Tag Archives: Political correctness

America: Many Open Questions

US voters have abandoned political correctness. Have they also abandoned decency?

They have clearly voted for “change.” Eight years ago, they did the same.

They have voted against competence according to common standards. Maybe because they perceived competence to be correlated with “no change.” Maybe because they viewed competence as a weakness. Picking non-competent leaders can pay off in specific bargaining situations. In general, it is unlikely to pay off in the longer term.

Race was key. Whites strongly favored Trump over Clinton, and non-whites strongly favored Clinton over Trump. Non-whites will continue to grow as a share of the voting population.

Voters were unhappier than ever with the two candidates. Are they sufficiently unhappy to trigger the beginning of the end of the system of presidential primaries?

Some members of the old elite have lost. Who are the new members to follow them? How will the elites respond to this experience? By becoming more inclusive? Or by protecting themselves from the mob?

The new vision of American foreign policy is less clear than ever. Will the traditional US-allies rise to the challenge? European aerospace and defense stocks. US aerospace and defense stocks.

We have seen in the past how major political shocks can affect a country’s attractiveness for foreigners, its role as a cultural and scientific center, and in the longer run, its international influence. Will we see the same in the US?

How will the American election affect how other countries view the case for or against democracy (see earlier post)?

In the New York Times, Paul Krugman fears that America is a failed state and society. He writes

There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

Political Correctness, Free Speech, and Decency

Letters to the editor of The Economist lay out the pros and cons of curbing free speech. Some views:

  • Who is “just” offensive should not be prosecuted.
  •  Insulting religious feelings is ok, but not at a place of worship.
  • Freedom of speech for the purpose of debate needs to protected, but not if it is only “intended to insult or inflame passions.”
  • Clark Kerr, president of the University of California (1958–1967), defended free speech on campus with the words

    The university is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on these views. Only in this way can it best serve American democracy.

Micro Aggression and Political Correctness

In the NZZ, Andrea Köhler qualifies the micro aggression debate on US college campuses as a “witch hunt.”

Um keine Missverständnisse aufkommen zu lassen: Der allgemeine Konsens, Diskriminierung zu ahnden, ist hier nicht gemeint. Selbstverständlich gilt es, traumatisierte Menschen zu unterstützen und Minoritäten zu schützen; letzteres hat das Attentat von Orlando einmal mehr deutlich gemacht. Doch die Hypersensibilität an den Universitäten unterminiert jede Form des intellektuellen Denkens, das per definitionem in der Auseinandersetzung mit unterschiedlichen Positionen gedeiht. Von Humor oder Ironie ganz zu schweigen.

Im Unterschied zur ersten Political-Correctness-Welle, die in den 80er und 90er Jahren den historischen und literarischen Kanon herausforderte, geht es heute nicht mehr um die Diversifizierung des Lehrplans oder das Aufbegehren gegen die Diskriminierung marginalisierter Minderheiten, sondern um das emotionale Wohlbefinden einer Generation, die als verwöhnt und übersensibel gilt. Mit diesem aus dem Ruder gelaufenen Kinderschutz wird den Studierenden eine psychische Fragilität attestiert, der der kleinste Dissens als «traumatisierend» gilt.

Freedom of Expression at Universities

Over a year ago, the University of Chicago published a Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression that reflected on the debates on the UoC campus (and elsewhere) over permissible speech. These are the Report’s three core paragraphs:

Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.