Mike Myer devoted his Sunday column to political correctness:
Is political correctness coming to West Virginia University? Well, it probably has achieved at least a beachhead there. WVU is a university campus, after all.
But recent news from Morgantown may make some West Virginians wonder. Is our state university about to go the way of campuses that ban certain words because a handful of people say the language makes them feel "threatened" or "trigger" uncomfortable emotions?
How so, you might ask?
WVU has just hired a director of student conduct to promote "a culture of respect and social responsibility on campus."
Here is how theWVU press release described the position:
The new leadership position was created by Vice President of Student Life Dr. Bill Schafer as part of a strategic initiative to strengthen standards of student conduct on campus and promote a culture of respect and social responsibility.
In this new role, Vander Velde will manage the student conduct system for individual and student organization accountability, to deter behavior that negatively affects student success initiatives and detracts from the academic mission of the University.
I see nothing sinister in WVU's action. I think the university created this position for reasons unrelated to political correctness and more likely tied to the recent negative publicity it's received on alcohol abuse. (WVU needs to appear that it is doing something about the problem.) Myer, however, needed an excuse to write about one of his favorite topics, political correctness, and so he uses the hiring to launch yet another attack on the subject. To that end, he chooses a couple of video entrapments and isolated incidents to somehow suggest that our nation's colleges and universities are under siege by hypocritical liberals. If you research the incidents he cites, you'll find that Myer's descriptions lead a lot to be desired.
How bad is it? Well, at Yale, Cornell, Vassar, Syracuse and Oberlin, administrators were caught in an undercover videotaping operation as they agreed to destroy copies of the Constitution because a person they thought was a student termed the document "oppressive" or "triggering."
What Myer doesn't tell you is the videos were put together by James O'Keefe who has a long history of using entrapment and highly-edited videos in order to produce television news filler and web videos for conservative causes. That appears to be the case here. For example, here is the description from Vassar's school newspaper. Additionally, the mainstream media that Myer likes to claim that his papers are part of, ignored this story -- only three of the first 100 sources from Google with the search words "O'Keefe videos + colleges and universities destroying the Constitution" might be considered "mainstream media." The rest are mostly conservative blog sites.
Here's another example of liberal's political correctness from Myer:
University of California faculty members have been warned phrases such as "America is the land of opportunity" and "I believe the most qualified person should get the job" are "macroaggressions."
Again, he doesn't bother explaining the background on this point-of-view -- something even Fox News is willing to do:
“Given the diverse backgrounds of our students, faculty and staff, UC offered these seminars to make people aware of how their words or actions may be interpreted when used in certain contexts. Deans and department heads were invited, but not required, to attend the seminars,” University of California Office of the President spokeswoman Shelly Meron told FoxNews.com.
She added that the university had not banned the words when it labeled them as examples of micro-aggressions and insisted that the university system is “committed to upholding, encouraging and preserving academic freedom and the free flow of ideas.”
If the words aren't banned, what's the problem? In the Fox story, Meron is asking that we be sensitive to our audience. Just a hunch, but I don't think Myer would print the exact words of a killer who said "I just wanted to kill the (insert n-word or c-word)" because he would be sensitive to what might offend his readers. What we are discussing is the reason for and the degree of sensitivity.
Do Republicans engage in political correctness?
The Myer column and Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency in which Trump stresses his lack of political correctness, got me interested in that question. Some research brought me to an interesting column by the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell from August of this year. Her conclusions are based on a Harris Poll:
Sure, Democrats are more open to banning hate speech and more skittish about publishing drawings of Muhammad. But a recent Harris poll on censorship found that Republicans are more apt to want to scrub other forms of discourse. For example, Republicans are almost twice as likely — 42 percent vs. 23 percent — as Democrats to say that “there are any books that should be banned completely.”
A separate set of questions asked what kind of books should be barred from school libraries specifically. In almost every category, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to endorse book bans. That includes “books with explicit language” (bye-bye, “Catcher in the Rye”); “books which include witchcraft or sorcery” (to the slaughter, “Harry Potter”); “books which include vampires” (night night, “Twilight”); “books that discuss evolution” (into the bin, Darwin); and “books which question the existence of a divine being or beings” (quit your squawking, Stephen Hawking).
The only school library categories about which Republicans were more open-minded than Democrats were “books that discuss creationism” and, perhaps not surprisingly, the Bible.
These are hardly idle preferences, given recent efforts, predominantly in Republican strongholds, to ban books that supposedly promote Islam or the “gay lifestyle” or include “profanities.”
Literature wasn’t the only medium that Republican respondents said was ripe for purging, according to the Harris poll. Compared with Democrats, Republicans were also more likely to say that some video games, movies and television programs should be banned. (Not that such paternalistic cultural censorship campaigns have been the sole purview of conservatives; they’ve also been famously taken up by Tipper Gore, among other liberals.)
Liberals and conservatives, then, seem pretty keen on trampling upon speech they find transgressive; they’re just sensitive to different transgressions.
An interesting conclusion -- I think that I would agree.