Thursday, April 17, 2014

Political Correctness, Paranoia and North Korea

In my last piece, I took former Republican Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to task for saying the following: "I'm beginning to think there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States." The comment rightly earned Huckabee top billing for the monthly Idiots' Delight award.

Well not everyone was pleased by my selection. A back and forth ensued between myself and a friend who suggested that without taking the "entirety" of the speech into consideration, I had no idea what the context was. Hence, I may have been misjudging him.

Well the closest I could come to his "entire" speech was a link I found at Real Clear Politics, which is just shy of two minutes. I have watched it several times and can now safely conclude that not only is Huckabee an idiot for comparing the United States to North Korea, he also suffers from paranoia.

Over the last few years, the Right has had this fixation that somehow, just because the country has shifted to the left, that their right to express themselves is being threatened. You hear it all the time from Fox News and virtually every AM radio talk-show host. The mainstream media has a liberal bias and anyone who disagrees with it is ridiculed and dismissed.

Now I certainly have no love affair for the mainstream media in this country; if anything they are more inept than liberally biased. The fact that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert accomplish more in one hour than CNN does in 24 is scandalous.  But there is no evidence that they or anyone else has "suppressed" anyone's speech.

North Korea is a country that routinely imprisons and/or kills many of its citizens for the "crime" of expressing an opinion contrary to the government's. Its leader, Kim Jong-un, actually had his uncle executed. The United States certainly has many problems but, so far as I know, no one is being carted off to an interment camp for criticizing the government. There is no way anyone could mistake both countries without being completely out of their mind. I did not take Mike Huckabee out of context; if anything, I might've given him too much credit.

But I did want to address something Huckabee spoke about that another conservative, Ross Douthat, wrote a piece about: political correctness. In it, Douthat cites the forced resignation of Mozilla's CEO Brendan Eich and Brandeis University's decision to withdraw the honorary degree it promised human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali over their views on Marriage and Islam respectively as proof that those who fail to "conform to left-wing ideas of the good, beautiful and true," are singled out. Such "moral defects" contradict the supposed "commitment to 'free expression' or 'diversity'” of a pluralistic society.

Okay, I get it. Douthat is a conservative who doesn't like what he calls the "bias against social conservatives." But, surprisingly for me, I found myself nodding my head in agreement, most notably when he talks about the "self-deception" that exists within the corporate, academic and journalistic communities that "promise diversity but only as the Left defines it."

To be honest, he has a point. The Left does tend to get "dogmatic," as Douthat put it. This has resulted in a rise in political correctness that is above and beyond any reasonable metric. It is one thing to properly call out overt displays of racism and sexism; it is quite another to overreact to views that run contrary to its core beliefs. While both Mozilla and Brandeis University are well within their rights to take the actions they took, it hardly bodes well for the nation when legitimate forms of expression are punished.  

A truly pluralistic society is one which does not fear differing viewpoints, but rather welcomes and nurtures them. To do otherwise is to betray the values it purports to stand for. This is where Mike Huckabee jumped the rails, so to speak. He could've said something like this,

"It's getting to the point where some people are afraid to speak their minds. They constantly walk on eggshells, wondering who they will set off next. That isn't the America I know and love. In order for a society to be healthy, everyone must be free to express their opinions without fear of retribution.  As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, 'Though I disapprove of what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.'"

Had Huckabee chosen those words in his speech, I would've gladly given him a pass. Hell, I probably would've applauded. But he didn't say that. Instead he chose to stoke the fears of his base, as so many of his fellow colleagues have done, and, in so doing, threw the baby out with the bathwater. And, for that, he justly got what he deserved.

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