6 Ways Critics Of Political Correctness Have It Backwards
During the recent Republican primary debate, the frontrunning "candidate," Donald Trump, said something that stuck out to me. No, I'm not talking about the time he admitted to bribing politicians or when he vomited a world-eating snake, I'm talking about his comments on political correctness:
This is something I hear a lot these days -- sometimes it's angry bloggers complaining about "Social Justice Warriors" or "SJWs," sometimes it's Bill Maher, and sometimes it's even actual human beings with real thoughts and feelings. So I dug into some of the "PC Suckz00rz" arguments and quickly realized that not only are they wrong, they're exactly wrong, which is sort of impressive.
"Political Correctness Is Inefficient And Stifling"
This is the overall complaint about all things PC, and it's the heart of Donald Trump's complaint: We don't have time for feelings because we need to focus on getting shit done. After all, we have big problems in this world: war, hunger, slavery, torture, the economy, the black leather seats in my car get really hot, there's a fly hovering around my desk that won't go away, Twitter hashtags, and so on.
Even though that intuitively makes sense, because feelings are weak and weakness must be burned to fuel the fires of Our Great And Cruel Machine, science has found the opposite to be true. Turns out political correctness actually makes us more efficient: A study found that when you have a mixed-gender group of people who are given a problem to solve and asked to consider political correctness, they generate more ideas, and the ideas are more novel. Diversity makes us better at doing shit together. For a great example, check out how The Avengers were able to defeat Loki.
Even this guy had a purpose.
And these results extend beyond that one study: Looking at Wall Street, scientists found that markets with ethnic diversity tend to work better and more accurately than markets that are all white -- not because white people suck at Wall Streeting or whatever, but a bunch of people with different conceptions and backgrounds are better at getting things done than a bunch of clones of the same guy. Which, incidentally, is also why The Avengers were able to defeat Ultron.
Notice how they were helpless until the black guy showed up?
Similarly, hospitality and retail businesses with gender-diverse workforces tend to make more money than those dominated by one gender. Don't you see? Instead of fighting over which gender is better, we need to accept that by working together we make each other stronger. Just like The Avengers. Also just like The Avengers, we apparently can never remember this lesson for longer than a couple hours.
"The Politically Correct Have No Sense Of Humor"
So even if diversity is good, that's not just what political correctness is about, right? It's also about limiting what words people are allowed to use in polite company, and that makes comedy impossible, as illustrated by this comic, which exploded on Reddit a while back:
I don't know if this is intentional, but this comic perfectly illustrates the backward thinking of people who are anti-politically correct: They're mad because they can't keep telling the same damn jokes we've already heard. People don't tell "a guy, a guy, and a guy walk into a bar" jokes anymore because they're played out and racial stereotypes are terrible. That's not just one example, by the way -- whenever I hear someone getting defensive about jokes and political correctness, they're defending really crappy jokes. People act like comedy exists in a bubble that's independent of reality and context, which is amazing because it manages to misunderstand jokes, the human brain, and all of society all at once. Jokes live and die on the preconceptions you bring to them as a human being. Imagine trying to browse Cracked with no understanding of who Batman is -- 50 percent of our content would be complete gibberish.
"But the PC people are still saying that we're not allowed to make jokes on certain subjects, like rape! That's censorship!" First off, how did you just type a sentence into the middle of my article? Are you a witch? But, more importantly, sure: People got mad at Daniel Tosh for saying the word "rape" and Michael Richards for saying the word "come on, you know exactly what he said."
Except that's not why they got mad, is it? Because Louis CK and Sarah Silverman seem to have no problem telling jokes with those words in them and still being coddled by feminist and progressive bloggers all over the place. It seems like Richards and Tosh got in trouble for being complete assholes on stage, which is something that has probably always been frowned upon. I don't think there's any point in comedy history where it's been impolite for your audience to dislike you. Feel free to correct me.
No? No one has anything to say? How about you, straw man who spoke earlier? No? OK, next entry.
"You Can't Get Away With As Much Today"
Complaints about political correctness usually include the phrase "these days," meaning that things were better before and this sensitivity is new. The most recent example as of writing this (which is probably an outdated sentence once this article gets published) is Mel Brooks complaining that he wouldn't have been able to make Blazing Saddles today. Why not? Because back then people weren't happy with the use of "The N-Word," punching an old lady, and farting, and he really had to fight to get them in the movie. You might notice that that makes no sense. So did Brooks, because he revisited the idea later and explained that the politically correct "weren't so strong then" which is what allowed him to get away with the aforementioned N-Word, geezer-punches, and farting.
To which one can't help but widen their eyes, drop their jaws, and ask, "What the hell are you talking about? That shit happens in movies all the time."
From Left: Django Unchained, Hot Fuzz, Kevin James.
In fact, I can't even really fake sympathy for this kind of complaint because it's so hilariously myopic. Have you not heard of the goddamn Hays Code? The Comics Code Authority? Fucking McCarthyism? And that's just this century.
The thing is, the difference between "political correctness" and "censorship" is that censorship is law laid down by an authority and political correctness comes from the ground up. And I sorta instinctively like the latter better? Let me explain why.
