Debating Bill Maher and George Carlin
Throughout this campaign season, Democratic presidential candidates have made a point of maintaining strict political correctness. While Republicans use controversial terms like “Islamic terrorism,” Democrats refrain from using any style of language that could possibly be construed as offensive. Politi- cal correctness is central to the Democratic candidates’ campaigns, but according to liberal comedian Bill Maher, political correctness could cost Democrats the election.
“Americans have been choking on political correctness and overly careful politicians for the last generation or two and are sick of it,” Maher said in his 3,500 word essay regarding the danger of political correctness. This isn’t the first time Maher has spoken out against political correctness; in fact, Maher used to have a television program called “Politically Incorrect” (the intentional antithesis of which is the title of my column). Democrats generally support the idea of political correctness, which makes Maher’s dislike for the construct strange due to the fact that Maher is an extremely liberal Democrat himself. Surprisingly, it isn’t unusual for well-known liberals to have disdain for political correctness. George Carlin, one of the greatest comedians of all time, was a staunch liberal who hated political correctness, going as far as to compare it to fascism.
“Smug, greedy, well-fed white people have invented a language to conceal their sins — it’s as simple as that,” Carlin said in one of his many anti-PC rants, also citing political correctness as “America’s new form of intolerance.” Neither Maher nor Carlin meant to say that it is okay to use racial slurs and sexist remarks, but rather that one’s speech must not be censored, even if that person is running for public office.
Maher and Carlin are not wrong — Americans should and do have the right to say whatever they please, even if it is of- fensive, and that freedom extends equally to politicians (just ask Trump). That said, there is a difference between exercising one’s freedom and demonizing an entire culture. The specific term Maher writes about Democrats refusing to use is “Islamic terrorism.” Republicans frequently talk of Islamic terrorism and its dangers, some going as far as to suggest all Muslims are potentially dangerous. Democrats have avoided this kind of rhetoric in a display of respect for the countless peaceful and good Muslims in the world. Maher believes Bernie and Hillary’s avoidance of the term “Islamic terrorism” is turning off supporters who are more worried about their safety from terrorist threats than the semantics of political correctness, which is probably true. That being said, it is more important that the candidates maintain their message of acceptance than pander to their constituents. Maher is an extremely respectable and intelligent man, but for him to suggest that Democrats need to use the same hateful terminology as Republicans in order to win is just short of ignorant. If Democrats allow terrorism to become branded Islamic, then suddenly radical ideas like temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States become slightly less radical. It doesn’t matter if it’s inconvenient. All that matters is that all people, regardless of their background, are treated equally in the United States.
In the end, it comes back down to the true definition of political correctness. Political correctness at its core is simply not saying things that could hurt people. Saying one is oppressed by political correctness is like saying one is oppressed by laws prohibiting assault — sure, it is unfortunate that we don’t have the right to hit people we don’t like, but taking away your ability to hurt someone else is an example of a time when restricting one’s freedom is necessary. As for the democratic candidates, all one can hope is that voters are smart enough to see through hatred and realize political correctness is not the enemy.