Best Argument Ever Against Political Correctness by Stephen Fry

Best Argument Ever Against Political Correctness by Stephen Fry


Now, In…in agreeing to er, participate in this debate and stand on this side of the argument I’m fully aware that many people, who choose incorrectly in my view to to see this issue in terms of Left and right – devalued and exploded terms as I think they are – will believe that I am Betraying myself in such causes and values that I’ve espoused over the years. I’ve been given a huge grief already simply because I’m standing here next to Professor Peterson Which is the very reason that I am standing here in the first place. I’m standing next to someone With whom I have you know Differences shall we say? In terms of politics and all kinds of other things Precisely because I think all this has got to stop. This rage, resentment, hostility intolerance above all this erm, “with us or against us” certainty. A Grand canyon has opened up in our world the fissure – the crack grows wider every day. Neither on each side can hear a word that the other shrieks and nor do they want to. While these armies and propagandists in the culture wars clash down below in the enormous space between the two sides, the people of the world tried to get on with their lives alternately baffled, bored and betrayed by the horrible noises and explosions that echo all around. I think it’s time for this toxic, binary, Zero-sum madness to stop before we destroy ourselves. (applause) I’d better nail my colors to the mast before I get any further than this It’s only polite to give you a sense of where I come from. I … All my adult life I have been what you might call a lefty – a soft lefty – a liberal of the most hand ringing, Milksop, milquetoast variety. Not a burning ” man the barricades” socialist, not even really a progressive worth the name. I’ve been on marches, but I’ve never quite dared wave placards or banners. Erm…Am I a loathed member of that band, an SJW, a “Social justice warrior” I don’t think highly of social -injustice- I have to say, but I character myself mostly as a social justice warrior. My intellectual heroes growing up were Bertrand Russell and G.E.Moore – liberal thinkers, people like that – writers like E.M. Forster. I believed and I think I still do believe in the sanctity of human relations, of the primacy of the heart and friendship and love and common interest. These are more personal interior beliefs than they are political exterior convictions. More a humanistic version of a religious impulse I suppose.I trust in humanity, I believe in humanity I think I do despite all that has happened in the 40 years of my adulthood. I am soft and I can easily be swept away by harder hearts and harder intellects I’m sometimes surprised to be described as an “activist”, but over time I have energetically involved myself with what you might call causes. I grew up knowing that I was gay – well, in fact from the very first, I knew I was gay – I remember when I was born, looking up and saying “that’s the last time I’m going up one of those!” (laughter) I’m, I’m Jewish. I’m Jewish. So I have a natural obvious horror of racism Naturally, I want racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, bullying, bigotry – – intolerance of all human kinds to end. That’s surely a given amongst all of us. The question is how such a golden aim is to be achieved. My ultimate objection to political correctness is not that it combines so much of what I have spent a lifetime loathing and opposing, preaching us (with great respect) Piety self-righteousness, heresy hunting, denunciation, shaming, assertion without evidence, accusation, inquisition censoring – that’s not why I’m incurring the wroth of my fellow liberals by standing on this side of the house. My real objection is that I don’t think political correctness works. I want to achieve… I want to get to the golden Hill, but I don’t think that’s the way to get there. I Believe one of the greatest human failings is to prefer to be right than to be effective. (audience member) hear, hear
(Applause) And political correctness is always obsessed with how right it is without thinking of how effective it it might be. I wouldn’t trust myself as a classical libertarian, but I do relish transgression and I deeply and instinctively distrust conformity and orthodoxy. Progress is not achieved by preachers and guardians of morality but to paraphrase Yevgeny Zamyatin “…by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics.” I may be wrong. I hope to learn this evening. I really do think I may be wrong, but I am prepared to entertain the possibility that political correctness will bring us more tolerance and a better world. But I’m not sure and I would like this quotation from my hero Bertrand Russell to hover over the evening “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision. Let doubt prevail.” I don’t believe that the advances in my culture that have allowed me to marry, as I have now been for three years to someone of my gender, I don’t believe they are a result of political correctness and maybe political correctness is actually just some sort of live trout that the harder we squeeze it, the further it goes away and and you will be saying “I’m not talking about this” … You’re talking about social justice with which I agree with. Wh ether you want to call it identity politics or the history of your people, the history of my people – my people were slaves as well. Both the British were slaves of Romans and the Jews were slaves of the Egyptians all human beings have been slaves at some pointand we all in that sense share that knowledge, of how important it is to speak up. But Russell Means, who was a friend of mine toward the end, who founded the American Indian Movement He said “Oh for Gods sake! Call me an Indian or a Lakota Sioux or Russell. I don’t care what you call me. It’s how we treated that matters.” And so I’m really addressing a more popular idea also actually in Barrow, Alaska an Iñupiat said “call me an Eskimo – it’s obviously easier for you because you keep mispronouncing Iñupiat.” You know words do matter, I’ll just end with a quick story. Gay rights came about in England because we slowly and persistently knocked on the door of people in power. We didn’t shout. We didn’t scream. People like Ian McKellen eventually got to see the Prime Minister. And when the Queen signed in the Royal assent, she has to, for the bill allowing equality of marriage. She said “Good Lord, you know, I couldn’t imagine this in 1953. Really is extra ordinary, isn’t it? Just wonderful!” and handed it over. Now it’s a nice story and I hope it’s true, but it’s nothing to do with political correctness. It’s to do with human decency. It’s that simple. You

100 thoughts on “Best Argument Ever Against Political Correctness by Stephen Fry”

  1. I wonder how the late great Christopher Hitchens would think about today´s political correctness which is plaguing the democratic and free parts of the world.

  2. Recorded a year ago, I see. Well, the earth hasn't stopped turning , and the mindless loonies are still at it, but even if Fry had reduced his pleeding by 95 per cent, and ranted a bit more, it was all a complete waste of his, and our time. He's simply preaching to the converted, or, to those who have had the skulls scraped out.

  3. Equality will improve greater once we realise that the current form of capitalism is wrong and a fairer system is needed .. the system is the problem not people’s beliefs or opinions they can’t be controlled but the system can

  4. It's tiring to see people believe that "political correctness" refers to anything other than populations that receive abuse and discrimination saying, "Please avoid reinforcing the abuse I receive". This is only ever used against marginalised populations, such as women, LGBTQIA people, disabled people, people of colour, etc., and it reveals a lot about the way in which those who use the phrase view these groups. We create social expectations constantly as a society, and reinforce them in our every interaction. We are constantly showing each other through our language choices and other actions the way we believe it is appropriate for us collectively to behave. Yet when people try to suggest that certain words, for instance, contribute to the material harm imposed upon a certain population, and should be avoided, they are met with accusations that such a suggestion is intolerant, oppressive, or fascist, as though a person's right to free speech takes priority over a person's right to safety. Some argue, "I should be free to say what I want without criticism because someone will always be offended by anything." But this is not just about an individual person being "offended", though the dismissal of a person's feelings is very disturbing to me. This is about the systemic harm that is perpetuated by the use of social actions, including our choice of language. Stephen's argument that a change of language never accomplished anything shows an incredibly narrow view of social progress. Activism creates great leaps in social attitudes and can change laws, but those laws generally only change if there's a concensus in support of it within a society, something that we can all contribute to through the example we set to others. "Political correctness" is simply an attempt to encourage a standard of kindness in society.

  5. Human right to free speech is not to be confused with the entitlement to harass others for who they are. Because free speech goes all ways, if you tell me you hate me for being gay I will tell you I hate you for hating gays. If you threaten me I will tell you to carry out that threat so I can kill you.

  6. The thing about the left is they generally try to sound good and be likeable but it's generally not an accurate facade of who they really are or what they really want. Once you go against them, you see their monster side. They are generally people who have learned how to emulate a good human (just watch for too good to be true rhetoric) while not actually being good at all. Speaking nicities is cheap, come up with solutions.

  7. Gay marriage is not acceptable. Marriage is a union between a man (PLUG) and a female (SOCKET) Civil unions are ok but not actual marriage.

  8. I prefer Bridgette Gabriel's view on PC "it's about time we took political correctness and threw it in the garbage where it belongs".

  9. It is quickly becoming the death of many forms of culture and expression due to its stifling infiltration of every aspect of life. This has been driven by so-called "social justice warriors" who go out of their way – sometimes to extraordinary lengths – to expose some minor transgression from the distant past or to try and turn every issue into one of gender, race, etc. etc. Instead of fighting this and shouting it down as an obvious witch hunt aimed at reflecting some "woke" glory onto its proponents, we actually take notice and cancel events, etc. When these "woke warriors" start venting on Twitter because some comedian once used an "oppressed minority" stereotype in a joke, the rest of us should come to their defence and drown them out. They are attention seekers and are unfortunately given a huge platform by social media. Suppress and ignore.

  10. ☀     
    political correctness is a mental disease and severely contagious
    it cripples the minds of theirs victims and put up armors around their souls

  11. " Just wonderful!" From the queen of the tightest asked Nation on the planet!! What she said was absolutely wonderful and beautiful!! And that is how the rest of the planet should feel!! By the way, great video!! I absolutely love Stephen Fry!!

  12. If you are still not sure Bildeberg meetings and round table conspiracies are true, take a look at the political correctness regime and think again.

  13. don't be fooled… white folks just want racially derogatory epitaphs to be normalized once again and society is not going in that direction anymore… And that's what they consider political correctness.

  14. The trouble is that the stupid or lazy people won’t think issues through. Thorough or deep learning takes effort so many people just follow blindly.  What I object to is that the education system does not give both sides of the story.  Feelings are not facts.  Peace.

  15. Fair enough. but why. Stephen are you so silent about Andrew, the pedo son of your country"s Queen, the leader of the Anglicans? and about the torturing of Assange by your politicians?, .

  16. When fry gets up…….its like the dad of all the groups……equally respected from both sides……respected because of the way he conducts himself……theres a saying that seems simple……yet so bloody effective…….its nice to be nice

  17. Is it any wonder that this man is employed by the BBC, he is Jewish, Gay and Left wing. Paid for by you and me. Why can’t we have people who are straight, Christian and centrists on our payroll. I don’t like a man who says ‘my people’ referring to people from Israel. My people are the British people not some Arab tribe who believe they are Gods chosen people.

  18. We real liberals hate feminism and the new left they have created!! Gender bullshitt and safe space crap!!n and word and thought police makes us wanna kill our self.. but we are few and far apart!

  19. Prohibitions against laws on highly offensive language (i.e. fighting words) should be accompanied with prohibitions on laws against simple assault on those who use highly offensive language. In other words if it's totally legal for you to call a person of color the N-word then it should be totally legal for that person of color to slap your stupid face. Example: John a, white nationalist, calls Bill, a black guy, the N-word. Bill chooses to fire back with a fist to John's mouth. If John can defend himself with his fists then he may legally do so. But John cannot pull a gun and shoot Bill and claim self-defense unless Bill's assault on John becomes life threatening. People will say but it's possible for a simple slap or punch to kill a man. And I agree. Simple assault can get very complex medically, there's no telling what effect a simple slap can have on a person's health. For example if a person is on blood thinners a hard slap to the face can cause a brain hemorrhage. Well there's a simple solution, keep you stupid bigoted mouth shut.

  20. Defenders of political correctness will argue, not without some merit, that theirs is a project not of censorship but of social cohesion. That is, the objective is not so much to expurgate unethical or otherwise socially destructive views from society but, rather, to fashion individuals into norms of ethical or socially beneficial behaviour, which will (generally speaking) lead to individuals accepting or recognising those norms as being correct. Thus, society becomes more socially conscious and thus more cohesive over time.

    The psychology of this principle is well-founded: it's really an extrapolation of rote learning and learning by example, whereby practicing a behaviour habitually, and observing others do the same, will eventually lead to understanding why that behaviour is desirable in the first place. For example, when a mother tells her son to eat his vegetables, and the son tells her to "eff off", she doesn't reason with him but rather disciplines him (depriving him of desert, sending him to his room etc.) and, eventually, the son realises that responding in such a way to your mum when she's only looking after your health and well-being is, actually, probably not sensible. The son doesn't learn manners in this case via the free exchange ideas. Quite the opposite. He learns through the discipline of socially-enforced norms, which might be thought of as rudimentary political correctness.

    The snag, of course, and the reason the PC project is doomed to fail wherever and whenever it is tried, is the Sisyphean problem of who gets to decide these norms, who gets to enforce them, and how? The story about the delegation of London's respectable womanhood congratulating Dr Samuel Johnson on excluding all indecent words from his first English dictionary is a terrific illustration: people must be exposed to bad ideas in order to evaluate them as such. There is no way around this fundamental fact. The best we can do is appoint a cartel of technocrats to use their expert judgement in discerning the acceptable opinions from the harmful and hope, first, that they don't make too many mistakes; secondly, that they don't become corrupted from their own exposure to the contagion; and thirdly, that their institution isn't overtaken by people with less noble objectives. That is, political correctness is an open invitation to totalitarianism.

