On the first day of March, NOVA Debate Club hosted a debate between one of Portugal’s most preeminent comedians, contemporary thinkers and political pundits – Ricardo Araújo Pereira – and the authors of the highly controversial Facebook page, Jovem Conservador de Direita – Sérgio Duarte and Bruno Henriques.
The debate was promising from the start. It began with an attempt by Ricardo to address the definition of political correctness as “simply good manners” concept. He ended by stating that, if it was true that “political correctness is simply good manners”, one who was “politically incorrect” would simply be someone with bad manners, when in truth, said person is branded as a “racist”, “xenophobe”, “homophobe”, “sexist”, and in general, someone associated as belonging to the right-wing.
Bruno, on the other hand, compared the subject of political correctness to a builder’s level. While the balance between left and right was the desired outcome, what we witnessed was a mass hysteria and obsession with controlling the words people use from the left, and an idea that everyone is free to insult just for the sake of insulting from the right. Bruno regretted that there is a void in the center, which makes it hard to define the optimal point of moderation, either in manners or language.
Sérgio built on Bruno’s point through examples. The main one being Donald Trump. Trump ran a campaign with the basis of telling it like it is. His campaign consisted in calling every opponent by a nickname (crazy Bernie, crooked Hillary, low energy Jeb, little Marco, lying Ted), on calling women “pigs”, “slobs” and “dogs”, and on implying that a female journalist was on her period because of the questions she was asking during a debate. Trump claimed many times that the world was too politically correct and that something had to change.
The curious thing is that the roles seem to have shifted. In Portugal, censorship used to be considered an attribute of the far-right, while the left led the fight for freedom of speech. Today, a niche of the left stands for constraints on free speech, while the far-right cries for that freedom. What Ricardo claims is that the right isn’t really standing for free speech, but only for its free speech. And to sustain his hypotheses, he used Trump as an example, as well. It takes only a visit to Trump’s twitter to realize that he does not stand for everyone’s freedom to express themselves.
Ricardo is an advocate for allowing everyone to express one’s thoughts, however stupid they may be, and then letting them deal with the consequences of those thoughts. Shutting the opposition up will never lead to a victory in an argument, especially in the political arena.
This was the major point of discordance of the debate. Both Sérgio and Bruno agreed that everyone should be free to express their opinions, however idiotic they may be. But, they feel that for some the platform to express those opinions should not be granted. In their opinion, granting the platform for certain discussions increases the credibility of, a priori, idiotic subjects. For example, subjects like the earth being flat or the inexistence of climate change. These pointless debates could lead to damaging consequences due to the delay in legislation that occurs.
Sérgio and Bruno’s page being banned from Facebook resulted in an increase in awareness to the character’s existence. When the page was reinstated, the number of likes increased exponentially. Censorship was, as they called it, the fuel they needed.
One could say that matters of consonance outnumbered those of disagreement in this debate. Ricardo contended that everyone should be allowed to express their thoughts, however idiotic, and deal with the consequences of said thoughts. Sérgio and Bruno agreed, but argued that, in certain subjects, some thoughts and opinions should not be considered in order to avoid filibustering. They also agreed that there is a mass hysteria from the left in trying to control the vocabulary, leading to a counter-productive situation that inflicts more harm than good. Finally, they agreed that this situation enables those who are far from being victims to pose as such (i.e. Donald Trump).
The discussion around political correctness has no clear end at sight. But it was a true pleasure to be part of the team that brought this forum to Nova SBE. Debates on topics as these are paramount in the heart of a school. But these events don’t happen overnight. Thank you to all that made it possible.
*This article was written by João de Almeida and edited by Nova SBE. João de Almeida is a Management student at Nova SBE and Vice-President and Coordinator of Nova Debate. Thank you for your contribution, João.