Thursday, May 5, 2016
I Agree With John Cleese And DL Hughley That PC Speech Rules Are Bad
Cleese says that political correctness "began as a good idea." I disagree, I don't think it was ever a good idea. I think that the GOAL of political correctness is good: greater power and autonomy for people who historically have been abused and exploited. I'm 100% in agreement with that goal. I just think restrictions on speech are a particularly stupid and useless way to go about achieving that goal. You can use politically correct speech and still be a horrible, evil, hateful person. You can break every PC language rule and still be a good, loving person who enriches the lives of all those around him.
Cleese says you can't have comedy with political correctness. He's right. Well -- at the very least, you can't have comedy which is very funny at all.
Over and over on this blog I've praised Bob Fosse's movie Lenny, released in 1974, about Lenny Bruce, a stand-up comedian who broke every PC language rule and was a good, loving person who enriched the lives of all those around him, and about his fight for freedom of speech, and wondered whether that movie could even have been made after decades of political correctness.
Another comedian opposed to PC language rules is DL Hughley. Hughley and I are far from agreeing about everything, but, as he puts it: "Either you believe in freedom of speech or you don't," and we both do.
Some time during the last few years Hughley did a stand-up special for cable TV, on which he talked about the word "(n-word)" and how white people like me aren't supposed to use it. He said that the white people in the audience were getting all tense, because he, Hughley, was saying "nigger," and because everybody knew that Hughley and all the other black people were allowed to say it, but they weren't.
And then Hughley said something like, "But as soon as those white people are in their cars going home tonight, they're going to be all, 'Ohhhhh -- (n-word n-word n-word n-word n-word n-word) [...]'"
And I was offended when I saw that. I was all: I've never talked that way in my entire life. And it's true, I never had. Until then. But since I saw that comedy show, many times, when I've been alone, I've said, "Ohhhhh -- (n-word n-word n-word n-word n-word n-word) [...]" And laughed, and laughed.
And it's all DL Hughley's fault.
Anyway, when DL Hughley said that stuff on his comedy show, it seemed to have the same effect on the audience as when Dustin Hoffmann, playing Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse's movie, intentionally and pointedly used every offensive ethnic slur he could think of in the space of 30 seconds or so: both times the audiences laughed hard, and seemed to relax. It seemed to lessen inter-racial tensions, not increase them. It seemed to get people to look at each other and think, Wow, what silly things make barriers between us! Smashing the barriers is exactly what PC-speech advocates are trying to do by trying to get everybody to stop saying certain words. Bruce and Hughley go 180 degrees the other way: the smash the barriers by using those very same words. They use the words in a way that takes the hurt out of them.
In the video above, John Cleese says he's been advised not to perform on college campuses, because the political correctness there has become so extreme that he's bound to cause a controversy. And when I heard him say that, I thought: All the more reason for you to perform there. If we're against PC rules, we should confront them. But I don't know whether Cleese in fact does disregard that advise, and perform on college campuses, in order to confront the political correctness with which he disagrees.
I should not neglect to mention that I don't know whether or not it's true that political correctness is particularly extreme on college campuses.
In writing this blog post, I debated with myself whether to write, as I ended up doing, "Ohhhhh -- (n-word n-word n-word n-word n-word n-word) [...]" or if I should write out the n-word. I don't know whether it's cowardly for me to praise Lenny Bruce and Cleese and Hughley for sticking their necks out, and then not stick my own neck out.
On the other hand, I don't know how funny this post is, and the positive effect that those comedians have had has been in large part because they've been so funny.
I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand I feel like a (p-word for female genitalia) for not sticking my neck out, for not putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak; and on the other hand I don't want to increase tensions instead of lessening them because I went about things in an unskilled manner. I know that good intentions by no means always equal good results. I've done a little bit of stand-up comedy myself, and I wasn't very good at it at all.