"It's Just Overreactions, Censorship, And Changing Words For No Reason"
The problem with political correctness, they'll say, is the hypersensitivity and the overreactions. Then they'll mention that time when Dr. Matt Taylor landed a probe on a comet and all feminists did was whine about how offensive his shirt was:
That tweet got over a thousand retweets, which is ... hold on, let me run the numbers ... just shy of being notable. Sorry: The Internet is a big place. A thousand retweets would be really great for me, one of my articles, or a joke I wrote, but as far as being a bona fide "big deal," it hardly counts. Still, the shirt was pretty tacky, so Taylor eventually apologized, and everyone moved on ... except the people who were mad at feminists for bringing it up in the first place:
That's an article from The Telegraph written by the mayor of London, in which he compares a sarcastic tweet and Taylor's dignified but emotionally honest apology to fucking war crimes. The reality, of course, was that a guy did a thing, realized it, and had the fucking integrity, dignity, and bravery to admit he was wrong. Captain British-Pants Willikins McLondonMayor (I didn't bother looking up his name), on the other hand, was offended that a woman wanted to talk about something other than what a man was talking about. But no, sure, it's the feminists who were overreacting with their snarky tweets.
Then we have a recent freak-out about how University Of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" suggested that "American" shouldn't be used to describe American citizens because of the other countries in North, Central, and South America. The list inspired editorials lamenting "political correctness gone maaad" and speculating that it might signal the end of free speech forever -- even though the "Language Guide" was an academic thought exercise with no on-campus authority whatsoever. Basically, a college was exploring some ideas about language, and anti-PC activists responded by accusing them of trying to repeal the fucking Bill Of Rights.
Even worse is when the anti-PC people go around trying to tell everyone what they're allowed to be offended by. If we can revisit the Matt Taylor shirt thing for a second, check out this article, which says that feminists can be offended by the shirt, but only because it's "tacky," not because it's sexist, because being offended by the latter is like saying that "only their sensibilities matter. ... Why are feminist motives so special?" What the fuck is this guy even talking about? Does he think that feminists have the power to erase his opinions by stating their own? Well, chill out, dude. They can't do that. You're allowed to think whatever you want -- the feminists are unfit to fetter you.
You're free to frolic through fields of fantasy, friend.
Then there are the people who complain that political correctness is just about changing words for no reason, but here's Fox News insisting on calling Caitlyn Jenner a man, for no reason. Here are other people insisting on calling her Bruce, again, even though she doesn't want them to. Regardless of your opinion on trans rights, that's just nonsense. This isn't like debating which bathroom she should use or anything else that could in theory have an impact on someone else's life -- it's just her name and preferred pronoun. Refusing to do that is closer to grade-school bullying than political debate, but people are willing to go on national TV and mark their careers with a "Charlie? More like Fartly!" routine over something that, apparently, isn't important.
"Politically Correct Ideas Are Anti-Business"
Let's talk about video games for a minute, because who doesn't love that shit? As we've covered before, the "gamer" community hates political correctness more than any other group that exists does aside from, like, actual neo-Nazis. A great example is that time Anita Sarkeesian once mentioned video games in passing to a friend and immediately unseated Jesus Christ and Bono to become the most famous human being who has ever existed. Or something. Anyway, gamers often insist that, yes, while every video game character that has ever existed is a straight white male, this is only true because there are no women or black people who play video games, because women and black people are imaginary (you can tell because they never appear in video games). Except no part of that is true.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, adult women make up 36 percent of gamers, edging out adult men who flounder helplessly behind them at 35 percent. Teenage boys, the people that we design video games for --
-- make up only 17 percent of gamers. And while some of you are rambling about how these women aren't real gamers because playing Candy Crush on your iPhone doesn't count, keep in mind the average adult female gamer has been fiddling with their gamepads (and probably playing video games too) for at least 13 years.
On top of that, studies show that not only are more high school girls playing video games because, duh, video games are awesome, but all these gamers prefer more gender-inclusive video games -- high school kids are actually more likely to have no preference or prefer playing as a woman than they are to want a male hero. Which is exactly why so many games now offer the option to play as another gender.
And this is the future -- for not only video games but movies as well: The people behind Furious 7's no-holds-barred adrenaline-fueled thrill-ride through the box office credit the movie's diversity with its success, saying that they'll factor that into their decisions about future "large-scale action epics." Political correctness is, in fact, good for business.
"PC People Are Trying To Rewrite History"
This most recently became a big part of the "PC debate" with the argument surrounding the Confederate flag. People argue that the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern heritage that has been appropriated by racists, and that saying that people shouldn't fly it is a way to try to rewrite history by removing the symbol.
Except calling the Confederate flag a symbol of anything other than slavery is, in itself, rewriting history. As 100 million people have pointed out, there's absolutely no ambiguity as to why the Civil War was fought: The Northern states wanted to abolish slavery, and the Southern states didn't. The South started a war because they were willing to fight and die for what they believed in, and, yes, their "valor became legendary in military history," you creepy bastard, but what they believed in was owning other human beings. They believed in white supremacy. That's why they designed the flag and started the war in the first place.
Even the "it was fought over states' rights" argument is bunk, because states in the Confederacy had fewer rights than states in the union -- specifically, they weren't allowed to make slavery illegal.
Arguments about honoring the dead Confederate soldiers are potentially misguided because, according to this West Point history professor, defeating the Confederacy is the U.S. military's "finest hour," precisely because of the slavery thing. Flying a Confederate flag is the most anti-military, anti-patriotic thing you can fucking do. And yet the people who defend it are accusing everyone else of rewriting history.
Man, that's some tortured logic there. If I didn't know better, I'd say these people were just looking for an excuse to be assholes.
JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked who isn't afraid to get real and tell it like it is. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook unless you're a fucking pussy.
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