Sunday, August 14, 2016

Free speech and political correctness

Given the nature of the statements coming from Donald Trump and his myrmidons of late, the whole issue of "political correctness" has been a hot topic in social media.  Thus, this blog will be my take on the topic.

First of all, in the USA, freedom of speech is an important right of all Americans, protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I've discussed freedom of speech in my blog several times (here, or here for instance), with the most important aspect of free speech (in my opinion) being that if the protection of free speech does not apply to speech that we find offensive by virtue of being distasteful, rude, unpatriotic, disgusting, blasphemous, or offensive for whatever other reason, then the notion of free speech has no meaningful value.  There's no Constitutional guarantee that you won't be offended by what others might say.  In other blog posts, I've mentioned examples, so I won't bother with that here.

By the same token, based on what I'm hearing from Trump and his sycophants, there seems to be a desire on their part to experience no negative feedback in response to their exercising their Constitutionally-guaranteed right right to free speech.  In a nation dominated by white male heterosexual privilege (hereafter, WMHP) from its very inception, condescending epithets long have been used openly in American society to describe subjects of white male heterosexual contempt.  The subjects of that contempt further have been discriminated against in virtually every aspect of life, without any meaningful recourse to mitigate that discrimination.  The halls of power long have been the nearly exclusive domain of WMHP.

Recently, in the past few decades, there's been a growing sense of rejection of that contempt and discrimination.  Stereotypes have fallen over and over in the face of the reality (backed up by scientific evidence) that there is no rational basis for such bigotry.  Public opinion, backed by scientific research, is increasingly recognizing that we are one people and should all be treated equally under the law and in the course of our lives. 

Religion has been used by some to support their continuing belief in the foundations for WMHP.  But the rising tide of American society of late includes a rejection of the mythology of WMHP.  Many Americans have come to realize that various groups victimized by it should be afforded equal treatment under the law and not be subjected to discrimination.  Although the poisonous miasma of WMHP is not yet completely removed from American society as a whole, there has been growing acceptance for those segments of our culture who have been denied equal treatment and subjected to disdain (and irrational fear) in the past.

Thus, when the increasingly isolated and troglodytic segment of American society that continues to support WMHP voices its contempt for people not accepted by white male heterosexuals as equals, there's an increasingly vigorous response opposing that contemptuous speech.  In many cases now, blatant public use of bigoted epithets can result in someone being fired or losing some segment of their customer base.  This response to disrespectful speech is not a free speech issue - no government agency is putting people in prison for their vitriolic speech.  Private citizens simply are exercising their free choice to not be associated with bigots and bigotry.  Yet many who cling to the protective bubble of WMHP have the idea that being "politically incorrect" should be free from any non-governmental blowback for their use of insulting speech.  They want to suffer no consequences arising from being rude and scornful of others.  They pine for the "good old days" when they could express their bigotry openly and without anyone caring.  Trump has given voice to these bigots, bringing their poison out of the festering darkness of their hearts and into the open again.

Anyone can say (more or less) whatever they want (within some limits), but they also must accept that free speech can have consequences.   Most Americans have no wish to return to an earlier time when flagrant bigotry was the order of the day and WMHP prevailed over all.  Those bigots whining about the overemphasis on political correctness today are simply complaining about the consequences they experience for offending people when being rude and insulting.  Too bad.  I can't say I feel sorry for them.