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Why It's Time to Retire the Term "Political Correctness"

Political correctness can go the f*ck to sleep, says Adam Mansbach. The term has been co-opted by so many social factions that it's more of a hindrance to the cause of respect than a help.

Adam Mansbach: You know even the term "political correctness" at this point I feel like has been compromised, has been diluted, and means different things to different people in a way that is counterproductive. I would vote to retire the term entirely. I guess where I fall is, on one hand if you are whining about the way that political correctness and some culture of respect prevents you from being an asshole, then you’re an asshole. If the political correctness of the world stops you, impinges your freedom of speech and prevention from being misogynistic, homophobic, racist—then fuck you, basically. I guess that’s ultimately where I fall on it. 

I don’t really know any artists, any creative folks who feel like some restrictive culture is preventing them from doing their art, you know. The people I see are flourishing in this space. I think respect is important. I think calling people by the words and the names and the pronouns that they choose for themselves is critical. There’s no reason in any sense to do otherwise that I can think of.

But I feel like the term itself, as far back as the 90s, was being bandied about in this spirit of mockery, and I remember books being published, like “The Politically Correct Handbook” and like things that just take it to a level of absurdity.

The simple idea—that people of various marginalized discriminated against groups were claiming ownership of the words used to describe them—was taken and satirized and made absurd by the right, a group of people who are not known for their sense of humor. And it became kind of a battering ram. Like “Oh, you know, we can’t say blah, blah, blah.” And like “Well you can’t say short anymore, you have to say vertically challenged.” And it was very deliberate.


I mean it was part of the war around language which is a very critical part of political discourse. The control of terminology is really, really important in the way that people’s views are shaped. And it’s something that the right has had a lock on surprisingly for a pretty long time, you know. “Pro-life” sounds good but isn’t. But the way that the words and the phrases and the terminology shape the debate is really critical. So the term in my mind goes back to that and yeah, at this point I think we could probably put it to death and come up with something better.

 

Political correctness has united us all—in hatred, says Adam Mansbach, author of Go the F*ck to Sleep. The principle of calling people by the names and pronouns that show them respect is valid, if not critical, but the term has been co-opted and re-tooled to become counterproductive to that ideal. "If you are whining about the way that political correctness and some culture of respect prevents you from being an asshole, then you’re an asshole." What does political correctness rob you of, other than the freedom to be misogynistic, homophobic, or racist, he asks? However Mansbach is the first to acknowledge that 'PC' needs a re-brand, because the terminology matters, especially when it divides people against a principle that most of us would probably agree on. Adam Mansbach's most recent book is co-authored with Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel: For This We Left Egypt?.


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Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

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  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
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  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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