Motives matter. Upholding “political correctness” can be motivated by respect and kindness for others, and it can be motivated by desires to discourage diversity, to appear sophicated or superior, and to engineer society. Upholding “free speech” can be motivated by desires for honest and interactive inquiry, and it can be used to justify rhetoric with hateful and hurtful intentions. This is why it’s too simplistic to pit political correctness against free speech. Both have value and both can be corrupted. Someone who foolishly wishes to trash political correctness completely underappreciates the value of positive social expectations and taboos, whereas someone who mindlessly adheres to social rules underappreciates how codifications of behaviour can become subtly or not-so-subtly used as tools of social control and manipulation. We must recognize the ways polical correctness and freedom of speech can be corrupted by harmful motives. And we must see the good and necessary impulses that support upholding political correctness and free speech at their best: kindness, respect, openness, honesty, and truthfulness, to name a few.
Such virtues cannot be legislated. Nobody can be forced by law to genuinely respect another person, nor can anyone be forced to be honest or truthful. All of these virtues are are voluntary acts. Laws may be used to discourage certain behaviours, but mere laws cannot create authentic internal virtues. Real respect and kindness and honesty arise from the depths of a person’s soul. If we wish to truly create a more respectful, kind, truthful culture, we’ll need to rely on much more than the power and persuasion of legislative reforms. What