Political Correctness

June 18, 2014

I’m not a fan of political correctness. But even more so, I’m not a fan of forcing political correctness.

Earlier today, I tweeted:

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that Americans have the right to be stupid. And wrong.

In actuality, I’m not that clever. The line was borrowed from the ever-controversial Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who spoke something similar regarding the racist comments spoken by Clippers owner Donald Sterling. How do we keep bigotry out of the NBA, he was asked. “You don’t. There’s no law against stupid.”

My tweet, and this discussion, stems around today’s news that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration. It’s a decision that I disagree with.

The idea of political correctness seems to have grown in tandem with the “Everyone Gets A Medal!” trend in children’s schooling. It’s the idea that we should all be nice to each other. None of us deserve to have our feelings hurt. We should all feel like winners all the time. These trends, and many facets of other sociopolitical movements, all share a common goal: making everyone feel happy, and systematically identifying (and (re)defining) and eliminating any form of hate speech or negative thoughts or viewpoints.

These days, if you hurt anyone’s feelings, you deserve the attacks that come as a result. That is okay—it’s based on the founding principals of free speech, and works for both sides. Don’t get me wrong: I get it.

What’s not okay is the next step, something that’s been occurring more and more lately: if you hurt someone’s feelings, you lose your property?

Just recently, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced from his position because of a donation he made in support of a gay marriage ban. Let it be known: he’s an asshole for his beliefs. Did he deserve to be removed from his position? Debatable, but because he was ousted from a privately-owned company by a privately-owned company, I can’t comment. Then, Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA for making offensive and racist comments. Again, let it be known: Sterling is an awful person. Was it a fair decision? Mark Cuban would say no, and so would I.

It keeps going with today’s news. I think most would argue and agree that the Redskins name is fairly offensive to the ethnic group in question, and that they have been demanding a change for decades. But I have to wonder: is it really okay for the government to censor and remove a long-held and legally-obtained trademark on the grounds that it hurts feelings? It’s offensive?

Once again, I have to quote Mark Cuban: we’re going down a slippery slope. At what point is it okay for being politically incorrect to be legally objectionable?

This country has the benefit of holding freedom of thought, speech, and expression to a uniquely high standard, more than the vast, vast majority of countries in the world. We live in a country where law-obeying citizens can raise rebel flags outside of their homes and get away with it. They can speak racial slurs, publish controversial opinions, participate in morally-debatable activities, or abstain from the same activities. We live in a country where those of us who agree or disagree with choices such as these can freely insult, shame, dispute, and boycott to make a point. The power of the people is unique in these regards. I don’t want to change any of this.

Every opinion and belief deserves a chance to be held, no matter how stupid or offensive it may be. If we want our right to agree or disagree, then we have to let them have their right to do the opposite.