Social Question

NerdyKeith's avatar

Does political correctness have a tendency to become thought policing?

Asked by NerdyKeith (5446points) March 24th, 2016

As a humanist, I feel inclined to criticize bigoted attitudes. However I still feel inclined to respect freedom of speech. In that, I may not agree with certain opinions, but I respect the right of the individual to hold such opinions.

We live in a society that can on occasion be somewhat hyper sensitive on many issues. With that in mind, in your opinion, does political correctness have the potential to become thought policing? Or do yo think thought policing occurs at all?

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44 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I find that I am too prudent and I tend to play it safe .

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The term political correctness was coined by bigots who could no longer give voice to their prejudices without repercussions. They were used to speaking their bigoted minds without being challenged.

zenvelo's avatar

To describe something as “politically correct” is to state that it conveys a level of respect with which the speaker does not want to impart.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s a question of semantics. To me the objective definition of “political correctness” is simply a matter of concurrence with the majority opinion. If this opinion is overwhelmingly in the majority then it of course is going to act as a brake on open discussion.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, it can, and there is always something offensive to someone somewhere. Short of blatant inappropriate remarks/behaviors I think everyone needs to lighten up. I’m pretty PC but not above some harmless levity. Our duck and goose barn here is called ” China Town” because it houses Pekin Ducks and Chinese Geese.

I’m sure somebody would find that offensive, oh well. haha

Seek's avatar

If it makes you think twice before saying something that might be hurtful, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

For instance: I consider myself to be fairly sensitive to racial matters. I’ll make the occasional joke that my blind, Jewish uncle who owns a bagel shop in New Jersey is my effort to get all my stereotypes out in one relative, but other than that, I avoid racial issues.

Recently I was at the Oriental Market (that’s the name of the place, I understand the term “oriental” is often touch-and-go, but that is literally on the sign), and someone backed into my car in the parking lot. No serious damage, just some chipped paint and a scuff. No big deal.

My first response was to laugh. And then post on Facebook that I thought it was funny. I didn’t come out and say why I was going to Hell for laughing, but the “Asian people can’t drive” stereotype was obviously playing in my head.

I almost immediately regretted the post. While I’m sure it doesn’t hurt anyone that I got a little chuckle out of the situation (that might otherwise have made me rather upset), I really didn’t need to share that fact. It didn’t make anyone’s day better, and it contributed to a negative conversation I wouldn’t otherwise partake in. It made me a hypocrite. And that’s not cool.

Mea maxima culpa.

Pandora's avatar

To me, freedom of speech does not mean that people have the unwavering right to spur crap coming out without someone saying it is crap and and they are a freaken idiot. You can’t have tit for tat. They always go hand in hand. So if a person doesn’t want to have hate directed back to them after they say ignorant things than they have the freedom to say all that crap at home behind closed doors. If they want public to know they are racist a-holes than they are begging for the attention. After all,the other person on the receiving end is also granted freedom of speech. There is no special clause in freedom of speech for certain races or religion or beliefs.

And hate crimes in the United States is illegal and I believe it should extend to hate speeches made publicly that would incite violence.

United States was suppose to be a place to live without fear of persecution. Hate speech is used to persecute others.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Political correctness is nothing less than censorship. A very insidious form of censorship.

Coloma's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Wow..I never thought of it that way, spot on!

johnpowell's avatar

You can say stupid shit. Nobody is being censored. There are just repercussions for being a dick.

And Fluther deleting your comment isn’t censorship.

JLeslie's avatar

After reading @Seek‘s answer, what I wonder is if the people who get up in arms, are they really void of stereotypes? Never heard any, don’t think any?

I can identify with her example. It’s hard not to think of a stereotype when something happens to fit the stereotype. More and more I think it’s getting difficult to joke about things like that though.

I think since some people do get hurt it’s better not to post it on Facebook, but lately I’m wondering is it also so bad to say it among people who you know well? Who know it’s just a joke?

