“Be it resolved, what you call political correctness, I call progress…” was the topic of last night’s Munk debate – semi-annual debates that take place in Roy Thompson Hall.
The plan was to attend in person, but given the line up (cough… Jordan Peterson…) the tickets sold out faster than the Pink Floyd reunion concert – possibly, because people wanted to witness the potential shit show for themselves. So, we watched live instead, eating pizza and yelling at the television.
Jordan Peterson played a capricious ice queen, Michael Eric Dyson delivered a slam poetry style sermon, and Michelle Goldberg mentioned Trump multiple times, and spent most of the evening desperately wanting to punch Peterson in the face.
Goldberg started off very shaky, and while I am not familiar with her work, she does come across as a better writer than speaker. On an unrelated note, I found it very strange that there were two instances of fellow debaters and then the host refer to Michelle Goldberg as “Michelle”, while the rest of the debaters were addressed by first AND last name, or Mr. Last Name.
Peterson did the whole “professor” thing – pacing the stage, aka “owning the classroom”, and staring moodily at his own feet. I would not be surprised to learn that he had food poisoning shortly before the debate. In contrast, Dyson was indeed quite entertaining, but… not persuasive. He’d be fun to listen to on his own, but not so much in intellectual sparring. In one of the most eloquent jabs of the night, Fry referred to Dyson’s arguments as “huckstering snake oil pulpit talk”. As you can imagine… the audience howled.
It was interesting to see macho buck-up Peterson and softie Liberal Fry on the same side of the debate, because normally I do not see the two having much in common. Stephen Fry desperately tried to get the rest of the debaters to play nice AND keep on topic. He failed on both counts. Then again, he has debated along side Hitchens, so in this instance, he was bound to be disappointed.
It was a fascinating debate to watch, although I am with Fry – I would have loved to see the actual topic discussed in depth. Freedom of speech versus censorship. Notably, I am not sure where political correctness fits on that continuum. In general, the term carries negative connotation, implying “excessive” censorship.
Blanket political correctness with no understanding of intent can result in ridiculous outcomes – like censorship of words like “retarded” regardless of context.
“Retarded” means delayed. Retarded applied to a human is offensive. Retarded applied to a delayed chemical reaction or course of events is accurate. As in: “The heavy rain retarded our progress.”
In similar vein, some sensitivity training programs allegedly discourage the use of the word “flip chart”, because “Flip” can sometimes refer to Filipino Americans. I think we can agree that context is important. Otherwise… “black coffee” can become offensive also.
When does political correctness go too far and when is it necessary? That kind of thing.
Goldberg, Peterson and Dyson had a ball, focusing on gender and race. While both are obviously relevant to the discussion, it resulted in a pretty narrow application of the topic.
I did write about censorship years ago, discussing what to share and what not to share on social media, and why. Much of what I wrote still stands.