    Finally, and I think this is probably the most salient point of all, no society has fallen into cultural disrepair, famine, pestilence or civil war because its citizens were "too free" to express their views. In reality, precious few societies have ever deferred to the wisdom of the citizenry in defining the bounds of acceptable opinion on an individual-to-individual basis. Many have tried to socially engineer a "good society" and failed catastrophically. Perhaps it's time we give the freedom experiment a fair chance.

  21. Hypocritical from Stephen Fry– Talks political correctness but ignores his stunt at travelling all the way to a sovereign country to show them how to think. He was so outraged by the rhetoric of some Ugandans that he had to travel all the way there to display his annoyance. Let's face it, right wingers only defend free speech when it fits them. I am in no way saying Political correctness hasn't gone to far and there shouldn't be some limit to it.

  22. I'm kind of sad that Peterson and Fry ended up on the same side here because what I really wanted to hear was a discourse between THEM. I've had a million videos recommended to me by the YouTube algorithm asking me to listen to Peterson's opinion on everything from the rise of neo-Marxism to what he thinks of sliced bread, but not one video on what he thought of Fry's points during the debate. Can we lock them in a room together and see what happens?

  23. Stephen Fry is an awful, disgusting person. Anyone who calls that globalist, anti-christ pervert Bertrand Russell a hero is truly mentally defective or simply evil.

  24. And so…… Those who seek a utopian perfection will produce disaster. Managed confusion is a hallmark of freedom. Freedom should be the goal not conformity.

  25. Thank you, Stephen. Thank you for being such a decent, right-thinking human being who can so eloquently articulate what so many of us believe.

  26. I deeply admire Mr. Fry for his eloquence and sincerity.

    I see where he is coming from in terms of the consequences of political correctness gone mad.

    However I have two disagreements I would make with him.

    The first being that towards the beginning of his speech he uses phrases such as "I think it only polite." He is qualifying his words so as not to cause undue offense. Well, that is an example of political correctness. Acting to avoid causing undue offense is part of political correctness.

    The second disagreement I have is with the idea of political correctness not being concerned with effectiveness. I truly believe, and have experienced the fact, that it is possible to be effective without causing uneccessary offense. It is possible to convey a point without causing offense. I would argue, again, that Mr. Fry employs a bit of political correctness in this very speech. Yet this speech seems to have been effective or at least made an impact. So I think it is possible to be politically correct and effective. Just as it is possible to be honest and clear without being needlessly cruel or uncivil.

  27. Unfortunately I do not see the zero tolerance ending from the left. It is a binary choice between freedom & oppression & there's no space in between. You cannot appease or negotiate with the lefts new fascists. Which leaves us inevitably marching towards a global war between those who refuse to relinquish freedom & those that want to oppress people who disagree with them.

  28. To argue against political correctness is to fight against human decency…Fry isn’t arguing for “freedom” to use the N word or any other racist,sexist,misogynistic,xenophobic etc comments.

  29. It's not the material that is to blame, it's how we teach people to respond to it.
    Words and speech are ideas, ideas are like products in an open market; it's up to consumers to figure out which ideas are bad and which ideas are good. Through trial and error (gradual enlightenment) the good ideas remain and the bad ideas fade.

    When someone tells you that you have to believe this and you can only say this its like someone saying you have to buy this product and believe it's great, usually causing the opposite effect.

  30. If you can only make your point by hurting and insulting others you are already in the wrong. So don't expect a free pass.

  31. hm pure bulshit form this actor. sory but whole word and humanity is build by comparision to other , ppl to ppl nations to nations. everything is competentive to each other . ppl are envy if someone have more than others, and ppl want more for themself and often more to themself..He speaking nice like child …time to grown up! just look at england how they treat any other nation which was stole and made a collonial to the england.. was there good or nice or humanity in it? sorry but not~! england can play nice today , cos they have so much powwer from the colonials time.. and even america is english power arm for bisness to anglosaxons for the english bjust simply by conections families and they pretend to be free americans.. pure bulshit. the secret orders from england know the true! one law for masses which are not thinks they just follow .. and the other law for those who are thinking and made rules!and the whole world is for them to take what they need . this is the rule, not that funny lovely hippy wishfull thinking imaginary world…

  32. I'm sorry Stephen but you've been a bit of a crybully yourself in the past. You kind of helped create the PC culture we have now.

  33. His command of the language is masterful. He speaks with eloquence and passion and with an eruditeitude that can only be marvelled at.
    Mr. Fry, we agree in almost all points in most arguments. But even if we didn’t, I would still listen to your oratory with baited breath.

