By Christian Lowry, April 26 2022—
I dislike the term “political correctness.” It is a term normally monopolized by conservative voices who freely pursue lucrative careers as provocateurs while paradoxically claiming that their views are actively being silenced by progressive interests. Their complaints of suppression tend to be isolated, unproven, hypocritical or dwarfed by the conservative suppression of left-wing voices, or some blend thereof.
Take the alleged free speech crisis on campuses — a fixture of the conservative siege mentality. From 2015 through 2017, Georgetown University’s Free Speech Project found only 60 incidents across America’s 4,583 post-secondary institutions, not all of which happened to conservatives. Reports of freedom’s demise have been exaggerated.
Left-wing political correctness is rare enough that it makes headlines, turning otherwise unremarkable people into instant celebrities and bestselling authors overnight. Right-wing political correctness is so widespread and suffocating that it is taken for granted. I give a few examples below, from among untold millions. Some are limited instances, and others are endemic to the social, political and economic systems that pervade our society.
Employment features a major aspect of political correctness. If employers can dismiss a worker for unsavoury views and the worker depends on wages from employment to live, then there can be no right to free speech. Yet conservatives cannot recognize this element of political correctness, because it would overturn the free labour contract, a pillar of modern capitalism.
Connected to this is the practice of union-busting. Though we hear often enough about strikes of various sorts, there was a time when their participants could simply be murdered outright. Over 700 American workers were killed and 3,000 seriously injured while on strike by the police, the military or private security forces by the 1960s.
Furthermore, between 1956 and 1971, the FBI initiated its Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), launching 2,300 covert actions against radical political organizations. Four of its five programs and 87 per cent of individual operations targeted left-wing movements such as the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and various Black nationalist organizations, severely weakening them as politically active groups.
In the last year, Republican-led censorship campaigns have banned over 1,500 books from districts representing over 2,900 schools and 2 million students, many dealing with subjects like sexual and racial inequality.
The culture war isn’t limited to books. In the last eight years, nearly 23,000 migrants from predominantly Islamic countries have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, unable to reach safety in Europe through legal channels as the flames of racism and Islamophobia are fanned. Similarly, prominent conservative figures such as Donald Trump, Ben Shapiro, and Tucker Carlson openly argue that tens of millions of undocumented immigrants should be repressed because of their potential to become Democratic voters.
And it was certainly intolerant to wipe out Indigenous nations and cultures across two continents for five centuries — a string of atrocities so long that it cannot be given a millionth of its due diligence here. Without this original sin, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand would be nothing but mental abstractions.
The real political violence in the United States comes from the right. From 1994 through 2020, right-wing terrorist attacks killed 335 people, while left-wing terrorists killed only 22. During the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations, American police arrested 14,000 anti-racist protesters, later having to release over 90 per cent of them for lack of evidence. Police were three times as likely to use force against left-wing protesters as right-wing protesters, even though the vast majority of protests were peaceful.
And what of the 139 incidents where many such protesters were run over by fascist thugs unsatisfied with the already brutal police response, killing three people and injuring 100 more, or the dozens of “driver immunity” bills proposed by Republican lawmakers to protect the perpetrators? Since 2017, another 86 bills that restrict peaceful assembly have either been enacted or are being proposed.
One may also consider the hundreds of death threats sent to American election workers after Donald Trump predictably lost the 2020 race to Joe Biden, not to mention the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol to forcibly overturn the results, an utter fiasco that resulted in seven deaths.
I could go on. The outrages I have listed here are merely the tip of the iceberg. Faced with these facts, the conservative has two choices. They can either stop talking about political correctness altogether, or — given that instances of right-wing suppression vastly outnumber their left-wing counterparts — say that their extremists are right to act as they do, and admit that the liberties at issue are merely a rallying cry.
Conservatives are not being suppressed, and certainly not en masse. The ideals of tolerance are simply more widespread, and tolerance should not extend to intolerant views that would mean its destruction.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.