Browne’s Guide to Purging Political Correctness, #5

“Feel compassion for ‘victims’, but don’t defer to them. If their victimhood is self-inflicted, deferring to them will only entrench their victimhood, rather than help them.”

We might not think that Browne would have much chance to defer to victims in a think-tank pamphlet like this. Although if we return to the passage from p.10 quoted below, and put the ellipsis back in, we not only get an illiterate sentence (don’t they have sub-editors at Civitas?), but we get a sentence that really does seem to be inviting us to defer to the opinions and indeed emotions of the victims of atrocity:

“After a few days, the coverage of the terrorist attack was obliterated by saturation coverage of the accidental police killing, much to the anger of relatives of the London bombings. The reason was simply that the terrorist attacks, although a far more important story, didn’t fit the politically correct agenda.” (p.10, my emphasis)

Should we have deferred to that anger, or not? I think we have to leave this one open.

Browne’s Guide to Purging Political Correctness, #4

“Stick to rational, evidence-based arguments, not discussions of emotionally difficult cases.”

This is a challenge for Browne, as much of his pamphlet does contain discussion of emotionally difficult cases. But we can have a brief glance at some of his language, to see if it’s the kind of language that suggests an openness to the testing of hypotheses by evidence, and only going as far as the data will permit us to advance:

“In Britain, it [PC] allowed the creation of alienated Muslim ghettoes which produce young men who commit mass murder against their fellow citizens.” (p.xiii)

“By promoting the rights of criminals over their victims, it hinders law enforcement and leads to escalating crime.” (p.xiii)

“After a few days, the coverage of the terrorist attack was obliterated by saturation coverage of the accidental police killing… The reason was simply that the terrorist attacks, although a far more important story, didn’t fit the politically correct agenda.” (p.10)

“In 1997, Britain began, in effect, to be ruled by political correctness.” (p.34)

“Politically correct alternative comedians quickly swept to power…” (p.34) (What is this one about? This is also about what changed in and after 1997.)

“The long march of PC through every nook and cranny of national life, leaving nothing untouched, was helped by the fact there is little competing ideology: although PC has been ridiculed, there has been virtually no counter-PC movement.” (p.34)

“In contrast, there are virtually no pressure groups that promote politically incorrect views…” (p.36)

“The growing emphasis on emotion and feelings over reason and logic in recent decades, combined with the decline in the study of science, has given PC a more powerful grip on the mind of the nation.” (p.37)

“Denunciations of xenophobia, jingoism and racism are necessary, but taken to excess lead to the destruction of any sense of national identity that produces social solidarity”. (p.42)

“Condoleezza Rice did not rise from poverty in segregated Alabama to become the most powerful black person and one of the most powerful woemn in the world by blaming others for her problems…” (p.47) (The full stop should have come after the seventh word in that sentence.)

“Only recently, after parallel societies started producing murderous terrorists bent on destroying the country, have politicians dared promote the benefits of social cohesion.” (p.55) (This one might be about psychologising, too; see below.)

I don’t know about you, but I’d say there were still a few dangerous politically correct tendencies there for Browne to come to terms with.

Browne’s Guide to Purging Political Correctness, #3

“Don’t psychologise those you disagree with: judge what they say at face value, rather than believing there are hidden, dark motives that entitle you to dismiss what they say without thinking about it.”

Here it gets fun, though this is a complex rule, which we’re going to have to break down into pieces.

First: Don’t psychologise those you disagree with.

“Everyone had an emotional investment in not disproving it” (p.viii). “I was met with an almost universally intolerant and intellectually dishonest response…” (p.viii) “Because for most people when intellect and emotion conflict, emotion wins.” (p.ix) “Media outlets such as the Guardian and BBC carried on reporting dishonest accounts, presumably because they had such deeply held emotional beliefs in the issue that they couldn’t bring themselves to write honestly about it” (p.x) “Members of the public, academics, journalists and politicians are afraid of thinking certain thoughts.” (p.xii)

