Political Correctness

Is the Campus PC Movement Dying?

Liberals are beginning to get that it may jeopardize their progressive project


Last week, The New York Times reported on the absurd efforts of Clark and other universities to warn incoming freshmen against microaggressions (that Nick Gillespie lampooned). But in my morning

College Class
Shastio via Foter

column at The Week I suggest that Clark may be part of a waning trend. There are emerging sings that the campus PC movement is collapsing from the weight of its internal contradictions because:

a movement that gives so much normative weight to subjective triggers cannot be harnessed for constructive purposes because it has as many fissures points as it has members. Furthermore, everyone has an incentive to weaponize their personal angst, turning each against the other, which is why the movement has reached a point where it is devouring its own ideological kin and threatening to finish off the progressive project.

Go here to read the whole thing.

NEXT: Cop Settles Mother-Daughter Dispute By Arresting Daughter

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Victimhood is the fossil fuel of academia. Its too great and convenient a source of power to give up just because some are claiming it’s heating the climate on college campuses.

    It will only truly die when something emerges to replace it.

    1. Nah. The truth is there’s only ever so much victimhood to go around. And the bulk of people have to be in the “oppressor” camp. Otherwise, the cost of maintaining the victimhood charade gets too high to tolerate and the practitioners have to start worrying about becoming real victims. And even the level of victimhood predominating on campuses today is only able to be maintained by a combination of mandates and subsidies from the feds.

      1. ‘Victimhood Unsustainable – Peak victimhood has been achieved!’

      2. I suspect the same way lefties don’t realize that economics and freedom is not a zero-sum game, that we can’t figure out that derp is not a zero-sum game.

  2. Absolutely. And as much as I despise Trump, I give him credit for much of this. He lustily impaled the heart of the PC movement. What he didn’t realize was that this act would be his own undoing. And for all the reasons that you mention – hoisted by their own petard. You can’t say “PC is killing us” and then “Free speech is foolish” and “Shut down the presses” and “They’re lying about us and we’re gonna sue them. We gotta do it, folks.”

  3. The campus PC movement is not dying. It is being reinforced by the Obama administration’s Office for Civil Rights and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which are demanding that colleges adopt sweeping speech codes.


    PC has a stranglehold on discourse at many colleges. This will only grow under the Clinton administration.

    In 2013, the Obama administration demanded that the University of Montana impose a sweeping campus speech code that would have banned all “unwelcome” speech about sexual issues as “sexual harassment,” even if only a hypersensitive person would have objected (like a student offended by a professor discussing AIDS). Education writers like Joanne Jacobs said this rule would effectively brand every student a sexual harasser. It made these demands in a letter from from the Justice Department and the Office for Civil Rights. In 2016, a political appointee in the Obama Justice Department made similar demands to the University of New Mexico.

    Under the Obama administration, civil-rights officials have recently grown bolder in pressuring institutions to restrict constitutionally-protected speech. The EEOC recently overturned the dismissal of a harassment complaint by a black postal employee arguing that a co-worker’s repeated wearing of the Gadsden flag (common among libertarians and Tea Partiers) was racial harassment.

    1. It is being reinforced by the Obama administration’s Office for Civil Rights and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division,

      The fact that the government put this in place is hardly a sign of its strength. It means it needs external mandate to remain intact.

      1. The fact that the Administration and the Education Department ‘updated policies’ regarding transgender bathroom usage for public schools is no less insidious.

        We’ll go through a period where free speech just doesn’t happen because that’s the way it’s always been. What passes for STEM will dominate campuses. Subsequently, we’ll need noble social leaders to bring back the arts and protect our speech from wicked businesses, religious groups and economic-types who’ve oppressed us for so long.

      2. My thoughts too. Bureaucracies only act after the fact. If government enshrines something, it has begun descending from its peak. Anti-trust prosecution of Rockefeller and Microsoft are perfect examples.

      3. It means it needs external mandate to remain intact.

        Indeed. And now it has the external mandate. So it will remain largely intact.

        To kill it, you need to use the external mandate. That means normal people need to play the game, and bury these diversity offices in complaints about how the discrimination engaged in “on behalf of oppressed groups” is, itself, discriminatory, oppressive of other groups, and illegal.

        This is a gunfight. Don’t show up unless you are willing to exchange fire with your enemies.

        1. To kill it, you need to use the external mandate.

          No, if it requires the external mandate to remain intact, all you need to do to kill it is remove the external mandate.

    2. “—-this rule would effectively brand every student a sexual harasser.—-”

      I would not be surprised to learn that this wasn’t at least part of the reason for the obnoxious rules. It’s easy to purge ‘undesirables’, if everyone is guilty. It will just be selectively prosecuted.

