I have had the privilege of knowing Les Edgerton for just short of two years now. He is a delightful man, whose good nature is infectious.
Lately, though, he’s pissed off, and with good reason.
For those who lack the inquisitive nature to check the link, cons often refer to “Three strikes and you’re out” laws as “The Bitch,” affecting, as they do, habitual criminals. Les wrote a book—what I consider his finest—that depicts the weaknesses of such statutes. Cutting to the core as he does so well, Les titled his book The Bitch. Now he learns there are weak-kneed, politically correct, chickenshit editors and newspapers who will not print reviews of the book because the title is offensive.
Coincidentally, J.D. Rhodes also posted about political correctness in his weekly column. In as articulate and well-reasoned an argument as I’ve read—certainly better than anything you’re likely to get from me—Dusty writes:
There’s no hard and fast answer. But one thing to consider is: In which direction are you punching? Up, down, or sideways?
Political correctness is a poorly-worded term for something we should all be aware of. At what point does malicious—or even just thoughtless—speech become offensive? Should such offense be measured by reception, or intent? Like anything else, context matters, as does the question of degree. While, on the one hand, one should not get a pass for deliberately hurtful comments by decrying the “thought police,” anyone who’s been through counseling has heard the mantra “no one can make you feel any particular way; that’s up to you.” Where’s the line?
There isn’t one. At least not a bright one. The same newspapers that refused to acknowledge The Bitch may well print a quote from a politician referring to Hillary Clinton as a bitch. Even better—or worse—if said person gets cute with the time-honored substitute “I won’t say what she is, but it rhymes with ditch/switch/witch/hitch/pitch.” Worse yet, to quote as “she’s a b***h.” Rush Limbaugh and his ilk may think they get over with their winks and nods and denials, but they’re not kidding anyone. Those who most vociferously defend them are fellow travelers down that slimy road. Their resumes put the lie to any pleas of innocence.
Louis CK said it best, as he so often does, in his routine about how he despises the N-word. No,
Context is critical, damn near everything. I say “damn near” because intent must count for something. (We could argue for weeks about whether intent is part and parcel of context, but that’s a different discussion.) I was going to link to Louis CK’s bit, but there are other references there that will be viewed as offensive if you don’t watch the entire hour-long show, because he took the time to build the context into which his use of such language, while not appropriate for the whole family, is not as shockingly offensive as it might appear.
George Carlin—the most brilliant comedic wordsmith of my lifetime—said it best as part of his classic “Seven Things You Can’t Say on Television” routine. He included “cocksucker,” but not “cock,” because, in context, a cock might refer to something completely different (“It says right there in The Bible: the cock crowed.”), while there aren’t a lot of different interpretations for “cocksucker.” (Al Swearengen may differ.) Context does matter. Sometimes it’s all that matters. It’s why a newspaper that would never print a picture of a pussy, nor allow written reference to such, can still be run by one.