Political Correctness: I’m in Charge

[Warning: This post contains some minor profanity. I use the word “asshole” quite a bit. If you don’t like this word – or if you happen to be an asshole and you’re sensitive about it – perhaps you should read something else. I recommend Sut my Dit and Other Stories.]

It seems that everyone agrees: Political Correctness is a Bad Thing. A Very Bad Thing.

Charlton Heston, while still alive and holding his gun in his still warm hands, called it “tyranny with a happy face.” That’s about as clever a thing as he ever said.

Simon Cowell said “I hate political correctness. I absolutely loathe it.” But, you know, Simon doesn’t like anything.

Peter Hitchens – not the dead atheist guy; his brother, the smug posh British journalist – deemed political correctness  “the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Isles since Reformation.” Who knows what that means. I think he’s trying to say, “I’m way smarter than you.”

Novelist and short story writer, Doris Lessing calls it a “… self-appointed group of vigilantes imposing their views on others. It is a heritage of communism”. This is the only thing of Doris’s that I’ve read. She has a dramatic flair, I think.

Vigilantes? Communism? Yes, indeed. Others have said political correctness is fascist. Totalitarian. Stalinist. Marxist. It is the result of brainwashing. It’s wilful ignorance. Enforced orthodoxy. A very popular characterization comes from someone unknown: “Political correctness is simply a speed bump in the traffic of truth, free thought and speech”.

According to the popular wisdom, political correctness stifles free speech. It bullies free thinkers. It suppresses the truth and silences all who would dare to tell it. It ruins careers. It is an oppressive, omnipresent, overwhelmingly powerful and cruel force that especially infects the worlds of politics and academia, though it is found everywhere. “You can’t say anything anymore,” its victims cry.

And yet, no one appears to be afraid of it. Normally, in the face of a powerful evil force that mercilessly punishes the free expression of unacceptable opinion, you would expect people to cower in silence. But just look at all the writers who begin their columns or blog posts with a declaration that what they are about to write is “probably not politically correct”. They go on to write their heresy, heedless of the grave consequences that will most certainly befall them when the forces of political correctness find them and carry them away in the night. What courage. There are entire websites devoted to hatred for political correctness. How brazen. Rather than fall in line, almost everyone publicly and defiantly stakes out for him or herself ground that is decidedly politically INcorrect. Recklessness indeed. Don’t these people have careers and reputations to preserve, families and loved ones to protect? We didn’t see this sort of mass open defiance in Mao’s China, or Stalinist USSR or during the McCarthy era in the US – all of which are declared to be “just like” the oppressive regime of political correctness that now grips us.

Another odd thing about the scourge of political correctness is that, despite the fact that  it is everywhere, no one claims personally to be politically correct. This powerful movement threatens to destroy western civilization, of that there is no doubt. But it appears to be a movement without members. No one takes a public stand proclaiming, “Oh yeah. I am PC. Very. And we’re taking over the world.” Nor is there any oppressive infrastructure. No identifiable entity carrying the mantle of political correctitude. No re-education camps offering enlightenment through toil in non-traditional occupations. No gulags where inmates are forced to repeat gender-respectful slogans while being flogged.There is no political correctness politburo, no cabal of politically correct ayatollahs issuing earnestly worded fatwas against those who offend PC sensibilities.

There isn’t even any clear definition of what, in fact, political correctness is. By most accounts, political correctness is characterized by the insistent use of “inclusive” language and an obsessive fear of giving offense, especially to those who are historically marginalized – racial and religious minorities, disabled people, gays and lesbians, women, the poor.

And, how does political correctness wield its fearsome power? How does it enforce its inclusive, inoffensive linguistic Code and thereby crush dissent, stifle speech and kill the pursuit of truth? Well, again, it’s not clear, but it appears that the main weapon of political correctness is criticism – identifying when a speaker or writer has used sexist or racist or otherwise “exclusivist” language and suggesting that he or she just might, therefore, be racist, misogynist, homophobic or some other bad thing.

Wow. That is exactly like the Soviet Union under Stalin.

This is ruining the world. People are not free to say or write whatever stupid thing comes into their heads without having to endure painful criticism. Perhaps name-calling. Where is Amnesty International?

I’ve never had any problem with political correctness. I can say whatever is on my mind without much fear. So, I’m in a position to give some advice to those who find themselves vexed by political correctness. There’s really only one rule: Don’t be an asshole. That’s right, if you have persistent problems with political correctness, if you just don’t get it, you’re an asshole. Not a person living as an asshole, or a person with asshole behavioural characteristics. You’re not nice-challenged. You don’t have a social disability. You’re not sphincter-centric or anally-animated. Ironically, there is no politically correct term or expression to describe you. You’re an asshole.

Of course, you’re saying, “I’m not an asshole”. Few assholes admit to it – just like no one admits to being politically correct. People don’t accept a name for themselves that has been made up by others – by people who don’t like them or the way they live or think or the things they believe and value.

That’s why no one stands up for political correctness. We all claim that the expression doesn’t apply to us, even though it is applied to many of us all the time – by assholes. It’s a way for assholes to trivialize our concerns, dismiss us, imply that our political views are mere fashion dictated to us by others.

So in the interests of a truce here, to get us beyond this, I will admit that I am politically correct and will accept that title. In return, of course, I expect all you assholes to look my way when I yell out on the bus, “Hey asshole”.

Now that I have owned up to being politically correct, I’m going to go further. I am going to take responsibility for the entire movement, since no one else seems to want the job. I’m rushing in to fill the power vacuum at the top of the PC power structure. This is what has been missing in the PC world – Leadership. There’s been no one in charge. No one to mind “the brand”. We PCers have been allowing others to define for us what we’re all about. There has been no standard, no authoritative voice to help distinguish what is “Real PC” from all the silliness that is attributed to us – the lies and rumours, the satire, the mockery.

For example. There is a story going around that, somewhere in the U.S., some group of dumb PCers has told teachers that they have to call Easter eggs “Spring Spheres”. I’m going to assume this is simply bullshit – just another story designed to trivialize legitimate concerns about blood-of-the-lamb hegemony in the public sphere. But, come on. “Spring Spheres”? I don’t think so. Eggs aren’t spherical. And, despite what you might have heard, the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection actually doesn’t include coloured eggs. Or a bunny.

So, as the Director General of Political Correctness, let me assure you that this egg story, even if it is true, is not an instance of official political correctness. At worst, it is the work of a well-meaning, but misguided, wannabe who did not check with head office.

Further, let me assure you that it is perfectly acceptable under PC rules, despite what you have likely read and heard, to order your coffee “black”. I refuse to use the words “venti” or “bold”, for personal reasons, but confidently ask for it large, dark and black. Nor has there been an official PC ban on the word “blackboard”. People don’t use that word anymore, not because PCers have declared it offensive to certain racialized groups, but because those things have, for years, been green. And the use of the expression “gravitationally challenged” to refer to fat people? That is alleged to be PC. Be serious. That’s not us. Under my leadership, the expression would be “gravitationally attractive” – so much more positive. But, if you insist on calling fat people “fat”, be my guest. Asshole.

Same with this “personhole” controversy. Again and again, we hear that the politically correct hordes are forcing people to change the time-honoured, near sacred, name of the “manhole cover” because it offensively violates the PC dictate against gender-specificity. As the head of PC, this is not a hole I would choose to die on.

But, let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that we called “manholes” something else. Some term that doesn’t contain within it the assumption that all those workers who go in and out of those holes in the pavement over the course of a workday are, without exception, men. A term that reflects the reality that, maybe, on occasion, it will be a hard-hatted woman’s head sticking out of that hole. Would the world end? Probably not.

But for now, call it what you want.

I don’t know about you, but I feel goofy referring to the woman who delivers my mail as a “mailman”. So, that’s official. We use a gender neutral term “going postal” to refer to mass murderers, even though they are invariably men, so I think we can make the leap for letter carriers.

I’ve considered the arguments of the politically INcorrect that their quest for truth – their need to “tell it like it is” –  requires that they use words like faggot, cripple, retard, dyke, kike, wop, dogan or bogan. I’ve rejected those arguments. Please use the appropriately respectful terms. The list of acceptable terms is subject to change – so keep your eye out for my newsletter. Or, you could just shut up. I have also rejected certain truth-distorting expressions used by the politically incorrect. Like “collateral damage” for civilian casualties. “Rational allocation of scarce resources”  for greed. “Right to work state” for anti-union jurisdiction. “Job creators” for rich, fat, tax-evading, avaricious douche-bags.

Calgary City Council voted last winter to change the name of a member of council from “alderman” to “councilor”. This meets with my definition of political correctness and I will endorse it and take credit for it. It was controversial, as so much of my work is. A couple of women alderboys actually voted against it. Some wanted to change it to “alderwhiteman” to more accurately reflect the city’s heritage. [I just made up that last bit. Who says the politically correct are too earnest for irony?]

I want to make it clear, however, that we’re not responsible for the imposition of the metric system, nor for the French words on your cereal box. We didn’t invent the spritzer, the latte or sensible shoes. But multiculturalism? Yeah, that’s us. And employment equity. Pay equity. So, yes, we’re making your life miserable. Equality does that.

Peanut Free Schools. We PCers often get resentment-soaked credit for that one, but it’s not a linguistic thing, so sort of outside our jurisdiction. Still, many people seem to think it is just the sort of precious nonsense the the PC movement would come up with. The non-politically correct point out frequently that it is just so unfair. It’s so much easier to spread peanut butter on bread than to dig out a slice of ham and unwrap one of those pesky cheese slices. They’re comfortable, it seems, for the sake of convenience, with putting their kids’ classmates at risk of dying purple from anaphylaxis. Tell me again why you don’t think you’re an asshole?



Our adorable Harper Reforma-Tories love to characterize their laws as “tough”. Those are some kind of sorry dweebs who get “tough” by drafting legislation. I have a mental image of little Stevie in elementary school, dealing with school-yard torment by having  the Student Council enact “tough” laws against bullies, including provisions allowing him to sue to get his lunch money back.

The latest is the Omnibus Crime Bill, Bill C-10, which includes all manner of tough things. And, in keeping with the Tory’s practice of combining legislative enactments with campaign literature, the legislation will be called the Safe Streets and Communities Act. Really. This tough legislation will make our streets and communities safe. At long last. One wonders why we didn’t do this long ago. I’ll tell you why. Previous governments just were not tough enough.

That’s always been the problem. Yes, it is true that Canadian crime rates have been declining for thirty years. But not very quickly and not down to zero. There is still crime out there, my friends. And why? You guessed it. Because we haven’t been tough enough. Criminals haven’t taken us seriously. Well, those days are over. There’s a new sheriff in town. He’s got tough law-making powers and he’s not afraid to use them.

How? The new Omnibus KickAss Crime Bill  won’t just lock ’em up and throw away the key. Our new jails won’t even have keys. [That’s a metaphor.] We’ll be restricting the use of conditional sentences for certain offences, introducing some new mandatory minimum sentences as well as increasing some old ones, increasing maximum penalties for certain sexual offenses, and a bunch of other stuff. Basically, we’ll be putting more criminals in jail for longer.

We’ll have to build new jails, the Tories freely admit, and hire more jailers. That’s going to cost money, they concede. We don’t know how much money – the government hasn’t figured that out because math is hard, I guess. But, you know, it really doesn’t matter how much it costs because, dammit, we’re talking about fighting evil bad guys here.

When confronted with concerns about the cost of our new toughness, the Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson, urges us to think about the victims. He said that crime costs victims One Hundred Billion Dollars a Year. Wow. That’s an awfully large figure to pull out of one’s ass. It must have been a great relief. He never gets challenged on this figure, which comes from a 2008 study done by his department. You can check it out – .http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/2011/rr10_5/rr10_5.pdf  The study has a lot of big numbers which, when added all together, might come to about a hundred billion, but it doesnt’ quite say what Minister Rob says it says. The one hundred billion is actually the total cost of the whole criminal justice system – police, courts, prosecutors, legal aid, jails, everything – not just the cost to victims. The direct cost to victims is calculated to be about 14 billion. That’s a lot. It’s not 100 billion. I’m sure Rob didn’t mean to mislead us.

As far as I can tell, the survey is intended to alarm us. Over sixty eight of the hundred billion is identified in the Report as “intangibles” – a dollar amount intended to represent pain and suffering and death suffered by victims. This figure is based on what the victims might have gotten had they sued the perpetrators, which they didn’t. There is a lot of actual money expended – most of it by government. But a full seventy percent of this alarming 100 billion figure is money that actually doesn’t exist anywhere.

So Minister Nicholson misrepresents a goofy survey. But for a good cause.

We’re as safe as we have been for thirty years. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t be safer, of course. But there is not a single expert on the subject who believes that Tory Toughness is going to have any positive impact. Not one. Zip. Zero. Zilch. More jails and longer sentences has not worked anywhere else and there is much evidence that it makes us less safe. “Experts”? “Evidence”? Well, the Tories have tapped into that deep pool of voters who are really tired of being told what to do by people who know things. The time has come to develop public policy by reference to what “just seems right” to those who really don’t know very much. They’ve chosen our government, they might as well determine our criminal law policy.

