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Everything we think about the political correctness debate is wrong

Accepted submission by aristarchus at 2018-03-20 19:26:03 from the Silence-of-the-alt-right defpt. dept.
Digital Liberty

From the Vox [],

Many American pundits seem to firmly believe that the country stands at a precipice in which young, left-wing college students and recent graduates are the leading edge of a rising tide of illiberalism that comes in the form of “political correctness” and poses a clear and present danger to free speech and rational discourse.

This begs for the question to be asked: what is worse, "political correctness", or just plain old factual correctness?
Let's cite the last remaining right-wing "intellectual", such as he is.

David Brooks’s column last Friday starts with a reference to the heckling of Christina Hoff Sommers at a recent speaking engagement at a small private university in Portland, Oregon. But he swiftly pivots to broad generalizations about his “basic understanding of how citizenship is supposed to work” versus “today’s students” for whom “reason, apparently, ceased to matter” and instead “see public life as an inevitable war of tribe versus tribe.”

Left out the part about "green-haired" and "SJW" and "get off my lawn", but close enough.

It is so accepted that there is a growing climate of authoritarianism that whether or not individual examples are true is fundamentally irrelevant.

Except robust data suggests that maybe it isn’t. Overall public support for free speech is rising over time, not falling. People on the political right are less supportive of free speech than people on the left. College graduates are more supportive than non-graduates. Indeed, a 2016 Knight Foundation survey showed that college students are less likely than the overall population to support restrictions on speech on campus. Among the public at large, meanwhile, the group whose speech the public is most likely to favor stifling is Muslims.

Hmm, education doth make the liberal person, same as it ever was.

What the data says about free speech

Since the 1970s, the General Social Survey has posed a question about whether five hypothetical speakers should be allowed to give a speech in your community — a communist, a homosexual, an opponent of all religion, a racist, and a person who favors replacing the elected government with a military coup.

And, . . . racists.

Now what’s true, obviously, is that public support for disallowing racist speech is not rising. Instead, it’s stayed roughly flat over the past 40 years or maybe fallen very slightly. But it’s simply not the case that anti-racist activism is just a particularly salient example of an overall trend toward less tolerance of free expression.

On the contrary, society has become dramatically more tolerant. If you want to find a disturbing trend here, you should probably look at the increased support for the coup advocate (labeled “militarist”), which is arguably a form of tolerance gone too far.

There is a chart, Soylentils, and it is on the Internets. Multiple charts! Data, and facts. Amazing.

By rhetorically lumping in instances of rare, fairly extreme behavior with much more common behaviors under the broad heading of “political correctness,” it is easy to paint an alarming picture of the hecklers as a leading edge of an increasingly authoritarian political culture.

The fact that there does not appear to be any such trend — and that public desire to stymie free expression is concentrated in the working class and targeted primarily at Muslims — ought to prompt a reevaluation of the significance of on-campus dustups and perhaps greater attention to the specific contexts in which they arise.

It may have been a major strategic blunder for the alt-right to try to take on academia. Universities have things like Light and Reason, Logic and Data, and,you know, smarts and justice. We might thing of academics as Smart Justice Scholar-Warriors, Knights of Reason.

Original Submission