Star Comment: Is political correctness a bad joke?
Over-reaction seems to have become the abiding tone of public – and often private – debate.
We all have our views on the often startling tweets from President Trump, while there is an increasing mood among university students that no-one should be allowed to speak on a campus if what they say might upset someone.
And the disciplinary action taken over the private Facebook post of one manager by her employers seems to add fuel to the debate.
No-one would argue that the Facebook post by Claire Millard was either particularly funny or in good taste. But it was a private joke with someone; an off-the-cuff remark that in a private conversation would probably have been taken in good part.
But Facebook is not private. Anything we write, post or Tweet on social media is often as confidential as spray-painted graffiti on a street corner.
Someone saw Ms Millard’s comment and took offence.
Then they took their complaint to the authorities at Dudley College, where Ms Millard is curriculum manager for adult skills, who were obliged to look into the matter.
The college principal, Lowell Williams, admits that Ms Millard has been an exemplary member of staff for 12 years. Yet one false step on Facebook has seen her suspended, taken before a disciplinary committee and hit with a ‘severe sanction’.
Wouldn’t a quiet word have served everyone far better? Presumably, despite it being a private message, the fact that it was made while Ms Millard was on an official visit to India by college staff is the reason for hauling her over the coals.
So what did she do? After posting a picture of herself on Facebook wearing traditional headwear she was asked, presumably by a friend, whether she was joining ISIS. She responded “Yep, Allah Akhbar”. There was a laughing emoji too.
At what stage do conversations between friends become public property? At what point do we all lose the right to express personal views or even crack – admittedly – very poor taste jokes?
Does this mean our every utterance must, at all times, conform to some vague idea of political correctness.
One hates to even mention the old cliche about it being ‘political correctness gone mad’, but if not mad, it certainly seems to be on the point of being dangerously unbalanced.