Politically Correct, you know, the euphemism for "acceptable" criticism of whatever is not free speech but rather, as per George Orwell's masterwork, Politics and the English Language, a deceitful way to avoid offending anyone who may disagree with you on subjects ranging from race, diversity, pornography or the bete noire of bete noires, religion, something rather disquieting to say the least given just how important the Founding Fathers considered free speech to be in penning the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What's really amazing is that college students are generally unaware of the 1st Amendment when railing against views held by others that may be offensive, which has lead to self censorship on the part of students and faculty in some of the most prestigious institutions in America. What's even worse is the fact self censorship is happening beyond the confines of the campus as seen by the press, which has become propaganda machines and not purveyors of speaking truth to power, something the Founding Fathers intended with Amendment No. 1 of the Constitution.
To this end, PEN America discusses self censorship in a comprehensive report detailing the dangers of curtailing freedom of expression in all arenas as FOS is the only mechanism capable of maintaining a democracy as articulated by the First Amendment.
"New Report Says There's No Speech Crisis on Campus," wrote the College Fix, in a piece that was heavily critical of PEN for failing to take a stronger stand. "Report provides an overview of threats to free speech while refusing to label the campus situation a 'crisis,'" seethed Reason, in a similar article.
But the "no pervasive crisis" line isn't the whole story. If you read the text, there's no way to avoid concluding that its authors were in fact very concerned about the future of free speech in this country.
The massive amount of anecdotal detail in the report – covering everything from an incident in which an English professor was sanctioned for asking students to define the word "pornography," to the extraordinary fact that up to a third of all students are "unaware that free speech is addressed by the First Amendment" – leave the reader without any doubt that PEN was trying to address a serious issue.
"The mere fact that we put out a report of such length suggests that it's important to raise some alarm bells," says Suzanne Nossel, one of the report's authors.
This report's timing is important, for a perhaps unexpected reason. The aftermath of the Trump campaign will leave us facing some very thorny questions as a nation, particularly in the areas of speech and media freedoms.
Clearly, we're entering a new era in our national attitudes toward such principles. The issue has gone beyond campuses.
The report arrives at a moment when many free-speech advocates see a growing, and troubling, generational divide. A Gallup poll last spring showed that college students were overwhelming in favor of free expression on campus in general but also significantly in favor of some restrictions on “intentionally offensive” speech.
“From an old-fashioned free-speech perspective, it strikes one as contradictory,” said Alberto Ibargüen, the chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a sponsor of the poll.
The PEN report digs right into those seeming contradictions. It outlines the cases for and against demands for safe spaces, trigger warnings (which some students demand be given with class assignments relating to difficult topics, like sexual assault) and campaigns against so-called microaggressions (small, often unintentional racial or other slights), and then explores the ways they do, or don’t, conflict with free expression.
Weasal words one and all. Read Politics and the English Language to see why George Orwell understood the importance of free speech better then anyone.