Under the familiar and altogether laughable guise of inclusivity, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee exponentially amplified its ‘politically-correct’ war on free speech by unironically warning students not to use the term — you guessed it — “politically correct.”
In fact, criticizing the university’s assault on thought in the form of an attack on words by employing the term “political correctness” is now considered a ‘microaggression,’ according to the school’s Ministry of Truth … er … Inclusive Excellence Center.
As Orwell rolls in his grave, the Center claims disparaging its campaign against free speech as political correctness “has become a way to deflect, say that people are being too ‘sensitive’ and police language,” in part because it is “disconnected from authentic understanding of impact.”
Yes, the program constructed for the sole purpose of policing speech humorlessly blames its critics — for policing speech.
Not-at-all shockingly, the somehow soberly-named Inclusive Excellence Center’s Just Words campaign’s exhaustively picky list of verboten language only catapults the absurdity of political correctness into the ionosphere from there.
Posters plastered across campus blast such commonly-used slang as “lame,” which, apparently, “ridicules and ignores the lives of amputees”; “crazy,” because it “creates a negative and demeaning perspective of people with mental health diagnoses”; “trash,” which “uses class to marginalize and dismiss individuals of lower socioeconomic status”; and — hold onto your jaw — “bitch,” because, duh, it “targets and dehumanizes women and [can be] used toward men to suggest femininity.”
Although the Just Words website claims it is “not seeking to tell people what they can/cannot say,” and UW-Milwaukee spokeswoman (spokesperson?) Michelle Johnson insists “the university strongly supports free speech,” its overt attempt to act as student thought police is as undeniable as it is dangerous.
To wit, Johnson continued, “The goal is to raise awareness of the impact of the words and to encourage students, staff and others to think about the words that they use. We hope they will ask themselves, ‘Are the words I am choosing truly conveying what I want to say?’”
Thankfully for small miracles, the Just Words campaign is funded by student fees rather than taxpayer dollars; but to imagine a public university — the now-abandoned bastion of spirited debate and competing ideas — allocating students’ money toward misguided and damaging censorship, insults the very concept of higher learning.
Johnson, Heat Street reported, explained Just Words came to fruition in response to “a growing number of questions and comments from students about micro-aggressions, what they meant and where they come from.”
Reviewing existing research on problematic language — yes, that is a thing — and interviewing students and staff, a UW-Milwaukee team “used multiple sources to explore the origins, contexts, and impacts of the terms and phrases, including multiple dictionaries and people’s experiences with words,” Johnson noted. “Once the team arrived at an initial description of the origin and impact of the term, we asked colleagues, peers and experts to review and offer their input.”
Apparently, the team failed to include constitutional and free speech advocates in their discussion, who could have saved ample time by answering such student inquiries with the more truthful: Microaggression has been constructed by a society too sensitive to endure less-than marginally-offensive language, and would prefer wholescale censorship of thought over honest discussion, because rather than coming to terms with, at best, minimally hurtful words individually, it’s easier to eradicate the language and pretend there won’t be astronomical repercussions in the curbing of basic rights in the future.
On that note, Ari Cohn, a free speech attorney with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Heat Street UW-Milwaukee should tread carefully down this path.
“While universities are free to educate students about the impact of certain words or language and encourage them to consider that while speaking to one another, such efforts must be strictly aspirational,” Cohn advised. “A university that engages in a campaign like this must be careful and make clear to students that no administrative or disciplinary action will be taken against those who do not agree or comply with the university’s views.”
Whether those who already feel language is a literal weapon will have the restraint necessary not to extend its overarching speech police plans to include penalties or punishments to free-speakers would appear a dubious open question — particularly in light of Just Words’ revealing multiphased plan.
Leaving no doubt about its grandiose designs on reining in language, Just Words unabashedly calls the first, poster, phase “passive programming.” Somewhat formidably, phase two “active programming,” which will be facilitated by UMW staff, invites campus community members to “engage in conversation … about micro aggressions and the campaigns” — with the distressing side note it only ‘hopes’ to include “critical dialogue.”
But critical dialogue — in fact, critical thought — has largely been left by the wayside by a growing number of colleges and universities seeming to spend the majority of their time inventing new ways in which to be offended by the words, actions, and deeds of others than in educating students on the imperative importance of protecting the right to free speech.
Mind-numbingly ironic as UW-Milwaukee’s deeming the basic term ‘politically correct’ an attempt to police speech certainly is, campuses across the country have upped the ante significantly by creating Bias Response Teams to mete out dystopian re-education on the spot when someone finds just about anything offensive.
Thanks to UW-Milwaukee’ Just Words and similar programs and BRTs at numerous other institutions of supposed higher learning, the premise of inclusivity has been thwarted, warped, and twisted into an excuse to further divide campus populations, freeze free discourse, allow blame to trump personal responsibility, stifle productive discussion, turn students into citizen-snitches, create a monoculture of excruciatingly limited ideas, and force every person on campus to police their most basic thoughts — while utterly ignoring the irony these programs created this mess to begin with.
In fact, the true accomplishment of such programs on campuses is the inculcation of students into the nation’s war on terror-driven police state. Teaching the willfully and readily offended to turn to administrators — or, in some cases, campus police — at the drop of a word to ‘adjust’ a perceived injustice handily reinforces the notion only the authorities are equipped to provide a solution. In the vein of the Department of Homeland Security’s ubiquitous If You See Something, Say Something, ‘spot-the-terrorist-in-your-neighbor’ propaganda campaign, students who might assume to be ‘doing the right thing’ become informants against non-crimes that literally cause harm to no one for the sake of furthering authoritarian control.
To the undoubted glib satisfaction of the State, what better way to prepare impressionable minds to find suspicion anywhere and everywhere?
None of this is to say bias, discrimination, racism, bigotry, and prejudice aren’t existential realities on college campuses everywhere — campuses are, after all, microcosms of society. But to forego education and discussion amongst students, or perhaps with an impartial facilitator, in favor of programs making “perpetrators” of students who choose the wrong word, phrase, or action does nothing to advance increased understanding, much less actual inclusivity or celebration of diversity.
Rather than working to innovatively solve such systemic societal issues, political correctness run amok instead quashes the most imperative vehicle of change — honesty.
“How are students supposed to feel empowered to share their honest opinions on social issues,” lamented a UC Santa Barbara student of the campus’ BRT, “when they run the risk of being accused of ‘undermining our culture of inclusivity?’”
Every indication evidences our presence on an un-funny paradoxical slippery slope into the oblivion of torturously controlled thoughts at the expense of freedom — and if the farcically offended among us don’t get a grip soon, our peril will be cemented in newspeak.
What actually happens when someone is offended?
Hopefully, an honest dialogue is sparked, but remiss of that, the simple answer is nothing. Nothing happens. Which is as it should be in an otherwise free society.
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