A lot of you guys might believe that political correctness originated under the communism of the Soviet Union, and yes, this is the setting in which the term was born. Its first popular use was by equalitarian socialists of the mid-20th century to describe dogmatic, hard-line communists who toed the official party line over things like compassion or common sense. Since then, it has been embraced by the "new left" within various social and political institutions, most notably, government, education and the media.
But political correctness is not a new thing. It is not a left/right thing or a western thing. It is not the brainchild of Cultural Marxism, no matter how well or how eagerly cultural marxists may employ it as a bludgeon in order to control public discourse.
At its core, political correctness is about is the dominant belief system, the dominant social and political paradigm, dictating what people are allowed to say and what ideas people are allowed to express, which in turn dictates what others are allowed to hear and what ideas they are allowed to be exposed to.
In this sense, a fundamentalist Imam issuing a fatwa against someone who published a cartoon of Mohammad is no different from the ousting of Larry Summers from his position as president of Harvard for daring tosuggest that there might be biological differences between men andwomen that affect their levels of success in different fields ofstudy. Here we have two wildly different belief systems at work--radical Islam and progressive feminism, but in both cases, individuals are being punished for expressing ideas that are considered taboo by the establishment.
Here in the west, the dominant paradigm that dictates which ideas are politically correct and which are not leans to the left. It favors progressivism, feminism, socialism, egalitarianism, sexual freedom, environmentalism and diversity. Its thought-terminating, conversation-ending cliches reflect that paradigm. But accusatory words like sexist, racist, homophobe, misogynist, over-privileged white male, rape apologist, woman-hater, Neanderthal, right wing-nut and even climate change denier are no different in intention and effect from those in use 500 years ago: heretic, infidel, blasphemer, apostate, heathen, witch.
Correct words and ideas are extolled by the establishment. Incorrect ones are censured or banned.
While political correctness is generally thought of as the means by which governments and formal institutions can establish political control of society and curtail freedom of thought partly through controlling and manipulating language, suggesting an official top-down system of enforcement and control--here in the west, it has morphed into a multi-headed hydra, attacking ideas from the top-down, the bottom up, and playing all ends against the middle.
One of its primary feeding and breeding grounds in the US and Canada lies on the typical university campus, where administrators, intentionally or unwittingly, students' unions and student "social justice" warriors have created a kind of perfect storm of thought suppression in the very realm of our society supposedly devoted to freedom of thought and the free exchange of ideas.
In November of 2012, author and psychologist Warren Farrell was invitedby the Canadian Association for Equality to speak at the Universityof Toronto. Among Farrell's credentials are his election twice to the board of directors of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, having his books featured in Oprah's book club, and being named by the Financial Times as one of the world's top 100 Thought Leaders. He runs regular workshops for couples looking to communicate more effectively with each other, and frankly, he's the most polite, kind and soft-spoken man you could hope to meet.
Only problem was that the topic of his talk was the "boy crisis". He planned to address the high rate of male suicide (3 to 4 times that of girls and young women), the growing "failure to launch" phenomenon regarding young men, and falling levels of male educational attainment. Oh, and then there's the dire sin of his questioning of the feminist assertion that men are, and have ever been, as a class, the oppressors of women as a class.
Campus social justice warriors, in conjunction with the university's women's studies department, the student union, and the local chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, set up a human barricade at thedoors to the building, refusing to allow attendees to enter. They openly claimed they were there to shut down an event that was "promoting patriarchy". They claimed that some of Farrell's research findings have been misogynistic, and promote rape and incest. They verbally bullied, harassed, assaulted and abused several attendees, who were pulled to the side by police for their own protection. When police intervened to remove the human barricade so attendees could enter, the protesters turned their hostility on police, some of them committing assault.
All to prevent a discussion on why young men commit suicide so much more often than young women, why they're increasingly flunking out of school, and why they're experiencing a growing reluctance to take on adult responsibilities.
