Monday, November 01, 2004


Some of the more honest souls on the Left are beginning to get a bit troubled by the tyranny of political correctness

"A political question: it used to be the case that the Left was traditionally weighted towards human rights and differences and the Right was more authoritarian and laying-down-the-law. In Europe, this is (just about) still the case but in the U.S. the positions seem to have been reversed. What gives? [More inside.]"

"I get the impression that in America today, the list of prohibitions ("don't smoke; don't get fat; don't opt out"; "don't let your prejudices show" etc.) is far longer on the Left that it is on the Right. Although there are still a lot of ungainly demands on the Right (in fact increasingly to do with religion, sexuality, gender and blind "patriotism"), it appears to me that, of the two sides, the Left is far more puritanical and even intolerant.

For instance, in Europe there's not only sympathy for smokers and fatties (in my own country, Portugal, admiration) but solidarity amongst the supposedly afflicted. In the U.S. it seems a majority of smokers and overweight people make a point of condemning themselves and publicly wishing they were more disciplined and therefore purer and thinner.

In terms of political philosophy, it comes down to individual freedoms and society's responsibility to include as much as they can, i.e. an old-fashioned discussion about the values (and desired extension) of utilitarianism.

My general question is: has the puritanical, prohibitive, authoritative and even dogmatic onus been slowly and subtly transferred from the Right to the Left?

P.S. I realize an extreme case - an overweight smoker who drives a SUV and votes Republican - is, in practical terms, freer in the U.S. than his or her equivalent in Europe, where he'd be taxed almost into submission. But the fact still remains that social and cultural attitudes are more agressive and antagonistic in America and that this critical atmosphere is, in essence, puritanical and moralistic, as if there were a set of guidelines of what was desirable, correct or praiseworthy.



All unguarded speech is now very dangerous. Orwell would not be surprised

Vasquez was dismissed from Channel 10 a few weeks after being accused of making inappropriate comments with a cameraman while covering the story of another alleged rape by an athlete on the campus of Philadelphia's La Salle University. A female intern who was on the news site with Vasquez and the cameraman returned to the station and complained she was offended by the crassness and insensitivity of the exchange. The cameraman was given a suspension for his part in the incident.

I am not going to defend crassness and insensitivity. I have to wonder, however, whether an instance of bad taste, no matter to what level is was carried, negates a person's value to a television station or warrants the dismissal of one of the better talents Channel 10 put on the air. Vasquez was especially likeable in his role as weekend anchor for the NBC station.

No one wants a young woman, or anyone else for that matter, to be offended. Yet it's worth asking if the fragility or sensitivity of one person should constitute grounds for interrupting the career of another. Current law and practice says it should. Vasquez is as much a victim of a trend where the slightest offense to someone turns a rhinoceros hill into K-2 or Mt. Everest. Especially when we're talking about words, as opposed to sticks and stones or other physical actions....

Maybe some perspective and a sense of humor is needed. A college intern of either gender is rarely worldly, and people younger than age 30 tend, in my experience, to see the world as much more rigid shades of right and wrong that their more jaded, more experienced elders. Maybe the right move was to calm the young woman who was offended while admitting some inappropriateness and cautioning those involved to be more professional and judicious in the future, "M*A*S*H*" humor or not. In dismissing Vasquez, I think Channel 10 over-reacted and set a bad precedent about knuckling under to political correctness, a blight the confining effects of which we must all fight to turn back.

More here

No comments: