Chloë, our favourite free thinking amateur comedienne, vegan and eco-hippy is back with another guest post:
TEA has written before about why we need free speech for a healthy (and wealthy) society but apparently it’s still controversial not to want a government that can control your thoughts and imprison you for disagreeing.
So allow me to make the case for free speech from a different angle and show you how it relates to financial independence.
These are my personal opinions and I’m sure TEA has wisely disowned them all 😉
Political Correctness gone rad
Political Correctness (PC), a term so overused you probably groaned just reading it, is often misunderstood.
If you ask the trustworthy and always objective Guardian columnist Owen Jones (you may address him as Saint Owen of Islington) you’ll hear that PC is just about politeness and respecting people: something you’d only object to if you are LITERALLY HITLER.
Saint Owen expands on this at length in his book, Chavs and The Establishment, available in audiobook and suppository format. By complete co-incidence, Google has the same stance:
“Political Correctness gone mad” is a trope used to attack critics of the concept as reactionary, right wing hooligans who subsist on a Greggs-only diet. But I have to inform you, dear reader, that Political Correctness isn’t just about being nice, inclusive and not offending people, it’s about power and control.
Using the Google / Saint Owen definition of political correctness IS political correctness. It’s an attempt to shut down the debate. It’s obviously easier to talk about political correctness as the fight against bigots and racists because that brings more people onside, winning you over with a plea to emotions and your basic human decency.
Where will it end?
On an emotional level, political correctness makes perfect sense. It feels nicer / kinder / easier to avoid difficult subjects.
The problem is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And once you start censoring opinions and banning books, you are on the path to labour camps and the gas chamber.
The original meaning of political correctness is something that is not objectively true but is claimed for political reasons. This is the side of political correctness that gets hidden. If you look at the history of the term, you see it arise from totalitarian states in the early and mid 20th Century.
According to Wikipedia:
In the early-to-mid 20th century, the phrase politically correct was used to describe strict adherence to a range of ideological orthodoxies within politics. In 1934, The New York Times reported that Nazi Germany was granting reporting permits “only to pure ‘Aryans’ whose opinions are politically correct.”
Political Correctness often leads to unintended consequences. How ironic that Saint Owen’s Labour Party is currently the subject of an official antisemitism investigation.
The role of gatekeepers
Political Correctness can only exist when one group holds a view and the power to enforce that view. People who claim to be better than you either subtly (or not so subtly) tell you what you should and should not think / vote / like.
The Overton Window is the range of opinions you are (currently) allowed to hold – anything outside of that can be dismissed as too extreme without discussion. The Overton Window is enforced by media corporations who act as gatekeepers for what you are (and are not) allowed to see / hear.
If you still think that news journalists are brave and impartial sleuths seeking the unbiased truth (Bless!) then you probably haven’t seen this Channel 4 News
car crash interview:
Who the media allows airtime to shapes The Authorised Narrative. In other words, the “experts” that we see and the ideas we are allowed to hear.
It’s interesting to note who the BBC will (and won’t) invite onto their platforms on shows such as Question Time or Politics Live. Socialist Saint Owen Jones and Ash “I’m Literally A Communist” Sarkar are repeatedly invited on these shows (it helps to be young and telegenic) as if they weren’t extremists.
So we have communists opining on economic policy, which would be laughable if it weren’t tragic. Communists advising on economics are like Johnny Vegas advising on how to run a 4 minute mile. It may be entertaining but it’s not very credible.
Political correctness is everywhere in culture…often hiding in plain sight. You can’t always see it but it’s there alright. Yes, I can prove that. And even bring some data to support my case.
Take 2 films rated on rottentomatoes.com. Film A promotes left wing socialist / identity politics. Film B shows an average man using his gun against criminals when the system fails him. How does what the critics say (the Tomatometer score) compare to what actual viewers say (the audience score)?
The disparity in responses is telling – Film A gets 100% approval from all the critics but only 17% from actual audiences. You may wonder if the film was correct politically…but not actually any good.
Here’s another example of the huge gap between the ratings awarded by media critics and the general public’s actual opinions.
The official party line on rottentomatoes.com is that Hannah Gadsby’s intersectional feminist lecture is brilliant, but Dave Chappelle’s comic take on those same political stances is awful. When you put it to the actual public, they have the opposite reaction: they loved Chappelle’s comedy.
Incidentally, Nanette is not really stand up comedy, it’s mostly preaching, with huge segments lacking any jokes at all but it was promoted heavily, probably because its politics are fashionable…it’s correct politically.
Gadsby was famously heckled during one of the shows with: ‘Where are the jokes?’. Whereas comedy tradition is to outjoke a heckler thereby showing your comedy skillz, Gadsby stopped the show and had the heckler removed by security. Disagreement is not permitted.
That is political correctness in action…maybe even political correctness gone mad?
Comedy should be funny
Look how far comedy has changed in just 20 years. Like the frog boiled in the pan, more and more stuff got quietly made “off limits”.
To illustrate, consider the response to 90s sitcom Friends from a younger generation
indoctrinated influenced by TV, School, Mainstream Media, Google and left-wing universities.
Yes, when Netflix acquired the rights to Friends, there were a flurry of articles all pointing out how “problematic” (which is millenial for ‘doubleplus ungood’) the 90s comedy is. The howls of outrage only make sense if you pretend the show is making policy rather than jokes. The outrage gives
da yoof people a chance to virtue signal about how culturally sensitive and “woke” they are.
These examples are close to my heart because I love comedy but have seen it demeaned by a politically correct view of what is appropriate comedy material.
Again, the problem is an Authorised Narrative where other opinions are, well, unauthorised. As you may have heard, in 2016, 52% of voters chose to leave the EU, but how many pro-Brexit comedians have you seen on TV comedy shows (especially the BBC) which are overwhelmingly left-leaning and politically correct?
I regularly go to Comedy Unleashed, which was set up as a reaction to self-censorship on the comedy scene. Despite making the point that it only cares about what’s funny, the event has been portrayed by the BBC, Vice magazine and others as Bethnal Green’s answer to Hitler’s bunker.
From my experience, this is the opposite of the truth. The co-founder, Andrew Doyle (the creator of Titania McGrath) is gay and on the left of politics himself but was sick of people telling him he’s too fragile to hear a joke about people like him.
You might think some of Comedy Unleashed’s acts go too far, in which case you can exercise your freedom by not watching it. However, the PC approach is to say that “toxic” content must be banned.
If you’re happy with an authority choosing what should be censored, how you would feel if your political opponents were in charge of the censorship machine? In other words, if you’re a left wing opponent of free speech, are you OK with a right wing government banning your free speech? Or vice versa?
Bringing it home
Let’s bring it back to personal finance.
One example would be the
lack of discussion of the ‘gender wage gap’. The politically correct line is that the gender wage gap is a major issue, caused by discrimination and SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. “A woman earns 77 cents for every $1 a man earns”, etc, etc.
The politically incorrect version (i.e. the version backed by facts and statistics) is that the gender wage gap exists because groups of people are different and make different choices. You might say they are diverse. How insane is it to push for diversity and expect homogeneity of results? Well, as I’m riding the soapbox at the moment, let’s list some possible reasons why there’s a gender wage gap:
- Different choice of academic degree
- Different choice of careers
- Different hours worked
- Differing willingness to travel
- Maternity leave – a major factor
- Preference for part time work
- Preferences for leadership or non-leadership positions
- Preferences for public, private or third sector
- Actual sexism.
when you account for all these factors, the wage gap shrinks to a tiny amount that is unexplained – not automatically discrimination, just unexplained. As I wrote here, The gender wage gap has been debunked many times by economists and statisticians and basically anyone not committed to it by ideology.
Great news! Our society doesn’t systematically discriminate against women! Said no editor looking to fill airtime and “sex up” a story ever.
But what, I hear you ask, is the problem with fighting the gender pay gap…even if it might not be A Thing?
Well, it diverts resources away from other priorities. Every company has to spend time and money to report on its own wage gap. The Government Equalities Office costs money. Every pound spent by government on diversity officers and gender pay reports is a pound that can not be spent on the health service.
What about FI?
People like you and me pursuing financial independence should have a particular interest in freedom of speech.
We don’t live typically. We are actually rather unusual in our choices and spending habits. In a society that is over-consuming, we live frugally. We live so far inside our means that a lot of the conventional narratives about money seem absurd to us, but those narratives are everywhere and they influence government spending and tax policy.
If you’ve seen coverage of FIRE in the news, you’ve seen the Authorised Narrative:
“This FI stuff is only possible for white, straight male bankers earning £250k+, totally unfeasible for anyone else, so don’t even try saving or learning about money cos’ its all hopeless for people like us. That MMM article was a bit extreme, wasn’t it? Why not treat yourself to some of the products on the next page? New sofa anyone?”
I don’t think I’m dropping too large a red pill bomb to suggest that media that relies on advertising might not want its readers to reject consumerism.
The Authorised Narrative on income inequality, the gender pay gap, ever-increasing poverty etc etc leads to political pressure to impose changes by law from the top down. In contrast, the tools of financial independence (frugality, efficiency, learning about investing) are bottom up solutions where people take ownership of their own challenges.
We all have our own opinions on the right level of public spending. But I hope you’ll agree that increased tax and government spending may not solve all problems nor always help us as individuals. One size does not fit all.
Let’s take an example of a narrative being cooked up by the perpetual clown factory that is the National Union of Students (with help from the media).
After pushing for more students to enter university, they complained about relative under-funding. Then they complained that student debt had risen, as if the rising student population had nothing to do with that.
Consider that of these recent graduates 48% don’t work a graduate job, half work a job unrelated to their degree and 96% have switched careers by the age of 24, a mere 3 years after most graduate. Consider also that the government projection is that only 30% of students will repay their student loans in full, passing the rest back onto the taxpayer (hint: that’s you).
So, in summary: young people are taking degrees they don’t use, that aren’t needed for their chosen jobs and the cost is already being pushed back onto us, the taxpayers.
Now, what if the National Union of Students get to define the Authorised Narrative? This would become: “Students are hard done by, need more public investment and we should bail out/help them with their student loan debts.” (which we are already hearing…)
Its not just about money
Look, maybe you are happy to pay higher taxes to bail out the reckless and the feckless (whether bankers or students). Good for you. But my point still stands that in a democracy we should be able to say anything that is true and laugh at anything that is funny. And for that we need a renewed commitment to free speech.
Thank you for reading, you are now on a list.
Chloë occasionally blogs over at Havenwards.com
TEA note: You are welcome to leave a comment in response to Chloë’s excellent article. In anticipation of this, I asked my close personal friend Barack Obama to say a few words that may help clarify the TEA comments policy: