January 27, 2016

Barnhizer On Political Correctness and Freedom of Speech

David Barnhizer, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, has published 'Something Wicked This Way Comes': Political Correctness and the Reincarnation of Chairman Mao as Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 291. Here is the abstract.
There could not possibly be any parallel between the actions of Mao Tse Tung’s young Red Guard zealots and the intensifying demands of identity groups that all people must conform to their version of approved linguistic expression or in effect be condemned as “reactionaries” and “counter-revolutionaries” who are clearly “on the wrong side of history”. Nor, in demanding that they be allowed to effectively take over the university and its curriculum while staffing faculty and administrative positions with people who think like them while others are subjected to “re-education” sessions that “sensitize” them into the proper way to look at the world’s reality, should we judge students and protesters such as those who submitted fifty Demands to the University of North Carolina to be in any way akin to the disastrous, repressive, immature and violent members of the Red Guard who abused China between 1966 and 1976. Nonetheless, though it would be unfair to compare the two movements, the Cultural Revolution does send out a warning we should perhaps spend a little time thinking about lest we repeat some of its errors. A brief descriptive capsule appears below. “The first targets of the Red Guards included Buddhist temples, churches and mosques, which were razed to the ground or converted to other uses. Sacred texts, as well as Confucian writings, were burned, along with religious statues and other artwork. Any object associated with China’s pre-revolutionary past was liable to be destroyed. In their fervor, the Red Guards began to persecute people deemed “counter-revolutionary” or “bourgeois,” as well. The Guards conducted so-called “struggle sessions,” in which they heaped abuse and public humiliation upon people accused of capitalist thoughts (usually these were teachers, monks and other educated persons). These sessions often included physical violence, and many of the accused died or ended up being held in reeducation camps for years.” I never thought I would be starting off an analysis by citing a description of the Red Guard’s re-education and thought control actions in Mao Tse Tung’s 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution and the words of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” song. But in the context of what is going on in American and European societies involving the comprehensive strategy to control freedom of speech through formal and informal mechanisms of power, Gore’s slightly edited (for length) language seems highly appropriate. Her in-your-face paean to independence of thought and action captures what we face.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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