I don’t have that stereotype of Asians not driving well in my head, but I’ve heard it before. Because I don’t think of it as a big thing, it’s not very funny to me, meaning it doesn’t make me laugh. At the same time I don’t feel @Seek is racist against Asians just because she thought it. First, I know her too well. Second, it’s just a stereotype. I think this goes to what a lot of people mean when they say Trump says what people say behind closed doors.

A few days ago I ranted on Fluther about my husband’s family breaking all sorts of HOA rules where they live and how they are the Hispanics on the block (it’s primarily Jewish, in this community) seemingly not giving a damn about how they affect other people. I don’t know if other people think it, but I do. Not in a funny way, because I have a thing about people who are self absorbed and inconvenience others.

@Seek What you said about your Jewish uncle made me laugh, but then there was no real punch line.

@Coloma That’s hysterical.

Jaxk's avatar

Virtually all humor is making fun of somebody, either yourself or others. I would agree that some is over the top but if we can’t retain our sense of humor, the world becomes a pretty dull place. Much of the political correctness stems from people just looking to be offended. Maybe we should lighten up a little.

Coloma's avatar

I make blonde jokes about myself, all the time. I’m always joking about being a right brained, left handed blonde and the corresponding disabilities of this combo. lol
I also always joke about parking like a blonde, sometimes it takes me 3 or 4 tries to get my car centered in a parking space. haha

JLeslie's avatar

Did you see the Nora Ephron HBO documentary? She talks about her mom always saying “everything is copy.” I realized this is very close to what I say to my husband when something sucky or stupid happens to us, either by my own hand or out of my control completely. I say to my husband, “this is going to be funny one day.” Or, “this is a good story.” Comedians often are making fun of their own group, family, stereotypes, and to get very bothered by those things will reduce the humor in the world. I think we know when there is truth in a stereotype, when it is hurtful or not to point it out.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


Holy shit. You are the enemy of equality. As such people so often do you cloak yourself in righteousness by using buzzwords like “racist” and “ignorant”. Oh, the irony.

The thought police are here and you couldn’t be happier. You will happily trade our freedom for your sense of superiority.

So called hate speech. Who then is appointed to decide what is or is not such speech. Let’s say I loudly proclaim that I hate our President. How long should I spend in the gulag?

So called hate crimes. So someone decides they can read my mind and as a result my crime becomes something more?

Hate crime legislation flies in the face of “Equal Justice Under law.” There is a reason Liberty is depicted wearing a blindfold.

Tell us how speech denies another their right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Saying “You suck because you are a ___________.” is not the same as a genuine, legally defined terrorist threat.

You and your pals go ahead and break down the near absolute wall that is the First Amendment. Have a party to celebrate, get drunk and then slip up and say something that is no longer protected. Start your incarceration with a nice hangover.

Instead of fucking up our system I suggest you move.

Russia might be more your speed.

And three upvotes for you comment so far. I am sincerely frightened for America’s future.

si3tech's avatar

@Jaxk Spot on! We have a plethora of people looking to be offended. To the degree now that the thought police can tell you your motive.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Yes I know I fucked up.

I meant to say Justice, not Liberty.

Coloma's avatar

Well, I took a lot of flak once when saying that I felt Charlie Hebdo had crossed the line from free speech to deliberately baiting the bull of terrorism. I still feel that way. There is freedom of speech and then there is just sheer stupidity. Fine, go ahead and poke sharp sticks at the lion but don’t cry when it shreds you like toilet paper.

