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Political correctness and freedom of speech

Focusing on how the perception of reality relates to the freedom of expression, we will see the role that political correctness plays in our day-to-day life in this regard.

Political correctness and freedom of speech

The world could be very different from the way we perceive it to be. The concept of the “normal” and the “possible” depends on the perception that each one of us has of reality, whether it is being on a personal or on a collective scale. Focusing on how the perception of reality relates to the freedom of expression, we will see the role that political correctness plays in our day-to-day life in this regard.

The “normal” is what we normally experience

Since we come to life we start experiencing the world and constructing our reality in a certain way. Our thoughts, ideas, and behaviors respond to the way we see the world. For instance, if an individual grows up in a violent and competitive environment, violence and competition would be the norm and thus a peaceful, cooperative behavior may be considered a strange thing. On the other hand, if we took an individual who grew up in a peaceful and cooperating environment, the use of violence would be nonsense and regarded as something negative. It must then be understood that the “normal” is what we normally experience and it can vary from one person to another. In other words, the “normal” depends and responds to each one’s construction of reality.

The “possible” is what we accept as possible

Taking the previous into consideration, one can assume that what is possible for those individuals having different constructs of reality and concepts of “normal” also differs. Let us consider again the example of two individuals. The first one who grew up in a materialistic environment and his or her greatest aspirations are limited to material things. The second one was raised in a family that practiced values such as love and humanity for which spiritual expansion was a priority. While for the first one what is possible may be reduced to what he or she can buy with money or own, for the second one there might be a much wider range of possibilities, apart from the material ones. Therefore, one might come to the conclusion that each one’s reality constructions also depends on the predisposition of accepting new possibilities.

Limiting perception and possibility: a progressive assault on freedom of speech

Censorship and lack of freedom of expression have become a reality in nowadays societies. Free expression and free opinion rights are being continuously violated before the eyes of a big majority of the population that does not question when it comes to retrieving information from the internet. The fact is that the information available on the internet is being limited. Also, the news people have access to are gradually being conferred to the mainstream version. The reason for this is that well-known companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are carrying out a progressive and systematic assault on the free flow of information on the internet. The way this is being done is through constant censorship of specific subjects, news, words, and phrases in the name of discrimination, fake news, and political incorrectness. Therefore, the power to control what people can hear, read and watch is on the hands of a few companies ruling search engines, media, and main social networks. It might then be concluded that the reactions, thoughts, and decisions made by the population are based on the available sources only and that people’s perception of reality intended to be dangerously reduced to the mainstream vision. Core to all this is the existence of the internet. There is a fervent wish for all existing information to be progressively transferred to the digital format. Once the information has become digital, algorithms can be applied and the potential to censor words, subjects and sites increases. The more information is in digital format the easiest to censor and control the flow of information that people have access to.

Political correctness

In the past few years companies like Google and Facebook, along with the mainstream media, have contributed to a progressive change in the societies’ perception of reality, including changes in the understanding of common concepts. One of the decisive elements that contribute to this change is the agenda for the politically correct language, which can be described as ‘the language that seems intended to give the least amount of offense, especially when describing groups identified by external markers such as race, gender, culture, or sexual orientation.’ Those who are most strongly opposed to political correctness argue that it is a form to persuade people to be offended by more things so that there can be an excuse to censor people’s views. It must be noted that the standards for the consideration of a speech as offensive for certain communities are set by the same companies that implement this agenda.

In addition to this, it may seem somehow curious how mainstream media and social networks are actually encouraging people to feel more offended by the use of certain terms that until now had been generic and did not use to offend anyone. A clear example of this is the fact that if someone uses the term ‘disabled’ it might be considered disrespectful and politically correct terms such as ‘physically challenged’ or ‘differently-abled’ would be preferred. In the same line, if a black person uses the term ‘black’ to refer to someone it would not be considered an offense, but if the person employing the word is not black, they might be labeled racist. If we applied a politically correct language, a suitable term for black would be for instance ‘dark-featured.’ In the end, we find how society increasingly demands the use of the new politically correct terms to the detriment of the traditional ones, resulting in the fact that if someone is not politically correct they may be labeled rude, racist and sexist among others.

Silence, compliance, and lack of freedom

One of the outcomes of political correctness is the deletion of genuine speech, double standards and the gradual silencing of the population. On most occasions, the response from society is silence. However, to remain silent means compliance, which eventually turns into a lack of freedom of expression. The causes may be due to the fear of being dismissed, as people who normally question the norm-establishment view are generally intimidated by their own society. This being said, I suggest that the solution starts with raising awareness about the issue so that more people are conscious of the effects of political correctness in our daily life.

Mario Fernández

Bada'lya البدائلية