2013 Symposium: Is Society Too Consumed With “Political Correctness”?

Cartwright: Absolutely. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People need to get thicker skin and get over this political correctness thing. This is part of the wussification of America. You can’t call someone fat or obese because it may hurt their feelings. We have to be more sensitive to that. This is ridiculous. If they don’t want to be called fat, lose some weight. You can’t say someone is short or a midget, because it may offend them. I really think the liberals in this country, and they’re the ones pushing this political correctness stuff, have this confused with bullying.If you’re picking on someone and calling them fat just to be mean or shorty or stumpy or string bean or retard or whatever, that’s unacceptable. I don’t condone bullying. But simply saying the person who came into the office looking for you was short, fat, and black and didn’t leave a name isn’t bullying; it’s factual information. If I want to say I have a problem with fat or obese people and write an article about it, I have a right to say that. If you don’t like it, get over it. The whole political correctness thing has gone way to far; it’s almost as if those promoting it are trying to infringe on the first amendment.

North Carolina: Political correctness will overtake your ability to think in a rational manner, as well as use common sense and differentiate between what is plausible, truthful, lawful and acceptable. The hypocritical and double standard nature of political correctness will nauseate, frustrate exasperate and infuriate those that do not adhere to its dictates. Society has been obsessed and consumed with political correctness at every turn since its introduction and steady flow within the modern vernacular since the latter part of the 20th century. Nothing is left to the imagination or considered private and sacred when it comes to political correctness. From religious beliefs and political affiliation to skin color and sexual orientation, all are fair game for defense or attack by the politically correct. The problem is that the politically correct crowd is accepting of all viewpoints, except when it comes to viewpoints that are not to their liking. Political Correctness has divided families and friends, destroyed businesses, and caused legal problems for many. An Oregon baker is facing jail time, as he refused to make a wedding cake for a same gender couple. He was deemed politically incorrect because he stood behind his religious beliefs. The same type of situation occurred with Phil Robertson of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” fame, as he voiced his opinion on scriptural content concerning homosexuality. He was suspended from the program for his supposed political incorrectness concerning same gender relationships. Even more outrageous was a case in Texas where students from Grace Academy in Prosper, Texas were planning on hand delivering Christmas cards to hospitalized wounded veterans. The Veteran’s Administration squelched the delivery of any cards that said Merry Christmas, God bless you or any scriptural references. Besides destroying goodwill towards a group of ailing veterans, political correctness censored schoolchildren from expressing their messages of respect, thanks and Christmas wishes towards a deserving group of people. Political correctness has gone overboard with its petty scare tactics and attacks on specific individuals and organizations. Its ridiculous notions of what is and is not acceptable in social and cultural contexts have reached the saturation point. As more and more supposedly politically incorrect individuals and organizations are attacked and picked to pieces by the politically correct powers that be, which includes media outlets, liberal entertainers, and other PC indoctrinated individuals, those in opposition will say, “enough,” and will stand and speak freely and defend their Constitutional right to do so. As more and more targeted individuals and organizations pick up the banner and run with it, political correctness just may die a slow death.

Orlando: Political correctness is not a simple term to define. In modern usage, it might be most equitably read as language which the speaker feels compelled to use to avoid causing a harm the speaker does not believe to be real. That is, the language which is the speaker’s impulse use is, to his or her way of thinking, correct, but because of the political ramifications of its use, it is not “politically” correct. Whether or not there is an over-emphasis on achieving political correctness depends considerably on an individual’s social location. For a homosexual, hearing the word “gay” used as a synonym for “bad” is probably a source of considerable annoyance, at best, and for an individual involved in an identity crisis over his or her sexual orientation, the constant association between gayness and badness could be a source of significant psychological distress.

In all likelihood, the degree of annoyance one feels about the impulse toward political correctness reveals more about the relative social power one enjoys than about the level of concern society has for it. People whose identity markers are not used in pejorative ways do likely feel there is too much concern with political correctness, because they are the ones who have to be concerned with it. The reality of the situation is that words have tremendous cognitive and persuasive power, cannot be dislocated from their cultural associations, and have meaningful political consequences. Decades of linguistic research, media effects research, and neurolinguistic research have demonstrated this. Even the act of labeling an attempt to change discourse as “political correctness” is a political act, designed to undermine and devalue those efforts. Whether under the heading of political correctness or courtesy, we, as a society, need to take our language choices more seriously and recognize that there is no neutral vocabulary. Every word choice has ramifications, and no one is free to take the words they use for granted.

South Carolina: I think society has become overly consumed with people’s feelings. It’s intruding on our freedom of speech. It’s causing people to have to avoid their opinions and thereby making us complacent. What possible harm can come from expressing one’s own personal opinion?

Just to be clear I’m speaking about expression of one’s opinions; I’m not talking about hate speech. I think we need to be clear that expressing one’s opinion is completely different from being hateful. In light of the recent comment from a Duck Dynasty star Phil it is clear that people have become confused about opinions versus hate speech. He expressed, rather politely I may add, his opinion on homosexuality. I may not agree with his opinion but he is not in the wrong to express it. He was not hateful and did not use derogatory terms in his interview. As a matter of fact he was completely kind in his wording; following his opinion he said we should all learn to love each other.

One should not have to fear expressing the way they feel on a subject; whether it is religion or raising children. I think every person should have an opinion on these things. It won’t be the same as everyone else’s; that’s what makes this country great. People are diverse. Opinions and cultures vary greatly, and we are blessed to live in a country where we are not persecuted for our opinions. We need to be concerned at the current state of political correctness. If we keep going the way we are people will be frightened to share their opinions and will stop thinking and forming their own.

Washington, DC: Almost daily, there is some poor schmuck on TV offering s public apology for something he or she said or posted that caused public outrage. Sometimes, the apology seems to be in order; but more often, one cannot help but wonder, “Is it safer to keep one’s mouth shut at all occasions in today’s—supposedly tolerant—America than to voice an honest, albeit unpopular, opinion or joke?”

Political correctness, which Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as: “Conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated,” incurs vigorous public debate. On the one hand, the purpose of practicing political correctness comes from a right place, i.e. to promote acceptance and tolerance toward different people. On the other hand, it sometimes can become a major nuisance and a tool for some to excessively persecute those who hold opposing views thus, in practice, breeding intolerance of another kind. Consequently, the fear of being labeled as politically incorrect often prevents many people from expressing their views openly and stifles the free exchange of ideas. As a result, political correctness achieves the opposite effect of what it initially stood for.

Author Lynne Truss writes: “Offense is so easily given. And where the “minority” issue is involved, the rules seem to shift about: most of the time a person who is black/disabled/gay wants this not to be their defining characteristic; you are supposed to be blind to it. But then, you are supposed to observe special sensitivity, or show special respect.”

Sadly, most people nowadays prefer not to perform the fragile balancing act between expressing their true thoughts and being politically correct. As a result, there is a pronounced conformity settling in American minds and productive discussions on important topics are often avoided.

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