Political correctness

A topic which pervades many others

Re: Political correctness

Postby Gavin » 07 Nov 2012, 22:02

Just in: hate preaching Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has cost the British taxpayer one million pounds in legal aid (this is quite apart from his massive haul in benefits). Lawyers must be very happy with the amount of PC in the UK - they seem to be the main beneficiaries.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Gavin » 19 Dec 2012, 22:48

This thread began with the idea that PC might be some kind of politeness. I think we generally agreed that it is more insidious that that and it involves double standards and obliging people to say things they know to be untrue.

I wanted to take this opportunity though to return to the idea of when it is appropriate to tell truths, rather than giving examples of PC.

Quite often here on this forum - perhaps increasingly - I find us drifting in directions whereby we might want to say things, in the spirit of free enquiry, but they are unsayable. They might be offensive, even illegal, to even posit. That's the way it is and we need to bear that in mind in practical legal terms. But I find it very annoying as it is in direct conflict with my instinct to try to get to the truth, wherever it leads. I'm sure others feel the same too.

In theoretical terms, when is it and is it not appropriate to tell truths? The world is getting smaller, what with everybody living in each other's countries and with the Internet revolution. Some diplomacy is surely called for. Yet there is also the issue of freedom of speech.

As I stated in my initial reply, I think it becomes important for a society to tell truths when not telling them potentially threatens that society more than telling them does.

I remember at university I used to wander around discussing philosophy with a friend and there was really nothing out of bounds. We could discuss anything at all - start with an extreme proposition then examine its truth or not. I frequently feel frustrated that we can't do that here and free enquiry seems to run adrift because it is terminated by what we can and can't even say, or even float for discussion. I probably go too far myself sometimes, but it's entirely without malice and indeed without forgone conclusions.

Back then it would just be the two of us, wandering around, and no offended parties would be likely to hear us. Are there some things that are better not said for everyone to hear? There probably are (just look at the trouble Assange caused). The question is where that line lies.

This may be too complex an issue to be simply answered here, but I wanted to at least acknowledge its relevance to this very forum.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Gavin » 19 Dec 2012, 23:23

Reflecting further on this, I suppose there were some things we couldn't discuss: those things which would have been immediately insulting to each other or our families - perhaps even if true. With the Internet now, everybody can potentially see everything, and be offended.

As Dalrymple has said, it is a good job people cannot read each other's minds, or else society would likely descend immediately into widespread violence. Which truths to tell when, that's the question. The law tells us to a degree, so ends the discussion in practical terms, with the theoretical terms being still open.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Tom » 20 Dec 2012, 02:18

I find us drifting in directions whereby we might want to say things, in the spirit of free enquiry, but they are unsayable. They might be offensive, even illegal, to even posit. That's the way it is and we need to bear that in mind in practical legal terms. But I find it very annoying as it is in direct conflict with my instinct to try to get to the truth, wherever it leads. I'm sure others feel the same too.


I don't have a clear idea about what it would be safe to say legally in the UK, and what would get you into trouble. The law at the moment prohibits being offensive. I am very much against offensiveness for the sake of being offensive, but it is often offensive to criticise someone, particularly if that criticism is deserved. I think I prefer the American presumption of free-speech with a minimal set of exceptions.

A woman called Emma West is in legal trouble for allegedly swearing and telling people that they aren't English based on the colour of their skin. This would be coarse behaviour and I don't have much sympathy for it, but people behave as badly with impunity if they don't breach political correctness mores, and the opinions underlying her rant are held silently by a large number of people who are afraid to say what they think.

I imagine that the more measured tones common on this forum would give some degree of legal protection, but I have no feeling for how much, and our government and legal system is capable of rapidly changing the laws or their interpretation.

In my opinion these difficult issues will fester until they can be frankly discussed. At the moment, the only people who discuss them openly seem to be motivated by hatred. I suspect that a less censorious society would discover that these issues aren't as dreadful as they seem when they can't be discussed, and that some reasonable mitigation for them could be found.

The Nazis believed that the Moon was made of ice. The Soviets believed in Lysenkoism. I don't want to imply that the current PC brigade is as bad as those regimes, but when alternative hypotheses to the party line are not stateable in polite society, it is a sign of rot within that society. If a society can't look reality in the eye, it is decadent, and vulnerable.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Rachel » 21 Dec 2012, 02:24

Tom wrote:In my opinion these difficult issues will fester until they can be frankly discussed. At the moment, the only people who discuss them openly seem to be motivated by hatred. I suspect that a less censorious society would discover that these issues aren't as dreadful as they seem when they can't be discussed, and that some reasonable mitigation for them could be found.


