Opinion: Political correctness police should give Joe Biden a break

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students faculty and staff at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass.

(Winslow Townson / AP)
Guest blogger

Isn’t it a bitch?

Before anyone accuses me of offending women or dogs, please know that I am referring to a question Joe Biden asked last week at Harvard. It was a supposedly humorous response to a student identifying himself as a vice president. Biden then had to spend too much time backpedaling for however that line may have been misinterpreted.

Shortly after, over at HBO, Ben Affleck argued with Bill Maher and another of his guests over who was or was not being insulting to Muslims. The argument really was sort of silly -- three liberals getting caught up in labels and finger-pointing that did no one any good.


When the TV critic of the New York Times recently used the words “angry black woman” in an article about producer Shonda Rhimes, the reaction was furious. Never mind that the words were later put in context; it was too late. The same might be said for actor Gary Oldman, who had to apologize earlier this year for saying “Mel Gibson lives in a town run by Jews.” It even seems sports broadcasters are being suspended as often as the athletes for saying anything remotely U.P.C.

It really makes you wonder: Has political correctness has gone too far?

I recently wrote that there ought to be an app similar to auto-correct called PolitiCorrect that would immediately set off alarms when it detected anything that could be construed as potentially insulting to someone out there.

Vice President Biden, prone to gaffes, would probably be advised to never go anywhere without it.

But I do worry that we are all suffering for this addiction to inoffensiveness.

Besides the fact that too much time is being spent by the media’s commentariat reprimanding people for speaking freely, and the offenders subsequently apologizing, all of this political correctness is ultimately creating a culture of guarded people; sometimes it even skews the truth.

Wouldn’t it be nice to stop worrying about being politically correct and concern ourselves again with simply being honest -- especially when it comes in the form of an innocent joke?

Michele Willens is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast and the Atlantic.


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