Politically correct railfans

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Saturday, July 4, 2015

Jack runs a company that sells supplies to competitive swimmers. He advertises in Jill’s magazine, which is devoted to competitive swimming. And Bart is a competitive swimmer. On Facebook one day, Jack says that Bart is a alcohol-swilling has-been of a swimmer. Bill and Bob are admirers of Bart and subscribers to Jill’s magazine. They are angered by Jack’s remark and pressure Jill not to accept Jack’s advertising.

Jill asks, what in the dickens do I have to do with this? I didn’t start this fight, none of it occurred on the pages of my magazine, and Jack meets all our advertising standards. Am I to police everything that every advertiser says anywhere? Impossible, she says, and tells Bill and Bob no, she has no reason to ban Jack’s ads. But Bill and Bob respond, Bart is our hero and the hero of many if not most subscribers to the magazine. It’s a smart business decision to ban Jack. They cancel their subs to Jill’s magazine, naturally, thinking this will really, really hurt Jack (let’s all roll our eyes).

I have a name for this. It’s political correctness, and it is becoming the death of independent thought. The tempest involving a small advertiser in Trains Magazine over a comment he made on social media after the derailment of Amtrak train 188 has upset some readers of Trains, who have cancelled subscriptions. To be specific, the businessman ridiculed 188’s engineer, calling him a foamer. Those inflamed by that remark don’t understand why Trains won’t stand by working railroaders over an industry supplier. (It isn’t lost on me that the most vociferous of these people are unionized, whereas the advertiser qualifies nonunion people to perform union craft jobs, but let’s put that aside.)

Political correctness is rampant in our society today. Jerry Seinfeld said recently that PC is killing comedy, which is rife with insult. The Urban Dictionary defines PC as “A way that we speak in America so we don't offend whining ***.” (Trains Magazine software, which is itself politically correct, hid the word, which starts with P, uses three vowels and includes the letter S three times; I suspect you can figure it out.) I define PC differently: It is a way to marginalize people who disagree with you, particularly if you can claim to occupy high moral ground. And it is done by pressuring one and all to punish and destroy those with whom you disagree.

To go back to my example—which I think fairly describes the dispute involving Trains Magazine as an uninvolved bystander—Bill and Bob’s normal recourse would be not to patronize Jack’s company. Certainly this is their right. But Bill and Bob don’t patronize Jack’s company to start with, and it is unlikely that boycotting Jack’s business would have much if any effect. So they twist the arm of Jill, a third party who has no dog in this hunt. It’s not her fight. She probably has no opinion of Bart one way or the other and if she did, it’s still a barroom brawl she isn’t interested in entering. And even if her editor wants to stake out a position on one side or the other on the editorial pages, what does this have to do with access to her magazine by an advertiser?

So now comes the insidious entrance of political correctness. On this blog this past weekend, a poster said to me in a comment: “I'm at a loss trying to figure out how dropping an advertiser that insults many of the magazine's contributors and readers is somehow equal to stifling dialogue and free speech? Seems like a stretch.” I read that and thought to myself, this is politically correct thinking in full flower. Let me paraphrase the contributor: Some of us don’t like what was said, and therefore this offender must be thrown out, ostracized, punished, silenced. And it is fair to use any means at hand, including bringing outsiders into the fray.

That is the meaning of my previous blog, Free Speech Is Not Divisible. We all have free expression or none of us do. Those angry at the company whose owner offended them are exercising their right of expression. They just don’t want their enemy to have that right, because put out of business, his voice is essentially silenced.

As I’ve said, I cannot speak for Trains Magazine or its publishing company, only for myself. But I can safely say that most journalists would find this whole thing upsetting. The politically correct crowd is after an advertiser today. Tomorrow they will descend on writers—me—who dare to disagree with them. My own position has never wavered: Trains Magazine didn’t start this. Myself, I don’t give a rat’s ass what the advertiser said about the engineer of Amtrak train 188. It was said on social media where insanity is the rule. People go nuts on Facebook, totally lose their minds. Moreover, the advertiser’s remark came across to as something a crackpot would say. To take it seriously gives it prominence it doesn’t deserve. Read it and forget it, I say. I feel no urge to punish anyone. I have no idea at all what percentage of Trains readers (or those of this blog) agree with me, and I don’t care if 100 percent of you are aligned on the other side—not at all. Grow up, everybody, get a life, and be adults.—Fred W. Frailey

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy