Politics

Don’t be a Fucking Dick – Matt Kirby

The Hypocrisy of the American Right on Political Correctness

Photo by Charles, Well, fuck. It seems politics is a game of inches.

Free speech is dying or dead or on life support or in the cross-hairs or some other violent political metaphor that you will use to show me just how dire this situation is. You know this is true because you have social media and someone is being really mean to your racquetball buddy right now. His only crime was to post one innocent meme about illegals infesting our country and now the P.C. Police is all over his ass, threatening his job, his family, and his well-defined sense of unconditional righteousness.

This is just like when you were in high school and somebody called you an asshole because you used the n-word (like one time). Who are they to tell you what you can and cannot say? If they took the time to step outside their leftist bubble, they would understand that the world is rough and mean and therefore slurs are funny and subversive. Also, you were just kidding.

Photo by Thomas Park, When the MARXIST MOB comes for our LIBERTY, the question we all must ask ourselves is: are we ready to play racquetball… ALONE?

But it isn’t just you and your racquetball buddy, oh no.

The left is also ruining comedy. We can’t even tell a good rape joke anymore or else we get attacked… like just for who we are. After all, rape jokes are an essential part of our identity. Cultures never change and any word we can imagine is always acceptable to say out loud. Individuals never change either. The first amendment ensures that we never improve as people, that we never take responsibility for our words, let alone our actions, and that we always, always are permitted to be as much of an asshole as we care to be.

This is the space in which we’ve allowed the political correctness debate to live. The right’s line of reasoning might be the stupidest argument I’ve ever heard and, as someone who became politically aware in the age of Bush the Younger and became a functional adult in the age of the-guy-from-the-Apprentice, that’s a very high bar. The President’s acolytes — as well as some older liberals — express white hot anger, a derivative of their misplaced fear, that you can’t say anything anymore. This argument is stupid for four reasons:

  1. If you’re saying something racist or sexist, then you aren’t making some underrepresented political point. You’re being a dick.
  2. No one is arguing that you should be barred legally from being a dick, they are trying to hold you responsible morally for being a dick.
  3. You plead for “civility” every time someone on the left raises their voice above your preferred level of decibels, which is just another word for being politically correct. It seems your moral outrage has less to do with your principles and more to do with your assumption that you can be as mean as you want but no one else can be mean to you.
  4. You mistake criticism as an attempt to silence you, which is a fucking delusional way to look at the world. You are perfectly free to post your screeds in any open forum on the internet, at which point the free market may or may not banish your racist ass from the platform. But never fear, no matter how morally bankrupt your views on race, class, and gender are, there are platforms for you. And, if you can’t find the correct button to post on the white power sub-Reddit, just shout your views from a street-corner! Not only is this venue more appropriate than Reddit, I think you’ll find that I haven’t managed to sever your vocal cords merely by criticizing you.

What’s more, your fearful hand-wringing is directed primarily at young people. The anti-PC argument asserts that the kids on the left are precious snowflakes who “just can’t take the heat” because we all have participation trophies inserted into our respective recta, which stretch every word we say by two or three didactic syllables. But this is curious because I would be, for example, far more comfortable swearing at a liberal dinner table in New York (where I used to live) than I would be at a conservative dinner table in Montana (where I currently live). And it’s a shame, because I have a much better tongue for vulgarity than any of you cunts anyway. You fear-mongering steer-fuckers from flyover country are way the fuck out of your league when it comes to dirty words. I swear to your lord and savior, Goddamn Jesus Fucking Christ, this kike knows words that would make your limp-dick, racist cocks curl as though they were Satan’s tail. And most important of all, I’m from the northeast, so I don’t start acting like a pussy when someone calls me a motherfucker on Facebook. You need to grow the fuck up. You live in the most sheltered discursive bubble possible. If these insults offend you, then fucking good. I hope your lily-white sensibilities are forever cum-stained by the knowledge that your arguments and protests are nothing more than worthless sewage spewing from the mouth of a propagandized child. If you’re not offended, that’s ok too. I know it is unlikely I’ll ever truly reach you through the algorithmic wall that guards your safe space. But, if you do feel your blood start to simmer as I insult you, you gaping asshole, take note of this: you get offended by petty dirty insults, I get offended by slurs. Maybe you’re on the wrong side, fuck-o.

***

I listen to nutbag radio a lot, which is not, unfortunately, a radio station run exclusively by squirrels. It’s my term-of-endearment for the nationally syndicated lineup of Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, and Shapiro. These men always tie P.C. Culture to two cataclysmic phenomena: the degradation of western culture — as though Rousseau was an ardent defender of calling women bitches on Twitter — and the ruinous effect cancel culture has on individuals who get cancelled.

Photo by Filip Sochor, “He’s here. He’s here. Now broadcasting from the underground command post… deep in the bowels of a hidden bunker… somewhere under the brick and steel of a nondescript building, we have once again made contact with our leader: MARK LEVIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The first argument is bullshit because culture is not something that objectively degrades or improves, it’s something that exists and continues to exist. The evolution of culture is more complicated than you think it is and your fetishization of the West is historically uninformed. The ideas that exist in western culture are ideas that hail from all over the world. The scientific method is most easily traceable to an Iraqi scholar named Hasan Ibn al-Haytham. Our modern concept of good governance is more apparent in Confucius’s work than it is in Plato’s, i.e. public officials living up to their title’s virtue, which makes them worthy as opposed to their worthiness existing as a virtue of their class and philosophical chops. The Catholic Church, itself a foundational pillar of western culture, was free speech’s staunchest critic when the support for such freedoms came back into vogue in the 16th and 17th centuries. Also, there are ideas that originated in the West that you detest. For example, Soviet and Chinese Communism may have taken root to disastrous effect in the East, but Karl Marx was very much from Germany. He was kicked out of almost every western monarchy for organizing democratic unions, he wrote for the New York Daily Tribune for 10 years, and he remains the most important single contributor to western culture in the past two centuries, inspiring thousands of philosophical disagreements and political improvements. Do your kids work in factories or mines, as they might in a truly free market? No? Thanks Karl.

The squirrel gang could argue that the part of western culture they hate the most is political correctness (which is still kind of a head-scratcher considering that most everyone I know has a job but can’t afford rent or healthcare, but whatever), but they don’t do this. They insist instead on berating the dissolution of an ideal they see as perfect. But again, this is bullshit and we know it’s bullshit because of the supporting evidence they present. The fact of modern life Limbaugh, Hannity, and Levin (Shapiro to a lesser extent) use to bolster their degradation argument is fairly transparent and more than fairly disgusting. They present immigration from Central America as the other phenomenon that degrades western culture, which is strange because the colonization of the Americas means that the cultures of Central America are westernized. Maybe it’s not about the west? Maybe you’re anxious about the color of the people emigrating from Central America? Just a thought.

The second argument, concerning the problem of cancel culture, has a single drop of truth in it, which gets drowned in a flood of whining from squirrel-radio. Should a person’s career be ruined because they said something insensitive on Twitter in 2007? Of course not. In fact, I have a ton of compassion for people who have said or done regrettable things in the past, actually apologized for them, and taken demonstrable steps to better themselves. Should a random person lose their job because they said something racist yesterday? Maybe, but I’m not the one to decide that nor, for that matter, are the masses on Twitter. However, my friends on the right can’t be credibly pissed about such a person being fired because you love it when the market “just sorts things out”. I hate to break it to you (I don’t, really), but that’s what the market “just sorting things out” looks like in real life. Nike giving Colin Kaepernick a platform is the market “just sorting things out”, and an ad with an interracial or gay couple is the market “just sorting things out” too. A company’s most important commodity is the labor they buy and if they’d rather not have a racist in their ranks, that is their prerogative, even if you think it’s unfair or you think that company is succumbing to pressure.

This argument plays out not only in commerce, but also on college campuses across the nation. There are now countless stories about how administrations kowtow to overzealous students. There’s even a movie to document this karmic injustice, No Safe Spaces. Ben Shapiro, perhaps the least squirrely of all the squirrels, is an executive producer. Adam Carolla, a comedian, podcaster, and friend of Shapiro teams up with Dennis Prager, a talk show host who has taken a recent turn from reasonable conservative to Trumpian zealot, to argue that free speech is under attack from a specific kind of leftist. Young, priggish college students who are unwilling to consider viewpoints other than those their Soviet professors drill into them are the clearest and most present threat to free speech in the United States. Almost every major news outlet in the United States agrees, at least tacitly, with this position. On its face, it makes a lot of sense to talk shit about these kids. I hear the older liberals join the chorus here: shouldn’t students expose themselves to as many different viewpoints as possible?

I’m closer in age to the college students that Prager and Carolla excoriate than they are, so maybe I can help bridge the gap. While I understand their frustration, I’m willing to bet that neither of these men have carefully deconstructed their own biases either. But, for the purposes of this argument, let’s assume that they have actually considered both the merits and detriments of radical, justice-based politics and how those aspects influence their own, more conservative beliefs and therefore they have the moral high ground compared to these college students. No Safe Spaces fails to recognize that the students, not the guest speakers, have agency over the ideas they engage with for two important reasons: a) education is not meant to be limitlessly expansive, otherwise we would sit students down in front of an open internet browser and say, “good luck” and b) they fucking pay to be there. They — or, at the very least, their families — have a degree of ownership over the space that the protested guest speakers lack. Would it be equally unthinkable for you to kick someone out of your home because they insulted your roommates? Would you consider this action to be a protest? Would you imagine it necessary to consider the merits of their insults? Of course you wouldn’t. Because it’s your damn house.

If we accept that education is not meant to be limitless, the easiest things to nix from the curriculum are things that are very easy to disprove. If a speaker is coming on campus to say that black folks are genetically inferior to white folks, or that women are neuroscientifically less valuable to STEM companies than men, or that trans folks are simply mentally ill (this is a position that Shapiro loves), they are not broadening anyone’s horizons. They are poisoning the well. All of these positions are scientifically and sociologically ridiculous. If you are a part of, or you know anyone who is a part of the populations these men attack, then you don’t need critical rebuttals to tell you these positions are bullshit. But if you do need them, here and here and here. We may find educational merit in engaging with junk-science for the five minutes it takes to debunk it, but to invite a speaker to give an hour lecture with another hour of Q&A on pseudo-scientific bullshit is not education, no matter how much you wish that pseudo-scientific bullshit were true. The media tends to mistake students’ desire to filter this garbage sociology as a desire for a safe space, when really, it has more to do with the fact that students have already engaged with (ahh, the internet) and rejected these ideas as the cozy fantasies they are. Or, they chose not to engage because they’ve been building a mountain of empirical evidence against such ridiculous positions for their entire life. And now, frankly, they’re pissed because everyone assumes they’re afraid of the truth. So when they do engage, they engage loudly and combatively. Whatever epithet you may want to hurl at these protesters, “disengaged” is not the one that comes to mind. Students take interest in these matters because again, they are paying to be at the school. They have every right to tell the school that they are unhappy with the way the administration spends their tuition. “These kids are being mean to my friends” is not a cogent argument for your friends’ ideologies to be taken seriously. Just as flat-earthers do not belong in the geology department, fascists do not belong in the social sciences department.

Photo by Yeo Khee, The snowflake brigade is also active in EUROPE, which is where NAZIS come from!

But I am not entirely unmoved by Prager and Carrolla’s fears. I sympathize with the right because they are correct that their arguments have lost considerable ground on college campuses. Part of this phenomenon is absolutely due to an ideological campus uniformity, which is reinforced by an unforgiving social structure. But the biggest reason that conservatism’s popularity is plummeting on college campuses is not due to conformism. The viewpoints themselves lack cohesion and subsequently, lose merit under academic scrutiny. “Conservative” is squandering its meaning in the modern age because the only consistent parts of the ideology that are held by people who reliably ascribe to that label… uh, fucking suck. Fiscal conservatism, a well-established loophole to espouse conservative views without being considered an asshole, doesn’t observably exist in this country anymore. Apparently, conservatives are cool with tariffs. Most conservatives used to rail against the ballooning national debt and are now curiously quiet about it. It seems you don’t care about trillion dollar deficits anymore either. A tax break is a tax break, no matter who benefits. There is no moral conservatism anymore either; conservatives used to spearhead the ideological battles of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, moral vs. immoral and, whether or not we on the left agreed with that assertion of morality, conservative morals were largely insulated from accusations of hypocrisy because they were pretty consistent. Unfortunately, that is no longer true. You, my shortsighted and angry friends, forever forfeited the moral high ground the day you voted for the-guy-from-the-Apprentice. The President’s biggest problem mirrors the one by which conservatives everywhere are most aggrieved: people don’t like him, not because of his ill-considered and scattershot institutional policies, not because he is unfairly castigated by a very vocal and sometimes annoying resistance, but because at his core, he’s a fucking dick. And it shows. Ironically, given that branding is widely considered to be that man’s only real talent, Republicans are left with something of a branding problem because the only remaining idea that college students can consistently attach to conservatism is bigotry. And we’re not really with that.

However, if this is the hill on which you must die, let me suggest a compromise. We will stop protesting your fascists if you let us implement accurate sex ed and distribute condoms in every high school in the country. Seriously, I think my friends and I would respect that compromise. We will swallow the racism and sexism emanating from your gaslit faux-intellectuals, if you make a commitment to real education in our schools. If the idea of such a grand bargain makes your stomach queasy, then clearly you don’t actually care about educational integrity. The vast majority of sex ed is anatomical, meaning that scientifically it is pretty much without dispute. Therefore, the information that teachers present in such classes is far less controversial than any of your guest speakers’s greatest hits, at least from the standpoint of whether the information is actually true. Yes, it seems more information is all well and good until it teaches your kids how to fuck safely. But I’m game if you are, so you need to ask yourself: do you really want your kids to have all sides of this argument? Every position?

In all seriousness, I agree that there is a hardness, perhaps a lack of compassion, on the part of leftists who seek to ruin people they deem to be problematic. Many of my fellow political lefties are also less than satisfied with our selectively carnivorous vegans. Certainly, arguments should be passionate and I’m not saying that every moment is an unteachable one, but when we “own” @georgiaconfederate42069 on Twitter, what good are we really doing in the world? Whose mind are we changing? In this sense, most social media activism (excluding raising money and organizing public demonstrations) is performative and ineffective. So should my friends and I be more forgiving? Probably. I find this go-for-the-throat mentality pretty strange though because I went to school with and I am still friends with many people you might consider to be social justice warriors. They are largely compassionate on a personal level, no matter how vitriolic they are on social media. I will concede that we on the left should resist this impulse for life-ruining based on ideological purity, especially when it comes to regular people whose heinous behavior goes viral.

The perceived vultureness of the left is also something of a straw-man accusation though, because a lot of doxxing doesn’t involve average Joe’s. Most pop-culture callouts concern very famous people who frankly, I don’t give two fucks about anyway. You can’t really forgive somebody famous who does something awful, because a) you don’t know that person and b) the only evidence you have of their contrition is some days-later apology written by a publicist that admits no actual culpability. So should a person’s career be ruined (or should they be barred from a college campus) if they assault someone or they’ve posted some racist garbage or they’ve published neutered hate-speech and called it research? If someone is doing shit like that, they’re ruining their own careers; they are not “being ruined”. Famous folks do not need my forgiveness and I seem to have misplaced all my sympathy. But don’t worry, I hear Dancing with the Stars is always looking for people.

***

You’re afraid that tomorrow it will be you. Be civil, you implore, because you saw that video of that woman yelling at Jeff Flake in an elevator, and boy that did not look fun because you don’t particularly like women or elevators and… OH GOD THE WALLS ARE CLOSING IN! Breathe. You are neither that awful nor that important. But you really need to reevaluate this cry for civility because it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Essentially when you plead, “Be civil!” you are saying that your right to be a dick is more important than my right to call you out for being a dick. The truth is, neither of these rights is more important than the other. They are both part of the same amendment. You cannot say the first amendment protects you but it doesn’t protect me. It protects both of us, but only legally, not morally.

Photo by Anthony Garand, Get fucked cucks, this EAGLE eats WORMS like you for BREAKFAST! He can recite every word to our beloved CONSTITUTION except for the Emoluments Clause which is clearly not real and is also fake.

Part of being a grown up about liberty is realizing that, even though you have the right to do certain things, you still shouldn’t do them. And not because you’ll get called out by social justice warriors on Twitter. Not because your little cousin who goes to some elite liberal commie factory is going to use words that confuse you, like “microagression” and “systemic”, not even because you fear retribution from the man upstairs (you know, your neighbor Rick who dresses in all black and therefore runs Antifa). You shouldn’t say certain things because you want to be a good person.

I made a list of behavioral cornerstones in a modern, civilized society so you don’t have to worry. Some are pieces of advice for specific groups who I’ve noticed are the worst offenders. I’m aware that this might inspire the most childish form the anti-PC argument takes which is: “Why can they say something, but I can’t.” Because words rely on context, you fucking idiot, and not every context is the same. Anyway, these are things that I believe you should not say to people in private or in public so that you can start being a better person, or at the very least, so that you don’t have to bear the brunt of criticism leveled by the Twitterati left of which you are so clearly terrified. To be clear, these are not the only forms of discourse that are racist and sexist, a subject on which I am certainly not an authority. These are the broad strokes. If you observe these guidelines, the nasty ol’ interweb-commies are less likely to call you mean names. And obviously, everyone is a hypocrite to an extent when it comes to these actions, but that doesn’t make the actions right or moral; I’ve done almost all of the things on the list that I am telling you not to do, but I’ve been trying this remarkable thing called being an adult recently and let me tell you, you really should try it too.

  1. (for men) Do not use sexually degrading language to address people, especially women, especially individual women who you are currently talking to, even if that individual uses those words herself.
  2. (for white people) Do not use slurs, even if you hear other people who don’t look like you (or do look like you) using them. Just because someone has reclaimed a word (or is being generally terrible in your vicinity) doesn’t mean you’re allowed to jump in and take it back.
  3. (for cis people) Just fucking call people what they want to be called. Use the right name, use the right pronouns, and if these words are difficult for your tongue to wrap itself around, make the effort. If you don’t know someone’s name or pronouns, ask them politely? It is not difficult to ask someone what their name is and I promise that you already use “they” as a singular pronoun, even if you don’t think you do.
  4. (for everyone) Do not joke casually about trauma that you have not experienced. This is the rape joke argument. I am a firm believer that anything, even the most awful trauma, can be fought with humor. Humor is a great way to shift balances of power, to create solidarity among people, and to allow people to analyze the worst parts of humanity in a safe way; however, to the thousands of writers and comedians who have experienced some form of trauma (all of us), address yourself to your trauma, don’t glibly comment on someone else’s. “I’m being edgy” is a stupid reason to do anything. It’s the reason I wrote “Fuck You” on my sneakers when I was twelve, which was decidedly less funny than I thought it would be. I know it contradicts every lesson of meme-culture, but just because you click on something savage and then repurpose it for your tight five doesn’t make it funny. All the people who seem to be miffed that they can’t joke about rape anymore are dude-comedians. This should tell you something.
  5. (for everyone) Do not engage in the verminization of people. Ever. This is the most dangerous phenomenon in public discourse. Not for nothing, but the president does this all the time and the only thing that is truly terrifying to the left about the current political moment is that you seem to like it when he does. At the very least, you’re laughing about it. When you talk about groups of people (again, I say P-E-O-P-L-E) as though they are rats or roaches, you make it easier to kill them. That’s not an overstatement, it’s simply how every genocide in history starts. I’m not being hysterical and I’m not calling you Nazis. Well, I should say I’m not calling you only Nazis because Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Milosevic, Hussein, Erdogan, Assad, Duterte, and pretty much anybody who has used the apparatuses of the State to kill their own citizens, has engaged in this kind of verminization too. There is no way around it; this kind of language is your first step if you want to kill a whole hell of a lot of people. Aren’t you glad the President tells it like it is? Are you still laughing?
  6. (for everyone) Observe steps 1–5. Then, stop posting on social media and meet people who aren’t like you. Do not treat them as some fascination or fetish. Treat them as friends and go do shit together. Go to a ballgame, walk your dogs together, invite them to bring their kids over for a playdate. And while you’re doing that, listen to them like a respectful fucking person. Don’t just talk about yourself. This goes for the left too, especially white liberals; we seem to wear diversity like a shield against criticism, rather than making connections with people who are different than us a practical and ubiquitous part of our lives. One of the wonderful things about this country is that it is incredibly and unusually diverse. I don’t really like the melting pot metaphor because I’m mortally terrified of being boiled alive. I also don’t like it because it assumes our cultures are one, which simply isn’t true. I know this because your culture isn’t the same as my culture and that is really fucking cool. I like that I can go into any gas station west of Pennsylvania and the clerks will actually talk to me and ask me how I am. I like that I can get off the subway in New York and no one will notice me unless I physically run into them. I like that I can go to an all ages show in Connecticut and hear only metal and I like that I can go to an all ages show in Atlanta and hear only hip-hop. I like that when I stop at a nearly empty diner in Iowa, the guys at the counter know that I’m from out of town. I like that half the billboards in Texas tell me that Jesus loves me and the other half tell me that I’m going to hell. I like that I can ride a horse through a drive-thru liquor store in Wyoming. I like that when I go back to the northeast, people treat me like shit unless they know me. I like that in every place I’ve lived or visited, I know people who are decent and kind and I know people who are huge pricks. You can be a better person if you understand that not everyone is like you and that’s not only OK, it’s the best thing about this country.

