Wendy Kaminer: PC Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Speak Up

Sp!ked Magazine,

Release Date
February 8, 2018


Free Speech

Video Description: Social critic Wendy Kaminer agrees that political correctness has become a real problem, but also asks: to what degree are complaints about “PC” and being “self-censored” a cover for individual timidity?
Excerpted from Spiked Magazine’s ‘Unsafe Space Tour’ panel discussion at Harvard University.

  1. Do You Have the Courage to Dissent? (video): Ever felt like you disagree with everyone around you, but don’t dare to speak up? These famous experiments by Solomon Asch and Richard Crutchfield show you may not be as alone as you think.
  2. Shaming Someone Doesn’t Change Their Mind (video): So you want to fight prejudice and change people’s minds? Cultural scientist Alana Conner explains why shaming people does not help persuade them into believing new ideas.
  3. Spiked Magazine Panel – “Is Political Correctness Why Trump Won?” (video): Is political correctness why Trump won? Watch the Unsafe Space Tour panel discussion at Harvard University, featuring Steven Pinker, Wendy Kaminer, Robby Soave and Brendan O’Neill. Moderated by Tom Slater.

I do believe that a backlash to political correctness from the Left to progressive notions of offensive speech and identity politics played a not insignificant role in Trump’s election. I do want to note, though, that—I think this term political correctness is decreasingly useless. I prefer to talk about political phobias because I think we’re now seeing real phobias about hearing certain words uttered or even quoted in any context about hearing disagreeable ideas, just hearing these ideas, hearing these words is considered traumatic. Expressing them might be considered an act of violence. As I say, I prefer to talk about political phobias and language phobias. I think that’s what we’re dealing with now, but I’ll use the term political correctness simply because it’s the one that we are all familiar with.
Now I do think, though, I just wanna add one more, a couple more, points that when people complain about being censored by political correctness, or when they talk about being self-censored, I think that we should ask whether or not they are abdicating their own responsibility to speak up, instead of quietly submitting to the loudest voices or to whatever they consider the majority view. I think we should consider whether P.C. and a backlash to P.C. is, in some ways, being scapegoated for individual timidity, and I think we should also consider that while Trump made his attack on political correctness it was central to his campaign, probably resonated with a lot of people who also felt sick and tired of this politically correct crap. But I think we should ask: What were they tired of not being able to say? What was it that they felt constrained to say? At the end of the day, I think it might be difficult to separate progressive notions of offensive speech and the backlash to that, that I think contributed to Trump’s election, from the white identity politics that also fueled it. Thank you.