In an interview with Playboy this week, Gary Oldman defended Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin for their “politically incorrect” diatribes. “We’re all f—ing hypocrites,” he argued, with good reason.
Though he did not do so eloquently, Oldman, a libertarian, is making an important point. Humans are a living paradox. “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald said.
We are imperfect, and more often than we’d like to admit, we are wrong. Yet, with the rise of the Information Age, things you say and do are more accessible and more public. Thus opportunities to trip over someone’s fragile sensibilities have increased exponentially.
Last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the “Redskins” trademark registration arguing that the name is offensive to Native Americans. The “tyranny of political correctness” strikes again. This same federal office has approved “Figgas over Niggas,” “Kraut Kap,” “Blanco Basura,” and “Cracka Azz Skateboards.”
Marc J. Randazza, a First Amendment attorney, pointed out the real problem here: a civil servant is deciding what is “immoral,” “scandalous,” or “disparaging” according to the Trademark Act:
The government should not be in the business of deciding what is moral, immoral, or offensive. This section of the trademark act is a leftover from Victorian times, and is used now primarily to promote social agendas with coercive censorship.
In this latest display of federal hypocrisy, the only characteristic that separates the Redskins from other such “offenses” is its public exposure as a brand. Twitter, a word that means to agitate or chatter, serves to stir the PC pot. A bastion of the belligerent self-defined elite hiding behind their pseudonyms does not reflect America’s moral compass. Are you or I—or the Twitterverse for that matter—to decide what is offensive or inoffensive?
Political correctness feeds on itself. If someone else can cry racism or sexism (#YesAllWomen) as a defense against political enemies, why can’t I? However, there is a difference between being rude and disrespectful, and being pointedly hurtful and harmful. Most offenses fall in the first category.
In the past six years, America has seen the rise of government as doctor, teacher, lawyer, and now arbiter of what’s good and bad for you to hear or see. One small step for the U.S. Patent Office, one giant leap for big government.