Political Correctness–Imposition of Ideas
A growing culture of political correctness in recent times is increasingly shaping narratives, resulting in the need to be overly careful while putting forth one’s views regarding several issues. Political correctness, which is language intended to avoid offence, sometimes comes at the expense of truth and has created a sense of fear. By bringing dialogue and discussion to a standstill, it puts an individual’s freedom of speech at risk. It is a culture where people reject any argument that does not suit their narrative.
Although the perception is that the issue is more prominent among liberals, it would be naïve to assume that conservatives welcome views that do not support their position. The main problem is that people tend to put their sentiments before reason and generally attach substantial emotional value to things like religion, culture, and race. Both liberals and conservatives paint issues entirely in black and white. The grey area is what both sides fail to take into account.
Liberals label anyone who is critical of Islam as a bigot for they are afraid that they might hurt sentiments of Muslims. The fact that Muslims are a minority group in most democracies and respecting the minorities is a liberal value is a reason why they refrain from giving an ear to criticism of Islam even when there is a factual basis to back the claims. What they fail to understand is the distinction between Muslims and Islam. Disapproval of a set of ideas, in this case, Islam, should never be labelled as racist—criticism of a belief system can never be equated with discrimination against people who adhere to it.
A similar difficulty exists on the right, where they judge any criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism does continue to survive around the globe and Jews feel marginalised by the left in recent times as they tend to underplay this. However, one must realise that it is not anti-Semitic to call out the Israeli government for the human right violations that it effects.
The practice of profiling is another thing that is deemed entirely undesirable—liberals tend to reject the idea entirely and outrightly. Even though there are several negative aspects to the concept and it is founded in stereotype, it can contribute to the safety of society. Israeli airport security is a prime example of how profiling can work incredibly effectively. The security measures in place are built on the belief that people from certain parts of the world are more likely to commit a specific crime. There is also statistical evidence to prove the same. Every passenger has to go through an intensive question and answer session with a highly trained security agent, the length of which depends on factors such as the race, religion, and nationality of the passenger. The fact that no flight leaving the Ben Gurion International Airport has ever been hijacked and there has not been a single terrorist attack at the airport since 1972 shows the effectiveness of the practice. Yet, Israel came under criticism for their airport security measures, showing the unwillingness to accept truths that might not fit in with the narratives that people want to believe in.
In India too, the right-wingers are obsessed with religious sentiments, with disapproval of Hindu traditions not being taken lightly. They try to spin their arguments in such a way that anyone who disagrees with them is labelled anti-Hindu or anti-National. For instance, when the apex court decided to put a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers in the Delhi-NCR region last year to curb pollution, people took to social media to express their disdain. While their Facebook and Twitter posts claimed that the decision “targeted Hindus” and was “the beginning of Islamic rule,” they turned a blind eye towards the fact that there was dire need of such regulations due to the skyrocketing air pollution levels.
According to a Pew poll, 61% of Democrats felt people need to be careful with their language to avoid offending people. For proper dialogue to take place, people should be allowed to say things that other people may find offensive. Taking away that freedom would undermine one of the fundamental principles of democracy. People must not be afraid of stating facts merely because they might end up hurting someone’s feelings. All the labelling and name-calling now prevalent results in an environment where people could feel uncomfortable voicing their opinions. Rationale and reason must triumph over emotions for a proper debate to take place. Neither side should base its narrative on feelings. Instead, they should speak based on evidence, and there has to be an increase in tolerance for opposing views. At the moment, the line where free speech becomes hate speech is too thin and is in dire need of being thickened.