Stephen Fry Is Wrong On Political Correctness

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screenshot of Actor Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry

Actor Stephen Fry is an atheist and he’s done a lot, publicly, to advance freethought. His recent interview with the CBC in Canada was a bit of disappointment when he seems to side with people like Jordan Peterson concerning politically correct speech.

He says political correctness has evolved to a point where it’s no longer achieving the goals of the people who passionately promote it.

“If you want to advance the causes that I would like to advance, in terms of inclusion and diversity and equality for everyone … the wrong way to do it is to alienate those who are a little bit on the edge and aren’t quite sure, by telling them they’re speaking wrong, they’re using the wrong language, they can’t talk like that… Damn you! I’ll talk how I want to talk. Don’t tell me how to talk. Don’t censor me…”

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Fry says in the clip that he comes from the left side of the argument, not the right side where libertarians claim free speech, yet expresses his reaction with “Don’t censor me!”

That is a free speech argument.

I also reject his idea that calling someone out for using the wrong word is wrong or not progressing. How will someone learn to use the right labels unless someone points it out.

The first principle about political correctness is to be inclusive by using the labels that others want you to use about them. They choose the labels, you don’t.

Political correctness is about treating all humans with basic dignity and not using terms that you know are hurtful. If you don’t know they are hurtful than others are obligated to point it out and if you refuse to use the correct words THEN you can be deplatformed or excluded from further association.

Free speech allows you to use whatever words you want but it doesn’t protect you from the consequences of those words.

The only real issue I have with political correctness is when people assume malice when there is none. People make mistakes all the time and someone uses a hurtful word(s) and really didn’t know then it should be a teachable moment and not a time to burn their house down or chase them with pitchforks.

I understand where Stephen Fry is coming from but his view about political correctness is outdated and wrong.


Also published on Medium.


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