Any Which Way But Politically Correct

Irksome, Politics & Current Events

There is no right to be free of offense. At least not in America. (In Canada, who knows.) Certainly there are people who think they ought to have a right not to be offended. Such people are morally cowardly ninnies worthy of scorn.

These seem to be propositions widely accepted among conservatives and libertarians.

Yet bizarrely, there also seems to be an insidious sentiment that people who occasionally give offense ought to have some nebulously defined right to be free of being branded as racists or assholes as a result. Case in point: the venerable and on most occasions awesome Clint Eastwood:

Acting legend Clint Eastwood , 79, apparently believes that political correctness has rendered modern society humourless, for he accuses younger generations of spending too much time trying to avoid being offensive.

The Dirty Harry star insists that he should be able to tell harmless jokes about nationality without fearing that people may brand him "a racist".

"People have lost their sense of humour. In former times we constantly made jokes about different races. You can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth or you will be insulted as a racist," the Daily Express quoted him as saying.

"I find that ridiculous. In those earlier days every friendly clique had a 'Sam the Jew' or 'Jose the Mexican' – but we didn't think anything of it or have a racist thought. It was just normal that we made jokes based on our nationality or ethnicity. That was never a problem. I don't want to be politically correct."

Clint merely makes explicit a premise that lurks behind many a gripe about "political correctness": people ought to suck it up and not be offended when I tell racial or religious jokes or make comments that they don't like, but if they call me a dick or a bigot in response, why that's just over the line, and in a decent society I ought not to have to endure it. It's a proposition that manages to be simultaneously narcissistic and hypocritical. And it's increasingly prevalent. Some "thinkers" work themselves up into such a lather that they convince themselves that being called a racist is somehow a structural flaw in the marketplace of ideas from which society must protect them.

But it's all bogus. Clint is free to continue to tell hilarious Mexican jokes. And anyone who thinks this makes him sound like an asshole is free to tell him so. If Clint doesn't like to be called a racist, that distaste is no more profound or worthy of respect or protection than the distaste of Jews or Mexicans who don't like Clint's jokes. For Clint to suggest otherwise is silly, whiny, and frankly embarrassing.

There is genuine, objectionable political correctness in our society, which we enjoy skewering here. But, as I have argued before, there is also a lot of unbecoming whining about political correctness that amounts to little more than "boo hoo, I acted like an asshat and now people are calling me an asshat." Man up, for Christ's sake. If you want to revel in the right to be offensive, grow a thicker skin about being called offensive, if you ever want to be taken seriously.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Patrick  •  Feb 27, 2009 @2:58 pm

    If I'd gotten this, I'd have worked in one or two more Eastwood movie quotes: A man has got to know his limitations.

    Or perhaps: Old man had too much to drink.

    But as I don't speak ill of The Clint, and I recoil from the Orangutan movies like kryptonite, I'm glad you found it.

  2. Pagan Temple  •  Feb 27, 2009 @8:45 pm

    I think what bothers him and most other people, and me for sure, isn't so much the normal and natural human reactions to offensive statements as the extremes it has gotten to. For example, it's one thing to call somebody out for using "The N Word". But if I criticize somebody for using "the N Word", I should be able to say the word as a matter of reference. I shouldn't have to say, "Man, that bigot said "The N Word". Plus, you have people like Al Sharpton taking it to the extreme of trying to get people fired, and corporate bosses going along with it to avoid boycotts. Eastwood is just trying to point out that it has gotten to the extent that people feel like they have to walk on egg shells in a lot of cases.

    It's not so much that people don't have a right to not be offended as it is that all too many people seem to think they have a right to hunt for offense whether any was intended or not.

  3. Mark  •  Feb 28, 2009 @9:34 am

    You know what I hate? I hate when people complain about people complaining about people who complain. However, I absolutely love being someone who complains about people who complain about people who complain about people who complain.

  4. Dave (ND)  •  Mar 3, 2009 @9:11 am

    If being called a dick, bigot, or asshole was all that happened when you said a stereotype joke, I don't think there would be an issue. However, it will get you fired and/or blackballed.

    I think it's a weird priority system where drug abuse, DUI, tax cheats, domestic abuse, et al gets treated with lighter repercussions than telling a tasteless joke or using an inappropriate comment.

  5. James O'Neill  •  Apr 16, 2009 @8:46 pm

    I could not care less what people call me – it took a while to get to the point in life where I understood that only I can change me and that others opinions of me mean nothing. I do not tell bigoted jokes because I do not find them amusing but I do not care a whit if someone else does – it is their business where they are in their own spiritual growth. What is wrong with society is that we are so afraid of misstepping that we cannot speak our minds at all and this is, in large part, due to societal repression such as PC. The homogenization of our culture is near complete and this emasculation of opinion is at the heart of it. Welcome to the continued gelding of America and the world. Repression ALWAYS ends up coming out sideways. As a psychologist, I see it first hand every day. Banter does not reinforce the stereotype, it keeps true hatred in its place. To be repressd will allow that hatred to fester and rot and boil over. The PC movement is, on a societal level, as fascist as any forced behavior.