  4. Dalmia, you should get together with Certain People Who Comment Here and talk about this libertarian non-issue becoming more of a non-issue.

  5. Emerging sings sounds pretty fucking progressive and PC to me.

    1. Yeah, sounds like the name of a band of lesbian folk singers.

  6. “Furthermore, everyone has an incentive to weaponize their personal angst, turning each against the other, which is why the movement has reached a point where it is devouring its own ideological kin”

    The problem with social justice warriors is that eventually they run out of other people to demonize.

    1. Well played.

    2. Thats only half the problem. The other half is that the people who are most sensitive to the SJW’s attacks are by and large, other lefties. The people the SJW types would really like to hurt dont care what some whiny bitch on Jezebel has to say about them, and so the target of choice becomes the only people they can effect, other lefties.

      1. That’s only true until they get institutional backing. When the government mandates it and the Universities hire staff to enforce it with no due process, they can go after anyone in their jurisdiction. They can impact yourb education, your future career and your community standing and there’s little push back.

    3. First they came for whitey…

    4. I say that we further this process along by overloading the system. Title IX coordinators are, above all else, bureaucrats, and nothing offends a bureaucrat more than being forced to do a lot of work. So every college student who opposes the PC movement should make it a point to report no fewer than 40 alleged “micro aggressions” every day. If anybody you do not know price to strike up a conversation with you, report them for interacting with you without your express consent. Hell, any student who looks at himself in the mirror should report himself for engaging in sexual conduct without consent. Keep it up, and the system will collapse within a week

      1. Expect a rule that states that if a complaint doesn’t fall within the Coordinators idea of what would constitute a violation that you yourself are now subject to prosecution, punishment, or being expelled. Making another rule is super easy, and after you chop off a few heads you can expect everyone else to keep theirs down.

        At least that’s what I would do if I was a power hungry bureaucrat who was also astonishingly lazy.

  7. I see no signs of it abating.

    1. someone pointed out to me once that the answer to any question that is posed as the title of an article is “No”
      Click bait 101

  8. The campus PC movement was only able to survive so long due to secrecy. Once the mainstream found out how terrible it actually was it was doomed to a slow but certain death.

    1. It’s never really about the absurd extremes they take it to. It’s about the inches they gain. Most people will look at them and say, “Yeah, that’s just crazy, but I suppose they must have a point somewhere. We’ll give them a bit.” Look at how the income tax wnet from a couple percentage points for the super rich to what we have today.

      1. ^^^^This. That, REALLY is the problem. It begins to permeate virtually everything around us.

      2. *applause*

      3. Fabian strikes again.

  9. Is it bad that I still don’t know what a microagression is (I refuse to Google it)? Or how exactly you’re supposed to figure out when something needs a trigger warning?

    1. Not knowing what a microaggression is is a microaggression.

      1. I’m triggered by his unwillingness to educate himself.

    2. Making a smug, above-it-all statement like that is a microaggression and should have come with a trigger warning.

      1. Ugh, you’re right. I am sorry I aggrieved you. I Googled it to appease your feelings…

        Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

        I still have no idea what that means.

        1. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just like the term “alt-right”, it has no meaning except what some people give it when they decide to use it.

          1. My family is of Middle Eastern ancestry. Is it a migroaggression when Anglos make hummus with lentils or use couscous instead of rice?

            1. That’s a double-whammy, it’s cultural appropriation microaggression.

            2. I’m a white man who’s making chicken biryani tonight using cauliflower rice. How many Indian families have I literally executed with this microaggression?

              1. Literally, probably none. But must, should, know that you are killing their souls. You will go about your day tomorrow subconsciously thinking that you nailed dinner [and hopefully your impressed date] with your gastronomical creation, and that you own some aspect of Indian culinary delights. Then you will assume control of some small aspect of Eastern culture, which of course you bastardized with “cauliflower rice,” and you will behave accordingly and some Indian or similar brown Asian person who will get the impression that you disrespect curry, notwithstanding that was introduced by British colonialist. Nonetheless, there will be offense, and you caused it.


              2. I don’t know, but I do know you’ve microaggressed against all Native Americans by reminding them of those who lazily labeled them Indians (even though you are talking about actual Indians).

        2. Though the fact that it can be “nonverbal” or “environmental” unintentional actions is disconcerting.

          1. The term microaggression is actually pretty simple. It’s anything that either directly or indirectly makes someone feel bad. The idea that it can only be applied to white people (or the ‘ruling majority’) is where the whole thing falls down, of course, since everyone everywhere ‘microaggresses’ in the sense that you’ll say or do at least five things a day that make someone feel bad. (If you aren’t locked in your mothers basement or something, anyway, which seems like it would count as a ‘macroaggression’ if such a thing exists. And no, I won’t Google that because the human brain can only store limited information.)