The other tough guy in the Tory cabinet responsible for flogging the Crime Bill is Vic “the Shiv” Toews, the Minister of Public Safety. He always has something smart to say. Vic isn’t interested in statistics. He says “I’m focused on danger.”

Yes. He actually said that. When speaking to a Senate committee, he said that the public is in danger as long as criminals walk the streets. Somehow, in Vic’s head, there is a notion that, as a result of his efforts, there will be no criminals walking the streets. Vic is from Steinbach, Manitoba. Perhaps there is no danger in Steinbach.

If you live in a safe neighbourhood, it will continue to be safe. If you live in a dangerous neighbourhood, well, you likely won’t notice a change – except the slow, incremental decrease in criminality that results from “bad” guys growing out of it and being replaced by steadily fewer young “bad” guys. The Crime Bill won’t create more safety. We know this. Maybe, if the Tories sell it well enough, the changes to the law will, for some people, create a “feeling” of increased safety. Isn’t that worth something? Worth something to whom? Because, the people paying the real price for this illusory sense of increased safety are not benefiting from it. They’re still living in dangerous communities and they or their loved ones will be spending more time in the custody of the state – more than is justified by any rehabilitative or correctional goal – just so that the Tories can claim that they’re tough and we’re safe.

In the end, rational concerns about cost, doubts about effectiveness and references to declining crime rates are not going to stop this Bill. The Tories are counting on that reliable coalition of the stupid, the crazy, and those who just don’t give a shit, to bring this thing home.

There is a certain bloodthirsty segment of our population that truly believes, against all the evidence, that harsh is effective. The harsher, the better. Then, there are people who aren’t concerned about  effectiveness. They don’t care about rehabilitation, treatment, recidivism or any of that nonsense. They just know that harsh treatment for bad guys is justified and morally necessary, regardless of the consequences – that “justice” requires a balancing of evil deeds with evil consequences. Both of these groups believe that, for way too long, the justice system has been too worried about rights and not enough about retribution, too careful with process and not focused enough on punishment, too eager to coddle criminals and quick to ignore victims. The Tories have finally put all those “elite” experts and Liberal judges in their place and are delivering a justice system that makes sense to those who know right and wrong.

For most of the rest of us, the Tory Crime Bill is a near victimless crime – because those affected by it are, essentially, scumbags. They are the mean and ugly losers who do bad things and scare us. Who cares about them? Who cares about their kids or their parents or spouses? We don’t know them. They live in the squalor beyond our experience. We don’t know why they are the way they are and we’re not interested in finding out.

Call me soft on crime, but needless excess in criminal penalties is scandalous. It sucks the justice out of our justice system and brutalizes our society. It’s not tough; it’s mean-spririted. Most people are familiar with the criminal law’s presumption of innocence and the rule that the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Many are also familiar with the quotation from Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England [1760]: “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. At the very core of our criminal law is a recognition of the extraordinary nature of the state’s coercive power – the power to deprive a citizen of his or her liberty. It is an awesome power that, in a society free of state tyranny, may only be used when justified. Using that power carelessly and excessively – to score political points, to strike a phony posture of toughness, in the absence of any actual proof that it serves any justifiable purpose – is contrary to what lies at the core of our values. And, while we may comfort ourselves by saying that, well, these guys are scumbags, the fact is that we’re abandoning our principles here. And our humanity. It makes criminals of us all.

Two Amusing Things about the Ominous Crime Bill

First, the Crime Bill contains some new legislation – the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. Finally. Justice. What’s been missing from our anti-terrorism arsenal? Well, the right to sue terrorists, of course. Now, we have it. With the passage of this Bill, terrorists the world over will hear us say “We’ll see you in court, Mr. Terrorist”. Feel safer now?

The new mandatory minimum sentence that has probably attracted the most attention is the six months in jail you’ll now get for growing as few as SIX marijuana plants. Six. But don’t worry, this isn’t about just growing six plants – something that can happen by accident if you’re careless with your seeds. No, in order to be liable to the six month minimum, you have to be growing those six plants “for the purpose of trafficking”. If you are growing six plants, hoping to make a living as a pot dealer, perhaps six months locked away to brush up on business principles would be good for you.