We are part of a culture that encourages people to share and comment on everything. Expressing yourself online can be a tricky business, and in a time that feels like we’re being enveloped in intolerance and prejudice it’s hard to know which battles to pick. Having a voice and a platform today means you’re in a position of power, and have a certain amount of privilege. How can this best be used to influence for the wider good? And how do ordinary folk speak up and champion issues they believe in? There’s a thin line between freedom of speech, and political correctness.
There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly when discussing the freedom of speech vs political correctness debate. Today’s debate boils down to an “us vs them” mentality, with neither side able to view the other as having anything to say worthy of importance. The focus on political correctness in the media has created a shift in our discourse and the way we discuss current events, ultimately, we must ask – does political correctness impact free speech? Freedom of speech allows for you to express yourself freely, whilst political correctness avoids forms of expression that discriminates or excludes. The problem is political correctness has made discussing certain topics near impossible, clamping down of free speech so much so whilst doing little to decrease discriminatory attitudes. How is it 2020, and we’ve reached a point where we can’t debate issues intellectually without being offensive?
In today’s society, it seems you can’t say anything or have an opinion without fear of offending someone. Censorship isn’t coming just from institutions, the government, and media, but everywhere. A lot of people are too scared to speak up and say what they really think and feel, it’s much easier to comply with oppressive systems than be labelled uptight and too sensitive. In most forms of Western media, you’ll find that any opinion which falls outside of the dominant set of principles is silenced, meaning you’ll have to look elsewhere to be educated.
Framing freedom of speech and political correctness as opposing forces is dangerous, and often hinders society from having hard yet crucial conversations. A lot of individuals, younger generations in particular, are using their platforms to effect change and speak up in ways that weren’t possible a few years ago. As the world progresses, Millennials and Gen Z’ers are passionate about their politics and entirely unashamed about getting their message out. In the open society we claim to live in, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Just be aware, freedom of speech won’t protect you from the consequences of saying anything stupid.
Where do we go from here? Let’s take a step back and look at what’s happening. Being socially conscious and respectful of each other, and the struggles we face is more important now than ever before. It’s hard to know where the bar for political correctness lies, our failure to come together and unite has negatively impacted productive and varied debate. Do we still have the right to voice our opinions freely? Who decides what’s politically correct, and what’s not? Political correctness can expand and not cripple free speech – if we let it. We need to learn how to coexist peacefully, whilst retaining our right to free speech.
Written by J’Nae Phillips