There is not enough political correctness
This week, the blog of a relatively influential person working for one of the biggest media trusts in Romania came into the spotlight due to several alarming articles and social media posts. As a public person with a visible media presence, this individual has been making posts sharing his personal beliefs and values for over 10 years, being active across multiple platforms such as Instagram, Threads and the aforementioned blog. Most recently, he received backlash for a series of comments made in correlation with a bigger journalistic investigation seeking to uncover abuses that female students experience at the hands of their professors, when he blamed students for the harassment they encounter, justifying that they have complete agency over their body and decisions in any case of misconduct. This situation caused an article from 2011 to resurface, where he made claims about the “therapeutic” values of rape in re-educating women, which he (horrifically) named My dungeon for rape. When confronted by activists and other social media users, he appealed to satire and maintained that it was the Internet’s fault for not understanding his irony. Moreover, he denied taking any accountability for his actions despite a group of (mostly) women demanding that he and other people from the media industry take a stance in this circumstance. Additionally, he made a series of follow-up posts where he complained about political correctness and censorship (while all of his articles are still accessible and a lot of public figures have either directly or indirectly expressed their support for him).
This aligns with a more extensive debate about what cancel culture factually is and what should be the limits (if any at all) to freedom of speech in times where access to information is easier than ever and social relations come to be inherently defined by interconnectedness. While some see this phenomenon as a punishment and a tactic of restriction, others argue that it is a tool of accountability or doubt its existence as a whole. While inherently cancel culture and political correctness are not political movements and share no coherent ideologies, they are usually associated with the extremes of the political left and the fear of “wokeness”. However, what I would argue is usually overlooked when “we have gone too far” accusations start to be thrown around are the community mechanisms of this culture (in this case even the name carries a double meaning, inquiring what exactly makes a set of practices become a culture and how they are codified as a general system when they usually do not represent the sentiment of the majority?). Political correctness has been around in one way or another for the social history of humanity. While social media undoubtedly echoes faster and more extensively the information on all sides of the world, exclusion has always been a social tool used both on a community and a state level, through gossip, smear campaigns or state-sponsored censorship and retribution. Namely, PC culture can be descriptive of a manner to dismiss any concern or demand that does not align with one’s value system, transforming it into an idea not worthy of being addressed on its merit (similar to how in this case, the safety of women and their bodily autonomy, which are fundamental rights become secondary to the narrative of “but it is my right to say that…”).
The Romanian social media case is just another example of why the logic of cancel culture (and how it is blared in mainstream conservative circles) is fundamentally flawed because, in the end, it remains a question of who factually possesses the capacity to challenge and “cancel” the status quo. Most “victims” of the call-out culture are people who have the privilege of having their demands and complaints met and listened to, no matter how faulty they might be. The same thing cannot be said by minorities and disadvantaged people who have to oppose forms of discrimination and identity cancellation in their day-to-day life – such as a queer person losing their job because of their sexual orientation in an LQBTQ+ intolerant country. Society is founded on a system of oppression, cumulative of human interactions and intersecting identities. Protesting for one’s absolute freedom of speech entails denying that language contains subtle and deep-rooted prejudices that perpetuate marginalisation. In this sense, political correctness is not just there to dismiss contradictory ideas, but rather it is there to perform a social justice function. One established civil convention is that one has freedom over their actions, but they have to bear the consequences of those actions.
While we continue engaging in the cancel culture and political correctness war, my only demand is to also cancel rape apologists while at it.