Nope, it's not that the so-called "PC police" are quashing freedom of speech. And it's certainly not that "political correctness is killing people," which is an actual thing said by actual presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
Ironically, given that this broad social justice movement initially began as a basic reminder that words matter, the biggest problem with political correctness is the term "political correctness."
Since the 1980s, it's been used to diminish and discredit efforts to reduce racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism and other forms of discrimination. (Some newer opponents of inclusiveness, like the GamerGate hordes, prefer the alleged insult SJW, or Social Justice Warrior.)
But despite people like Donald Trump declaring "I'm so tired of this politically correct crap," the efforts remain because the issues have not gone away.
Just this week Roosh V, a loathsome figure who argues rape should be legal on private property, was planning 165 meet-up events in 43 countries around the world for his Return of Kings followers before abruptly cancelling after being denounced by multiple Canadian mayors and the governor of Texas.
Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby are before the courts, but rape culture remains a part of everyday life for women. As does sexual harassment -- just ask Spaniard's Bay volunteer firefighter Brenda Seymore, whose male colleagues resigned en masse when she dared complain.
The majority black residents of Flint, Michigan are suffering from lead poisoned water, Toronto cops are fighting for the right to return to racial profiling and blacks are being killed by police with such frequency they had to start a protest movement to literally remind people that their lives matter.
Toronto's Now Magazine just ran a cover story on racism in the music industry, which followed last year's Twitter reveal of music industry sexism, and joins other pop cultural call-outs like #OscarsSoWhite and #JunosSoMale.
Calgary's Catholic Bishop Fred Henry just doubled-down on his transphobic response to an anti-discrimination bill that initially called it "totalitarian" to argue that "being an 'adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties." Apparently treating LGBTQ citizens with respect and dignity is a trend like bell bottoms that should go away.
Henry didn't reference totalitarianism without purpose. While he wrote "the madness of relativism... under the guise of respect for differences" rather than "political correctness," his implication is clear. It's shared by Gregory Allen Elliott, whose recent win in his Twitter harassment case in Toronto last month ushered in a flood of Twitter harassment.
In 2012 he tweeted "A 'politically correct' society would be an 'Orwellian Hell.'"
That's the thing. The term "political correctness" has been used intentionally to invoke Orwell, to connect it to newspeak terms like "thoughtcrime."
The end goal of this movement is to influence policy and language so that people who are not straight, white men feel equally represented and appreciated by society. Naturally, these efforts have been described as fascist, Marxist, Maoist, Stalinist and, of course...
"I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany,' but I don't care about political correctness," said Ben Carson, echoing the anti-PC campaigns of his fellow Republican candidates. "You had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe."
Leaving aside the fact that NOTHING is comparable to genocide except genocide, what beliefs are we talking about?
Well, there's Roosh V and his "neomasculinity" movement teaching things like "women must have their behaviour and decisions controlled by men."
Then there's that ex-Pantera singer who just got dropped from a music festival after yelling "White Power!" while giving a Nazi salute onstage.
The Edmonton shoe repair store owner who refused to serve a teenage girl in a burka because, as her sibling alleged he said, "ethical beliefs do not permit him to deal with such people." Which, admittedly, is preferable to the guy who pepper-sprayed a group of Syrian refugees in Vancouver.
The people whose anti-indigenous racism is so virulent it forced CBC to turn comments off their articles -- and whose hatred is still spewed on other sites and across social media. This in an era where thousands of indigenous women are missing or murdered, where we've now heard all the horrors of the residential school system, and where the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal just ruled the federal government discriminated against First Nations children in its funding of child welfare services.
And, of course, there's sites like The Rebel publishing anti-PC clickbait arguing why "Western culture is superior" and "Political correctness will destroy the west."
Donald Trump's entire campaign is that "the big problem this country has is being politically correct," explaining why he's called Mexicans rapists, pushed to ban Muslims and started a sexist beef with Fox News' Megyn Kelley.
Those are the actual beliefs we're talking about.
Do social justice activists push too far sometimes? Sure. Many are young, and enthusiasm can trump experience, leading to things like the University of Ottawa canceling a yoga class over alleged cultural appropriation or preventing a student journalist from taking photos at a University of Missouri protest.
Look, I don't get microaggressions, enjoy controversial comedy and wish activists spent less time attacking imperfect allies, but contrary to popular belief, these sorts of examples are a small fraction which are nonetheless used as a cudgel to dismiss all calls for social justice.
So, if you oppose political correctness then you need to ask yourself, to use a Star Wars analogy, are you on the light side or the dark side of the force?
If you're frustrated by the constant calls for diversity and equality, if you are fine with the status quo -- which, by the way, you just might be disproportionately benefiting from -- then sorry, you're on the dark side.
You don't have to be Darth Vader to be a part of the Empire.
But to update this to the newer movie, you can be Finn. You can decide not to be a storm trooper and join the resistance to make the galaxy safe for every human, alien and droid -- and if your concern is that sometimes those college kids push too far, then you can help focus the fight on fairness and respect.
Oh, and this isn't some random Star Wars reference. Roosh V -- who, much like that Catholic bishop, claims "this is all a totalitarian system that attempts to censor speech and promote fringe lifestyles while actively discriminating against men, particularly white men" -- used his website to start a boycott against The Force Awakens because a Jewish director cast a woman and a black man as leads.
So, when you pick your side on this debate, maybe consider who you'll be sharing it with.
I set up my web browser to automatically change "political correctness" to "treating people with respect" pic.twitter.com/yvNnqUWpNm
— Byron Clark (@byronclarknz) August 4, 2015
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