Monday, August 17, 2009

Guilt Deflectors

The politically correct tone often injected into so many arguments nowadays is not designed to prove the other person's guilt so much as to establish the critic's innocence.

The idea is that by declaring myself to be more sensitive/compassionate/tolerant than you, I am deflecting any guilt that may be ascribed to me.

Shelby Steele wrote about this practice in his book on white guilt and yet you can see the technique employed in discussions that have nothing to do with race. I've sat in meetings where people scramble to outdo one another in sensitivity by taking positions that are ludicrous in substance but which - in their eyes - hold the virtue of being inoffensive.

They may not realize that the posturing itself may be offensive since it implies that the potentially offended are hot-house flowers who cannot survive frank talk. The guilt-deflectors, however, do not care about that.

They have a hair-trigger mechanism that wields the appearance of impropriety as a weapon. Alleging an appearance certainly requires far less evidence as actual impropriety. In fact, in some arenas, an assertion of the appearance is sufficient proof since to inquire as to whether the appearance exists is to tacitly admit to insufficient sensitivity; a dangerous admission indeed.

Has this practice improved our society? I believe it has been a boon for hypocrisy and a blow to free speech. We would benefit from more reasonableness and less posturing.

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