I don't tend to rail against political correctness too much any more. I did when I was living in two of the bellies of the beast in college and law school. But now, I tend to see PC as a self-defeating, feckless thing to be mocked, best addressed with the more-speech remedy. When political correctness is at the root of some actual official act of censorship, I firmly support calling it out — the results are often gratifying. But too often I think that (1) "political correctness" is just another way to say "boo hoo, I can't act like an ass without being called an ass, and it's chilling my speech," and (2) too few people call out politically correct idiocy on both sides.
But now and then, a story of insipid political correctness comes along and grabs my attention. Today's sample comes from the FIRE's Peter Bonilla, who pointed out an embarrassing incident at Cornell. In short, in response to a poster announcing a performance by Margaret Cho, a shadowy student group calling itself "Scorpions X" defaced posters across campus. They didn't do so because Margaret Cho is profoundly annoying. They didn't do so because, as a group with a name culled from the B-plot of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode, they felt incapable of resisting their destiny to engage in minor and ineffectual villainy. No, they did so because the poster had the wrong font.
The font used was Chop Suey, which, according to Scorpions X, has a history of Asian-American stereotyping. In their email, Scorpions X demanded that ALANA “discontinue use of these posters [and] quarter cards immediately and also remove current postings.”
The African Latino Asian Native American Students Programming Board — which, despite encompassing more traditionally disfavored interest groups than Scorpions X, still apparently felt intimidated by them — issued an excruciating apology in which they pointed out that Margaret Cho's people had approved the poster. Oh, THAT'S a denouncing.
But one day later, Scorpions X responded to ALANA’s email, saying that their apology letter was not acceptable and did not adequately address the situation at hand. They said that ALANA was not justified in bringing Cho to campus if her management accepted a poster using a font that, according to Scorpions X, reveals a “one-size-fits-all Asian stereotype.”
And, in a sort of preschool-level version of "death to anyone who says we are violent!", they added:
They added that members of Cornell community have unfairly accused Scorpions X of being “militant, confrontational and angry” for speaking out on racial issues.
Look, there's genuine racism against Asian-Americans in this country. It pisses me off, and not just because I'm trying to raise three Asian-American kids. I'm all for naming and shaming racist douches.
But defacing posters that make you mad is a tactic for censorious dipshits, a tactic that resembles its stupid, ugly cousin, stealing or destroying newspapers with articles you don't like. Combining censorious thuggery with adolescent levels of self-seriousness and entitlement, as Scorpions X has done, is hideously counter-productive. Believing that there is only one way to view expression that you don't like, and lashing out at splitters, is embarrassing. I don't think there's a stereotype that Asians are self-parodying, easily butthurt, hostile to dissent, and more than slightly unbalanced, but if there were such stereotypes, Scorpions X would have just dramatically reinforced them. Over a font, a font approved by the artist it depicted.
That's an example of the sort of political correctness that might move me to comment, because it's censorious and regrettable.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017