A Word on Free Speech and Political Correctness
“You have to be so careful what you say these days.”
It is this phrase, and its paraphrased equivalents, that we hear all too often in today’s world. And it’s true. The wrong turn of phrase, directed at the wrong person, or group of people, can give way to disastrous consequences. Reputations are destroyed, promising careers collapse and friendships are lost.
It could be said that in some cases, such as fashion designer John Galliano’s slip-up back in 2011, the repercussions are justified. But a great deal of the time I can’t help but wonder how much of a right people really have to be ‘offended’ by seemingly harmless words or basic challenges to their system of beliefs.
As a guy I once dated said, free speech is all well and good, but there’s also a ‘social contract’ to account for. Having the right to speak one’s mind does not grant anybody the right to be an asshole. This, however, begs the question of how we define the realm of asshole-dom, something that is perhaps harder to nail down.
Even so, the current culture of political correctness is largely tiresome and prevents subscribers of certain belief systems expressing their point of view. You could argue that preventing neo-Nazis spouting their garbage is a good thing for society, but then is that not a belief that you are free to hold? And if so, what gives you the right to hold and express your belief over theirs?
Should we all just stay silent? That’s how the PC culture would have it. Unless you’re a left-wing student who agrees with everything on the PC culture’s agenda. This is not, by the way, to say that all left-wing students are sheep-like idiots, but then again let’s not be so PC about it.
Silence isn’t the answer if we are to progress in the debate on the big political issues of the day. We need a melting pot of views and opinions, including the ones YOU don’t like. That way we can sort the good from the bad and progress towards a better society for all.
So next time someone is being shut down for voicing their opinion or prevented from speaking on campus, ask yourself how you want the world to be. Do you want a society open to new ideas and possibilities or one that is both authoritarian and set with its repressive, albeit illiberal, agenda? The choice is yours.