Week 8 Updates

We have met up today as a group and discussed our parts of the presentation. Leeyan and Ishani will be presenting the argument on the side of freedom of expression, while Yuxin and I will be presenting our arguments on the side of political correctness. We have created an outline that encompasses our entire presentation, including topics, timing, and source materials.

I noticed last week that all of the members of our group are of Asian descent and, because of that, we can all incorporate our experiences and ideologies that stem from each of our countries (China, Saudi Arabia, India, and Pakistan). It will be interesting to explore the  differences between Western and Eastern definitions/stances on freedom of expression and political correctness. The values of each country greatly affect how they treat these issues and through what lens they are perceived. Exploring this also fits perfectly into our theme of ‘uncertainty’ as it is apparent that context, history, and location play an enormous role in determining how pc culture and expression are valued and implemented by these diverse societies.

Week 8 reflection

We have previously mentioned that our team has decided to treat our question as a debate. Therefore, two of us are going to be arguing for free speech, while the other two are arguing for political correctness. We plan on meeting tomorrow and have a debate style session to see which arguments are the strongest.

As I was searching for arguments that support freedom of speech, I came across four free speech theories: 1 ) Arguments concerned with the importance of discovering truth; 2) Free speech as an aspect of self-fulfillment; 3) The argument from citizen participation in a democracy; 4) Suspicion of government. These four arguments seem compelling, however,  the argument that I will be using in the presentation depends on how our debate goes tomorrow.

13/03/2019 summary+outline+Future plan

Today we talked about the structure of our presentation. Here are some points that we mentioned during the meeting with Conor as well as the discussion among members.

Research question: Is freedom of speech compatible with political correctness?

Research aim: To analyse the principles and values of both free speech and political correctness; to introduce the theme of uncertainty and interdisciplinary research.

Research outline:

1. Introduction

Starting with the concepts of both PC and free speech. Do these two terms have strict academic definitions? What are the origins of them? If there is no agreed definition, what kind of definition will be used in our discussion? (presented by word cloud at first)

2. Outline

Methods: debate style, comparative conceptual analysis across politics, philosophy and media (qualitative).

Materials: scholarly articles and media coverage

3. Debate

Free speech VS political correctness, two arguments from each side with examples and detailed philosophical justification. We will try our best to make sure every member will contribute to at least one argument with solid evidence.

4. Conclusion

Theoretically, PC and free speech seems not compatible because their values contrast to each other. In reality, these two coexist (although not in their purest form).

Reflections on uncertainty: who should define free speech and political correctness? How can examples from different cultures/countries cover all theoretical values? people conceive these two terms quite differently, depending on their cultural and ideological background and their politic position.

Important!! Please prepare all arguments and examples and have a draft ready before Sunday morning.

Sunday 11-13 we will have a mock debate in the library.

Tuesday we will meet at Conor’s office hour at liberal arts common room.

Next Friday we will have a mock presentation with slides.

The day before the formal presentation we will have another mock.

week 6 discussion

During reading week, our group assigned each person some tasks to do. Yuxin and I had a meeting and we tried to understand what encompasses offensive language. We have come to the conclusion that it is very easy to confuse offensive language with opposing opinions.

We have also addressed the difference between ‘hate speech’ that incites violence and an actual call to action. It can be argued that the speaker can only be held accountable if their speech is a call to action. Whereas, situations that involve hateful speech don’t go far enough to move people to act, arguably. To be more specific, the speaker cannot be held accountable.

Furthermore, is the fact that the language is offensive enough for it to be policed? This is a very important question that our group will try to discern.

Ishani and I will try to support arguments in favor of free speech, and Yuxin and Maha will argue in favor of Political Correctness.

Pulwama attack leads to talks on speech and expression? Week 5

In light of the Pulwama attack in Kashmir. The concept of freedom of expression seems to have played a rather serious role in the turn of events .In the midst of heightened tensions between the two countries ( India and Pakistan), A number of controversies are being discussed and raged through social media platforms. for instance, Navjot Singh Sidhu , who is a well renowned T.V. personality, and a member of parliament got fired from his position on a reality show just because of a tweet which was politically incorrect . Is this justifyable ? Although with attaining certain rights such as freedom of expression ,comes responsibility however should there be such harsh limitations placed that an individual is removed from a position of office ?

Week 4 reflection

In our last meeting, we were able to narrow down the essay questions to one : Is political correctness compatible with freedom of speech? We’ve found that this question is best understood through the use of case studies. It should be noted that our group will only address cases that have occurred within a liberal democracy. Therefore, our methodology will mainly focus on case studies. We want to look at two distinct cases; one case will be a political speech, while the other will be an advertisement. As such, in our next meeting, each person will bring their own cases and we will collectively choose the best two cases that fit our argument. 

We will be looking at the legality of it. How do states and corporations address offensive language? What can be considered as ‘offensive’ and how can we measure it? Even if it were possible to measure it, how can it be enforced? And should this type of rhetoric be viewed as a criminal offense. Obviously, we can see how contested this topic is. However, the aforementioned questions just highlight how difficult it is to actually enforce political correctness. 

Another way of looking at the case studies is through the morality lens. Is it morally acceptable to restrict people’s use of language? I personally think that this is the most important sub-question, because of the implications that come from policing language. It could be a dangerous tool and, to some extent, a totalitarian instrument.

‘Should political correctness be more valued than freedom of expression, or vice versa,’ is another normative question that may be considered in the research. 

Finally, there seems to be a paradox. Liberal democracies claim to be free and tend promote freedom of expression/speech. However, enforcing political correctness and policing language appears to infringe on those rights. Our research ultimately falls on this; it does not seem possible to have both freedom of speech and political correctness, while also maintain the ‘liberal’ democracy status. There are many examples in Canada and the UK, which show that people can be prosecuted for the words that they say. 

Week 3 Reflection

Week 3

In our last meeting, we had discussed possible new topics as we still had not decided on a single topic yet. We had talked about adds like the Gillette add and how problematic some of us view it. There seems to be obvious virtue signaling in the video, whereby the majority of the consumers are being alienated from the narrative presented in the video. Personally, I saw it as blaming a majority for something that a small minority does. Is it an attack on an entire gender? There is a self-righteous “How could you? or I would never or you should NEVER act this way” undertone that is unfit for an add. Obviously, the producers and creators of the video may have had ulterior motives when they filmed this add. It created controversy, which is what a lot of companies like to do. 

This add, specifically, isn’t that important to our presentation. However, it raises some crucial questions that we are currently discussing. For instance:

  • Is virtue signaling in adds appropriate? 
  • Do these types of messages in adds alienate consumers?
  • Should adds avoid political/social narratives and issues?
  • To what extent do company owners have an obligation to address/tackle social issues in their adds or policies?
  • Should virtue signaling be allowed, because it is part of freedom of expression/speech?
  • Is virtue signaling connected to political correctness?
  • Finally, is political correctness incompatible with freedom of expression/speech?

Here are some links on virtue signaling to help clarify what it is: (Warning: some have satire!)




Uncertainty Group C- Week 2

Week Two

In our past meeting, we discussed our ideas pertaining to ‘uncertainty’ and possible topics for our presentation. Due to the fact that our group consists of Politics and English majors, we will attempt to combine the two disciplines through focus on things such as:

  • language used in speeches made my political figures
  • freedom of expression in modern democracy
  • the power of words in (social) media
  • virtue signalling

By the end of our next meeting, we hope to have chosen our topic, understand what we would like to achieve through this presentation, and have an idea of how we would like to present it.