Sense of Humor Missing From the `Politically Correct'

Regarding the opinion-page column ``Attacks on `PC' Are New McCarthyism,'' April 24 by Williams College professor Thomas Spear: For the first time, the increasingly militant advocates of mandatory ``political correctness'' are being challenged. I love it! Stuffed shirts are more quickly unstuffed by pointed humor rather than a baseball bat. Absence of humor is a notable shortcoming of the PC movement as it was in its closest relative, the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The expulsion of college students for uttering ``forbidden words'' is bizarre. Sanctions for offenses like ``inappropriately directed laughter'' and ``conspicuous exclusion from conversation'' (PC shibboleths at the University of Connecticut) are potential subject matter for Saturday Night Live skits, as is the idea of mandatory ``sensitivity training'' for the politically incorrect.

The current ``forbidden word'' rules remind me of the situation in Zimbabwe a few years ago. The titular president of the emerging African state was a man named Banana. It was a criminal offense to use the word ``banana'' in any sense which might be perceived as politically incorrect.

I do not see any evidence of McCarthyism in the critical words of the politically incorrect. I do hear politically incorrect laughter. So far all I see is public exposure of the more ridiculous and malicious aspects of PC dogma. There is no persecution of the PC, merely the questioning of their sacred cows and their methods of enforcing PC on US campuses.

V. Racenis, Kenmore, N.Y.

How can attacking PC positions be the new McCarthyism? It is, after all, the PC people who claim to know the politically correct position for everyone else and who stigmatize as racist, sexist, homophobic, and fascist anyone who disagrees with them. The McCarthyism of the right, as illustrated by the Dartmouth Review, is deplorable. But the McCarthyism of the left, as illustrated by the PC people, is perhaps worse. It is equally or more tyrannical, and it is hypocritical as well. Why? Because the left is supposed to be liberal.

Carroll P. Cole, New Haven, Conn.

Thomas Spear does not address the role that ideological bias, regardless of how right-thinking it is, plays in choosing among works of non-Western or Western origins to meet the constraints of such mundane concerns as course length in a required ``history of civilization'' course. Does the supplanting of traditional Western ideas and words with ethnocentric revisions ensure diversity of ideas or student populations? The actions of the ``new right'' are not so much a return to McCarthyism as an objection to a quota system on ideas.

Alan Hull, Marietta, Ga.

The author falls into his own trap when he claims that those on the right ``seek to exclude and narrow our vision.'' He lumps together the critiques of the PC movement in the same manner he seems to criticize in his article. I cannot speak to the situation at Williams College, but speech codes at other universities threaten constructive debate over real issues. Too often, conservative and libertarian solutions are simply labeled as ``cold-hearted,'' ``racist,'' or even simply ``right-wing'' and thus dismissed out of hand. Dismissal of intelligent arguments on this basis alone is detrimental; the institutionalization of this standard is catastrophic.

Robert Parkins, Prarie Village, Kan.

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