When I first realised that the disagreements about political correctness aren't just yet another sign of political camps having opposite views about societal coexistence and interactions but rather a debate in which proponents and opponents of political correctness are situated in the same communities, I was a bit confused. When I realised that free thinkers and rationalists repeatedly spoke out against political correctness as a whole and against individual examples of it as well as recent developments in western societies that I view as positive, I was surprised. This year I have finally heard enough to get me to look into why that is. More than a few times I have heard people whose world view I share or whose opinions I value either condemn political correctness or rant about something that in their depiction went wrong or is going wrong because of political correctness. But they seemed to assume that the reader/listener/dialogue partner is on the same page and didn't go into detail or defend that view enough to make me understand it. Ultimately it was the hate in the sound Stephen Fry's voice that made me search for the cause of the clash of opinions between his and mine.
My view on the topic has always been a bit simple but nonetheless felt mature to me. It's not like I've never read or thought about political correctness and relating topics before. Simply put, I don't see a good reason to do something incorrectly on purpose. There are many reasons to be politically incorrect apart from sheer self-purpose and intentional offence. Ignorance, a lack of awareness, understanding or time to think about matters like this and other human imperfections are all very widespread and understandable causes for political incorrectness. But they aren't good reasons to be incorrect. I'm trying to write this without using any examples because I fear that it would make me go way too far down into detail. So, in short: When making a conscious decision to do something one way or the other, one should, all other things being equal, ideally, always choose the one that, to their knowledge, has the least potential to cause offence, oppress or support existing inequality. Yes, I know. But I said in short. Let's keep it at that for now.
What I found when I looked into this debate was, well, first of all a lack of a definition in almost every case, which makes debating on it a lot less efficient and more prone to misunderstandings, leading to misrepresentations and wrong assumptions of other's opinions and thus a lack of a result of the whole debate. But trying to look past that, I got the feeling that the motivations for rejecting what I perceive as positive progression through political correctness are often rooted in a fundamental dislike for change. I should be able to relate to this even more than I do as it is. But I don't see this as a rational argument against political correctness. And it isn't used as one. It's just what I assume behind many cul-de-sacs in discussions because no clear, rational reason is given. Even people with a well-deserved reputation of being rational thinkers create the impression of arguing out of personal offence (at which point the opponent often points out the irony of the one arguing for the freedom of offence being the one who is offended by rational arguments, which usually leads the discussion to leave the path that looks like it could lead to useful insight).
But there is one argument that I hadn't really taken into account before: The claim that it just doesn't work. Empirically, what did political correctness bring us directly? How much progress was caused or influenced by it? And how much hate, tribalism and radicalisation has it caused and still causes it on the right? I don't know. But that is an interesting part of this discussion. I don't think I have anything useful to contribute to this. So I'll leave these questions entirely unanswered before reading more.