  34. "I don't care what you call me, it's how we are treated is what matters". It doesn't matter what your preferred pronoun is, or what your sexual preference is or your skin colour or age or generation. You are a person and a person deserves to be treated fairly and with empathy and decency. End of!

  35. My counter: There are no racists. There are no homophobes. There are no bigots of any kind.
    The idea of prejudice-based hate is a bullshit excuse for people to be shit to other people.
    Anyone who injures a foreigner or a homosexual, would just as easily do the same thing to someone straight from their own country, as long as it doesn't get back to them. It's an excuse uncivilized people make to be uncivilized together. Sort of sadism-signaling if I can borrow a phrase.
    Forgive them? They know perfectly well what they do. So didapprove. Let the government punish. Evil prevails when good is nice.

  36. Speak with honesty but don’t be rude. It’s as simple as that. And if honesty hurts well sometimes it’s because difficult things have to be said to raise awareness to others misgivings in life.

  37. I'm relieved to see a liberal who has not gone down that rabbit hole. Conservatives have had their own kind of myopic PC for a lot longer. It doesn't get any better when the other half joins in.

  38. I think I'm going have to figure how I can watch Jeeves and Wooster again. He's a lot more talkative than Jeeves but he is as smart.

  39. Society was becoming sophisticated enough to end actual racism on its own, so the media masters foisted Obama upon us. Can't have people getting along and ignoring race, it's bad for business. Now people are more polarized than ever. Shoot your television.

  40. Political correctness is affirmative action for human decency. Unfortunately, It tends to exacerbate the problem it's meant to solve, as Phil Hofman so eloquently explains in his post below. Funny thing is, if you have empathy and respect for others, political correctness isn't something you think about. It's like the lock on your neighbors door. If you don't plan to rob them it never enters your mind. If you do, it's probably pretty annoying.

  41. I suggest going straight to about 3:50. Just awesome: "My ultimate objection to political correctness is not that it combines so much of what I have spent a lifetime loathing and opposing: preachiness (with great respect), piety, self-righteousness, heresy, hunting, denunciation, shaming, assertion without evidence, accusation, inquisition, censoring. That’s not why I'm incurring the
    wrath of my fellow liberals by standing on this side of the house. My real objection is that I don’t think political correctness works."

  42. There are always a myriad of perspective on any phenomena issue philosophy lifestyle . It's possible none are essentially correct . leftism brings a a false sense of moral superiority to anything and everything that they touch. This produces a dogma that becomes increasingly unquestioned. and probably stunts any positive development of the the aforesaid .

  43. Blah, blah, blah. Dear god. So much pointless intellectual flexing. This can all be summed up in a single sentence which, he does beautifully. "Political correctness is always obsessed with how right it is without thinking how effective it might be".

  44. Stephen, I think that you are wrong. Rather live the Christian life and you will find a treasure in heaven. I am not judging you
    for being gay, but rather convict you. This is the sole reason why you reject God's conservative plan for the family. Your whole world would change if you don't allow your choices about gay rights and ungodly thinking to interfere with God's plan for your life – not your own plan. Political correctness does not work and decency is a misnomer. Crucify your own lust on an altar of Christian truth and you will be free.

  45. He makes some good points, and I'm not sure which side of the issue I stand on myself, but I find some of what he said to be missing the point.
    From the centre-left, compromise might look reasonable, but nothing says centrism is inherently 'more correct'. He assumes politics isn't personal and it's possible to just put it aside and get along, but politics and ideology is fundamentally an interpretation of the world. You can't just put a worldview aside, or comfortably allow someone fighting against your ideals to step in.

    He also implores activists to basically be polite. If asking nicely worked, there wouldn't be the need for activism. People in power want to hang on to it and enact their preferences, and demands to be 'reasonable' are really asking people to stay in their place and patiently wait 20 years for the gradual generational attitude shift to work for them. Again, you can't tell people to just deal with their problems and place order over fairness and their own well-being. That's 20 years of injustice that affect real people. Maybe not him, but someone. You can only have the luxury of putting aside your politics when they don't matter hugely to you. This isn't really about political correctness – he said surprisingly little about that – but I don't enjoy the constant calls for moderation and 'reasonableness' from people who won't suffer either way.

    What's 'reasonable' or 'middle-ground' depends entirely on how arguments are framed anyway. Some views don't get widely aired by the news media on purpose, as an attempt to steer the argument and decide what's within the limits of acceptability.

  46. Why is it always Westerners that think they can change the World while the rest of the people on the Planet are just living their lives without trying to be so politically incorrect.

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