“Few people like to think of themselves as politically correct, and fewer still would dare publicly to admit to it.” (p.1) “Many people will think first of what the true answer is, and in an effort to avoid controversy or offence, measure it up against the dictates of political correctness.” (p.5) “Moral cowardice has led to intellectual dishonesty permeating and corrupting our public debates.” (p.6) “In the PC mind, the pursuit of virtue entitles them to curtail the malign view of those they disagree with.” (p.7)

“In the battle between emotion and reason, emotion wins most of the time for most people: the heart trumps the head because it is more difficult to live with bad feelings than bad logic. Few are the souls tortured by bad reasoning; many are those tortured by guilt.” (p.14) “The easiest way to overcome the dissonance between what you want to believe and the evidence is not to change what you believe, but to shut out the evidence and silence those who try to highlight it.” (p.14) “People tend to believe that which makes them feel virtuous, not that which makes them feel bad” (p.14)

“Nothing makes multimillionaire Hollywood actors who live in Beverley Hills [sic] feel better about themselves than campaigning against world poverty by demanding more aid from the West…” (p.14) “Distrusting human nature, and wanting to perfect it, puts limits on the politically correct person’s faith in democracy.” (p.17)

“One of the most powerful psychological foundations of political correctness is liberal guilt. Many in the West from middle-class backgrounds suffer a usually unspoken guilt about their unearned privilege, which in turn can lead to an under-current of self-loathing in their views. Men often feel guilty about being men, and whites often feel guilty about being white, even though these are innate characteristics they can do little about.” (p.19) “When the former BBC director general Greg Dyke described the BBC as ‘hideously white’, what explains the word ‘hideous’ apart from liberal guilt?” (p.19) “The combination of Western guilt and fear of racism has all but killed off public concern about overpopulation in the last few decades” (p.19) “Liberal guilt never feels more satisfied than when it is self-flagellating”. (p,20)

“The West’s refusal to confront contemporary Islamic slavery is a reflection of the inability of PC thinking to engage a non-PC reality” (p.25) “The intolerant, sanctimonious moral superiority that sustains the beliefs of the politically correct means that they are easily offended by the views of others.” (p.26) “When two strangers meet and talk politics, the need for acceptance means that more often than not they will usually stick to the politically correct text, even if they don’t agree with it.” (p.35) “The Council for the Protection of Rural England campaigns about house building in the countryside, but it would never dare tackle one of the main, and most easily tackled, causes in the growth in housing demand, mass immigration.” (p.36)

“Political correctness is so powerful, and the guilt by association that it produces so effective, that even the politically incorrect fear being seen together.” (p.37) “Political correctness promotes the creation of a ‘victim mentality'” (p.42) “Although nearly half of the British want to leave the European Union, the fear of being called a little Englander means that not a single Member of Parliament publicly supports withdrawal.” (p.55) “The politically correct have a particular problem with crime. Their instinct is to support the criminal rather the [sic] victim of their crime, because criminals tend to be more socially disadvantaged…” (p.63)

My goodness. That’s a lot of psychologising for Browne to work on, and work through, as he seeks to purge himself of political correctness. How’s he doing on the second half of his recommendation?

Judge what they say at face value…

“When the successful, affluent, powerful Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh was ritually murdered in the streets of Amsterdam for insulting Islam, the politically correct, including the Guardian and Index on Censorship automatically sided with the comparatively powerless Islamic Dutch-Moroccan killer.” (p.10) That’s offered without any evidence of the Guardian saying any such thing — remembering that in order to conclude that Browne had emancipated himself from PC, we’d be looking for a statement of support for the assassin which can be taken “at face value”, so that we wouldn’t have to read between the lines, let alone hypothesise “hidden, dark motives”.

Or there’s this: “Many of the politically-correct left – including the Guardian, the Independent, most of the BBC… – have chosen to champion those who are deliberately trying to murder innocent civilians” (p.11). That’s from a discussion of elections in Iraq. Again: no evidence is offered of, say, the Guardian or the BBC “championing” the cause of those who murder civilians in Iraq, whether the kind that can be taken “at face value” or any other kind.

