Is Political Correctness a Form of Censorship?

April 12, 2015

New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait recently published a critique of political correctness, arguing that it was being used to stifle crucial debate. He sees political correctness as a tool to censor critics of far-left political groups.



Pleez—"political correctness" is just a vague label some people stamp on opinion that opposes their own. If political correctness is about "you're not supposed to say that," the rush to stamp "political correctness" on opposing thought is itself just as much a form of "you're not supposed to say that." Political correctness in the opposite direction. The solution: let people speak their minds, and use reason to compose a coherent, persuasive response.

Poor me, I have to hear others' criticisms. Poor me, I speak my mind and others speak theirs to me. Poor me, I'm a victim of political correctness. I'm special, special. Special.

If anyone is expressing excess sensitivity, it could be the ones who accuse "political correctness" rather than responding to opposing ideas with a convincing counterargument. Anti-PC is as overly sensitive as the anti-PC people accuse the PC people of being. It's the same thing, but it's always the _other_ people who should change, isn't it?

What jumped out at me on hearing this was the similarity between the "I will harass you for not being sensitive enough of my category" extreme discussed here and the backlash that's made headlines lately from the "religious freedom" groups, who claim that forcing public merchants to do business with folks they don't approve of infringes on their freedom of religion. At both extremes of the political spectrum, we have people claiming victim-hood from having to interact with others they don't agree with or who aren't considerate enough of their POV. What they lose sight of is the necessity to live together in a heterogeneous society, and of finding ways to do so. Wendy Brown's interview applies well to this point.

Trigger warnings exist so that people know what material they may be exposed to, so that they can either avoid it or mentally prepare to encounter it. And they aren't new. The warning by the news anchor about a graphic or racy news story is a stereotype: "The following news story may shock you." Video game and TV ratings express what kind of material you will see during the show or game. The "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" label on a CD is a trigger warning.

Anyone claiming that trigger warnings are stifling discussion either completely misunderstands the point, or is being completely disingenuous.

Exhausting? Draining? Anonymous comment threads to make one's case??

I'm glad you followed up that mess with a more sensible interview in response.

It's the sort who used to preface their comments with the likes of "I love women, but..." or "Some of my best friends are black, but..." now invoking the evils of political correctness.

One in particular says he has no time for being "politically correct" while calling women bimbos and fat slobs, or mocking news reporters, or otherwise behaving like the typical boor.

To put it mildly, decrying “political correctness” has become a catchall excuse for being deliberately offensive, even abusive.

I read where Glenn Beck said political correctness doesn't change him, it just shuts him up.... I'm good with that.