            The thing that the left really doesn’t understand is that the only way to get rid of microaggressions is to make sure no one ever interacts with another person ever again. That’s why they try to limit the concept to their pet aggrieved classes of people. If they applied it universally it would be seen for the ludicrous bullshit that it is.

    3. Anything can be a microaggression, because someone, somewhere, will be offended by any remark or action. This should cause the whole idea of microaggression as an actionable offense to be seen as an absurdity. Of course, not all microagressions are seen as equal (some aren’t even acknowledged), hence the problem and why it may not go away any time soon.

      1. I read somewhere recently where 2 guys decided to see if they could find any words that could not be given a double meaning. They quit after an hour concluding no such words exist. Any word could have a sexual, racial, social, gender double meaning if you are crazy enough to think so. And since there are no actual standards for microaggressions, that is what you have: the crazy people sitting in judgement. To them, if you are tall and they are short, that is a microaggression. If you are pretty and they are not. If you walk faster than them. If you get better grades. Whatever makes a crazy person feel bad.

  10. My son is two years old. I’m terrified that by the time he goes to college merely looking at a woman with any sort of lust will be a expulsion-worthy offense. God forbid an 18 year old be unable to control hormonal impulses…

    1. @bassjoe: I believe it already is. Young men are being reduced to walking around like Dedalus in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; the kid was so scared by what priests had been telling him about the cardinal sin of lust and the terrors of hell he was afraid to look up from the ground lest he see a pretty girl be tempted to engage in sinful thoughts.

  11. I think the PC culture will die once the No Child Left Behind generation is behind us. That piece of legislation destroyed a generation’s ability to think outside of the box, making them afraid to even be presented with ideas that were outside their “safe” zone. Young adults who grew up under NCLB are the ones most likely to think amending the First Amendment to criminalize “offensive speech” is acceptable.

    1. PC culture started well before No child Left Behind.

  12. Our beloved government will not let this end on it’s own accord. What’s going to happen is that half of the citizens will shun the traditional college campus life and the government will subsidize it for their preferred herd mentality class, paid for of course, by us members of the deplorable basket. It will be a place of great derp, never as seen before in all civilization. They will strive for peak derp, but never achieve it.

    1. See above.

      The administration has already made moves to render children in grade school on up more ‘sensitive’ to ‘transgender’ students. The wheels to create a time where we have always been at war with microaggressions are already turning.

  13. “microinvalidate” (yes, an actual word!)

    No, it’s not. At least, it’s not a term of much semantic usefulness. Let’s take a stand here, okay? “Invalidate” is a word with a concrete, generally understood meaning. It has been coopted by the PC police to have a not altogether unreasonable meaning (denying the experiences of a “marginalized” person) (therein another questionable term). That’s fine. But in doing so, particularly by introducing embroideries like “micro,” they’ve snuck a major source of question-begging propaganda into everyday language: the idea that invalidating experience or committing an unintentional or careless faux pas serves to totally hobble the subject of such a sentence, such that the subject must then obsess over the “microaggression” which has “microinvalidated” her. That’s the disconnect that renders the notions of being invalidated or aggressed against completely meaningless, because the victim is victimizing herself. So, no, let’s not give into the linguistic hypochondria of cultural paranoiacs. They, and only they, are responsible for their oppression.

    1. See also: Racism.

    2. I’m with you and find it extremely irritating when people try to say that it’s just semantics as if that dismisses the objection.

    3. Complaints about being “invalidated” are used to say you can’t disagree with someone’s idiot ideas. You can’t point out that X won’t work, that slavery was not a US invention, etc because that “invalidates their experience” and “removes their agency”.

  14. The whole microagression/weaponized vicimhood thing just screams out for an Alinskite type attack. Everyone who opposes this sort of thing should be flooding twitter with fake accounts complaining about anything and everything the left does.

    What can the left do? Either admit that your choice of peanut butter is a heternormative attack on cisgendered people or appear insensitive to the voices of the ‘oppressed’. Rinse and repeat until that avenue of attack is useless for everyone.

    1. Agreed. We should all dress up in drag and fake some resumes for CEO jobs. When we arrive for the interview, we should just say that we’re gender fluid otherkins who are being oppressed and microagressed just by having to be interviewed by some CIS heteronormal shitlord, demand the job on the spot and ask where the ladies restroom is.