Hear Hear.

Tom wrote:"...when alternative hypotheses to the party line are not stateable in polite society, it is a sign of rot within that society. If a society can't look reality in the eye, it is decadent, and vulnerable"


True again.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Jonathan » 23 Dec 2012, 11:01

"In theoretical terms, when is it and is it not appropriate to tell truths?"


In private conversation, when doing so gives gratuitous offense.

In public conversation, when doing so is a clear incitement to violence or treason.


The ideology behind our current PC woes does not distinguish between private and public speech, and does not distinguish between degrees of severity. Thus the most menacing and immediate calls to incitement ("Behead those who insult Islam") are treated less seriously than a factual statement which might cause someone to hold unfavorable views about a third party ("Mohammad married a nine-year-old girl").



"Quite often here on this forum - perhaps increasingly - I find us drifting in directions whereby we might want to say things, in the spirit of free enquiry, but they are unsayable."

I believe a common solution in totalitarian regimes was to comment on somewhat parallel situations in foreign countries. If the country is considered unfriendly by the official party line, why then even the most hostile criticism can be voiced safely.

Am I being too oblique? I will be happy to provide an example, either on this thread, or on a new one.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Gavin » 23 Dec 2012, 12:59

That seems to me a very good example of real PC, Jonathan. The trouble is our government also legislates on terms of giving gratuitous offence in public speech in the case of Islam and on matters of race. Especially on the latter, so that free enquiry is prevented (Dr Watson discovered this to his cost).

I believe there may be laws about "destablising society" with the truth, it seems, even though it is ultimately up to individuals whether or not they riot. I am generally in favour of the truth being spoken and people just handling it, on the other hand I do not want accusations of "racism" etc. and our forum shut down. This is undoubtedly the hottest potato and I feel much more able to discuss the ideologies of feminism and Islam.

I like your distinction but it seems to allow for inciting violence verbally in private. Perhaps that is fine, and only committing, or acting in preparation to commit, the violence should be illegal, as it currently is.

Am I being too oblique? I will be happy to provide an example, either on this thread, or on a new one.


Yes, maybe a little oblique, except I understand that to draw accurate analogies can often help people understand things, and showing double standards is perhaps the best weapon of all and one which can be used easily and readily against, for example, feminists. In any case, please feel free to elaborate in this thread or another.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Jonathan » 24 Dec 2012, 12:05

"I like your distinction but it seems to allow for inciting violence verbally in private."


I think that a private conversation should not be considered incitement. If it involves a discussion of a real plan to commit violence, then it will fall under existing laws against conspiracies. If no real plan exists, well... he could be an Islamist cleric steeling the will of a would-be suicide bomber... or it could be a couple of guys over their 6th beer saying we should kill all the politicians and lawyers and start afresh. If the law allows to you arrest one, you'll find it also arrests the other.

I think it's best to err on the side of free speech. The would-be suicide bomber will have a significant logistical trail which can be identified, and will make for a more certain conviction in court.

"In any case, please feel free to elaborate in this thread or another."

I will try to organize my thoughts and see what I come up with.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Jonathan » 30 Dec 2012, 08:24

Israel's fences - Truth, Lies, and Subtext.

Most people have a strong opinion about Israel's security fence (it's the Evil Apartheid Wall to some), and yet many mistake propaganda for fact. Palestinian propaganda calls it a land grab, or an Apartheid Wall. Israeli propaganda describes it as a temporary security measure which can be dismantled whenever peace is achieved.

Naturally, I consider the Israeli version to be much closer to the truth (although not perfectly aligned with it). I will spare you having to rehash these old arguments - those who wish may find them ably addressed here:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jso ... es.html#10
http://blog.standforisrael.org/issues/s ... ence-myths

There is, however, a subtext.

The threat of terrorist attacks was the main motive for the construction of the fence, but there are secondary motives. These are often left unsaid, since they are too un-PC to be spoken on the media, and are uncomfortble to discuss in polite company. These are the Demographic Problem, and crime (mainly theft).

The question of crime can be dismissed with a few words: suffice it to say that every community near the border experienced a reduction in crime the moment the fence in their area was completed.

