Monday, September 7, 2015

Approaching and Era of Silence...???

Rational Nation USA
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Silencing Speech

Two terms have risen quickly from obscurity into common campus parlance. Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. For example, by some campus guidelines, it is a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American “Where were you born?,” because this implies that he or she is not a real American. Trigger warnings are alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.

Some recent campus actions border on the surreal. In April, at Brandeis University, the Asian American student association sought to raise awareness of microaggressions against Asians through an installation on the steps of an academic hall. The installation gave examples of microaggressions such as “Aren’t you supposed to be good at math?” and “I’m colorblind! I don’t see race.” But a backlash arose among other Asian American students, who felt that the display itself was a microaggression. The association removed the installation, and its president wrote an e-mail to the entire student body apologizing to anyone who was “triggered or hurt by the content of the microaggressions.”

This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion. During the 2014–15 school year, for instance, the deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”

The press has typically described these developments as a resurgence of political correctness. That’s partly right, although there are important differences between what’s happening now and what happened in the 1980s and ’90s. That movement sought to restrict speech (specifically hate speech aimed at marginalized groups), but it also challenged the literary, philosophical, and historical canon, seeking to widen it by including more-diverse perspectives. The current movement is largely about emotional well-being. More than the last, it presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm. The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.

The above is an excerpt from The Atlantic and clearly and accurately expresses the views of this weblog. With the increasing attention to and focus on whatever anyone might find to be offensive speech one can not avoid thinking that America is becoming more and more anal with each passing month.

Racism. bigotry, hate speech, and misogyny are of course wrong and attempts to educate and sensitive people to the ugly wrongness of them is proper and desirable. As is having appropriate laws on the books to deal with physical acts of aggression that are driven by any of them.

Speech is the verbal conveyance of information, knowledge, or expression of ideas. Attempting to silence ideas and or phrases that someone or a particular group finds offensive is fool hardy. Silencing what some find offensive will not make the idea or thoughts go away but will serve to create tension which my very well erupt in a even less desirable way.

A more effective way to approach handling insensitivity and offensive speech is through open rational discussion that exposes the racism, bigotry, and etc. that is deemed offensive and therefore inappropriate. Most people when confronted with truth and reason choose the path of both. Attempts to shield, or "protect" young adults from words and thoughts that might cause emotional distress or hurt their self esteem ultimately will result in greater division and polarization within our multi-cultural society.

Reasoned based education is the answer to combating irrational beliefs.

Via: Memeorandum


  1. “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”

    ...Wow. That is only conceivably aggressive to the incompetent and unqualified. What set of mind would equate those two descriptors with minorities????

  2. When deciding if a statement is a microaggression, context must be examined. For example "America is the land of opportunity” could be directed at a poor person to suggest their being poor is their own fault and they deserve no help. “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” could be an anti-diversity argument from a racist who is suggesting the White person is the most qualified. I believe that if a person is engaging in racist/bigoted/misogynist speech... they should be called out. Even if they're speaking in code. Included in this category I would be someone who dismisses the term "microaggression" altogether. It's a real thing, despite what some think. Discriminators like speaking in this manner because, if called on their discrimination, they can deny it. That's what they meant, they'll say.

  3. Man, I wouldn't last five minutes in college these days! And I was one of two student reps on the Academic Standards Committee and Chairman of the Grading Policy Committee back then!


  4. We're reaping the results of a campaign of instilling the belief in our youth, that everyone is a special little snowflake and that self esteem is the ultimate the point where there is a perceived right to not be offended.

  5. “I believe the most qualified person should get the job" is neither code, nor racist.

    1. But whose (yours, mine, someone else's) definition of "most qualified" do you use?

    2. ??? I didn't think it was rocket science, Jerry.

    3. dmarks, perhaps that is your problem.

    4. Now you are being very obtuse Jerry.

    5. Les, with your lengthy experience in the business world, do you think that qualifications for a job are such a minefield for political correctness?

    6. In general no. However qualification and experience must be task, or job specific and most important hiring decisions need to be based objective criteria, which is provided by pre employment or pre promotion testing. This of course should be followed by the interview, ideally a panel interview of three people. This requires two of the three to agree on the final selection. Wherever possible the panel should reflect diversity. As an example the panel could be an Hispanic American, an African American, and an Caucasian American, or any combination that reflects diversity. Obviously this is not always possible, particularly in small companies.

    7. Fair enough...objective and sensible.

    8. If that is the case, then it is still fine.

    9. It is ethically and morally correct. Which is all thar is important. PC has been known to run afoul of both on occasions.

  6. Political correctness?

    To some degree, people of all partisan persuasions engage in one or more of the above. Of the three, the term “political correctness” is the most misunderstood.

    Rightwing critics disparage the term “political correctness” as a liberal plot whose aim is to impose social conformity. Yet, the same critics employ a far more sinister version of political correctness. They make use of litmus tests to enforce ideological purity in thought, speech, and personal associations. They will not hesitate to browbeat fellow conservatives into submission with condemnation and excommunication with terms like “RINO” (Republican in name only). How ironic! The rightwing accuses the left of using political correctness to impose social conformity; yet, the same critics employ coercive means to enforce “groupthink” within their ranks.

    In concept, one goal of “political correctness” is to render pejorative labels as socially unacceptable, thus encouraging us to view people on their individual merits as opposed to stereotypes (i.e. negative stereotypes that can restrict the rights, opportunities, and freedoms of people). Thus, “political correctness” implies an ethical and moral message with a clearly stated purpose.

    “Micro-aggression” seems to be far more troublesome in terms of lacking clear definitions and goals. It appears to be open-ended – leaving anyone open for criticism at any time depending upon the “sensitivity de jour”. This makes “micro-aggression” far more amorphous and ripe for abuse than “political correctness” or "groupthink."

    1. To a greater or lesser degree all of the above concepts pose ethical problems for me. Perhaps it is because I'm too much of an individualist; or maybe it it because I believe most people actually just want to live and let live, within the law of course.

      As to rightwing activity with respect to PC? You are absolutely correct (O)CT(O)PUS. Which is why after a short run as Vice Chair of a Republican Town Committee in the 80's my judgement caused me to leave the committee and in the 90's to leave the party altogether. PC within the Tea Party right wing of the GOP has become much worse and sinister.

    2. Right on both of you. I have been called a RINO many time, especially when talking about immigration. Which Is quite interesting because I am technically not a Republican. I wear that insult with pride as such as it is.

    3. Some Republicans demonize, others exploit, while some act as stooges for those who wish to exploit. I wouldn't refer to any of these Republicans as RINOs.


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