How about this: “The BBC can endlessly promote mass immigration against the wishes of its license fee payers with impunity…” (p.35)

Or this: “Index on Censorship is on the brink of turning from an organisation that campaigns for freedom of speech to one that campaigns against it.” (p.36) No footnote is given. (This pamphlet does have footnotes, so his reticence to offer the evidence on which he’s basing his judgments is frustrating. Index put an article out on its website, which it later, I think, withdrew, after the van Gogh killing, but Browne’s referring to the whole “organisation” being on the brink of a fundamental transformation, and clearly has far stronger evidence than that to back up a claim like this, unless his brain is still colonised by PC, of course.)

Oh, yes, and there’s this: “Many on the left in Britain supported the Ayatollah of Iran’s call to murder Salman Rushdie for insulting Islam…” (p.50) Not “some on the left thought that the book shouldn’t have been published”, but a claim that “many on the left” endorsed a call to murder. Again: Browne doesn’t offer any evidence, let alone evidence that can be taken at face value here. I think he still has some work to do here.

Moving on…

Browne’s Guide to Purging Political Correctness, #1

“When you say something in public, ask yourself are you saying it because it is politically correct, or because you know it to be factually correct? Are you choosing intellectual laziness over emotional discomfort?”

It’s a good question to ask. And those who heard the Today interview will know that Browne has to be a bit careful with his rhetoric about “factual correctness”, since in that interview he did rather have to beat a retreat from the claims he was making (p.8) about how it was “factually correct” that the pay gap between women and men owed to “different work/life choices” and “childcare breaks” rather than “sex discrimination”, the alternative, “politically correct” explanation. In the interview, he agreed that there were a mix of relevant factors, seemed to agree that pushing the “factually correct” line to an extreme would be misleading, and asserted, falsely, that there were “several pages on this issue” in his report “that go into it in some depth”, whereas in fact there’s just over one page (pp.59-60), and “depth” is a very generous self-assessment indeed of the level of analysis.

Still, this is trivial, and we’re only just getting going.

Political Correctness Gone Mad

Anthony Browne has just published a pamphlet, “The Retreat of Reason” with the think tank Civitas, which can be downloaded here. It’s already prompted quite a bit of blog-discussion, partly, I think, because Browne (Anthony) and Brown (Yasmin Alibhai-) were tearing strips off one another at 8.20 or so yesterday morning on the Today programme (you can still, I think, listen to them here), and people like to blog about what they hear on the Today programme.

The pamphlet is dreadful, of course. (But then I would say that, wouldn’t I, as a leading PC guardian of strict orthodoxy and general thought-policeman? So the Browne-boosters needn’t worry about me. Anyway, I thought that Civitas was supposed to be the non-barking centre-right alternative to the loons at the Adam Smith Institute and so on: was I wrong?)

Melanie Phillips, on the other hand, thinks it’s marvellous. She writes: “Browne is one of the few who very clearly understands that ‘political correctness’ is not some ludicrous absurdity that can be laughed away, as it is so often depicted. It is instead a terrifying, totalitarian and in Britain wholly successful putsch against truth itself, the weapon of subversion of a moral, political and social order.” So opinions differ.

Browne’s pamphlet ends with a rather engaging ten-point “Guide to Purging the Political Correctness Within” for all citizens to follow, and I thought it would be fun to see how Browne’s text performs in light of his concluding recommendations. Read onward, or upwards, as the case may be.

Dead Socialist Watch, #183

Everyone’s favourite Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek. Best known for his immortal literary creation The Good Soldier Švejk, Hašek earned his revolutionary credentials as a Bolshevik commissar in the Red Army, a period of his life fictionalised in the stories collected in The Red Commissar and other stories. Born in Prague, 30 April, 1883, died in Lipnice, 3 January, 1923. There’s an image of his grave here.

Just Dead Socialist Watch

Rest in peace Phillip Whitehead, Labour MEP, who has just died in hospital of a heart attack. I can’t say I know much about his political career, though I did enjoy reading his book, The Writing on the Wall many years ago (1989, I think), which was probably the first book I read which tried to explain to me just what did happen in Britain in the 1970s. I think the book was written to accompany a TV series, though if it was, I didn’t see any of it, and don’t know what, if anything PW had to do with it.