The Demographic Problem is more significant. Israel is the world's only Jewish State: its purpose is to be a safe haven for Jews the world over, and to protect and promote Jewish identity and values. However, Israel is also a democracy with a sizeable Arab minority (now at 16.8% according to wikipedia) who have no interest in Jewish values or Jewish identity. There is a real fear that should the Arab population pass the 50% mark, it will use the tools of democracy to destroy the Jewish character of the state. This is the best-case scenario, mind you - for the worst-case scenario, look to Lebanon and Syria.

So what can be done?

First, establish what cannot be done. There can be no prejudicial actions against Israeli Arab citizens. Discriminatory laws, forced transfers, etc. would undermine the democratic character of the state, and therefore lie far outside the political consensus.
In addition, a reduction in social benefits was not politically possible. Any such reduction would also affect the ultra-orthodox community, on which most coalitions rely - unless it was explicitly phrased in racial terms, which is out of the question.


So what's left? Discourage Arab immigration. But the open border between Israel and the West Bank made this impossible. Tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs worked in pre-1967 Israel, gradually came to live here, intermarried with Israeli Arabs, and acquired citizenship.

The security fence made it possible to change this. Suddenly it was possible to deport someone who had entered without a permit, since getting back was no longer so simple as hopping on a bus. Requests for citizenship via marriage were denied, and Lo! - suddenly Israeli Arab women became a lot less attractive to Palestinian men.

An unrelated flow of migrants from the south has also been recently stopped. Many Sudanese men and women have walked into Israel across the open border with the Sinai. Their numbers have accumulated to several tens of thousands over the last few years. Some of them were refugees from Darfur, who endured horrible privations (even abuse and rape at the hands of Sinai Bedouins) to get here. The rest made sure to rehearse a story of abuse and privation for the benefit of Israeli social workers.

This flow was stopped by the construction of a fence on the south-west border with Egypt. The primary purpose of this fence is again security - Sinai has become a hotbed of terrorist activity since the fall of Mubarak in Egypt, and the recent influx of Libyan weapons has greatly increased the threat it poses. But in this case the secondary demographic effect is more openly acknowledged.

In other countries such policies are greeted with cries of 'Racism!'. Here, they are not, though individual mistreatment of Arabs or immigrants will elicit such cries.
As a result, Israel was able to build fences to secure its borders (not being situated on an island), and espouse policies to restrict immigration, in order to maintain its identity.

Why is this?

First, the upsurge in terrorism dampened all such cries. The decision to build the security fence was taken at the height of the second intifada, and its primary purpose was to stop the suicide bombings.

Second, Israel has a strong sense of national purpose (to be the world's only Jewish state) and cohesion, and is able to act decisively to uphold it.

Thirdly, Israel is not crippled by the American racial mindset, nor by the European post-colonial one.


So what's the bottom line? A sense of purpose and unity made action necessary and possible. A media which was only partially crippled by PC made it possible to recognize and discuss the problem, though in guarded terms, but also made it necessary to wait for a pretext which none could gainsay - the wave of terror culminating in the spring of 2002.

Other countries may lack one or more of these elements, and therefore take no action.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Andy JS » 04 Apr 2013, 02:58

According to this report on the BBC website, Greater Manchester Police has begun recording attacks on members of subcultures, such as goths and emos, as hate crimes, the first force in the UK to treat the offences in such a way: "previously hate crimes were only registered for offences against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity", it goes on to say.

I think the problem with this sort of thing isn't the idea itself (in a positive sense), but that it implies that crimes committed against people who don't belong to any of these categories are somehow less serious. I would perhaps go so far as to say that is threatens the principle that everyone is equal before the law, since the way in which crimes are viewed from a moral point of view is to some extent a zero sum game. In other words, if crimes against people who happen to be members of a subculture are regarded as being more serious, it cannot be otherwise than that crimes committed against people who are not members of a subculture are less serious. You can't have it both ways.

It's not quite the same thing, but I'm reminded of one of TD's essays in which he pointed out the way in which the police these days will often say something vacuous like "the victim was a family man with a generous smile", seemingly not realising that it is not really their place to make statements of this sort, and that by doing so they imply that a crime committed against a person who was not a family man, etc, would somehow have been less serious. (Of course, as TD himself has written, it would be forgivable for a family member or friend to make a silly comment of this sort, but for the police to do so is an entirely different matter).