    2. To make this easier, there needs to be a website that can generate reams of SJW drivel. Or at least screenscrape random paragraphs from Everyday Feminism.

      1. Just harvest 50% of the comments on HuffPo. That should do it.

        1. If i were in college right now, i would claim to sexually identify as the Pennsylvania turnpike and then claim discrimination for everything.

  15. PC will die when the people who hate it learn how to weaponize it against the people who are advocating for it. Take the bullhorn out of the PC advocates by filing charges that their speech “microaggressed” you. This will clog their system up, and they have to address each complaint lest they look like a biased organization, which is what they are, and are called to the carpet for being so. Then they get to wear the badge of shame called “hypocrite”, which gets them uninvited to all of the off-campus parties.

    1. Progs in general and SJW’s in particular are impervious to accusations of hypocrisy. It is their raison d’?tre.

    2. Their sympathizers control the institutions. In order to turn their rules against them, you would have to enjoy the same deference and immunity they do.

      1. Think about: man accuses woman of rape/sexual assault/harassment. Most likely responses:

        1. He’s just laughed out of the Title IX coordinator’s office.
        2. The complaint is registered but then they investigate/harass him instead until he gives up.
        3. They turn the accusation around and say he was the rapist.
        4. It makes it all the way to a judicial proceeding, they magically discover standards, and he loses for lack of evidence.
        5. He is punished for filing a false report.

        The only way a man’s word would be treated as credible is with overwhelming evidence (which such cases rarely have) or when it’s against another (gay/bi) man, in which case the more “aggressive” one will be found at fault (this has already happened).

        Apart from that, it takes a substantial age difference of legal relevance (i.e., underage boy and teacher), but that’s a different animal entirely.

        1. Robby and a few other outlets covered a case where the investigation into a possible rape revealed pretty plainly that she raped him. Naturally he was expelled because there’s a chance that he did something she didn’t consent to while she was in the process of raping him

          1. To be clear, the girl obviously filed the report. But the investigation showed that she hooked up with him (her roommate’s boyfriend) while he was blacked out and she was sober. Which is rape

            1. Assuming the facts as presented are correct, that is horrifying but ultimately unsurprising. If it weren’t for double standards, …

    3. PC will die when the people who hate it learn how to weaponize it against the people who are advocating for it. Take the bullhorn out of the PC advocates by filing charges that their speech “microaggressed” you.

      This. I had a family member on derpbook go off on me a few weeks back for sharing a video that was “sexist” essentially because it reinforced traditional gender roles in a marriage relationship. She lost the moralizing tone and got all defensive when I called her a bigot for assuming that the long haired one identified as a woman and the short haired one identified as a man. Of course, the dripping sarcasm and humor of my reply was completely lost on her, but nobody has accused a SJW of having a good sense of humor.

      They’re not used to being challenged on their own playing field, and they’re not smart enough to see the inconsistencies in their own worldview. That makes for a great bit of fun when you can use their own idiotic ideas against them.

    4. PC will die when the people who hate it learn how to weaponize it against the people who are advocating for it.

      As long as its all upside and no downside for its supporters, and has institutional backing, it will flourish.

  16. Let me ask a question. What role do people think the government plays in campus political correctness? Do people consider it the dominant factor? Or is it something we’d see emerge and predominate, even if the higher educational system had no government intervention?

    1. The government plays an enormous role by enabling the college education of millions of idiots who don’t belong there.

      1. And there looking to greatly expand on that and have you pay for it.

      2. I think that’s part of it. But, I think it plays a bigger role than that.

        The subsidies inevitably drive an expansion of administration and the college as resort.

        More importantly, there are increasingly a lot of federal mandates with those subsidies (“Dear Colleague” letters, demands for speech codes) that seem to underlie the colleges’ encouragement of this behavior.

        I’ve never heard any of these political correctness stories coming out of Hillsdale, for example.

      3. The government plays an enormous role by enabling the college education of millions of idiots who don’t belong there.

        You mean via loans and admissions specifically or the public education system generally?

        1. I was thinking of loans. If it wasn’t so easy to party at college for 4 years people might consider putting a little more thought into their futures.

    2. I think the OCR (or whatever it’s called) has ridiculously ramped up the campus PC brigade over the last eight years so I’d hazard a guess it’s the dominant factor.

  17. my father in-law recently purchased a real nice Lincoln MKZ Sedan by working part time off of a pc online. have a peek at this website

    ?????? http://www.businessbay4.com/

    1. I am seriously microagressed by this…

  18. I would think it’s dying of boredom by now.

    1. It’s dying of being promulgated by boring twats. It’s a modern-day Temperance movement, and who wants to line up behind the modern equivalent of Carrie Nation?

