The bully pulpit is destroying liberalism and freedom of speech

Jonathan Chait explains why political correctness and the bully pulpit of demanding silence from those whose ideas you oppose is creating a reign of terror on freedom of speech, and the worst offenders are those who should know better.

The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement’s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement’s longevity that many of its allies are worn out. “It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,” confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. “There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.” Goldberg wrote recently about people “who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, “Everyone is so scared to speak right now.”

That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

That was the same rationale behind Dirty Politics, an attempt to silence effective voices who opposed their ideas, by using criminals and thugs and a complicit media to try to run people out of jobs, get them arrested when they were the ones actually committing crimes and to silence voices they opposed.

It is the same people who are now rushing to defend Eleanor Catton and claiming freedom of speech for her but not for those who think she is a greedy, grasping, wrong headed liberal elite bludger.

If she is entitled to freedom of speech then so are her detractors. I certainly don’t want her to stop speaking, to stop expressing her opinion, but she needs to realise that when you present an opinion you are going to get push back.

I she can’t take the push back then best she actually does just shut up. Freedom of speech cuts both ways.

Unfortunately our media are complicit in all of this, just witness the cowardice of the NZ Herald who claimed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo but then censored their work afraid of upsetting some Muslims.

The answer to strident opinions is not silencing them, it is more speech.

Holocaust deniers are despicable people, but I still think they should be able to say what they like. I don’t want their books banned, I want people to know their foolishness and they should be mocked mercilessly. Silencing them makes them martyrs.

If you have to demand the silence of your opposition then you have lost the argument. The pity is supposedly intelligent people like Giovanni Tiso simply can’t understand this.


– New Yorker Magazine


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  • The Whinging Pom

    Political correctness is just a way for the trendy (normally left-wing) elite to maintain a feeling of superiority.

    Suddenly outlawing words or phrases which have been used since time immemorial with faux outrage (normally on behalf of another person or group rather than themselves) allows them to show everyone how much more caring and ‘inclusive’ they are than the common herd.

    The most ridiculous recent example of this is those who have slated Benedict Cumberbatch’s words in support of coloured people. Let’s forget the substance of what the guy said, which was tremendously supportive of people of colour (or whatever today’s acceptable word/phrase is for non ‘white’ people), and focus on a his use of a world that 99% of the world didn’t even realise had slipped into the ‘must not use’ black book.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People still exists. Are all the people who belong to that organisation, and who are actively campaigning on behalf of coloured people, to be considered racist?

    I feel it my duty, ever time I hear of a new word or phrase which has entered the PC hit list, to use it as much as possible.

    EDIT – spelling

    • Papillon

      I really feel for middle aged white men (whoops is that acceptable) these days. They seem to be baring the brunt of this PC madness and reduced to not being allowed an opinion. The amount of times recently I’ve read or heard how dare a MAWG have an opinion opposite to a black , female, younger or gay person, and voice it in public (again sorry for the black word, I’ve no idea what the correct term du jour is).

      Heck imagine the public lashing a MAWG would have if they voiced a different opinion to someone who meet all criteria, young, black, gay female.

      • Wallace Westland

        Trust me. I have no problem whatsoever at voicing my opinion.

        I have nothing at all against anyone of any race, colour, creed, sexual orientation or age UNTIL they want to wear their colour, creed, sexual orientation or age on their sleeve and demand special considerations favours or dispensations because of it.
        Then look out. I’ll have plenty to say and whiny, PC, snivelling, pinko poofters that want their world sugar coated for them better watch out because they’re not going to like it.

        • sandalwood789

          “I have no problem whatsoever at voicing my opinion.”

          Neither do I.

      • Kevin

        White heterosexual single males – the only segment of society where it is considered acceptable to discriminate against.

    • Bobb

      Political correctness is the art of convincing people that it is possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

    • SlightlyStrange

      What are they meant to be called now then? I’ve done a bit of a google, and the best I can find is the long-winded “people of color”. Which sounds not a lot different?

      • The Whinging Pom

        I don’t think it matters, because whatever term you use they’ll find a problem with it in pretty short order, and say you’re a racist for speaking the word/term they invented just one or two iterations ago. It’s not about respect for people, you see, but about giving them a public platform on which they can demonstrate, very loudly, their superiority over everyone else.

        The only way to stop this nonsense is to ignore it, and to continue using whatever language you’re comfortable with, and to focus on the substance of the communication rather than trendy semantics.

      • waldopepper

        i now just call black people “black”, white people “white”. this came about when i had my nephew with me the other day and as we boarded a train this really really black guy exited and my nephew asked me “why is that man black?”. in that moment i realised how stupid we have become as a society, and rather than say “we dont call people black” and make it about correcting my nephew, i just ran with it and said “lol yes, he was really black wasnt he” and then proceeded to explain africa etc. and it felt right. it felt like one of those emperors new clothes moments – because yes, he was “black”. political correctness is about forcing the masses to live in denial. enough already.

  • Carl

    This sums it up perfectly. (pic)

    • Murray Smith

      The Clash had the song, “Know your rights.”
      The third of which, was the right to free speech.
      “As long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it !”

      Some things never seem to change.

  • sandalwood789

    “Political correctness” is the “Henry Ford of speech”.

    Ford said of his cars that “you can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black.”

    Political correctness – “you can say anything you like, as long as the left-wing elite approve of it.”

  • sandalwood789

    “…the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. “There are so many ways to step
    on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many
    attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s *typically not worth it to engage, given the risks*.”

    Gee, what a *coward*.
    Then again, he’s a so-called “progressive” so that comes with the territory.

    “Wah, waaaaah…. I spoke my mind and someone now doesn’t like me.

    ( Sneer…… )

  • Jdogg

    So terrifyingly true.
    Can we not just have a difference of opinion without fear of being silenced?

    Now days it’s who-ever shouts the loudest and whoever silences the other is “right”. Having a difference of opinion is a beautiful thing, and the wonderful thing about life is we are free to adjust or change our opinion based upon what we learn along the way.

  • Bryan

    If you cannot say NO what does your YES mean ?
    this is the biggest single thing stuffing business up world wide because no one will tell each other the truth they just tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.