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WILLIAMS: Political correctness is back with a new name: Bullying
Over the past few years, bullying has become a hot topic of conversation. Perhaps I should amend that: Bullying has become a hot topic in the media as it has been pushed by progressives to force mainstream acceptance of their agenda.
The bullying I am talking about is not the big kid pushing around the little kid or the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. The acts of bullying that are making headlines are about words and feelings. Many times it is used as a catch-all for anyone that challenges the leftist ideas — suspending children for expressing their religious views or making a "gun" with their pointer finger and thumb.
You will recognize that many similarities between the anti-bullying trend today and the political correctness movement in the '90s. This is just the latest example of a repressive movement aiming to stifle any and all dissent.
In 1949, George Orwell wrote the ground-breaking book "1984." In it he describes the idea of Newspeak — a state-created language intended to restrict man's ability to describe his own thoughts and feelings. One particular aspect of Newspeak was the idea of thoughtcrime — harboring unspoken thoughts that could be deemed contentious or "anti-social." Lacking the words to express displeasure was not enough; you could be arrested for thinking inexpressible notions.
In America circa 2013, your own intentions do not matter if you express any idea that can be construed as "hate speech." Intentions only matter when you enact the leftist idea of what is good — even if it destroys people's lives.
According to the American Bar Association, "hate speech" is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits.
A noble gesture, but what happens when you call someone of a different race a jerk or more colorful explicative? If you are a white male, that is hate speech. If a black man says it to a black woman, that is sexual discrimination or harassment, another form of hate speech.
When it comes to policing language, it is the offendee's subjective interpretation that matters, not the offender's intent. In fact, the offendee's prior actions are not even a consideration — the person may have just run over your pet, but your anger and mental anguish does not compare to the supposed psychological damage the offendee suffers when you express outrage at that person.
All we have to do is look at any criticism of President Obama. Do not agree with his policies? Well, you must be racist. But I am black and disagree; fortunately, I have liberal white folks to tell me I am an Uncle Tom.
These accusations are not meant to point out actual racism; they are meant to discredit and silence opposition. The logical fallacies run wild: hasty generalizations, strawmen, no true Scotsman, and appeals to ignorance just for starters. Needless to say, such indictments are not valid points of debate.
The desire to silence critics is due to the left's own narcissistic tendencies. A narcissist projects his or her own thoughts onto others; he or she cannot imagine that others think differently. The worst policies are made when we think inductively: from a small sample, they make conclusions at large.
In such cases, a person examines his or her own prejudices and weakness and assumes everyone else has them. "I have racist thoughts and must struggle to contain them, so everyone must feel that way," or "I have homoerotic thoughts, everyone does." Such thoughts result in rancor, self-loathing, and knee-jerk reactionary bills that abridge freedom to repress their own demons.
It also results in thinking that someone would never say mean words to others unless there is a darker thought behind it. Better to prevent anyone from saying something mean than risk hurt feelings. One's own thoughtcrimes become everyone's. Public shaming of any and all thoughtcrimes is coercion; it is bullying.
When you label dissent as bullying, you stifle discussion. When you endorse the policing of thoughtcrime, you do not change minds, only harden hearts. Consensus and understanding only come through an open dialogue. You cannot change a bigot's mind by censuring his thoughts; you change it by talking to him about his views and actions and getting him to empathize with others.
But the charge of bullying not only has been used to suppress objection, it has been used to condone bad behavior.
Saying women must be responsible and aware in order to prevent getting into a bad situation is "mansplaining," or "slut shaming," or contributing to "rape culture." No, it is saying that you do not walk down a dark alley in a bad part of town drunk and alone.
Telling someone they are overweight and it is unhealthy, pointing out how a proper diet and exercise actually improve mental disposition and looks is "fat shaming." There are even court cases where clients sue their trainers for mental anguish because they tell them to stop eating junk food and keeping working out. Is everyone taking crazy pills?
There is a difference between bullying and constructive criticism, but frankly, I do not think that the left and the culture they have helped to create sees the difference anymore.
People can declare that life should just be full of love and acceptance, but to do so is to delude oneself. Life is not rainbows and unicorns. It is a grind that takes perseverance and fortitude to come out ahead.
Denouncing opposing ideas and thoughts as bullying cheapens those who are truly bullied and oppressed. If we are ever to overcome the rancor that permeates our modern society, we must fight against the attempt to give in to political correctness and cry "bully!" any time someone hurts our feelings.
Sometimes we should simply grow thicker skin, but we also need to take a step back and examine our own behavior. Instead of hiding in an echo-chamber of affirmation, we should engage those with different thoughts and experiences to understand their point of view. If we step out of our own projections, we might just find that the person we thought was a bully is actually a friend.
• Armstrong Williams is the author of the book "Reawakening Virtues." Join him from 4 to 5 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
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