Since then, the Canadian Association for Equality has sponsored other events at universities in Ontario--Ryerson, the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa and Queens University--to speak about the problems facing men and boys in our culture, and to criticize feminism's sexist double standards. Many of these talks were disrupted by protesters who turned lights on and off, pulled fire alarms, shouted through bullhorns while banging and chantingjust outside the lecture hall doors, and in the most recent case, atalk by Professor Janice Fiamengo at her own university in Ottawa, by attending, and then shutting the talk down by banging desks, blowing horns, singing, chanting and shouting.
Prominent American civil rights lawyer Harvey Silvergate bemoans this new culture on North American campuses. As a young, idealistic student at Harvard, he participated in the Free Speech Movement, and he lamentswhat he calls the Harvard bait and switch--that now so many of the very liberals who protested in favor of freedom of speech and thought on campus have flip-flopped since they became numerically dominant on university campuses, in faculty and administration. He is in the unenviable position of being a staunch liberal who feels compelled to defend the rights of conservative students, pro-life students, Christian and traditionalist students, through his work with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an organization he founded. Not because he agrees with their politics, but because they are now the ones whose voices and rights are being marginalized by the politically correct establishment.
It is the nature of power that it seeks to preserve itself, and one of the most effective ways to do that is to suppress dissenting speech and thought. Unlike many people these days, I refuse to specifically implicate the political left in a repressive and abusive behavior that is just as common in highly conservative institutions when conservatism is the dominant paradigm. Political correctness is not a problem with any particular ideology--it's an ideology problem, a human problem, and it will always be the political underdog who most highly values the right to free expression of ideas.
As a vocal anti-feminist for the last four years, whose current place of business is YouTube, I am extremely concerned by the idea that any institution presenting itself as a venue to share information and ideas might place unreasonable or biased limits on freedom of thought and expression. And one of the more insidious developments in recent years has been the shifting of the ideological battlefield away from arenas where free speech is guaranteed, whether by the US Constitution or Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and into the private sector. While governments in free societies must tolerate speech they don't like, privately owned businesses are uniquely vulnerable to any threat to their bottom line, and exempt from anti-censorship laws.
Last year, a feminist launched a media campaign designed to draw attention to misogynistic pages and groups on Facebook. Admittedly, some of these pages were pretty horrific--glorifying violence against women, and promoting hate. Mortified by all the negative publicity, Facebook agreed to allow feminist consultants who were experts in "spotting misogyny" to train their community standards staff in how to better moderate that privately owned online community.
In the months that followed, a lot of misogynistic pages were removed. However, also caught in the anti-misogyny sweep were pages whose only sin was to publish government statistics on domestic violence, or to draw attention to harmful or criminal behaviors most commonly committed by women--things like infanticide and paternity fraud. Allowed to stand for months on end were pages devoted to promoting male genocide, or to discussing why all men are pigs.
And while I am no fan of censorship--either by government or by private entities--what is good for the goose should reasonably be considered good for the gander. But in the world of gender politics, this is almost never how it plays out.
A year or two ago, JC Penny was called on the carpet by outraged Social Justice Warriors for marketing t-shirts to girls that claimed, "I'mtoo pretty to do homework, so I make my brother do it for me." Chagrinned by media backlash and a potential boycott over accusations of misogyny and sexism, JC Penny pulled the shirts from their shelves, where they had once sat alongside a plethora of merchandise claiming "Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them." As far as I know, "Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them" is still a brand available on the shelves at various retailers.
Similarly, a campaign was recently launched on Twitter to pressure ComedyCentral to cancel the show "The Colbert Report" over asatirical tweet that used racism against Asian Americans to highlightthe absurdity of Washington Redskins' owner Dan Snyder's offer toopen a foundation for "original Americans" rather thanchange the racist name of his team. The Tweet read, "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever."
Keep in mind, this Tweet was lampooning Dan Snyder, not Asian Americans. It was ridiculing racism and racists, not any given race. But Social Justice Warriors picked up their pitchforks and sallied forth, nonetheless. Apologies abounded, the tweet was removed, and somehow, the social justice warriors only got angier.
As Harvey Silvergate said, free speech for me, but not for thee. And while Colbert might be a big enough cash cow for Comedy Central to be willing to weather this internet tempest in a teacup, not everyone who speaks against the status quo is profitable enough for TV networks, radio stations, and online social networking sites and hosting services to tolerate the hit to their wallet.
Case in point, Justin Vacula, a prominent member of the atheist skeptic community, was forced to resign his position as head of his chapter of the Secular Coalition for America because he had the temerity to be skeptical about feminist claims of rampant sexual harassment and assault at conferences and events. Yes, you heard me, a leader of a community that values skepticism of any and all claims and bases itself on solid empiricism and the scientific method was ousted from a prominent position in that community because he refused to accept vague, ephemeral and completely unsubstantiated claims that women were being harassed and raped willy nilly at conferences. He was deemed unfit among the skeptical community because of his skepticism. Meanwhile, the methods by which his enemies coerced him into stepping down included slander, libel, employment blacklisting and an organized letter writing campaign to his parents, who were publicly doxxed, to tell them what a horrible, misogynistic son they'd raised.
Another similar case involved a father of four named Gregory Allen Elliott in Toronto. He'd offered his services as a graphic designer to an organization called women in toronto politics, founded by outspoken feminist Steph Guthrie. Here was a man so devoted to promoting women in politics that he offered to design posters and advertisements to assist in that endeavor. Where he went wrong was in criticizingGuthrie and her friends on Twitter for their current and planned real life harassment of a man whose legal actions they disapproved of--a game developer who'd created a crude and vulgar video game app targeting another feminist's ideas and actions. The three women in the case made public the game developer's real name, address and other identifying information, had tweeted to all software companies in the region to not hire him, and were planning to poster his home town with evidence of his sins.
Gregory Allen Elliot told them over Twitter that he disapproved of their vengeful mentality and their harassment of a man who had done nothing illegal, and who had published a game clearly labelled and explained as a satire and criticism of a single individual's ideas. Police found nothing in Mr Elliott's tweets that even hinted at intimidation, threats or violence.
Yet those tweets are the basis for a pending charge of criminal harassment against Mr Elliott. Yes, you heard me. A man tweeting that he disapproves of a group of women conspiring to harass someone is, apparently, itself criminal harassment. Elliott is currently on trial for daring to say he thinks Steph Guthrie and her feminist friends are horrible people.
And then an acquaintance of theirs violated judicial protocol and wrote directly to the judge that these women had conspired to make a public example out of Mr Elliot through manipulation of the justice system. The judge has ordered that the allegations be investigated.
Heck, just the day before yesterday, in my home town, radio station 630CHED was forced to pull an opinion poll and apologize to local professional umbrage-takers. Their dire crime? After a news piece quoted an Edmonton police spokesperson as having said victim blaming is still too common in cases of sexual assault, CHED set up a poll to find out just how prevalent it is. The question was, "when a person is assaulted, is the victim ever to blame?"
This uproar is a bit of a head-scratcher. If it was not offensive to have Edmonton Police services say "victim blaming still happens too often", how on earth is it now offensive to have a radio station run a poll to figure out what percentage of people think this way?
And again, what happens? The offending poll--or story, or op-ed, or tweet--gets pulled, and the "offender" apologizes like there was no tomorrow, often to no avail. Ask Larry Summers what good his several apologies did him. He was still out of a job six months later. In fact, I think apologizing was his first mistake--the outrage over his hypothesis was not grounded in any sort of reason or logic. It was pure irrational emotion, so raw that a female professor in the audience later claimed, completely sincerely, she could not believe what she was hearing and literally felt like she was going to throw up.
Summers' hypothesis--one of three he presented as possible reasons women do not achieve at the extreme high end of ability in math and physics quite as often as men do--was that because men have a flatter distribution curve for many traits (including intelligence), there are simply more men than women at both ends of the curve when you're talking several standard deviations from the mean. In other words, there are more male idiots than female ones, and more male geniuses than female ones.
