I recently caught an interview of comedian Tracy Morgan (from April 2, 2018, interviewed on SiriusXM by the great Ron Bennington), in which Morgan spoke his mind about the harm that political correctness has done to comedy and to society:

That PC shit taught us how to lie.

Comedians, especially the great ones, are among the most insightful observers and critics of culture, continuing a tradition that ranges back hundreds of years to the court jesters of the Renaissance era. They often convey, through the resistance-breaker that is comedy, iconoclastic thoughts and ideas. They’re not always right, of course, but even in being wrong, they can provoke thought and break through echo-chambers and groupthink.

Morgan hit it out of the park with his observation. It is undeniably true that the pressure applied to us under the “political correctness” banner induces us to lie, to deceive, to deflect, and to omit. The likelihood of punishment for uttering a contrary thought, phrase or word, punishment that often goes beyond simple scolding and into life and career destruction, forces us to keep truths quiet. PC isn’t always wrong, but it certainly isn’t always right, and its core reliance on the feelings of members of favored groups makes it a certainty that objective truths get set aside or denied entirely.

In parallel, I caught an article written by 80s movie icon Molly Ringwald about the classic John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club, where she discussed how the movie and its portrayals parse from a 2018 #metoo perspective. Ms. Ringwald questions the unsavoriness of some of the portrayals in the movie, and suggests that “it stands to reason that the art we consume and sanction plays some part in reinforcing those same attitudes.” I disagree. Such a belief implies that every character is some sort of role model, that depictions of bad people and bad acts, no matter how true-to-life, should be foresworn, and that written characters that are unsavory but honest and realistic should be sanitized or bowdlerized. Stories would all have to be bent so that they become unmistakable and obvious lessons in social justice, proper behavior, and “woke.” Such, taken to their logical conclusion, would be as obnoxious and deceitful as those ridiculous 1950s anti-drug propaganda films. Unfortunately, we are trending in that direction. Television, movies, and even commercials today seem to all conform to various social justice and identity-politics checklists, and are peppered with messages, subtexts, and background that advance the currently anointed set of viewpoints to the exclusion of all others.

Art and entertainment are supposed to be forms of free expression that, when at their best, invoke reactions of various sorts. The idea that there’s an obligation to advance a particular view point, no matter how correct that view point may be, is antithetical to that reality. Moreso, such an obligation is essentially an urge to lie when one doesn’t wholly agree with the predetermined “correct” view point.

We improve our society when we learn from each other, when we share in each other’s experiences, when we exchange ideas and debate contrasting viewpoints. To do all this, we need to feel some semblance of liberty and safety in expressing our true opinions. Not liberty to say them without facing challenge or rebuttal, but liberty to say them without fearing personal destruction. I can argue, vehemently and passionately, with someone with whom I fundamentally disagree, and even go so far as to say I never want to associate with that person again, but it is wholly beyond my personal reality that I’d contemplate savaging his career, destroying his personal life, or otherwise seeking to inflict personal punishment upon him merely because he thinks differently than I do. Sadly, PC is about exactly that. Transgress, and you face not just challenge and rebuttal, but real, lasting harm from people who are wholly unaffected by your holding a heretical opinion.

Worst of all, it’s a losing proposition. As both Mark Ruffalo and Jimmy Kimmel (both of whom have striven mightily to be “woke”), it’s virtually inevitable that a misstep or poorly chosen word will turn the social justice warriors against you, given enough time. The only way not to lose is not to play.

Maybe Ruffalo, Kimmel, and those who walk similar paths are indeed 100% honest in all they speak and think. Maybe Kimmel, in particular, has indeed turned his old Man Show playbook around (although his recent mockery of Melania Trump’s accent suggests he’s a carnie playing to his crowd rather than a true-believer in the “respect” angle of PC). I wager most who walk the PC lockstep are not. After all, if your career, livelihood, and personal reputation were at risk, wouldn’t you fly with the prevailing winds, even if they ruffled your feathers?

Morgan is correct. Any societal notion that demands particular ideas, opinions, beliefs, and language is a notion that demands deceit, because demands morph into coercive. Political correctness does not seek to convince or win over. It says “act, speak, and think as we say,” and its proponents are ready and willing to back that demand with punitive action. You can fight, or you can lie. For most, the latter is safer. For many, the latter is necessary. Lie or perish.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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