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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Political Correctness is Strangling Debate

There are so many sacred cows, taboo subjects and other “no go” zones in public discourse that serious debate on important subjects is becoming impossible without offending a whole slew of people. And, in Canada, giving offence can be a crime.

Political correctness has deteriorated in Canada to the point that we now have government-appointed commissions and tribunals with extraordinary powers to prevent Canadians from “offending” other Canadians. No matter that the offender is writing about the truth—that's no defense.

Some of the hot buttons seem to be: abortion, same-gender marriage, gun control, capital punishment, Islamic extremism and immigration. Frank and open debate on these is virtually impossible here in Canada. As soon as you state a position on these subjects, someone will label you and accuse you of bigotry or of denying someone their rights. And it does not seem to matter which side of the issue you are on—someone is sure to be outraged by your view.

We do not mean speech that calls for physical attacks on a person or group, not do we mean slander or libel—these are legitimate areas for appropriate legislation and censure.

Offer any criticism of a gay person, regardless of its validity and, oh boy, watch out. What about analyzing crime statistics to zero in on the neighbourhoods or groups accounting for a disproportionate number of crimes? No can do. Criticism of certain religions or religious practices is out of bounds. Preaching certain passages of the Bible can land you in hot water. Quoting the published words of some Muslim leaders can get you sued.

There are words we can no longer use in conversion because they are considered so offensive—regardless of the speaker's motive or intent.

Of course, this does not include use of any of several short words having to do with sex or excrement. You know, the four-letter ones that once were generally regarded as offensive or objectionable. These now are cool to use—makes you sound “with it” and smarter than you actually are. To censure these would be to deny free expression, and we can't have that, or can we?

Apparently, we can deny free expression so long as one belongs to a select, protected group and is “offended” by the expression.

Given to wide media coverage in the past several months of over-reach on the part of Human Rights Commissions, I'd have thought this would have been a worthwhile policy debate to have in a federal election, but apparently few if any of our politicians are willing to speak out for free speech.

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