There is nothing untrue or unreasonable about this statement. And I find it telling that the professor who was driven to nausea over her complete misinterpretation of what he said--which was also repeatedly misinterpreted in the media--felt no offence over Summers' intimation that there are more stupid men than stupid women. In fact, she seemed to not even notice it, given her interpretation was that he'd claimed that men were inherently more intelligent than women, and more gifted in math and science.
Circumstances are even more troubling in Europe. Some examples from the last couple of years in the UK include a young man being charged with a crime forcalling a police officer's horse "gay", and an elderly woman being arrested for shouting outside a mosque that Muslimsshould fit in or go back where they came from, only blocks away from a spot where a fundamentalist Imam was routinely preaching Jihad to passersby, unmolested by police.
A recent proposal for a bill presented to the European Union suggested codifying something described as "group libel" in itslegislation. It laid out a scheme by which any negative, ridiculing or mocking speech against any identifiable group of people--stated examples of which included religions, races, ethnicities, and feminism--would be actionable in a court of law. In Sweden, political pundits have called for laws to make anti-feminist speech criminal. In Spain, they recently passed an act that officially declares femicide, defined as the killing of any woman by any man, a special crime subject to stiffer penalties than any other type of homicide, and if the European Union were to accept "group libel" as a valid concept, speaking against such a feminist law would become effectively illegal.
The most horrifying thing I have observed in my four years of picking apart and criticizing political and scholarly feminism is the willingness of those who desire to control the discourse to silence and marginalize dissenting voices. In this way, the feminist movement is no different from any other totalitarian ideology, however, they have a weapon more effective than any religion or communist government--they claim to represent women, therefore any criticism levelled against them can be construed as damaging to women. And we're just not that rational when it comes to things that harm women--hence the Violence Against Women Act, specifically to protect the very members of our society who are the least likely to suffer violence.
The radicals are the loudest and most influential voices and the silent majority remains too silent, even when they might otherwise want to speak. Because when they do speak, they end up, like self-described equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers, listed in the anti-feminismsection of feminism's wikipedia page. Or they end up having to resign from their position as head of an organization or institution.
Feminism has a multitude of disagreements within its big tent, so many that some have taken to using the word "feminisms" to describe the movement, but the instinctive response to outsiders levelling criticism at any feminist or branch of feminism tends to be a powerful desire to circle the wagons against the external threat. To defend the label rather than disavow bigots, censors or liars, or to refuse to examine how even their more mainstream ideas play a significant role in creating such radicals.
It's not difficult to expose feminism for what it is--a set of unfalsifiable hypotheses that have no basis in empirical reality, and which are about as effective as a coin-toss in predicting reality. What IS difficult is maintaining a venue in which to perform that exposition so others can see it. Feminists interested in silencing people like me often employ the community moderation processes of social networking sites, processes that are often automated, to shut down the accounts of people they don't like or to have their materialremoved. My Youtube channel is quite sizeable, and I put money in Youtube's pockets, so they generally put a pair of human eyes on any flagging or complaints against me. Smaller channels, those for whom the unfailing guarantee of freedom of expression is most important, are not so lucky.
I have heard many people in the gender debate say that if you're having to step down from a job or fear violent retaliation because of your ideas, that obviously means your ideas are invalid or bad or wrong or harmful. Tell that to Copernicus. Tell it to Galileo. Tell it to that dude who suggested that washing your hands between handling a corps and delivering a baby could save lives--the medical establishment thought he was a total quack for decades, and shunned him accordingly.
An idea needs to be open to challenge and scrutiny. It needs to be allowed to compete in a free marketplace. And yet so many feminists I've interacted with seem to see George Orwell's 1984 not as a warning, but an instruction manual. Like Newspeak, the only language that gets smaller every year, the body of ideas on a number of issues is in danger of also getting smaller, year by year.
And it's up to the political underdogs to not only hold back the social and political forces that threaten to erode freedom of expression, despite guarantees written into our constitutions and national charters, but to not pull a Harvard bait and switch and become the very thing we're fighting against, if and when we become the dominant voice in society.