Returning to the original topic, the correct approach seems to me to be blindingly obvious: it is to simply state that any crime committed against any person should be dealt with in exactly the same way by the police. This would be a truly equal approach. By attempting to make a "special effort" for particular groups, they are paradoxically achieving the opposite of what they are setting out to do.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Elliott » 04 Apr 2013, 10:13

I have a friend (acquaintance) who is a goth, and I'm wondering what he would say about this. I'm sure he would be all in favour, since, by dressing in goth clothing while living in rough areas, he has attracted angry and scathing remarks from other people, and possibly mild violence though I'm not sure. I think he would say it's right that the police are making a special effort so that people like him can live the lifestyle they want.

But how is getting punched in the face because somebody "hates" your subculture/religion worse than getting punched in the face just because you happened to be the first person they saw? And surely the end result is still the same (and would always be the same) regardless of motive: you have been punched in the face. Would it make you feel better or worse to know that their motive was hatred of your subculture, rather than, say, hatred of the way you walked?

We could get tangled up in these questions. But I think what's more interesting is to look at whether Greater Manchester Police are dealing with Muslim paedophile gangs. Because, if they're not, this subculture initiative is an absolute insult and an obvious diversionary tactic. [EDIT: It seems GMP did indeed ignore the Rochdale grooming/raping for years.]

I don't want to bring everything back to the topic of Islam but it is interesting that, with that single major threat looming, the police prefer to divide the native populace into little groups and subcultures.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Grant » 04 Apr 2013, 11:00

Mike, the other aspect of Aboriginal Education that grates is the compulsory personalized learning plan for all Aboriginal students. This has been done with the noble intent of improving Aboriginal students' educational outcomes but the implicit message is, "you're Aboriginal, you need extra help." What a self-defeating notion to convey to young minds! Let's provide assistance where it's needed regardless of ethnic origin. If I were Aboriginal I would be insulted to think others thought I needed special help rather than relying on my innate skill and intelligence.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Mike » 04 Apr 2013, 11:46

Grant wrote:Mike, the other aspect of Aboriginal Education that grates is the compulsory personalized learning plan for all Aboriginal students. This has been done with the noble intent of improving Aboriginal students' educational outcomes but the implicit message is, "you're Aboriginal, you need extra help." What a self-defeating notion to convey to young minds! Let's provide assistance where it's needed regardless of ethnic origin. If I were Aboriginal I would be insulted to think others thought I needed special help rather than relying on my innate skill and intelligence.


Didn't know that there was a mandated "personalized learning plan" these days, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I've actually just finished reading a book about Aboriginal issues made up of articles by various people involved in different fields (education, social work, housing etc.), with a mix of broadly liberal/left and broadly conservative views. The problems are very complex, of course, but as you say educational condescension is not the way to go.

I wrote here about my own brief experience with a part-Aboriginal student, who faced the heartbreaking choice between breaking off contact with his mum's family or hitching himself to a life of welfare dependence. Unfortunately, he chose the latter, with tragic results.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Gavin » 06 Apr 2013, 00:53

Just responding to Andy JS's earlier post, I entirely agree. Also, Peter Hitchens was on Any Questions this evening and expressed the exact same concerns very well. He drew a round of applause and even most of the other panelists agreed (Diane Abbott evidently couldn't keep up with his reasoning).

If you can't bear to listen to the whole thing (understandable), that question is at about 36 minutes through.
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Re: Political correctness

Postby Nathan » 16 Apr 2013, 10:14

Sometimes I wish I was over about 70 so that political correctness orthodoxy didn't apply to me. I wonder if it's intrinsic to being the older generation that you don't feel the need to censor yourself according to the whims of people younger than you or to care too much about what they think, or something specific to those who grew up and formed their world view before PC got going, and hence something that is liable to die out in the near future.

Stirling Moss, the 1950s F1 driver, has said that "women don't have the mental strength for Formula 1 and would find it tiring", a month after he said he "wouldn't want a poofter" to play him in a film about his life.

The three best-rated comments in response to what he said:

Well said again, Sir Stirling. My respect for you keeps on growing.
(1516 "recommends")

He's right.
(1045 "recommends")

100 % correct Stirling . . . or there would have been at least a contender already ...
(614 "recommends")

My favourite comment is the last one - I accept that a woman racing driver would perhaps have to prove herself more than a man, but you would have to believe that if a woman had shown herself to be fast enough in the lower racing series then one of the top F1 teams would have given her a chance by now, so Sir Stirling does have some evidence to back his point up.

The worst-rated comments were all the usual "How dare he say that!!!", "Dinosaur!!!", "Sexist!!!" put-downs and ad-homs which would have been used in the Middle Ages if somebody had dared to suggest the Earth went round the Sun.
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