Very few people today in the western world would say that it’s ok to discriminate people based on gender, beliefs, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, or any other type of diversity. If a culture of acceptance has become dominant over the last couple of decades, most of the merit goes to the politically correct ideology as propagated by media, corporations, and institutions. But have they created a real culture or most people are sticking to political correctness because they are afraid of the consequences they may suffer?

Hieronymus Bosch

“A Violent Forcing Of The Frog”, Hieronymus Bosch (1500 circa)

The surge of hate and fear of the diverse that we are witnessing today seems to suggest that the dominance of politically correct in our culture is just superficial, a mask people wear, and fear and prejudice are prospering underneath it more than ever.

What I’d like to put under scrutiny here is not the principle of political correctness. We should all strive to be politically correct, it’s a positive thing, it prevents being unfair and hurting other’s feelings (which should be the point of it). My J’Accuse is directed to the way it has been enforced and to the values and interests that hide behind the mask. I hope I will be able to show you how the big enemy of politically correct is not Donald Trump but its own dark side which I’ll summarise in these four points:

1. UNFORGIVING

A stupid word out of millions you’ll ever pronounce in your life, maybe taken out of context, is enough to publicly disgrace you, ruin your career, and attract hate campaigns. Apologizing is often not enough, even if you are genuinely sorry. If you have a job, you may be dismissed or forced to resign, and if you are a public figure you will be haunted for the rest of your life by that stupid word, maybe said because your car broke and you were in a bad mood on that day. Can a culture of acceptance and tolerance be imposed through persecuting, humiliating, and disgracing people who said something wrong, without space for forgiveness?

2. DEGENERATED INTO A DIRTY WEAPON FOR POWER STRUGGLES

I think it’s evident how politically correct has increasingly become a weapon that is maliciously used in power struggles, whether it’s for political power or between work colleagues or even within families. Media are extremely skilled in taking words out of context to create sensation, and quite often you get the feeling that they are following an agenda rather than trying to sell more copies. It should be noted how their selling power significantly decreased because of the internet, which makes journalism of today more vulnerable to corruption (or influence from power structures if you prefer to call it this way).

3. THREAT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH

I will make a practical example here, in which I would need to break one of politically correct taboos for pedagogical purposes. I choose Islam as it’s a current topic but perhaps prejudice vs women or gays would provide a better example of politically correct hysteria. Let’s assume someone casually says on a social network:

“I’ve read the Quran and I found words like: ‘I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike above the necks, and strike off every fingertip of theirs’ (Sura 8:12-17). It made me fear that Islam might not be entirely a religion of peace”.

One can agree or disagree with that, but reasonable people would consider it a fair point worth debating, with others sharing their views, providing evidence of the contrary, contributing to an informed opinion. If we were in the ’70s, maybe that constructive debate could have happened. Today very few, even among intellectuals, would dare to express a similar opinion in public as they would be afraid of the merciless politically correct machine coming after them (unless they count nothing and have no affiliations like me or if they have shoulders and balls as big as Donald Trump – oops I said “balls”, now I am a sexist I shall burn in hell!).

  • If they are public figures, they would be quoted in the headlines as saying “Islam is not a religion of peace”. People would start throwing hate and flames at them, and that sentence will keep being used against them for the rest of their life. No matter what they say in their defence after, what remains in people’s head is what is more visible and creates more sensation.
  • If they have a job in a company, and they are in the middle of some power struggle, someone could denounce them even after years for being islamophobic and bringing discrimination to the workplace, which would either get them fired or get their potential for career progress compromised.

One of course is still free to express their genuine opinion, but is it real freedom when a word you say, even taken out of context, can get you persecuted? Sure, not by a special totalitarian police or by the holy inquisition, but are the intentions, the lack of forgiveness, the irrationality, the hypocrisy, the methods, and the devastating consequences on people’s life really that far away from former witch hunts used to reduce people to obedience?

“Monk (announcing Torquemada): Torquemada! Do not implore him for compassion! Torquemada! Do not beg him for forgiveness! Torquemada! Do not ask him for mercy! Let’s face it, you can’t Torquemada anything!

Torquemada: Let all those who wish to confess their evil ways and accept the true church convert now, or forever burn in hell! For now begins the Inquisition!”

(scene from Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I)

4. POTENTIAL OF BECOMING A TOTALITARIAN NEO-LANGUAGE

Children born today will have most of what they say, write, read, and watch in their life recorded and traceable, from their first cry to their last goodbye. Including all the bullshit they will say in between.

We all say stupid things during the course of our life, a lot of them, that’s part of being human. Anyone who’s honest would admit to have said things that could get them in trouble if recorded and used against them. Imagine that most of what you ever said was actually been stored and hacked, like it may happen for the children of today. Wouldn’t that make you feel under perpetual blackmail threat?

Unless we stop this madness that pushes us to turn the illusion we call words into solid entities that we make as powerful as gods (or demons), prepare for Aldous Huxley’s nightmares to become real.

