Have the word police gone too far? The Authors Collection.


THIS MAY BE A MISTAKE, but it will not be my first or last. Yesterday, I heard something that made me stop and wonder if the word police are going too far.

First, I will begin by saying I believe we should all be aware of the feelings of others and make an effort (if that’s what it takes) to avoid saying or writing something that hurts another. But there is another side to this. People need to be careful not to take offense to any remark that could, with a good imagination, be offensive.

We all know that the owner of a Los Angeles sports team made some remarks that could be insulting to the black community. He was ultimately forced to sell his team. While I thought that was extreme, given the criminal acts of some professional athletics that are dealt a small slap on the wrist, the owner’s remarks were out of line. The fact that the remarks were private and not meant for public consumption was ignored and he was punished severely.

James R. Callan
James R. Callan

But the recent incident was more troubling. Another owner of a professional team sent (again, private) e-mails urging some of his employees to work harder to attract white fans. As the story has been reported, nothing was said to degrade anybody. No one, nor any group, was put down. It appeared that he was trying to increase his fan base.   If he said he was going to work to attract forty-year-olds, should I be offended?

He reported this and said he will sell his team because of those e-mails.

If he did have discrimination in mind, and he is now feeling regret, then fine, let him bow out of the business. But if he was merely making an effort to attract more fans, but the current atmosphere is forcing the issue, then this is wrong.

As a writer, I know that words are powerful. But intent, effect, and result should be taken into consideration. Hate speech and downgrading labels are unacceptable. But, the current mood is wrong. It is the result of a good thing pushed over the limit into a bad thing. If anyone could possibly be offended by a word or phrase, eliminate the word or phrase.

Donald Trump tried to copyright the sentence, “You’re fired.” Another company is trying to copyright or patent a simple color. Someone wrote recently she had said to a friend, “If he does that again, I’m going to shoot him.” With a jolt, she looked around to see if anyone was listening, afraid someone might call the police and report her.

There are so many things that are not “politically correct.”

LA County reprinted computer documentation to remove the terms “master” and “slave” with reference to a controlling device and a device receiving instructions from another computer. Various government agencies would not use the term “swine flu” when referring to influenza A(H1N1) as it could be offensive to some religious groups or to pork producers.

When a person says to me, “You’re an idiot,” can’t I decide right there on the spot if that is meant to be hurtful, judgmental, or simply a difference of opinion?

Could we simply apply some common sense?

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  • Jim, I believe the short answer is no. Common sense and political correctness never intersect. The great danger I see is the tendency for people to self-censor for fear they will commit a faux pas. When that happens, it is the truth that suffers.

    • Darlene Jones

      Right on, Stephen.

  • Common sense isn’t.

    Words have meaning, words have power, words hurt.

    The habit of referring to almost anything as ‘Nazi this’ or ‘Nazi that’ or calling people ‘idiots’ or ‘crazy’ is a lazy way to refer to things, as lazy as calling people who get low wages and have few choices ‘slaves.’

    While some of the politically correct choices have gone way too far, I still think it is important not to trivialize large and important things by attaching these nouns and adjectives to minor and relatively trivial examples, writing ‘the soccer coach was a Nazi, but the kids ran around doing his bidding like good little slaves because they always won.’ Offensive? Yes, and rightly so. ‘The coach was a stern taskmaster, and the kids worked hard to please him because they always won,’ doesn’t have quite the same punch – but is infinitely preferable, and far less lazy.

    And I could do better than that with a few moments reflection.

  • Caleb Pirtle

    Jim, your final sentence says it all. Let’s just use common sense and not be so thin-skinned about the world around us. There are obviously some insensitive words and phrases we should all be smart enough to throw away and forget. But so many are offended simply because they go through life looking to be offended.

  • Darlene Jones

    I think “political correctness” has gone to far – the proverbial pendulum … We’re not supposed to say “Merry Christmas” in Canada in front of our schools or have “Christmas” concerts. Bah! Humbug. And Merry Christmas to you!!!

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