We live in an era of micro-aggressions and having to perpetually walk on eggshells over things that were non issues just two decades ago when I was a child in the ’90s. The idea of being politically correct or “PC” is catered around, becoming the most neutral possible to not offend anyone. What happens when all the dancing around is what someone finds offensive?
Enter Alex, a service that touts itself as a tool to eliminate anything offensive from your writing as a means to train yourself not to be such an awful human being. Does it work? Curiously, I went to test for myself to see if the random screen caps on my Twitter feed weren’t just someone having fun in Photoshop. As examples, I’m going to pit what I find to be perfectly acceptable and compare to what Alex deems fine and dandy.
Here’s the demo section for you readers to try your own hand on how to become a better, more sensitive writer. All you have to do is simply blank out the default text and enter your ow—problematic words are highlighted in red for your convenience. If you happen to trigger the filter, Alex will display why it flagged your word and offer suggestions on what to replace it with in green.
The default text:
The boogeyman wrote all changes to the **master server**.
Thus, the slaves were read-only copies of master. But not to worry, he was a cripple.
And here are the results of the example provided:
1. boogeyman may be insensitive, use boogey instead;
2. slaves / master may be insensitive, use replica / primary instead;
3. he may be insensitive, use they, it instead;
4. cripple may be insensitive, use person with a limp instead;
How did I do being polite initially and purposely coming off as rude? Let’s find out!
If this is the definition of problematic, I’m obviously living life as the most rotten human being on the planet and I apologize for being the absolute worst. Now let’s see what my results are when purposely trying to be offensive.
Wow, this seems more at home on /pol/ and something I would have definitely thought was, you know, considered in bad taste?
Alex’s motto is “Catch insensitive, inconsiderate writing”; not quite doing a bang up job on that front if I’m completely honest. Follow that up with “catches many possible offenses” and you have a winner. Calling the owner of TechRaptor a kindhearted man is terrible, but implying transsexuals and people of Jewish decent caused 9/11 shows zero issue? You can’t make these results up. I wish you could, I really do. I’m also curious how something like this made it’s way to GitHub—although considering a poorly coded blockbot by one Randi Harper is also fair game, maybe I’m not so surprised.
What stood out most to me is of everything to pick apart through a filter, gender pronouns were the most picked up. TechRaptor focuses on video games and tech news, but we don’t know if one day these types of filters would become standard practice in institutions—this sort of thing did happen before at a school district. Much like defending Samus’ role as being all woman somehow became a controversy, so did basic everyday interactions.
. If I were to, let’s just say I’m going to call my son a boy and my daughter a girl. No amount of divisive political correctness is going to come between that. If the end goal of this app is to prevent offending everyone, it did a great job at offending me with this lunacy. As a side note, if I do have children of my own one day, and if one happens to be transgender, I’ll take that one step at a time. The trans people in my life have indicated they would rather be called “he” or “her”, not “it”; now that seems insensitive.
Technology is a wonderful tool, but a far cry from human empathy as the above screen caps clearly demonstrate. The moral is don’t let technology determine if you are a good person or not. In this new age of hypersensitivity, we lose a sense of who we are as people. This isn’t a pass to say whatever, but it is an eye opener. When it comes to what is or isn’t offensive, it’s the context and intent that you should look out for–not individual words.
You never know what interesting things lurk on the Internet, Twitter is both a gift and a curse. I’ll let this screencap capture how I feel about the concept of trying to change writers to bend to this sort of thinking.