’t only exist in words, it is specifically presented in actions, behaviors, and environments, if combatting discrimination is your main aim, you should change their thoughts rather them mute their speech, or you are simply an accomplice of the pervasive PC culture, which is now pinching the gasp of the freedom of speech, and the crowdsourced nature of the culture is mobbing and being resolved to silence the dissidents.

They are anxious about the consequences that the open debate is silenced once it is labeled as “politically incorrect”, and the apprehension is not too much. For example, Hanna Rosin, a liberal journalist, wrote a book calledThe End of Men. In the book, she argued that with a confluence of social and economic changes, women are left in a better position going forward than men struggling to adapt to a new postindustrial order. Rosin, a self-identified feminist, has found herself unexpectedly assailed by feminist critics, who had found her message of long-term female empowerment complacent and insufficiently concerned with the continuing reality of sexism. One Twitter hashtag, “#RIPpatriarchy,” became a label for critics to lampoon her thesis. Every new continuing demonstration of gender discrimination — a survey showing Americans still prefer male bosses; a person noticing a man on the subway occupying a seat and a half — would be tweeted out along with a mocking #RIPpatriarchy. It becomes a severe fallacy since the term “political correctness” is not a definiendum, and no one is omnipotent enough to claim that he or she represents the criteria of politically correct. Consequently, the concept of political correctness is defined neither by experts, by an authority, nor by the Big Brother, but by PC culture. Everyone, with the key to the Internet world, masquerades Big Brother and censors the minorities’ comments.

“Politically correct” is a term we use to dismiss ideas that make us uncomfortable. — Jonathan Chait

From a classic libertarian perspective, John Stuart Mill was convinced that due to the openness of truth, nobody has the right to repress other’s freedom of speech, and the only way to testify whether a contention is plausible is by exposure and debate. The phenomenon that people nowadays utilize “political correctness” to censor others’ comments is unjustifiable and disrespectful to the freedom of speech.On the other hand, PC culture hurts people on the left more than people on the right.Instinctively, PC seems to be the doctrine of the left-wing. However, if a Key Opinion Leader advocating progressive values tweets something not conforming to the mainstream opinion (not necessarily politically incorrect), he or she will likely encounter online banishments and be left with a taste of canceled culture. Yet, if the subject converts to conservative figures, no matter how politically incorrect their comments are, they won’t feel stressed at all, since no one cares about the PC in their echo chamber. Hence, it renders the people on the left-wing harder to express, or too frightened to express their own opinions.

The problem of PC culture can be traced all the way back to ancient times when words were first being used by humans. People have been using words to shut down people who are using words they do not prefer. Some of the most fundamental and most violent disputes in Islam, Judaism, or Christianity involve people trying to dictate what language other people use, what language they use for God, prayer, and believers. This is not the problem of the nature of PC, but the problem of human nature, which we all aspire to leverage our superior power or number superiority to shut up others.

Writer: Ken Fan