So how about this. I’m done with the terms “political correctness” and “civility”. How about we replace these trends with one blanket moral for any form of discourse? Don’t be a fucking dick. I won’t if you won’t. Does that sound like a good compromise? And if you are a fucking dick, as I have been to you for basically this entire essay, all you need to do is apologize. Sincerely. We all say things we don’t mean, we all say things we do mean with words that are too harsh, and we all do things we regret.

In this spirit, I’m sorry, truly that it has come to this. I’m sorry I insulted you because of where you live, what you think, and your attachment to a certain cultural identity. This has more to do with my elitism than who you are. As I’ve become a more functional, morally sound person, I’ve stopped believing the lie that everyone on the left tells themselves so that they might sleep better at night. I’m not better than you. Humanness isn’t something that you can add up like a box score, it’s a binary state. You either got it or you don’t. And we both got it. That being said, I’m sorry I degraded you because, even though I was joking when I called you “cunts” and “fucking idiots” and “fear-mongering steer-fuckers”, that is not an excuse for degrading you. I should have considered that this is not a respectful way to refer to a person. Just because it’s a joke does not mean it’s harmless language. And so maybe it seems hollow or useless to you, but I really am sorry that I made you feel shitty.

Photo by Aaron Burden, Prove you love this country more than me. I fucking dare you.

I’ve traveled and lived all over the United States. Contrary to the most scurrilous lie the squirrels spew, I fucking love this country. Just when I think I’ve got the place figured out, I observe some contradictory something that feels more like a miracle than a fact, which changes and deepens my patriotism. The only paradigm I’ve observed that never seems to shift is that the ugliest parts of us are also the smallest parts of us, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes or if other people believe our ugliness is all there is to us. There is so much taken-for-granted beauty in the lives of our country’s people because we are, at once, more aware of our countrymen’s presence than ever and less informed about the completeness of that presence. It’s easy to see someone on social media as less than a person when all you’re looking at is their most problematic status updates. In fact, with all of the bots who bolster Twitter’s ranks, there’s a good chance they are less than a person, and we would all do well to remember that the next time we devote three hours of our day to arguing with someone online.

But for the people online who are real people, social media gives us many observable examples of someone else’s inalienable personhood. For all the stupid bullshit my slightly-to-the-right-of-Goebbles uncle posts, there’s also the photo of him with his kids and they’re grinning ear-to-ear, holding fishing rods, and they look actually happy even though that Fourth of July was colder than usual and even though our cousin died that year and I get this warm feeling from the knowledge that someone who is such an utter and complete dick could have so much love in his heart. That gives me hope. And I’m guessing you want hope too because you always say, when you call into nutbag radio, that your way of life is under attack from people like me. So go online and look past all the too-long-didn’t-read political manifestos your Maoist niece who goes to [insert name of indoctrination facility here] posts because there’s also that picture of her and her friends at that party where kids of every color, of different religions and different backgrounds are dancing in a sea of bodies, faces painted, limbs splayed, and you see the unbridled joy of subversion, the ineffable drunkenness of spirit, and for a brief moment, as you sit at your fifty-something desk in your fifty-something office with your fifty-something salary, you remember what it was like to be young.


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