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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 5:01 pm | Fair 64º


Harris Sherline: PC is BS (Bad Speech)

Political correctness stifles free expression and borders on thought control, but it doesn’t change attitudes.

Has the endless barrage of “politically correct” rules that we are subjected to finally overcome our nation’s treasured right of free speech? To me, PC is BS (bad speech). It is censorship, pure and simple. What concerns me is that it stifles dissent under the guise of being sensitive to the feelings and values of others.

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline
I am weary of politically correct demands and the PC straight-jacket that has been placed around the minds and free expression of Americans. I don’t know anyone anymore who feels free to openly express personal opinions.

PC influences expression about almost every subject and includes efforts to pass laws that not only try to force everyone to conform to some group’s notion of “correct” speech, but even to what they are supposed to think.

Our language is becoming so codified and restrictive that we are no longer free to speak openly: “African-American,” not black; “Latino” or “Hispanic,” not Mexican; “gay,” not homosexual (gay used to mean happy); “Ms.,” not Miss or Mrs.; “undocumented worker,” not illegal alien; “challenged,” not handicapped; etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum.

Many individuals and groups have become so hypersensitive about the speech of others that it is almost impossible to find the right expression to communicate effectively. Words that used to be simple statements have become pejorative slander in the eyes of many minority groups, and acceptable terms are periodically changed so that it becomes an artful dance just to find the right way to describe something or someone. It’s counterproductive, and why Americans tolerate this kind of intimidation is a mystery to me.

Following are just some of the endless number of examples that illustrate the point:

Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania decided to ring in the holidays with music from various religions and cultures but was unable to find any programmed nontraditional music for their system, so members of the music department created their own. (Exactly how is it possible to write nontraditional holiday music without sounding traditional?)

The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau decided to rename its annual Christmas Parade the “Little Rock Holiday Parade,” to make sure the event is “all-inclusive.” (What is the “holiday” if it’s not Christmas?)

An Arizona State University drama professor settled a lawsuit (for $395,000) against the school for wrongful termination because he taught the works of dead white males (Shakespeare and Moliere) over the objections of campus feminists.

A student at Eastern Michigan University reported that the school was pressured to change their team name, Hurons. They picked Eagles, and in spite of the fact that the Huron Indians wanted them to change it back, government pressure kept them from doing so. The student’s reaction was, “All this civil rights BS is further erasing Native Americans from our history.”

Those who don’t agree with PC speech and attempt to defend what they may perceive to be their rights are often mercilessly discredited or destroyed financially through litigation or perhaps risk physical harm.

The result is that people repress honest expression, keeping their thoughts to themselves or discussing them only with others they know to be “safe.” The consequence has been the opposite of one of the PC objectives: that outlawing or repressing speech changes unacceptable ideas or makes them go away. Tthey have merely gone underground into a subconscious pressure cooker of suppressed but growing anger.

The people I know have become increasingly guarded about saying what they believe, but their attitudes and beliefs have not changed one iota. If anything, they have hardened. They’re just more careful where and to whom they say what they think.

Have we reached the point where not only can things we say be actionable, but certain thoughts eventually may be considered a crime, as in “hate crime”? Does anyone worry that we are on a slippery slope to thought control?

PC pressure puts a lid on free expression, but it doesn’t change attitudes. Preventing people from openly saying what they think may well be one of the causes of the growing violence in our society. Contrary or unpopular opinions and anger can be contained for only so long. When they are suppressed indefinitely without an acceptable outlet, they eventually erupt.

We say we believe in the First Amendment, but do we really? Or do we now have the right of free speech only insofar as it meets some sort of PC test? What has happened to our cherished “land of the free and home of the brave”?

Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his own blog, Opinionfest.com.

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