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political correctness

An Open Letter To People Who Write About What Is And Isn’t Okay To Say.

Allow me to begin by thanking you for the invaluable work that you’re doing. For years I’ve struggled with my utter social tone-deafness and an almost pathological inability to judge interpersonal interactions, so your insights have been invaluable.  In particular, I can’t thank you enough for your assurances that it’s fine to “Just Say Fat”…continue reading on Medium…

Why Do You Think What You Think?

You probably think of yourself as a reasonable person. You’re smart. You think things through. You get your information from sources that you trust. But not so fast. As tempting as it is to think that this is enough to ensure you’re covering your blind spots, we’re still hopelessly vulnerable to the subtleties of language…continue reading on Medium…
"You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending."

How do we fight cancel culture?

Cancel culture is particularly interesting to me. Maybe it’s because I write for a living. Maybe it’s because I hate bullies and mob mentality. Maybe it’s because I’m clinging to the hope that one day the things I say will matter to somebody. Whatever the reason, this tweet stopped my thumb in its tracks during…continue reading on Medium…

Content vs Intent.

In almost every discussion about the use of language, George Orwell’s 1984 rears its head sooner or later. So I’d like to begin by apologising for my lack of originality. I just want to quote one passage, I’ll get it out of my system, and we can all move on. Ok? “I’ve read some of those…continue reading on Medium…
Jenna Marbles quits YouTube after becoming the latest target of “cancel culture”.

Despite the fact that she has over 20 million subscribers on YouTube, I’d never heard of Jenna Marbles before. But now that some videos she recorded have been deemed unacceptable by today’s standards, she’s leaving the platform.

One of the videos in question is of Jenna dressing up as Nick Minaj (as we know, impersonating someone who is of a different ethnicity to you is now inherently racist). Jenna removed the video shortly after publishing it 9 YEARS AGO (!!!), but that has made no difference to the backlash she’s received now.

All that matters is that people were offended, and it hurt them, and for that I am so, unbelievably sorry…this isn’t okay, and it [the video] hasn’t existed on the internet for a long time, because it’s not okay. 

Let me just say this: the standard for behaviour simply cannot be whether someone was offended by it. Can this really be all that matters? Part of life is being offended and having your feelings hurt, just as part of life is experiencing physical pain and unpleasant smells. If someone finds something offensive the appropriate response is not to wipe it from the face of the Earth.

Isn’t it better to explore why it was found offensive, see what lessons can be learned and to move forward? Are you really willing to accept a world where people can’t change and grow and make mistakes? Because if you are, I promise you this: however righteous you feel now, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the moral law sooner or later.

Now More Than Ever.

Continuing the theme of political correctness, Zadie Smith’s wonderful short story about a society at the logical conclusion of “Cancel culture” feels worryingly prescient.

Is Political Correctness A Force For Good?

Political correctness feels like a no-brainer to its advocates, and it would be really great if it was. But sadly this confidence, and the tendency towards absolutism to which it tends inevitably cause more problems than solutions. As Stephen Fry points out:

I’m standing next to someone with whom I have…differences in terms of politics and all sorts of other things, precisely because I think all this has got to stop. This rage, resentment, hostility, intolerance. Above all, this “with us or against us” certainty.

Regardless of which side of the debate you stand, you’ll almost certainly be able to point to the rage, resentment, hostility and intolerance of “the other side” as evidence of their misguidedness. But even if you’re right, this isn’t an end point. The day has to come where we choose to stand beside those with whom we disagree and talk to them. The language we use is secondary to the fact that we speak.