To Be PC or Not to Be PC

This is today’s prompt from the WordPress editors’ 365 Days of Writing Prompts.

Is political correctness a useful concept, or does it stifle honest discussion?

Knee-jerk answer: Yes to the latter half of the question. Slightly more thought-out answer: Not when people make it a point to be non-PC and end up embarrassing themselves with the candidness of their remarks, or not when people make it a point to be PC and end up saying what amounts to a bunch of nothing because their true intent was so deeply hidden behind weasel words.

Choosing words carefully is important, but when your word choice actually obscures your true thoughts or opinions instead of clarifies them, then you’re probably erring on the side of too much political correctness. Private citizens can be blunt and brash because they do not have as much to lose as a big-name politician or celebrity. However, at the same time, certain politicians and celebrities feel as though they can eschew political correctness, say whatever they want, and get away with it. In a way, with great popularity comes great responsibility.

If you are popular, people listen to you, and chances are, they tend to take you seriously. For politicians, that means being PC so you don’t lose a single person in your voter base. For celebrities, that means being irreverent and ridiculous so your name stays on the cover of Us Weekly. Both approaches are wrong. If you are lucky enough to have people who listen to you, take you seriously, and perhaps even want to imitate you, then you’d better weigh your words and make certain that what you’re saying is actually something of importance.

In short, I wish people would speak the truth more often and do less hiding behind a façade, whether that be of measured political correctness or hysterical bravado.

2 thoughts on “To Be PC or Not to Be PC

  1. I think there may be some value in marking some specific words “unacceptable, ” for example, because it does set some terms about what’s okay and what isn’t.

    But of course that doesn’t change how anybody thinks, and people will just find other words to convey the same thing in a more coded way.

    Nazi iconography is illegal to display in Germany, which is generally a good thing, but people who think that way still find symbols to express their ideas (ironically, in some cases, using the Confederate battle flag).

    I agree about the advantages of people telling the truth more often, but it would pretty much kill the mystery genre. As Nero Wolfe used to point out, anybody could solve mysteries if suspects told the truth. 🙂

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    1. Ah, but in fiction, truth is a whole different matter and can be stretched without consequences for anyone but characters… well, and readers too (but that’s the fun of it). 🙂

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