Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei has warned about political correctness in the U.S., saying its perpetuation has already turned the country into an authoritarian state without people knowing it.
About Ai Weiwei: Ai, 64, is a contemporary artist who openly criticizes the Chinese Communist Party. In 2011, he was imprisoned for 81 days during a government crackdown that targeted writers, human rights lawyers and other activists.
- Ai’s protest against government oppression is reflected in his work. His 2014 project “@Large” transformed San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz prison into a gargantuan exhibition that featured 176 portraits of prisoners of conscience and political exiles from all over the world, according to The New York Times.
- Ai’s passport was revoked at the time. Upon its restoration in 2015, he moved to Berlin to start a new life; however, it wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that he got to see the portraits, which were made from 1.2 million Legos, at the exhibition in Washington, D.C., as per Smithsonian Magazine. Ai now resides in Portugal after living in Berlin and the U.K.
What he’s saying: Ai shared his bleak outlook of the U.S. while promoting his memoir in a new interview on PBS’ “Firing Line.” He pointed out that authoritarians cannot be by themselves and instead must rely on a system that supports their views.
- In his book, Ai described Mao Zedong’s directives during the Cultural Revolution, which were distributed at night. He compared them to former President Donald Trump’s “midnight tweets.”
- Ai disagreed, however, when asked if he thought Trump was authoritarian. He stated that the U.S. is already behaving like an authoritarian state, and much of it has to do with efforts for people to be “unified in a certain political correctness.”
- “In many ways, you’re already in the authoritarian state. You just don’t know it,” Ai told “Firing Line” host Margaret Hoover, who asked him to elaborate.
- Ai explained that with today’s technology, we know so much more than we actually understand. “The information [has] become jammed, but we don’t really … have the knowledge, because you don’t work. You don’t have to act on anything. You just think you’re purified by certain ideas that you agree with. That is posing dangers to society, to an extremely divided society,” he said.
Reactions: Ai’s remarks have drawn mixed reactions on social media. Meanwhile, an opinion piece for the Chinese state-run Global Times noted that the artist, who is typically hailed as an “outspoken hero” by “Western elites,” did not receive the usual praise for his comments.
- “Political Correctness is NOT the Language of a Free People,” one YouTube user wrote.
- Another paraphrased his comment as: “Everything woke turns to sh*t.”
- The Global Times piece, for its part, criticized American hypocrisy: “The U.S. elites often preach that ‘If you are not free to criticize, then praise is meaningless’ in countries it regards as a foe. But when it comes to criticizing its own system, the U.S. elites are hypocritically not so tolerant.”
Featured Image via PBS/“Firing Line” with Margaret Hoover