Political correctness VS free speech: we’re heading down a dangerous path

Political correctness VS free speech: we’re heading down a dangerous path

Image credit: Newtown grafitti (Flickr)

We are all familiar with the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. Well it appears that in a post-political correctness world, words are all you need to do all the damage you’d like.

I enjoy free speech, and I am a firm believer that this is a very important piece to the way modern society operates. However, I cannot foresee a world where defenders of political correctness and defenders of free speech can co-exist. As the push for complete political correctness and the preservation of people’s feelings continues to gain traction and media attention, I instead foresee a society where we are all stripped of basic rights, but on the bright side, everyone’s feelings will be intact.

I strongly believe that political correctness is leading us down a dangerous path. Radical ideas and ludicrous schools of thought continue to be pushed by people, and you have to wonder whether they are being serious or just doing it for a laugh. As media coverage continues to be given to such people and their ideas, I can’t help but feel concerned about where this is all heading.

I am constantly baffled by the stories and ideas I see gaining extensive media coverage, such as the numerous arguments made by people like Cathy Areu, founding publisher of Catalina magazine, who frequently makes television appearances with ideas such as banning the word ‘man’ from being used to avoid being sexist, or that breast-feeding is sexist and unnatural.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the fact that we are continuing to give people like this air-time is only making matters worse, as it perpetuates these ideas. Whether this woman is genuinely for these extreme arguments or merely using them as a front to get publicity, the core implications of either is still just as dangerous for society.

If you are offended by something, that does not mean whatever has been done is genuinely offensive. We all have different views and feelings on things. What may offend me, may not offend someone else, so why should I be able to push to impose a ban on everyone else merely because I was offended by something that isn’t inherently offensive?

Political correctness is really growing into a dangerous tool of oppression. Instead of using common sense to dictate whether we should say something, whether we should listen or ignore someone, or whether we should remove ourselves from an offensive environment, we instead push to completely eliminate what we found offensive from existence. In this digital age, most of what people find offensive can be resolved by simply closing the computer.

There is no end-game to these ideologies; these radical ideas will spread, and continue to spread. For example, let’s say that we successfully ban the use of ‘man’ from existence — are these arguments just going to cease? Will these radical feminists simply fade into obscurity, having accomplished their goals? No, there will be something else to push for, more ludicrous ideals that people will feel need to be dealt with. There is no point where people who hold such drastic ideals about political correctness will say “okay, I think we are done here, we have accomplished everything we set out to do”.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that these arguments will never stop. Anyone can decide what offends them, and what is stopping people from waking up and choosing what new phrase offends them today, other than suppressing free speech altogether? Yes, it is wrong to actively hurt others in ways that are blatantly offensive or hurtful, but at the end of the day, words are just words; and is it really necessary to push for new bans on any and everything that may hurt someone’s feelings?

It is people who hold such extreme ideals that tarnish the name and reputation of people who genuinely hold significant and thoughtful arguments when it comes to such topics. Feminists, for example, are a group who hold genuine arguments, and are fighting for ideals that hold meaning.

However, when extreme feminists are given media coverage with ludicrous ideas, they lower the public’s view of the validity of the real arguments and points for feminism. People gaining media attention and perpetuating such extreme ideologies with religious passion are more dangerous than it may first seem.

According to ReachOut.com, one of the most basic fundamentals of political correctness is to avoid the use of pronouns such as “he/she” when speaking with someone to not “assume their gender”. While this may seem harmless enough, since the beginning of human society we have been told the basic constructs of what makes a man a man and a woman a woman. But all of a sudden in the human timeline, we are deciding to completely disregard what we have used for so long to identify sexes, and can now be at risk of being offensive if we refer to what we see and have identified as a woman for so long as a “her” on accident or by instinct. I believe actively trying to ban these instances, and putting such a heavy focus on them, is going to do more bad than good in the future.

Overall, although political correctness may have good intentions, and we may just want to ensure everyone is leading a healthy and safe life — taking it to the extremes, which some people have been as of late, can have dangerous implications for free speech. Rather than pushing for bans of what we think is offensive, we should be pushing for more people to use common sense.

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