Although I’ve been critical of Justin Trudeau in the past, in particular over his broken electoral reform promise, which to me is inexcusable, I’m going to come to his defence on the “peoplekind” gaff. Many people are upset at his political correctness; the incident is even being discussed in international media. At a town hall meeting in Edmonton a woman in the audience asked a question that used the term, “mankind,” which Trudeau immediately corrected by saying, “we say peoplekind now.” To some, this was yet more evidence of Trudeau’s political correctness and virtue-signalling. The fact he corrected her with the rather awkward “peoplekind” rather than “humankind” only seemed to add to the absurdity of the situation.
Trudeau, however, has said the comment was a joke.
I believe him.
Take a look at the viral video that initially started this controversy.
If there ever was an example of bias in editing this is it. You could get the impression from this 22 second clip that Trudeau was scolding the woman. For one thing, the camera is behind him, so it’s impossible to see his facial expression which is an important factor in determining tone. We can examine his tone of voice, which could be interpreted either way (serious or sarcastic). Key, however, would be to look at the reaction of the audience who, unlike us, can see his face. This clip deliberately cuts right after Trudeau says “mankind” so that we cannot see the audience’s reaction. Most importantly we cannot see the reaction of the woman to whom he is speaking.
If you examine a longer clip, it’s clear by his tone, and more importantly, by the reaction of the woman he is speaking to, that this was a joke as he claims. Notice she laughs. She doesn’t appear to take offence at his correction.
If anything, it’s a satire on political correctness.
Of course, not everyone agrees. Some don’t buy his explanation of it as a joke. The problem is not the just the deceptive editing of the initial video, which stripped the comment of context, but also confirmation bias, which is the “tendency to interpret new evidence as a confirmation of one’s biases.”
Not only do people have a hard time determining real from fake news when it’s on a topic they feel strongly about, but confirmation bias also hinders our ability to tell if someone is joking. In other words, if a serious and literal interpretation confirms something we believe about Justin Trudeau (he’s an overly PC fake feminist), then we will look for evidence that confirms this bias. It’s hard for some people to see past that bias and view the comment for what it is: a joke. And, if anything, a joke with a kind of self-depricating anti-PC message.
This also explains why he chose to say the more awkward “peoplekind” rather than “humankind.” As a satirist, I’m well aware of this technique. You choose the more extreme or absurd or exaggerated option to emphasize the ridiculousness of the statement. If he had said “we say humankind now,” it might have been even more difficult to tell he was joking. Given the reaction of the audience, his tone of voice, and his choice of words, all signs point to the fact that, yes, Justin Trudeau was joking.
If you want evidence to confirm your anti-Trudeau biases, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere.
All that being said, I’m not above writing about the matter myself on the Daily Bonnet. Although I had the “Mennonite/Personnonite” idea for a long time, this recent incident was the perfect opportunity to post it. Oh, and yes, it’s just a joke.
(photo credit: John McCallum/CC)