Is Political Correctness Liberal or Conservative?

President Obama and Brendan O'Neill of Spiked weigh in on the politics of safe spaces and microaggressions.


During NPR's interview with President Obama this week, the former professor of constitutional law reluctantly dipped his toe into the debate over speech on college campuses. Responding to Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep's question about protests at Obama's alma mater, Harvard University, the president said he favored a general policy of free and open dialogue.

"There have been times where you start seeing on college campuses students start protesting somebody like the director of the IMF or Condi Rice speaking on campus because they don't like what they stand for. Well, feel free to disagree with somebody – but don't try to just shut them up."

But when it came to assigning responsibility for the protests, Obama declined to point a finger at either end of the political spectrum. Instead, he offered this diplomatic hedge: "I do think that there have been times on college campuses where I get concerned that the unwillingness to hear other points of view can be as unhealthy on the left as on the right."

Which raises the question: Is political correctness a liberal or a conservative phenomenon?

Brendan O'Neill believes P.C. is an ideology of the political right. O'Neill, the editor of Spiked magazine, offers his contrarian take on the campus debates in an interview with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie.

"I think political correctness is quite right wing," said O'Neill. "I think it's a very conservative idea in the sense that it's about putting a lid on controversy, stamping down heated debate, risky ideas, anything that might kind of rattle the apple cart."

O'Neill, who has called for a repeal of hate speech laws in Britain, no longer sees the state as the main opponent to free speech. The enemy, he says, is ideological conformity. Watch Reason TV's full interview with him here: