Sunday, May 01, 2016

John Cleese, 1984, and PC Evasions

No sooner than I had finished my last post than I saw this excellent statement of John Cleese's shared on a friend's Facebook wall:

John Cleese: Political Correctness Can Lead 
to an Orwellian Nightmare:


Follow Big Think here:

This resulted in a comment and conversation as follows (some names changed, and commentary added as I feel like it.)
Lib R. Awl: The problem with this is two-fold. First, as he touches on in the video, there are two types of political correctness. We need different nomenclature for these.

Second is there's a purposeful counter-movement to categorize all political correctness as seeking a land of zero criticism, and using that erroneous classification to push back against equality, or even push for bigotry.
Dave Leigh: Reasonable people understand from context what is meant. We have over 20 definitions listed in the dictionary for the word "run", and nobody sees that as a "problem". So having seen this video, start to finish and seen the context, do you honestly have a "problem" with this? For instance, do you think that that is what John Cleese is doing here can be taken as a "push for bigotry"?
So here I'm simply saying that the context shouldn't be a problem. Lib's second point gave me pause because I saw nothing remotely resembling a push for inequality or bigotry in what Cleese said. So I asked for clarification.
Lib R. Awl: I didn't not say I did not understand the context, but that others do not, intentionally or otherwise. Lumping them into categories of reasonable or unreasonable does not change the fact that the contexts get muddied.
I asked a simple question: does Lib think that John Cleese is pushing for bigotry? I assume that Lib understood the context, otherwise I wouldn't have asked my question. And categories of "reasonable or unreasonable" are essential. You can have a conversation only with the former because the latter are unreasonable. So please forgive the snark in my response:
Dave Leigh: Whew. We agree, because *I* didn't say you didn't understand the context either. I gave you the same benefit of the doubt I give others. Who are these others, btw? I don't think they're here. At least, I don't think that our host has a problem with context, or you or me either. I certainly don't think that John Cleese does.

Perhaps it's the company I keep, but I'd have a hard time finding anyone who could watch Cleese patiently explain that there is a good kind of political correctness and a bad kind and then walk away unintentionally confused. As for those who are intentionally confused, I pay them as much mind as I would a guy who straps rockets to his minivan and then complains about road safety.

You might conclude that I don't think what John Cleese is saying could be taken as a "push for bigotry" in any way that constitutes a problem for any reasonable person, you included.
That's right. I have to specifically state that I'm not calling Lib unreasonable.
Lib R. Awl: The problem lies in not addressing those who conflate the two types of political correctness, which was my second point. Ignore them, and they run for president.
Our Host: lets leave Hillary Clinton out of this....
Apparently if you lack specificity about two types of politicians, somebody's going to come along, conflate them, and make a joke. A funny one, too. But note that suddenly we're talking about politicians instead of freedom of thought and speech. Note that John Cleese is not talking about politicians at any point. The thought he is expressing is not about election politics. Lib is attempting to change the subject, and it's not unnoticed. Furthermore, the attempt is a slide toward the smug style noted at and discussed in my previous post. You don't have to mention who they are, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. They are idiots. While no one can mistake me for a fan of Trump's, I am a fan of sticking to the subject:
Dave Leigh: I think, Lib, that you're illustrating Cleese's point. He said, "when you're around super sensitive people you cannot relax and be spontaneous because you have no idea what's going to upset them next."

When viewing a conversation between two individuals, interviewer and interviewee, it is not reasonable to expect a speaker to address the questions that *you* would have asked had you been there. It's even less reasonable to expect that person to explain points that *you* imagine will be misunderstood by hypothetical viewers who *may* be either unintelligent or unreasonable.

That said, your first point was addressed by Cleese in the video itself. As far as I can see, your second point has nothing to do with Cleese, this video, or anybody in this conversation. You say that part of the problem with this statement is that there is a purposeful counter-movement, and I asked if you thought Cleese was doing that. IOW, here, in this video, is Cleese pushing for inequality or bigotry?

It should be an easy question. Yes or no. But if it's "no", it's irrelevant, because that's a problem with something some other guy said.
It's really a rhetorical question. Of course there's nothing wrong with what Cleese said. Of course Lib's comment was irrelevant within that context. But I would rather Lib admit it.

I don't ask for much. But I do ask for this: if you tell me that there's a problem with what someone said, then point out the problem with the thing he actually said. Do not invent people... not YOU, mind you!... who misunderstand or deliberately twist the message into something different, find fault with that fictional parody of the original point, and then claim that the problem lies with the original speaker. That is so irrational it should never have to be explained.

It's also a shit-ton of work. Being a "Lib R. Awl" must be incredibly hard due to the sheer creativity involved in providing completely unrelated, fictional meanings to be assigned to someone else's words. And since you're far too intelligent to hold these fictional meanings yourself, you must then invent fictional dumb-asses and fictional villains to hold them for you. It must be exhausting.
Lib R. Awl: It is reasonable to expect the interviewee to see the broader picture. What we see instead is Cleese basically taking a “Get Off My Lawn” position, generalized against college students.

It's no different than a reporter asking a protester, “Don't you think the speakers have a right to free speech?” The answer is obviously yes, but it narrates the issue away to a lesser problem.
Lib doesn't even notice that college students were not generalized in the statement at all. Rather, Cleese noted in a broader discussion of free speech that he was warned away from college campuses. To Lib's mind, it's all about Lib. The "broader picture" is, of course, defined by Lib. It has nothing to do with trying to accurately note the context of Cleese's statement or understand the message that Cleese gave.

Lib has changed my mind; this is not a reasonable person. It's a very simple thing to hear a speaker and either admit that they're not advocating bigotry, or explain how they are. At that point a conversation can move on. But here we are instead getting slogans and desperate evasions. We've reached the point where it's just silly.
Dave Leigh: Cleese made a case for tolerance. He said that he's offended every day, and yet that does not make him want to silence anyone. However, YOU claim he's taking a "Get off my lawn" position, which is blatantly inaccurate and misleading. And given your prior statements, you full-well know better. I'm not ready to believe that you didn't answer yet again because yet again you simply didn't understand the question. I won't ask again. You know that there's not a thing wrong with what he said.

It is your mis-characterization that "narrates the issue away to a lesser problem". The larger problem here... the one being made by Cleese... is not just the quashing of freedom of speech, but the sheer lack of human respect that would deny others their say. Hence his reference to 1984. This is Cleese's statement. To say that Cleese "narrates the issue away" from some other point that you'd rather make is your problem, not his.
I was sorely tempted to note the implicit fear of Lib's response. The answer here is, of course, "No, Cleese is not pushing for inequality or bigotry." But in saying that you have to go back to what he is saying, which is that every voice matters, especially critical voices. This is a message that absolutely terrifies the new Left. They will tie their asses around their necks to avoid it, as you can see from Lib's evasions.


And with that we'll part ways with the conversation, and with "Lib R. Awl".

Now you might notice that I take the liberty of reading quite a lot into Lib's responses. This is far from our first conversation. Lib has over the years become more and more the reflexive parrot and less and less the critical thinker, and our conversations have been less and less productive. When a person meet the assertion that freedom-of-speech is a good thing with either agreement or rational debate; when that person cannot answer whether a man is advocating bigotry because the answer is at odds with the pre-set ideological script; then it's clear that what we have here is a 'religious' zealot. Just one more reason why the Left should abandon the "smug style".

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