  19. Is the campus PC movement dying? Probably not. But there’s certainly a lot more questioning of its value in public.

    Last night i read this little story *(and its accompanying not-so-little speech) about a writer who gave a speech at some Australian Writer’s Festival Thingamajig, and proceeded to explain to the audience how “The Concept of Cultural Appropriation is Stupid” etc.

    What made the situation unique is that, while the writer was predictably excoriated and banned and chastised etc. by many of the organizers and associated special-interest groups… it seems like the reaction (see: comments at the Guardian, of all places) from the broader public has been largely in agreement with the writer – and it reflected a pent-up sentiment coming from the establishment-left to their SJW peers = “just *STFU* already”

    Maybe it has something to do with Bernie losing. And Brexit. And the left otherwise recognizing they don’t actually rule the world (*yet), and maybe they need to tone some of the dumber shit from their side down.

    Regardless, her speech is worth a read. Its certainly more eloquent and entertaining than anything Shikha writes.

    1. The lesson: Yes, you really can have a tyranny of the minority.

      1. Most tyrannies, are, you know.

    2. I especially liked Lionel Shriver’s comment (from the speech): “…if hurting someone else’s feelings even inadvertently is sufficient justification for muzzling, there will always be someone out there who is miffed by what you say, and freedom of speech is dead.”

      1. Strictly speaking, all speech is dead, because there’s nothing that can be said that doesn’t offend somebody. Which is why they only care about certain types of offense. He’s right, but he’s missing the intermediate step of selective application of the rule.

        1. *note = “Lionel” is a She.

          And not a former-he/or Xe, or…you-knows. At least as far as i can tell.

          1. Apologies to Ms. Shriver.

        2. He’s right, but he’s missing the intermediate step of selective application of the rule.

          An Iron Law can cut that Gordian knot:

          Me today, you tomorrow.

          Wait until President Trump needs some political capital with the socons, and puts them in charge of Title IX.

          1. Forget the socons, imagine if he put the worst of the alt-right in charge? The socons would try to reinstate parietal rules, which would be mostly harmless and might even do some good (presuming there is anything approaching a “problem of sexual assault on college campuses”). But putting Longtorso in charge of the Title IX commission? That’s genuinely scary.

        3. Yes, I mentioned the selective application aspect


          1. Fair enough. Note that I didn’t even notice the speaker was a woman, so take what I’m saying as a tangential observation, not a critique of your argument per se.

  20. “Is the Campus PC movement dying?”
    God, I hope not. What will I do for comedic relief?

  21. a movement that gives so much normative weight to subjective triggers cannot be harnessed for constructive purposes because it has as many fissures points as it has members. Furthermore, everyone has an incentive to weaponize their personal angst, turning each against the other, which is why the movement has reached a point where it is devouring its own ideological kin and threatening to finish off the progressive project.

    This paragraph is excellent, well written. This is what those of us who hate this stuff predict will happen, but it’s hard to see when it will happen– and you begin to doubt if it will happen when you’re smack-dab in the middle of it.

    1. So… we truly are in the midst of the libertarian moment?

      1. The iPhone7 is coming out. That’s pretty great for consumers of wireless headphones, right?

  22. (such as when white women clutch their purses in the presence of black or Latino men)

    It’s not my purse I’m ‘clutching’ when I’m in the presence of Crusty.

  23. I have to ask, regarding the political correctness business, is it an ongoing culture war [that has been in existence for over 20 years now], a vote getting scheme to scare certain groups into voting for a certain party less “civilization end as we know it [Nancy Pelosi quote]?” Or is there some end game in all of this, and if so, what would that be?

    I am imagining something between The Killing Fields of Pol Pot and Dead Poets Society.

    1. I am imagining something between The Killing Fields of Pol Pot and Dead Poets Society.

      Depending on which faction comes out ahead in the long run, it really could be anywhere between the two. Although, the Dead Poets Society outcome would be more like “I should be able to make a handsome living with my puppetry master’s degree”.

    2. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to wield power over others.

  24. (Some) Reason writers hardest hit.

  25. I always get hung up on the “micro” part of microagression.

    Clearly there needs to be some cutoff below which negligible amounts of something can be safely ignored. For example the amount of caffiene in your soda, or the amount of roaches in your chocolate. Else operation is impossible. I’d say 0.0001 percent of an aggression easily falls below such a threshold for shit you should care about. If someone makes to punch you in the face, but their hand only ever moves one micron towards you from its rest position a meter away, you shouldn’t have an assault case, for example.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.