When liberals refuse to call things what they are and sub in carefully calibrated euphemisms instead, far-right conservatives respond with one of their favorite phrases. This, they say, is political correctness run amok. But now it’s the far right that’s refusing to call the cages holding immigrant children separated from their families “cages” — they’re “chain-link partitions” instead. This hypocrisy reveals how much of a sham the crusade against political correctness among the far right has always been.
.. Television and talk show host Laura Ingraham may have come up with the pleasantest description possible of the sterile rooms surrounded by metal fences where terrified kids squirm under astronaut blankets on floor mats: “essentially summer camps.”
.. The very fact that the Border Patrol is keeping these children in cages shows the administration is treating them like animals. The complaint that talking about cages makes the administration “uncomfortable,” too, is straight out of the campus culture wars, yet when liberals lodge this complaint, conservatives label them snowflakes faster than you can say “microaggression.”
.. How dare you refuse to name radical Islamist terror, they ask? How dare you say “holidays” instead of “Christmas”? And what is up with these genderless pronouns?
.. This is a strong argument only when the stifled speech is actually an attempt at truth-telling in the face of censorship. Yet when the Trump camp cries out against political correctness, it usually has nothing to do with truth-telling or censorship at all.
.. And what was the politically correct autocracy stopping him from doing?
- Calling women “slobs,” “dogs” and “pigs.” But women are quite literally not dogs, or pigs. They’re women.
- Describing Megyn Kelly as a “bimbo” isn’t laying bare some suppressed reality — it’s nastiness for nastiness’s sake.
.. The pro-Trump right has weaponized “political correctness” to mean they get to say whatever they want, and those who disagree with them don’t.
Heather Lynn Mac Donald (born 1956) is an American political commentator, essayist, attorney and journalist. She is described as a secular conservative. She has advocated positions on numerous subjects including victimization, philanthropy, immigration reform and crime prevention. She is a Thomas W. Smith Fellow of the Manhattan Institute. In this clip, she talks about delusional university students who see a threat in anything even though they are the most privileged people. Until this victimhood complex stops, there can be no win for free speech. Full clip, quoted under fair use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2-JO…
But they also include a typical conservative cluelessness about black grievances, a performative and commercialized Americanism that parodies healthy civic life, and the toxic identity politics that Donald Trump is constantly encouraging. And then, of course, the N.F.L. is particularly vulnerable to Trump’s demagogy because its business model depends on gladiatorial combat whose medical risks it has been desperate to hush up.
.. So the N.F.L. owners have a multilayered problem, cultural and financial and political and medical, to which a simple why-don’t-they-respect-free-speech solution seems woefully insufficient.
.. Everything about the intersection of sports and race relations and the Trump presidency is simply toxic, and expecting free speech to flourish where those rivers meet is like suggesting that a Superfund site cleanup begin by planting daffodils in the most polluted stretch.
.. There’s a similar problem with debates about free speech on liberal college campuses. Yes, it’s obviously bad when speakers are denied a platform, threatened and shouted down. But if every protester suddenly fell silent, the atmosphere in elite academia would still be kind of awful — and not only from a conservative perspective... Meritocracy, materialism and smartphones would still induce mental breakdowns among bright young climbers. The humanities would still be in existential crisis and possibly terminal decline. A “hedge fund with a library attached” model of administration would still prevail. An incoherent mix of ambitious scientism and post-Protestant moralism and simple greed would still be the ruling spirit.
Much of recent left-wing campus activism has to be understood in this depressing context — as a response to a pre-existing crisis, an attempt to infuse morality and purpose into institutions that employ many brilliant minds but mostly promote incurious ambition and secular conformity.
Which suggests that the dissident, “dark web” intellectuals who have gained a following by warring with those activists ultimately need (as some of them seem to intuit) a competing moral and metaphysical vision of their own, not just the procedural freedom to say some stuff that is politically incorrect.
A classical liberalism that only wants to defend its own right to argue — because that’s what John Stuart Mill would want or something — will end up talking only to itself. If you want a healthy culture of debate, it’s not enough to complain that Marxists and postmodernists are out to silence you; you need your own idea of what education and human life itself are for.
There is a battle raging for the soul of America’s universities. One side, on the left, seeks to limit the range of acceptable speech to a curated set of “safe” ideas. Another side, on the right, wants to aggressively enforce the addition of other ideas to restore a balance of perspectives. Both approaches are misguided and dangerous.
.. Just as those who shout down or silence speakers with whom they disagree contribute to the problem, so, too, do efforts by legislators to eliminate particular courses or forms of expression.