Trigger warnings, micro-agressions, political correctness… Enough!

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Lance Dutson: I don't think anyone would disagree that American college campuses are a bastion of political progressivism. In fact, more and more they're turning into the realized liberal state.

And I have to tell you, Steven, it's not an impressive sight. Thought police, safe spaces, trigger warnings... is this the America the Left is trying to create?

Steven Biel: Here we go... You and Donald Trump complaining about political correctness destroying America.

Left Brain: Steven Biel

Steven Biel is a political consultant and former campaign director at the progressive group MoveOn.org. He lives in Portland with his wife and two kids.
www.StevenBielStrategies.com

Right Brain: Lance Dutson

Lance Dutson is a political communications consultant, veteran of Maine Republican campaigns, and owner of As Maine Goes. He lives in Falmouth.
www.RedHillStrategies.com

But I'm one of those people who believe that language matters. If you call my wife a "girl" to her face, she'll correct you in no uncertain terms, and I will too, because it’s insulting.

I'm glad that norms of communication are being actively re-considered on college campuses. And it's happening in corporate workplaces too.

Lance: Cultural sensitivity is admirable, but what's going on in academia is madness. The near-violent reaction these severely misguided brats are having right now is just too much.

It's literally the case that a discussion like this--and no doubt the use of the term 'brats'--would itself be labeled as a “microaggression” on college campuses and banned with sanction right now. The orthodox Left's lack of respect for free speech is stunning.

Steven: I think you're showing how many years it's been since you've been on a college campus (yes, that was an ageist microaggression--my apologies).

Listening to you, people would think that college campuses are a non-stop barrage of trigger warnings and sensitivity classes. Actual surveys find that 85% of professors have never once had a student request a trigger warning. And no campus anywhere in America actually requires them.

Lance: Talk to a professor. I'm not making this up, and it's a problem.

Campus activism used to be helpful to American society because it helped push limits and expand our understanding of freedom. From civil rights to free speech, campuses used to be the vanguard for social evolution in America.

But what’s happening now is distinctively anti-freedom. It’s fetishized tyranny, and the only thing it advances is an animalistic, Trump-esque mob rule that this country was specifically founded to counter.

Steven: Calm down, Lance. It’s not that bad. In fact, a lot of this isn't even about the Left. It's about preparing young people to succeed in a global economy.

MBA programs are as tough on this stuff than Women's Studies departments, because in Corporate America, if you lose a contract because you said something racist or sexist that offended the CEO, you don't get to say "oh, lighten up." You’re fired.

Maybe in the white male-dominated days of Mad Men you could get away with that. Not anymore.

Lance: Oh, it’s coming from the Left all right. And it’s reflective of what has happened to the Left in general.

There’s a great line from a Crosby Stills and Nash song about the 1968 Democratic Convention fiasco in Chicago: “Let a man live his own life, rules and regulations who needs them? Throw them out the door.”

Those are hippie words from the 60s that the Left today would recoil from. You’d sooner hear Ted Cruz echo those words than Bernie Sanders. Now a song like that would require a trigger warning.

Steven: I’m amazed by this overheated “trigger warning” backlash.

We get warnings all the time on TV or radio telling us "viewer discretion is advised." Usually these warnings are coming from the Right--people like Tipper Gore, terrified of sex and imposing their puritanical values on everyone else.

Now we have a small uptick in warnings aimed at addressing the concerns of women and people of color and we hear cries of censorship.

It makes me wonder: Are you concerned about free speech or defending your dominant position of cultural privilege?

Lance: Cultural privilege? We're talking about the children of the uber-elite here. If you go to an Ivy League school, you're automatically one of the most privileged, hyper-elite people in the world.

It's the working class reacting to a macro-aggressive assault on core freedoms, and if Democrats don't see this for what it is, they're in big trouble.

Steven: I don't know about the Ivy League. I went to a state school in fly-over country, and there were plenty of students from all kinds of backgrounds there. (Just so you know, it’s ok for me to say "fly-over country," but not you, because I'm reclaiming a derogatory term as a source of power.)

I come at this as someone who grew up in a very working class home where the words "woman" and "broad" were used interchangeably. To this day when I point it out to my Republican family members I get accused of "political correctness."

But most of the time it’s just about learning to get along with people who are different than you.

Lance: I would have thought we could both agree with the old saw that the best answer to bad speech is more speech, not less. But I will congratulate you for making it through this conversation without retreating to your safe space.

Steven: As a cis white male culturally conditioned to thinking all my ideas are good ones, this IS my safe space.