Over the past few years bullying has become a hot topic of conversation. Perhaps I should amend that: Bullying has become a hot topic in the media as it has been pushed by progressives to force mainstream acceptance of their agenda.
The bullying I am talking about is not the big kid pushing around the little kid or the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. The acts of bullying that are making headlines are about words and feelings. Many times it is used as a catch-all for anyone that challenges the leftist ideas — suspending kids for expressing their religious views or making a “gun” with their pointer finger and thumb.
You will recognize that many similarities between the new anti-bullying trend today the political correctness (PC) movement in the ’90s. This is just the latest example of a repressive movement aiming to stifle any and all dissent.
In 1949, George Orwell wrote the groundbreaking book "1984." In it he described the idea of Newspeak — a state-created language intended to restrict man’s ability to describe his own thoughts and feelings. One particular aspect of Newspeak was the idea of "thought crime" — harboring unspoken thoughts that could be deemed contentious or “anti-social.” Lacking the words to express displeasure was not enough, you could be arrested for thinking inexpressible notions.
In America circa 2013, your own intentions do not matter if you express any idea that can be construed as “hate speech.” Intentions only matter when you enact the leftist idea of what is good even if it destroys people’s lives.
According to the American Bar Association, “hate speech” is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.
A noble gesture, but what happens when you call someone of a different race a jerk or more colorful explicative? If you are a white male, that is hate speech. If a black man says it to a black woman, that is sexual discrimination or harassment, another form of hate speech.
When it comes to policing language, it is the offendee’s subjective interpretation that matters, not the offender’s intent. In fact, the offendee’s prior actions are not even a consideration — the person may have just run over your pet, but your anger and mental anguish does not compare to the supposed psychological damage the offendee suffers when you express outrage at that person.
All we have to do is look at any criticism of President Obama. Do not agree with his policies? Well, you must be racist. But I am black and disagree; fortunately I have liberal white folks there to tell me I am an Uncle Tom.
These accusations are not meant to point out actual racism, they are meant to discredit and silence opposition. The logical fallacies run wild: hasty generalization, straw man, no true Scotsman, and appeal to ignorance just for starters. Needless-to-say, such indictments are not valid points of debate.
The desire to silence critics is due to the left’s own narcissistic tendencies. A narcissist projects his or her own thoughts onto others; they cannot imagine others think differently. The worst policies are made when we think inductively: From a small sample they make conclusions at large.
In such cases, a person examines their own prejudices and weakness and assumes everyone else has them. “I have racist thoughts and must struggle to contain them, so everyone must feel that way,” or “I have homo-erotic thoughts everyone does.” Such thoughts result in rancor, self-loathing, and knee-jerk reactionary bills that abridge freedom to repress their own demons.
It also results in thinking that someone would never say mean words to others unless there is a darker thought behind it. Better to prevent anyone from saying something mean than risk hurt feeling. One’s own thought crimes becomes everyone’s. Public shaming of any and all though crimes is coercion; it is bullying.
When you label dissent as bullying, you stifle discussion. When you endorse the policing of thought crime, you do not change minds, only harden hearts. Consensus and understanding only comes through an open dialogue. You cannot change a bigot’s mind by censuring his thoughts, you change it by talking to him about his views and actions and getting him to empathize with others.
But the charge of bullying not only has been used to suppress objection, it has been used to condone bad behavior.
Saying women must be responsible and aware in order to prevent getting into a bad situation is “mansplaining,” or contributing to “rape culture.” No, it is saying that you do not walk down a dark alley in a bad part of town drunk and alone.
Telling someone they are overweight and it is unhealthy, pointing out how a proper diet and exercise actually improves their mental disposition and looks is “fat shaming” and not accepting them for who they are. There are even court cases where clients sue their trainers for mental anguish because they tell them to stop eating junk food and keeping working out. Is everyone taking crazy pills?
There is a difference between bullying; being rude; calling someone on their bad behavior; and constructive criticism; but frankly, I do not think that the left and the culture they have helped to create sees the difference anymore.
People can declare that life should just be full of love and acceptance, but to do so is to delude oneself. Life is not rainbows and unicorns. It is a grind that takes perseverance and fortitude to come out ahead.
Denouncing opposing ideas and thoughts as bullying cheapens those that are truly bullied and oppressed. If we are ever to overcome the rancor that permeates our modern society, we must fight against the attempt to give into political correctness and cry “bully!” any time someone hurts our feelings.
Sometimes we should simply grow thicker skin, but we also need to take a step back and examine our own behavior. Instead of hiding in an echo chamber of affirmation, we should engage those with different thoughts and experiences to understand their point of view. If we step out of our own projections, we might just find that the person we thought was a bully is actually a friend.
Armstrong Williams is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.” He is a political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called “The Right Side,” and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (6-7 p.m. and 5-6 a.m.) Monday through Friday. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now.
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