Pandora's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I have nothing against thoughts. Think and say all you want in your own home. If your hate speech incites mobs to commit violence than it is worthless in society. Why say it if it isn’t to incite strong emotions. And why would the haters have more rights than the people they aim their hate at. If you really want freedom of speech than let all the garbage reign and don’t get pissed off when hate is returned. All this does is create chaos. Chaos is the opposite of liberty and Justice for all the the pursuit of happiness.
As for how does it go against the pursuit of happiness,” I will say when a person is beaten up or killed for being different, or refused a job because they believe you fit their idea of a stereo type, or refused higher pay because you were born a woman and you believe these things and act this way because others have pushed their racist agenda on you. Not saying that person who did it isn’t responsible for infringing on others rights, but the person spreading the hate like an ebola virus should also be held accountable. Especially when not knowing if they are spreading their hate to people of sound mind.
There is a reason why teens in groups get charged differently because of their age for crimes. They are not able to reason well because their minds are not fully emotionally grown.

And some things clearly never need to be said. Would you go to a grieving mother and tell her that even though her kid died, there is a bright side to the situation. That she will have more money to spend on herself, or that she no longer has to stay up at night and worry about her kid, or worry about its future. These are all true points after all. And no matter how well intended it was, a person would have to know that there will be a good chance that she will grab the nearest knife and stab the idiot while saying that his mother is also free now.

My point. If a person is going to spout crap than they better be able to take some flack back or keep their pie hole closed and save it for a tiny audience like their family if the loser has one.

Nothing in life is 100 percent guarantee except death. Too much of anything is bad. Too much sugar, too much onions, too much working out, and so goes, talking too much trash.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m going to jump in on the free speech conversation, and just make a comment. To me, free speech primarily has to do with the freedom to speak out against the government. It ties directly in with freedom of the press and freedom of information. It’s not about “name calling.” Saying something mean or destructive isn’t sensor end in America for the most part, but it comes with consequences. Other people might say things back against what you said. But, the government can’t jail you for saying you disagree with the President’s policy, or that you think Castro is right about medical care. That’s a huge deal. That’s the main deal.

zenvelo's avatar

@SecondHandStoke Nobody is restricting your right to be a dick. You can say all the bigoted things you want. You have that right. And people have the same right to say you are a racist pig.

Nobody you oppose will caller speech “politically incorrect”. That is a bogus term used by people who want to be assholes. They will tell you your speech is mean, degrading to other people, and is contemptible.

Pandora's avatar

@JLeslie and @Secondhandstoke, Anyone can say they don’t like or even hate our President or government. I’m talking about about speech that invokes hatred towards a race, gender, or sexuality, or even religion that would and does encourage others to hurt others. Like when Trump said to his audience to beat the crap out of someone the next time they throw something and he would pay their lawyer bills.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora I certainly don’t approve of what Trump said about beating the crap out of someone and he’ll pay the legal fees. I do think Trump was joking, but I think it doesn’t matter if he was joking, because people are stupid. As a leader Trump needs to encourage civilized behavior, or he is being stupid too, and yes we could even say inciting the behavior. Has he calmed that down now? Is he still saying things like that? I’m asking. I know the media keeps playing some of what he said previously. Is that inciting violence? Is everyone who “shares” it on Facebook legally responsible for spreading the word? The gospel of Trump violence?

You can’t just blame Trump can you? If a politician you liked told you to beat the crap out of someone, would you? Even if you thought you could get away with it legally?

I don’t equate Trump saying Mexicans are bringing over drugs and crime with the KKK telling it’s followers to burn a cross on the lawns of black people’s houses. First, I don’t believe Trump thinks all Mexicans are criminals, I don’t feel he said that, I also don’t think Trump believes all Muslims are bad people, even though he named some of the ways the religion is twisted to condone oppressing women and terrorism, but I do think the KKK thinks all black people are a blight on the planet.

Pandora's avatar

@JLeslie If a politician I liked was idiot enough, whether joking or not, to say something reckless, I would not defend them much less vote for them because, joking or not, Also he isn’t running for Comedy Central President. I do not mind read and would have to accept that the person they are presenting is who they are. So either he is lying and is manipulating his voters (so con man) or he is telling the truth and is a bigot and only sees his views important like he probably has all his life, or he is so ignorant and completely oblivious because he doesn’t understand he is suppose to represent a whole nation. Not just the few he thinks meets his standard. I see no redeeming qualities in this man.