Barabeke

“Night Riders”, Barabeke (2007)

This new dictatorship, supremely democratic in appearance, won’t care too much about what you say unless you have power and influence. You will be free to write your conspiracy theories on your blog, whatever you say would be lost in the buzz of billion of voices, read by very few. The new censorship won’t need to censor, most content not from mainstream media will simply be condemned to systemic irrelevance and volatility as it’s increasingly happening now. They will track you in automatic anyway based on the keyords you use, and if you start to become very popular, maybe the leader of a radical opposition, then you can start to be scared about all the data recorded about you and available to those who really want to put their hands on it and have the skills to do it. In all that data, they will find something bad or wrong you said in the past, maybe when you were 20. If they want current content to use against you, you may get an insect size spy drone following your butt up to the toilet (this is not sci-fi, such drones already exist). When they find proof of something compromising, they’ll find a way to package the scandal and get it rolling in the mainstream news. And if they don’t find proof, they’ll fabricate it.  You won’t need to be as important as Strauss-Kahn or Assange to receive these special attentions, the potential for control on every single human being is exploding exponentially and it will get more and more automated, to the point that nothing apart from our thoughts would be 100% safe from this control.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

What makes this dystopian future possible is not technological progress (which by itself is neutral), but any ideology that assigns a value to words that is enormous and literal in a way that could be compared to the value monotheist religions assign to words in their books. If on top of that such an ideology is unforgiving, like politically correct as manifested today is, then it is to be considered as a potential totalitarian neo-language, a vehicle for conformism led by fear. Failure to take power off of words may lead us to a very dark age that would see us enslaved to a totalitarian regime in which people would be afraid of anything they say, suspicious with one another, and ultimately unable to freely express what they really feel or even joke unless they are willing to take a risk.

The root of the problem is to be found in the cultural industry. Not politicians, not the financial power, not corporations: they influence and sometimes control the media, which they may use to build favour around them or damage opponents and competitors, but let’s not forget that they are also under the threat of being smashed by the same hammer. That I believe is the main reason why they are all religiously politically correct: they are scared.  It takes a lot of ingenuity to think of a financial institution or an oil company as genuine paladins of kindness and generosity, that’s a mask they have the convenience to wear and a rule they must observe in order to protect their business from the hysterical politically correct machine. They are not the source of the problem, rather the perpetrators and the victims.

A FUTURISTIC SOLUTION

As said it is the cultural industry (journalism in particular) that needs fixing, and it’s not going to fix by itself. I have a solution in mind that I believe is viable, even though extremely tricky. I suggest we start to envision an algorithm connected to the blockchain that would enable the press of tomorrow to have the following qualities:

  1. Independent from pressure from power structures, governments included.
  2. Independent from profit. Because profit rewards sensationalism and gossip, it pushes to tickle the lower instincts of people, it makes journalist opinions corruptible. One of the pillars of capitalism, the dream of full employment, is going to rapidly fall  due to progressive automation of work (47% of jobs in US at high risk in the next two decades / source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Frey and Osbourne). This will destroy the middle class (another pillar of capitalism) unless a universal basic income is introduced. Thinking about a different system is not only necessary and technically possible today, but urgent in order to avoid our societies falling apart. Within the system, it is possible to design an alternative future for journalism.
  3. Scattered. Today 90% of what you read, watch, listen to in US comes from just 6 big corporations. Concentrations of media power should not be permitted as they are a critical threat to democracy. A totalitarian regime could not arise within a system in which no one, not even the government, could own directly or indirectly more than 2% of information. And you can rest assured the quality of the information you would receive would not be inferior, but quite the opposite.
  4. Accessible and equal. Any reporter with enough readership and interestingness generated should have his/her activity and independence protected by a default salary, which should be generous enough to avoid corruption and increasable based on interest and engagement generated. No one should get rich with it though, the most popular journalist should not be allowed to earn more than 3 times than any other colleague. If they want to have no cap on how much they can earn, they can choose another profession. Journalism, because of its importance in influencing public opinion, should be approached more with the attitude of a monk on a mission rather than the attitude of a whore or a jackal.
  5. Not prosecutable, unless they write something factually false or that directly instigates violence and other criminal activities.

Under these conditions, I believe much more journalists would be enabled to practice the noble art of journalism as they learned to love it at school: information as a service to the community that is honest and independent, less based on gossip and sensations and not any more a subtle agent of marketing or manipulation of the public opinion as it is increasingly becoming today. This system would introduce conditions and enforce ethics that should significantly contrast the dark side of politically correct and its potential as totalitarian neo-language.

Utopia? I don’t think so. Today it would be technically possible to build a system that would allow similar conditions to be in place in automatic.  If any bright geek familiar with the blockchain, and also some journalist, want to start to think about how this algorithm could work, please get in touch I’ll give you all the inspiration and support I can. Change won’t be easy but the sole existence of this algorithm, even if just in theoretical form, would be an important step that make change possible.

FINAL APPEAL FOR EVERYONE

I’d like to conclude with a note addressed to people in general in an effort to show how we can stay on the bright side of politically correctness (which again, is supposed to be about being fair and not hurting the feelings of others) without falling for its dark side. After all, if people were not so incline to sensation and gossip, full of prejudices, envious, happy to feast on the disgraces of others and celebrate the fall of anyone powerful, there wouldn’t be need to change how the cultural industry work (it should be noted though how media, by constantly fuelling the lower instincts and bombarding with negativity, empower and exacerbate what is low in us. As to say: if your life is shit, part of the blame goes to the media. If it doesn’t appear so, it’s because we are so constantly immersed in them and we forget how was life without them).

Only a culture that is strongly grounded on forgiveness and compassion can bring more peace and acceptance to the world.

Here is what you can do to help bring on this culture. Someone said something wrong or hurtful? Tell them, help them understand their mistake. They apologise? Forgive them. They don’t apologise? Forget about it, move on, there are other people you can get better vibes from, spend more time with them. Just stop creating solid dark entities in your head built upon words, they are not real, they don’t exist, you created them (even if they come from others), you made them real and having a negative effect on your life. Stop labelling others and most of all don’t accept labels on yourself, just stop creating this word based drama and attaching to its shadows. Cultivate self-irony, that can save your mind from such a madness. Meditate regularly, so you will understand more deeply how words are an illusion.

“Always speak honest words and forgive and forget hurtful words. Don’t take words too seriously in general. Cultivate irony and direct it primarily towards yourself.”
(4th of my 10 commandments for the digital millennium)