Column: Beyond the politics

By Dan Mollison

In response to the fire former Booze News columnist Josh Nacey has received for his recent controversial article, Chuck Prochaska argued in his column last Thursday, “Take a deep breath,” that Nacey has been unfairly targeted and that he is a victim of being “politically incorrect” in “a period of a miserably uptight existence.” But Chuck missed the mark because he has tried to make an inherently nonpolitical issue – jokes about rape – into something political.

I understand how frustrating it is to read a joke that you find really funny and then hear that the writer is under fire for it. It’s a difficult situation for anyone to face, because when a joke is criticized there is an implication that the writer was somehow “wrong” for making the joke and that you were “wrong” for laughing at it. No one – not even the “politically correct” – likes being told that they’re wrong; so when faced with this kind of situation, it’s natural for people to simply choose to shut out the criticism, whether it contains truly meaningful information or not.

This is exactly what’s striking about Chuck’s column. The main argument in Chuck’s response is that “Nacey was joking” and that the “Booze News is one big joke.” He even cites the Booze News’ slogan, “Today’s news, under the influence.” And he’s right: almost everything printed in the Booze News is a joke. But the outcry against Nacey wasn’t regarding his taste in humor; it was about the fact that these types of jokes really hurt people. For Chuck to successfully argue that Nacey is the martyr he makes him out to be, he would have to prove that rape jokes don’t hurt people. And that is simply not true.

But Chuck chose not to go this route. Instead, he bypassed the actual issue being addressed – the fact that Nacey’s jokes hurt people – and pointed the finger at those who are “blowing their leftist politically correct tops” over Nacey’s article. This was an interesting choice, because from my understanding conservatives are just as likely to be affected and hurt by sexual assault as “leftists” are. It’s hard to believe that a conservative who is raped would be less hurt after reading an article that trivializes her traumatic attack than a liberal would. Again, if Chuck really wanted to substantiate his point, he should have tried to prove that rape victims and their supporters shouldn’t be hurt when people joke about their traumatic experiences rather than start pointing fingers at members of a political party.

I understand why Chuck would take this approach, because it’s hard to acknowledge to ourselves that what we say can really hurt people. It’s easier to pin the problem on oversensitive “leftists” than it is to acknowledge that what you say can have a real effect on others. But the fact is that we do have this power, regardless of whether we’re comfortable with it or not. And when we see that someone can be hurt by jokes that we have previously supported, we’re forced to decide whether we want to use our power to continue to hurt others – albeit unintentionally – or to help them. The decision to not be hurtful is never an easy one to make.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

For me, political correctness isn’t about being “right” or being “wrong”; it’s a matter of personal choice. Most of the people I know who are politically correct choose to be because they know they have the power to hurt others and simply don’t want to. There is nothing political about it. Some complain that political correctness is a part of the liberal ideology, but even if it were I don’t see why that would matter; in the end it just comes down to whether or not you want what you say to hurt people.

And despite what Chuck’s rhetoric might have you believe, there’s nothing political about that.