“Words can’t hurt you (unless you let them), snowflake. Grow up! I’m a Trump deplorable.”
So read the sign held aloft by seemingly kind middle-aged woman at a recent “free speech” rally held by various alt-right goofballs in Portland, OR. I asked the smiling woman if she felt there was any irony inherent in chastising a group of people for being hurt by mere words while at the same time mentioning something a failed presidential candidate said nine months ago. She did not.
And so goes the ongoing saga of political correctness. To most of the Left, it means considering whether or not your words and actions might needlessly hurt someone while adding nothing to the world. To the citizens on the Right, it is a hard-to-define all-encompassing term that triggers vitriolic eye rolls from coast-to-coast—to Republican politicians it’s become one of the most valuable weapons in their rhetorical arsenals.
After the civil rights movement, authors like Allan Bloom (whose work was funded by the Koch family) began to speak out against what they saw as left-wing intellectual college professors seeking to change sacred academic traditions in order to brainwash the next generation into a life of horrid liberalism. These claims were erroneous at best. At worst, they were an attempt to preserve racist traditions that have nothing to do with academia. However, to a large segment of the population that was increasingly frightened and confused by the changing reality of their country and world, a seed of blame was planted that is still bearing GOP fruit today.
The biggest legacy of this political smokescreen wasn’t changing syllabi on college campuses, it was the Right’s ability to successfully forge an alliance between the white working class and Republican politicians with corporate interests—an alliance that very rarely benefits the voters. Citing political correctness, the Right was (and is) able to deflect blame for what the white working class saw as a changing America’s myriad ills. According to the Right, it wasn’t lowering taxes, valuing corporations over people, cutting social and educational programs, or outsourcing jobs overseas to increase corporate profits that were changing the American landscape—it was the seemingly sudden concern for non-white and other marginalized Americans that was at the heart of the issue.
Political correctness was ultimately how the GOP drove a wedge between Democrats and the working class people they claimed to represent. They pushed forth the idea of shadowy liberal elites wanting to control the common man’s thoughts and speech. Those looking for an explanation as to how the white working class can time and again vote against their own interests need to look no further than the rise of antipathy toward political correctness for their answer.
Being anti-PC has also given a paper thin veil underneath which racist views can be espoused freely while disguised as something else. Take, for instance, the resistance to the emergence of the term African-American as commonplace in the 1990s—what possible reason other than racism could there be for resisting such a change? The message is clear: know your place in this society and you don’t ever try and change it (boy).
To illustrate the many fallacies of political correctness, I’d like to highlight some of the many triggers that set the ever delicate snowflakes on the Right into an uproar whenever they are uttered. Perhaps, one fine day we can move forward to a more relevant and productive version of political discourse that is totally devoid of even a mention of political correctness, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
The neocon idea of a “war on Christmas” first began some years ago amongst Fox News types like John Gibson, who wrote an entire book on the subject in which he claimed that “literally any sign of Christmas in public can now lead to complaints, litigation, angry protests, threats, and bruised feelings.” Literally any sign? Apparently, Mr. Gibson has never been in an American city in the month of December, as nearly all have massive Christmas trees erected in public spaces and whose lighting is often a much-ballyhooed event. I guess Mr. Gibson has also never walked through basically any store in December and been forced to suffer through wave after wave of atrocious Christmas music. Just last week, Donald Trump proclaimed in a speech that “We’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in this country again,” although I cannot for the life of me remember a time when wishing others a Merry Christmas was outlawed in America.
It’s this sort of half-thought—full of sound and fury but signifying absolutely nothing—that the anti-PC movement is based around.
It appears simply acknowledging that non-Christian religions are practiced in our diverse society is enough to trigger highly pious individuals on the Right into nonsensical fits of anger and cries of persecution. However, a “Christian” who has never asked God for forgiveness and behaves as Mr. Trump does is apparently fine. Literally every single American president has identified as Christian. All of them. Somehow, I think JC’s birthday is going to be OK.
As I stood on the vastly outnumbered alt-right side of the aforementioned “free speech” rally “interviewing” people (aka getting called a “fake news fag”), my attempts at conversation were punctuated with angry bursts of shouting at the hundreds of gathered antifa across the street. “Come over here and say that, you pussies!” shouted a man in an American flag shirt, clearly pleased with himself, towards the writhing black-clad mass across the street.
Confused, I engaged him.
“Couldn’t you go over there?”
“Well then, what’s stopping you Captain America? Go teach those pussies a lesson, my dude!”
He did not. Suddenly, the gentleman appeared very peaceful. This fellow, like most far-Right warriors, was incredibly tough when surrounded on all sides and protected by 100+ members of law enforcement in riot gear. Law enforcement that’s creating for them a space… a space in which they can feel safe… can you see where I’m headed here?
Cartoon by Rednblacksalamander
As for symbolic safe spaces: if you’re not a member of a marginalized community, you shouldn’t be speaking on them. Straight white dudes like myself, for instance—the entirety of America is our safe space. The goal of idealized safe spaces is like the idealized goal of world peace: it will never 100% happen, but that’s no reason to stop striving towards those honorable goals.
Law enforcement has an incredibly difficult, often thankless, always underpaid job. Many of them go into the high-risk line of work with only the pure and hopeful intention of helping their communities. Many save lives and mentor young people. Others are scared weaklings lured by the intoxicating feeling of power over others who have no business driving a cab, much less a cop car. Some are horrific people, some are saints whose work should be highlighted and honored. Such is human nature—the light and the dark—and to act as though law enforcement is infallible simply because they wear a badge is not only ignorant and irresponsible but detrimental to society as a whole.
Blue lives do indeed matter—so much so that American law enforcement get to kill with almost total impunity. In most cases, all a police officer has to prove in order to be justified when using deadly force is that they feared for their lives—no matter if that fear is illogical or based on something like racism. That is wrong. Full stop.
There is simply no way to reasonably debate the fact that law enforcement in this country requires sweeping reform, better vetting and needs to be held to a higher standard. (Hey, perhaps instead of building a wall, those billions could go to police forces?) Admitting this fact does not make you a cop hating piece of garbage, it makes you a mature adult.
“Housewives Matter! Down with feminism!” read another sign at the Pro-Trump “free speech” rally. Confused, I pointed out to the man with the sign that feminism was about affording women the opportunity to be whatever they wanted—housewife included—and had zero to do with disparaging housewifery in general. The gentleman seemed to consider this for a moment, took note of my press pass and then responded incredibly wisely by calling me a “fake news fag” and smiling, apparently secure in the knowledge that he had forever established his intellectual superiority over me.
At a Republican debate last year, Megyn Kelly asked our soon-to-be Commander in Tweet about his treatment of the fairer sex, saying, “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals’. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees…”
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump said to applause from the Republican audience. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
Horrific, appalling sexism aside, consider for a moment that Mr. Trump said the big problem facing the US is being politically correct and that this odd statement was greeted with applause, not confused murmurs. That there were women (mostly older and white) in the audience applauding such a statement says a great deal about the demonization of anything deemed “PC.”
To reiterate: feminism is about having the ability to choose to be an astronaut, bus driver, housewife—whatever a woman may please—without limit. Traditionally, many, many doors have been closed to females in cultures all around the world and all throughout history. Feminism is an effort to change that and right the scales. It’s actually pretty simple.
This goes for a lot of people on the Left too. You have not made a tremendous point when you tell a protester in black bloc garb that, if they were tough, they’d take off their masks. You sound like an ass. Why won’t they take off their masks? They are committing crimes. Tear gas is terrible to breathe in. That’s why they are wearing masks. Do you also wonder why bank robbers wear masks?
Their movement, love it or loathe it, is about making change as a united group—not dressing up like Captain America, or a fucking Spartan, and hoping to squeeze a modicum of selfish attention out of an otherwise pathetically unremarkable life. Criticize and debate their extreme tactics all day, but please stop polluting the world with your half-thoughts that you think are intellectual triumphs. People that ask Antifa why they are wearing masks are like strangers forcing their unsolicited opinions about the weather onto you: they are insufferable.
The 260-pound hateful apricot/manatee hybrid we have for a president says a lot of dangerous, stupid things, but his insistence that anyone who disagrees with him in the press is espousing “fake news” is amongst the most absurd and dangerous. Our government and society rest on a system wherein the differing branches of government check and balance each other and the press holds them all accountable and reports back to the public. A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy, and only someone with something to hide would impede this process to the level Donald Trump has. Noted painter George W. Bush and his sidekick—The Penguin came close to the levels of journalistic impediment Trump has sunk to—and they started a war for profit, for God’s sake.
When CNN retracted a story recently, Donald Trump—who probably hadn’t been that excited since the last Miss Tween New Jersey pageant (“Really fabulous tweens. Great tweens, the best. Everyone says so. I met my next wife tonight.”)—gleefully exclaimed his vindication: here it was, proof of fake news! Except that’s not at all what it was. As most logical adults could tell you, journalists are held to higher professional standards than, say, a racist real estate mogul. Journalists are under a gigantic microscope and are charged with delivering the truth, and/or their opinions on that truth. The smallest mistake or misquote can cost us dearly, as it did for both CNN and the journalists who resigned. No matter how intensely you vet your stories and comb over your thoughts, around half of America will take up a vehement dislike to you instantly. For example, I’d say with confidence that most of the people reading this have never received very detailed and specific threats on their life as I have for simply doing my job. I’d also be willing to wager that no one reading this has ever received a message on a dating app in which a woman threatened them with penis removal because of something they did at work (alas, the young woman in question and I did not find love). These are the kinds of charming things we journos get to live with in the age of the Internet.
CNN displayed the kind of honor that is the foundation of journalism when they retracted that story. It’s what all honorable humans, journalists or no, do when faced with the revelation they’ve made an error—they don’t double down on the mistake and shout (or tweet) redfaced about the supposed conspiratorial injustices facing them, or blame those who exposed the mistake. That’s what children, criminals, sociopaths, and, sadly, our president does. Case in point: the Central Park Five case. When the men in question were exonerated for the horrific crime after losing a great chunk of their lives to prison, did Donald Trump apologize for taking out a full page ad in the New York Times exclaiming that New York State should bring back the death penalty? No, no he did not.
And as far as journalists being elitist, my God, what ignorance. The average salary for a member of the “elitist media” is around $40,000 (many of us make far less than that). For perspective, the average starting salary for a coal miner is $60k-70k—are they also elites? Sean Hannity’s salary for 2015 was $29 million. $29 million. Donald Trump’s salary for that year was… well we don’t know because the man refuses to release his tax returns.
So by the Right’s logic, I, a man who can give you detailed directions to the nearest plasma donation center, am an elitist, but a man tied with freaking Rihanna and just above Bon Jovi on the Forbes highest paid celebrities list isn’t; and neither is a man born into untold riches who uses a literal golden toilet for his micropenis is not. Got it.
In their ongoing campaign to paint the Left—those vocally resisting the Trump regime’s fascist policies and whose demands for diversity are such a horrific blight upon American society—in a negative light, the Right has begun holding shit-starting rallies under the guise of free speech. Case in point: the rally I’ve referenced in this piece. The alt-right flew a bunch of pathetic racist LARPer “celebrities” of theirs to Portland, OR (and this after all that talk of paid protesters on the Left) simply to disrupt the city and disturb its mostly liberal population. The Right refers to these gatherings as “free speech” rallies because they can then paint anyone who opposes what they’re as an enemy of free speech. It’s reductive, nonsensical and childish—and it’s one of the Right’s favorite weapons in turning the fascism argument around on the Left.
A dog turd between two hamburger buns doesn’t suddenly become a tasty 4th of July treat—it’s still dog shit. Like most of what the alt-right does.