I do believe sometimes he is using the same tactics he used to votes. He is acting like it is a reality show and he has to constantly up the anti by misbehaving. But where does the show man end and the real man stands. I’m not even sure he knows. But one thing is clear. He doesn’t care what it does to other peoples lives. If he has to step on a few Americans to get to the top. He will gladly make a mountain out of his victims.
But I think I said all I’m going to say on this topic as it is my right to do so under Free Speech.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora I’m not voting for him. I’m not defending him for President. I’m just talking about the free speech issue.

I’m basically on the fence with whether Trump rises to the point of the law intervening based on what he says. I think if you go after him, maybe you need to go after the liberals playing what he says over and over. Either it’s ok to air it or it isn’t.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I don’t give a damn what other people say. If one guy wants to be a rude, bigoted asshole and someone else is offended, let them duke it out. I don’t give a shit. When a kid is offended, that’s different. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about grown adults being offended by what other people say that may not even be directed at them.

I object when these things enter public policy. See, I have strong liberal sentiments and have watched other societies get like ours is trending now, and I can smell fascism from a mile away. This over-sensitivity can work both ways.

I object to laws that give harsher punishment to people based upon the race of the victim. I understand how we came to this, but I see this as a dangerous trend and we may not want to go there. Today, in Florida, if you tell a cop to go to hell, he can arrest you. If he tells me to go to hell, nothing happens. I find this repulsive. A lot cops need to be told to go to hell on a daily basis. This is a small thing, but it is a slippery slope.

I object to libraries deciding not to carry books by Twain, a great defender of what we call civil rights today, for his use of the word “Nigger” in dialogue in his books. That is the way a boy living on the Mississippi in the 1850’s spoke. But all Twain books are censored in some libraries because this might offend someone. Fucking ridiculous. He is also banned in some places because we now know he was an agnostic, possibly and atheist, because of some of his writings that they found post mortem.

There are libraries that ban anything to do with lesbianism, the daily life of gay teens, atheism—anything that could possibly offend someone. You see, it works both ways.

In Greece today, journalists are fined and jailed for writing about the Syrian refugees in any way that could be perceived as negative by the government. This prevents dialogue, the search for solutions. And maybe dialogue is really what the government wants to avoid.

This would be comparable to an American journalist getting arrested for hate speech for addressing the tragic substance abuse among the American native tribes on reservations. This abuse and all the negative social effects related to it is supported by statistics. But in Greece, at the moment, the writer can go to jail for that. And don’t be so arrogant to think that this can’t happen here with our First Amendment and other constitutional protections. Only two years ago, Greece had the right to freedom of expression just like us.

That’s the slope that becomes so slippery. And that is why I find what is termed “PC” so repulsive when it is used to stifle dialogue just because somebody is offended. Where this leads is obvious to me and it should be to all of you.

JLeslie's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Was it the liberals who censored the Twain books? For some reason I didn’t think it was a liberal group. Maybe because I consider myself a liberal and I think it’s just wrong to change the wording.

Also, at the same time I heard about the Twain controversy there was talk of Texas not wanting to teach about slavery and segregation, and they are conservatives down there. I actually don’t want that stuff taught in primary school. They start with it in second grade where I lived in TN.

Seek's avatar

Why wouldn’t you want it taught then?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@JLeslie I’m going to write this real slow so you can understand. It doesn’t matter if it is liberals or conservatives who are doing the censoring. They both stand on their versions of PC and what they find offensive. IT WORKS BOTH WAYS.


And it is dangerous.

JLeslie's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Sure, it works both ways. I have no argument with that. Remember in my answer way above I defended freedom of speech and questioned if people want to arrest Trump, then maybe they need to arrest the liberals who keep replaying what Trump said. I was just curious what group specifically is taking the word nigger out of Huck Finn?

