In the days since the Earth-shattering victory of sentient Cheeto Donald Trump in this year’s US presidential election, the swirl of, well…things happening has been constant. Thinkpieces galore, Facebook and IRL friendships crumbling, protests, and the rise of hate crimes against racial minorities. Overwhelming media and celebrity support made it seem like Hillary was a shoo-in for Prez. Thus, many of us were left devastated and reeling from the results, leading us to all collectively shout, what the fuck happened?
Really, there’s a million and one reasons why Hillary missed the long overdue title of First Female President. Sexism, racism, general bigotry, a (misguided, IMO) desire for someone outside the system to enter the system, the DNC shut-out of Bernie Sanders (side note: remember when we had an inkling of hope that Bernie might be our next president? Ah, the follies of early 2016), media that misled us to believe Hillary was going to win regardless so not voting or voting third party wouldn’t doom us to a Trump presidency…the list goes on. But in the process of trying to untangle this very complicated web, one man places the blame almost solely on one thing: Political Correctness.
Now, before we continue, I a) obviously implore you to first read the article I’m responding to, you know, for context reasons, which I linked at the end of the last paragraph in case you missed it (I just had to make that obvious because my mom is probably reading this and computers are not her strong suit), and b) I must make it clear that I’m not some hardcore Hillary stan. I wasn’t happy she was the Democratic candidate (as implied, I #FeltTheBern), and I acknowledge her many problematic aspects. I just feel like email abuse should warrant less criticism than boasting about sexual assault, blatant racism, sexism, and homophobia, and clearly wanting to fuck your daughter.
Firstly, I will say this: Mr. Robby Soave has a point. I do think that recent intense and sometimes hostile backlash against oppressive structures (ie. “political incorrectness”) played a role in all this. However, by placing the blame on the “PC leftists”, he’s missing a crucial piece of the puzzle.
There’s a bit of a paradox that occurs when we consider the whole “everyone has the right to free speech/to speak their mind/to their own opinion/etc” mantra. If you’re allowed to voice your opinion, then I’m allowed to say if I think your opinion is shitty, and you’re allowed to say if you think that my thinking your opinion is shitty is shitty, and around and around we go. Where does it end? Why should the “PC crowd” be the one to concede? Doing so would only seek to maintain the status quo, because assholes have been spouting their asshole-y views unopposed and using those views to shape society since the dawn of modern civilization. If there’s anything to be learned from High School Musical, it’s that sticking to the status quo is ultimately uncool. Also, in the case of society, the current status quo disenfranchises and sometimes literally kills minorities on the daily.
In my mind, “opinions” are things like “chocolate cake is better than vanilla” or “the Beatles are overrated”, rather than “trans people are disgusting abominations and should be institutionalized” or “I hate black people”, but that’s just me. In any case, “It’s Just My Opinion!!!” isn’t some kind of magical shield that protects you from criticism.
I’m sure many will agree that the rise of PC culture in recent years can be largely attributed to the Internet; the Internet provides a variety of platforms for the typically silenced to have a voice, to have conversations with each other, and to find solidarity in those who have had similar experiences. It also allows such people to call out those who wrong them in relative safety (emphasis, of course, on “relative”; if 4chan and Reddit decide to doxx you, then doxx you they shall). I understand that it’s easy for an individual to feel attacked when a crowd of PCers get together to berate them, but to be perfectly honest, I can’t bring myself to feel sympathy.
I literally laughed out loud out of incredulity when Mr. Soave referred to PC backlash as “social oppression”. Let’s consider that minorities (be it people of colour, LGBTQ+ folks, women, people with disabilities, etc.) face backlash for just existing and attempting to live normal human lives; ie. for inadvertently expressing things they cannot change. PoC may feel pressure to distance themselves from their cultures or LGBTQ+ folks may stay in the closet, but it’s all the same in the end. People of colour and LGBTQ+ folks have a disproportionately higher suicide rate than the average population, with the number proving even more troubling for those who are both of colour and LGBTQ+. Trans women (and especially trans women of colour) experience incredible amounts of both sexual and physical voilence. Gay and trans panic defence is still a legitimate thing in most states (in which a murderer of an LGBTQ+ person can claim “temporary insanity” due to “homosexual panic” as a defence). And let’s not forget this year’s Pulse shooting or the continued murders of unarmed black people (I could provide sources for those, but I think y’all can find them yourselves; also, here’s my post on that issue from almost two years ago, and nothing has changed). Again: this is backlash people face for JUST EXISTING AS THEMSELVES. Opinions can change. You cannot change your race or ability level or gender identity (and I mean the one you personally identify as, not the one assigned to you, because you can totally change that if you want, but, y’know, then you wouldn’t be cisgender and would thus open a whole other can of worms, that can of worms being transphobia). Social oppression, my ass.
I will concede that as much as we leftists would love for the “politically incorrect” righties to actually realize that their views are shitty and change them, we’re not the thought police and we can’t make people change their minds. However, it is entirely possible for people to just, y’know, think these things and keep them to themselves.
For example, some may remember an incident earlier this year in which Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the recent Ghostbusters reboot, was targeted with a slew of racist remarks that ended with her leaving Twitter in tears. It all started with a Ghostbusters review written by the infamous Milo Yiannopoulos that referred to Leslie as “spectacularly unappealing” and as having “flat-as-a-pancake black stylings”; it also contained a graphic depicting Jones with the tagline, “Who ya gonna call? Weightwatchers!” Leslie understandably responded negatively to this, which sparked Yiannopoulos’s fans to send her wonderful messages such as the following:
Ah yes, the true heroes in the battle for free speech!
Yiannopoulos himself joined in the fun by egging on his followers, goading Leslie for “playing the victim”, sharing (and likely authoring) fake tweets by Leslie as an attempt to further smear her, and referring to her as a dude. Very mature, really:
When Yiannopoulos was eventually suspended from Twitter (a ban that still holds today), many claimed that he was being punished for exercising his right to free speech. The thing is, I actually read the review, and while I think it was sexist and deeply disagree with many of the views expressed, most of it didn’t really set off my ~PC alarms~. What did, however, were the personal attacks on Leslie’s appearance, as well as the blatant racism and bullying that followed.
It seems to me that some people enjoy being purposely offensive purely to make a point. What that point is besides, “Hey everyone, I’m a huge asshole!” remains to be seen. Really, they could probably just, like…not say that shit. When wars were fought in the name of our freedom, I’m pretty sure no one died expressly so that dicks could spread their dickishness free and unopposed on the Internet. We have the power to choose what to do with our freedom of speech. Is it too much to ask that we choose wisely?
And guess what, even if, say, someone thinks the concept of more than two genders is silly, people who identify as non-binary genders are going to continue to exist whether they like it or not. And furthermore, consider this: an individual’s personal state of existence has ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT on anyone else’s lives. Let people live, as long as they’re not hurting anyone. I’m rather mildly amused by the thought of someone sitting there intensely angry that a random stranger on the Internet would dare claim to be agender or genuinely incensed that a passerby on the street would have the nerve to exist and be black at the same time. And, under the fascist PC regime, they can’t even tell anyone else about how annoyed they are about other people living their lives! They’re going to EXPLODE! THE HORROR!
There’s a lot of talk about how those asking for change are “too angry” and how they’d get further if they “just asked nicely”. And yes, logically speaking, some might be more willing to listen if there were less hostility, but we must remember that it isn’t hostility for the sake of hostility. It’s in response to innumerable punches already thrown by the opposition. It’s literally life and death. Imagine if someone tied you to a chair and then set you on fire. Obviously, you’d be like, “WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK PUT OUT THIS FIRE I AM LITERALLY BURNING TO DEATH YOU SHITBAG.” What if everyone was like, “Ugh, why are you so angry? I burned myself on a cigarette the other day, what’s the big deal? Maybe if you asked nicely I’d get the fire extinguisher.” Translation: “Be nice, or we’re going to oppress the shit out of you.” The oppressed shouldn’t be expected to accept their lesser lots in life with grace. And yes, two wrongs don’t make a right, but a million wrongs committed by one side with little apology and few signs of stopping don’t make a right either.
Political correctness doesn’t exist without context; this is not two equally-footed groups fighting over what’s OK to say and what isn’t for the sake of it. “Politically incorrect” sentiments have centuries of oppression backing them up, oppression that is still felt today. We cannot simply decontextualize them for the sake of “freedom of expression”. These people want to be able to spout their views pretty much for the sake of it; the “PC crowd” oppose these views because they are actually oppressive and have everyday real-life consequences.
So at the end of the day, yes, Mr. Soave, you’re probably right: PC backlash probably did, to an extent, contribute to Trump’s win. The socially privileged (ie. straight white men) likely felt so threatened by the attempt to shift the status quo that it spurned many typical non-voters to vote, thus leading to the Dem/Republican flip of the traditionally Dem states. The statistics can’t lie; very few marginalized folks were down for Trump. But social change does not happen without conflict, whether that conflict be the catalyst for change or in response to it. To blame minorities for demanding change, rather than the majority for vehemently resisting, is simply unfair. And so, as terrified as I am for those in America who are immigrants, people of colour, LGBTQ+, women, religious minorities, or otherwise disenfranchised, if a Trump presidency is what we have to endure to emerge on the other side of the social change machine, well, so be it.