Compulsively politically correct

“Have you been canceled lately?”

Photo: Emil Weatherhead Breistein
“I am taking this to the extreme, I know. I am trying to move outside my comfort zone but also to not give myself an anxiety attack when I later read through the comment section,” writes Torkel Risnes Eikevik.

Torkel Risnes Eikevik
Bergen, Norway

Do we really benefit from a society where no one dares speak from the heart, for fear of being perceived as an old-fashioned fool?

Have you been canceled yet? Are you perhaps wondering what can get you canceled? Did you write something on Facebook when you were 14 and drunk that might make you seem like a Nazi sympathizer in 2023? Do not despair, you are not alone.

These days, it seems like no one quite knows what is okay to express. This commentary included. Progressive woke culture is spreading like wildfire, and we are left with a collective false approach to political correctness and to having an opinion.

As our opinions become more visible and accessible on social media, we hardly dare step forward to speak up. What you say can quickly be taken out of context, and with any minor misstep, you may end up with opinions attributed to you that are not even your own.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when we became so concerned with political correctness, but the whole thing is turning into one big parody.

Almost every day we see a new case of canceled content. A new celebrity, film, TV series, or some cultural phenomenon may be perceived as offensive. The people with the new cool updated opinions cry out, and the “problem” disappears from the face of the earth.

Several children’s books are being rewritten; words like fat and ugly are replaced, because one thinks these words could be hurtful to someone.

Is it really the responsibility of a children’s book from long ago to make sure you do not feel offended? Often on the behalf of others?

In this quest to normalize everything, we have reached a point where we actively overcompensate on all fronts, even opinions and attitudes from the past. We are left with amputated children’s songs, books, films, art, and culture, which are constantly subjected to being colored by our convulsive need to “show consideration.”

Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s nice to show consideration. I love considerate people! It is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise narcissistic and self-centered Patrick Bateman society we will soon find ourselves in. But it looks more and more like we no longer quite know if we mean what we say, or if we are just afraid to say the wrong thing.

It becomes quite the paradox for a movement that revolves around the right to “be who you are.”

Unfortunately, it is often easier to just repeat the words of the masses. The loud, pedantic progressive movement, which uses other people’s gender identity and fights for what they believe are social inequalities in society as an identity marker.

Some are apparently more concerned with being perceived as groundbreaking, woke, and progressive than with actually contributing something concrete to create change.

Political opinions are used as a springboard for self-promotion and to show the world how open and inclusive they are. This is an absurd and transparent form of self-idolization.

If one should be so shortsighted as to say that it’s a bit much, well, then one should be canceled, in the name of infringement! Because in this infringement era, it may seem that we are finally actually only being offended for the sake of being offended. Often mainly on behalf of others.

It is sad that what began as an important uproar against bigotry and the abuse culture in Hollywood during the Me Too movement has developed into a phenomenon that, at its worst, threatens freedom of expression and diversity of opinion.

Studies show that young people are afraid of being canceled, that over 50% of them do not dare to say what they really think, because it is not “correct” enough. Nothing is correct enough. An opinion is an opinion! Having different opinions is permissible. Raising questions is allowed, instead of idiotically following the vociferous majority.

Of course, one should strive to show understanding and grow and develop one’s person and opinions. But do we really benefit from a society where no one dares to speak from the heart, for fear of being perceived as old-fashioned or judgmental?

Unfortunately, it may seem that the “woke phenomenon,” in the struggle for people to be allowed to be who they are, feel what they feel, and say what they want to say, ironically has orchestrated the exact opposite effect.

A generation and a public that is so afraid of stepping on someone else’s toes with their out-of-date opinions, or opinions imperfectly nuanced, that they choose to follow the masses instead of raising questions to avoid being canceled.

Personally, I have always loved conflict, and I do not shy away from an opportunity to provoke just a bit. And so, I have no problem putting myself in the line of fire of the watchful new power elite. I know I will be attacked for being a white, young, heterosexual man, who lacks the ability to empathize.

I do have that—plenty! I just don’t make it part of my personality profile. I have not chosen to be like this. This is how I was born. Born a privileged stereotype. Nothing special.

And that’s also perfectly fine. Because it is apparently more and more trendy to be “special.” Young people self-diagnose with ADHD (which I have) and autism (maybe that too, not sure, I haven’t self-diagnosed using a couple of TikTok videos) in large numbers.

If you have any strange quirks, you can quickly find out if there is an identity you can borrow to stand out from the crowd and to grab some attention.

A friend said he became unsure about his own sexual orientation after having used Tinder and seen 55 different ones. Soon two plus two will no longer be allowed to equal four.

I am taking this to the extreme, I know. I am trying to step outside my comfort zone but also to not give myself an anxiety attack when I read through the comments section later. I am doing this because I think it is important to ask questions about this culture that actively works to undermine as many people as possible based on their opinions.

The whole thing looks more and more like a dictatorial youth gang that excludes everyone who doesn’t hold the same new cool opinions.

I hope that in the future we can get better at debating issues without the opinion police getting fired up. That we can agree that this is becoming a bit parodic and unnatural.

Again, to be clear, I don’t support hate culture in any way, and I think everyone should be allowed to be themselves. But I think we need to leave what has been behind us.

We can let art be art, humor be humor, and diagnoses be reserved for people who have the appropriate education.

We must let the past stay in the past. Otherwise, we learn nothing. When we retroactively change things that were written in a completely different age, we are not fooling anyone. We cannot change history or cancel the past.

Instead, let’s try to be better by learning from it. And let us continue to progress in the right direction with rich and diverse public debate.

Because in the cultural sphere where snowflakes have become sharp icicles, hanging like small, despicable galactic emperors in a universe they themselves have created, it is increasingly difficult to navigate.

I’m looking forward to the day when canceling woke culture is in.

Translated by Ragnhild Hjeltnes

Also see: Norske forfattere vil ikke ble sensurert and “Krohg-gate” shakes up a cultural debate in the April 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.