@Seek Because I think it’s nice for very young children not to be told their people were hated, enslaved, tortured and killed. Young children should be told they are wonderful, free, can pursue what they are interested in, and feel safe. I have no problem teaching kids about respect and acknowledging differences from hair color, language, skin color, cultural traditions, different foods, etcetera. I’m not talking about being void of “race” and culture. I didn’t formally learn in school about the Holocaust until Jr. High, I grew up with conversation about it, and I honestly would have been fine not knowing the details until even a later grade.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Damn. In all my time on Fluther I don’t think comment of mine has been so misunderstood, unintentionally or otherwise.

I framed by comment in the context of rule of law and the rights laid out per the US Constitution. The Constitution does not protect one’s “right” to never be made to feel uncomfortable.

Several of you have responded to my comment. Not by answering my direct questions but rather by using popular vagaries that are open to interpretation. SUBJECTIVE concepts such as “being a dick”, “hate”, “racist”,“assholes”, “crap” etc.

If you all had been paying attention to by post you would have seen that I made the distinction between free speech and the command to do violence. If I instruct someone using speech to assassinate someone and one does so I, through my words am culpable.

At what point did I say that I was not prepared to “take some flack back?” Keep it verbal and there won’t be a problem from me.

You all, and you know who you are have the preconceptions of “hate” so deeply ingrained you are simply unable to see my point objectively.

The questions in my comment were not rhetorical.

Silence04's avatar

@SecondHandStoke political correctness has nothing to do with the law, but everything to do with being considerate to others.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Silence04 Popular ideas, even the bad ones, have everything to do with the law. Every law was once an idea, many were brought to fruition by popular demand. The censorship we see being entered into public policy all over the US through city and county commissions, school and library boards, is driven by one group or another’s version of PC. You can’t legislate politeness and nobody has a right to not being offended.

What the fuck is wrong with everybody? What ever happened to “sticks and stones”, or “offense is taken, not given.” These were good maxims at one time.

Silence04's avatar

“The idea of PC has to do with law becuase every law was once an idea”

Perfect example of how correlation is not causation.

PC is a social concept, there aren’t multiple versions of it however it can be interpreted differently. It’s constantly evolving just as society evolves, simiarly to our social vocabulary. It’s a concept that simply acknowledges what we have learned via scientific research of psychology, social science, and diversity. The same research that has disproven those antiquated maxims you mentioned.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Someone espouses the virtues of protected free speech?

No problem, call them haters.

The court of Fluther opinion has reached a verdict.

(Gavel bangs).

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Silence04 So, every law wasn’t once an idea?

Done here. I’m going off, with my poor correlations and causations, to color eggs for a bunch of kids who’ve never had an Easter egg hunt. And I don’t really give a shit if this offends you, or PETA, or vegans, the anti-religious, the fundamentalists, the Christian tradition purists, or the egg industry, or even the fucking chickens.

Jaxk's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus – Well, I for one am deeply offended by your callous and thoughtless remark concerning chickens. First it is not all chickens but only the hens that are affected, roosters played no roll in your eggs. The symbolism is too clear to ignore. You’re saying that without the male involvement the female has absolutely no reproductive rights what-so-ever. you are obvilously part of the war on women and speech such as yours should be banned, nay outlawed, with severe criminal penalties. There’s no room in a free society for that kind of speech.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


Won’t you please, please for the sake of all of us who are progressive and enlightened at the end of the Easter egg hunt rob those of those finishing with more eggs to balance the outcome for all involved.

It’s only FAIR.

So sorry, I mean Spring Holiday egg hunt.

Coloma's avatar

What came first, the chicken or the egg? lol

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^ To get to the other side.

greatfullara's avatar

Social evolution puts standards on people to be nicer. Be better, make it more fair. Have empathy for those that are different from you insures better chances of survival of a group. Everyone wants to be in a group. We are in a group right now. What makes us want to be right? What makes us judge?

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