This essay is the winner of The’s open up Future essay competition in the category of open up Society, responding to the question: “Has political correctness gone too far?” The winner is Julia Symons, 25 years old, native Australia.

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“Drunk top top virtue.” for this reason did Lionel Shriver, an American author, damn a commitment made by the British eight of Penguin random House, a publisher, that “its new hires and the books it acquires reflect UK culture by 2025.” A mindful effort come ensure diversity is, claims Ms Shriver, completely incompatible with the publisher’s raison d’être the acquiring and publishing an excellent works of literature. If an agent were to obtain a manuscript from a “gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of college at seven and also powers roughly town on a mobility scooter” it would certainly be published, also if its quality were execrable, warned multiple sclerosis Shriver.

Her screed suggests that the unthinking applications of politics correctness (PC), in this instance in the type of a diversity target, will certainly threaten liberal, Western society and produce small-minded individuals. Choose some of ms Shriver’s previous interventions ~ above this topic, this one to be met v outrage online, with hundreds of tweets and column-inches committed to criticising the author.


Welcome to the society wars. Welcome come “political correctness gone too far”.

The concept that political correctness has “gone mad” is familiar to anyone that follows even vaguely any type of aspect of modern political or social life. The phrase, ostensibly referring to language or activity that is designed to protect against offence or damage to safeguarded groups, has end up being a spicy criticism. The is synonymous with a sort of social McCarthyism, normally committed by the left.

In its modern-day iteration, the pops increase in a couple of various forms. First, over there is the use of the word “snowflake” come criticise younger generations—those much more likely to it is in in favour the affirmative action and gender-neutral bathrooms, for instance, that are viewed as thin-skinned and less long lasting than their forebears. The second invocation of pc gone foolish is “freedom that speech”: particularly the idea the the use and enforcement the politically correct language will certainly endanger it and by extension freedom of thought.

Regardless of just how it is labelled, its underlying idea is the same: that measures to boost “tolerance” threaten the liberal, enlightenment values that have actually forged the West. Self-styled enemies of political correctness and also proponents of free speech may uncover themselves (mis)quoting Voltaire: “I reject what girlfriend say but I will defend to the death your best to speak it.”

When framed prefer this, it seems utterly reasonable to think that political correctness has actually the potential to it is in a menace. Moreover, some facets of yongin culture, an especially the action of students—who commonly draw the ire the such culture warriors—are, in plenty of cases, cloying and also precious.

Britain’s nationwide Union of Students, and campus national politics generally, is rife with such examples: in ~ one conference, it urged its delegates to usage the “jazz hands” movement to express their appreciation, lest the noises made by clapping “trigger” various other delegates. Meanwhile Facebook, in the own efforts at tolerance, has actually made a perform of 71 genders from which its customers may select to identify, including genderqueer neutrois and bi-gender. This is farcical and also arguably trivialises the really real struggles that transgender people face.

However, some easily-dismissed instances aside, the id that politics correctness has actually gone too much is absurd. That a male who boasts gleefully around grabbing women by their genitals, mocks disabled reporters and stereotypes Muslims together “terrorists” and Mexicans together “rapists” was able to become the leader that the complimentary world should disabuse everyone of the notion. Undoubtedly those who invoke “political correctness” often use it for more cynical means. That is a smoke display for regressivism.

Let us return to Ms Shriver’s argument. It is untethered from reality. If a “gay transgender Caribbean” main school dropout were able to acquire a book deal with such ease, then wherein are all of the publications by such people? Worse yet, the dichotomy she draws in between demographic diversity ~ above the one hand and also worthwhile literature on the other indicates that writers who space not white and heterosexual create inferior literature. Moreover, multiple sclerosis Shriver seems not to have considered that illustration upon the full spectrum of the person experience, an especially by seeking the end voices and also stories that have actually been hitherto silenced or under-represented, have the right to only enrich our literature.

It is one illiberal debate masquerading together the opposite. This is typical whenever the term “political correctness” is bandied about. An additional example comes from Australia’s pugilistic previous prime minister, Tony Abbott. Throughout that country’s 2017 plebiscite on marriage equality, grandfather Abbott—a devout Catholic, society conservative and also ardent ‘No’ campaigner—urged the Australian public: “If you're concerned about...freedom the speech, vote no If you don't favor political correctness, poll no since voting no will aid to protect against political correctness in the tracks.”

By wilfully conflating several unrelated issues, Abbott managed to structure depriving same-sex couples the the appropriate to marry (and the the rights that accompany it) together a bold and also defiant declaration of freedom. That “stopping political correctness” was, for him, not just synonymous with however contingent ~ above the ongoing subjugation of specific minorities, indicates the illiberalism in i m sorry anti-PC reactionaries space steeped.

Not only is “political correctness” invoked come reinforce prejudices, the is often simplistic and also reductive. A 22% rise in knife-crime in England and Wales, largely concentrated in London, has seen alarmist headlines about London’s murder price eclipsing that of new York’s (true just if one squints hard sufficient at very specific statistics.) The factors for this room complicated, however largely to carry out with far-ranging cuts to the police (whose numbers have fallen by virtually 20% due to the fact that 2010) and likewise other social services: in the absence of youth services and clubs, for example, children are much more vulnerable come recruitment indigenous gangs. Countless experts, consisting of Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick, watch this with the lens of publicly health, in which techniques for prevention are needed, not simply enforcement.

For adversaries of politics correctness this is another an effect of political correctness run amok—and an additional convenient excuse to attack the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Throughout her tenure as home Secretary, Theresa may (hardly a bleeding heart) rightfully placed significant restrictions ~ above the usage of the policing tactic well-known as “stop and also search,” i m sorry disproportionately targeted country minorities. There was no proof that it lessened crime in any kind of statistically significant way. However, the reactionaries ploughed on, impervious come facts, through right-wing media outlets such together the Sun and also the Daily Telegraph calling for the return the stop-and-search to gain back order top top London streets.

These phenomena—invoking “political correctness” together a fig-leaf for naked prejudice, and also in spite of proof to the contrary—find their most troubling embodiment in political figures like Donald Trump and also Nigel Farage. Grandfather Trump once proclaimed that “the difficulty has actually is gift politically correct,” and sees himself together a corrective come that. Mr Farage, too, watch himself together a crusader against political correctness.

Both consider themselves to be “taking back” their respective countries from a varied actors of bogeymen: amongst them elitists, society justice warriors, Muslims and also immigrants. Both seem to want to undermine the really institutions that keep our rights and also liberties.

At best, the notion of political correctness having gone too much is intellectually dishonest; a fallacy similar to a straw-man debate or an ad hominem attack. At worst, that serves as a rallying cry to cover up the excesses that the most illiberal in our society.

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Julia Symons is an MSc candidate in an international Health at the London college of Economics.