Donald Trump’s election as President was, in part, a reaction to PC culture; a culture which regards the utterance of certain speech as worse than the offense of violent crimes. Unfortunately, the election of Trump has not eliminated this culture. Instead, it has evolved. Some of those who spoke out against PC culture before Trump’s election now enforce their own version of it. Take a look at a couple recent examples:
Katie Rich, a writer for the NBC show Saturday Night Live (SNL) made a crude joke on Twitter during Trump’s inauguration calling Trump’s son Barron the “first homeschool shooter.” While the joke was poor, particularly since Barron is not home-schooled, the reaction of supposed PC opponents, mostly on the Right, was far worse. An angry mob of 124,410 people signed a petition on Change.org calling for Rich’s immediate ouster from SNL. After a few days, the petitioners were granted their wish as NBC suspended Rich’s contract indefinitely despite an apology. The Right’s troubling impulse here is interesting considering how vehemently they defended those who were fired for similar thoughtcrimes in recent years such as celebrity chef Paula Deen and Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. Apparently free speech only matters to the Right until a Leftist says something they do not like. The Left, in defending Rich, reveal themselves as hypocrites since they shouted the loudest for the firings of Deen and Robertson. Of course, NBC’s firing of Rich was not a State action, and so no “rights” were trampled, but the renewed knee jerk desire, this time from the Right, to punish unpopular speakers, entails the same disdain for speech, previously documented, largely from those on the Left, that could one day lead to laws against certain unpopular speech. In fact, there has been one widely reported instance in the Trump era where the State itself wielded its power to attack free speech. That leads to the next example.
At the Women’s March on Washington, a day after the inauguration of Trump, pop musician Madonna made the rhetorical comment that she had thought about “blowing up the White House.” Hearing the full the context of her speech (that concluded, “I choose love!”) it seems clear she was speaking metaphorically and not making a literal threat. Nevertheless, in the hysteria that followed, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, journalist Piers Morgan, and others called for Madonna’s arrest. The Secret Service actually paid her a visit, a very chilling effect on speech we have previously seen. Yet, despite criticizing the Secret Service’s investigations of so-called threats against President Barack Obama, the Right has no qualms about such misuse of the Secret Service when a Rightist occupies the White House. Curiously, rock musician Ted Nugent, a target of a Secret Service investigation for comments he made in 2012, publicly endorsed the Secret Service investigation of Madonna. Rather than take a principled stance against Secret Service abuse, he felt it better to let history repeat once the shoe was on the other foot. However, the shoe will change feet again, at some point. That never seems to be understood.
In the Trump era, the PC regime has simply shifted hands again. Among the mainstream of both the Left and the Right, the language game is a convenient tool to score political points against the other side. Free speech advocacy is mere illusion. Despite the many great attacks Trump waged against PC culture during his presidential campaign, he too was caught in the new PC culture with an offhand Tweet promoting a ban on flag burning after watching a segment on Fox & Friends. Of course such a law would violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court held in Texas v. Johnson that flag burning is protected speech that expresses extreme disapproval of American policy. Perhaps, like on the issue of torture, Trump will defer to the expertise of others on forming actual policy. In his first week, Trump did not sign any executive orders or legislation restricting the practice of free speech. Unlike some of his supporters, his public condemnation of Rich and Madonna was appropriate, stopping short of calling for any “punishment” of the two. It remains to be seen if Trump has the effect on PC culture as I had hoped during the election. Still, he has his full presidency ahead of him. Even though I supported his candidacy, I plan to keep a watchful eye on the actions of his government as I continue to endorse free expression and free thought.