A small reminder of the good that political correctness has done...

Too often my experience of the Internet is just too much like this:

Courtesy of XKCD

However every now and then, I come across the post that reminds me that occasionally there are right thinking people out there!! This post from Simon Jerran at 'I don't wish to spread any gossip, but...' is one of those. He picked up on this rant, from Stuart Lee on the Radio 4 programme 'Heresy', at the 84% of his audience who clearly have had it up to there with political correctness.

"It really worries me that 84% of this audience agrees with that statement, because the kind of people that say “political correctness gone mad” are usually using that phrase as a kind of cover action to attack minorities or people that they disagree with. I’m of an age that I can see what a difference political correctness has made. When I was four years old, my grandfather drove me around Birmingham, where the Tories had just fought an election campaign saying, “if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour,” and he drove me around saying, “this is where all the niggers and the coons and the jungle bunnies live.” And I remember being at school in the early 80s and my teacher, when he read the register, instead of saying the name of the one Asian boy in the class, he would say, “is the black spot in,” right? And all these things have gradually been eroded by political correctness, which seems to me to be about an institutionalised politeness at its worst. And if there is some fallout from this, which means that someone in an office might get in trouble one day for saying something that someone was a bit unsure about because they couldn’t decide whether it was sexist or homophobic or racist, it’s a small price to pay for the massive benefits and improvements in the quality of life for millions of people that political correctness has made. It’s a complete lie that allows the right, which basically controls media now, and international politics, to make people on the left who are concerned about the way people are represented look like killjoys. And I’m sick, I’m really sick– 84% of you in this room that have agreed with this phrase, you’re like those people who turn around and go, “you know who the most oppressed minorities in Britain are? White, middle-class men.” You’re a bunch of idiots.

'Nuff said.


Tristan said...
6 May 2008, 22:37:00

I see such changes as exemplified above as changes in social attitudes which have been followed by politicians and large sections of the media. Some parts of the media and political establishment did help lead this change of course, but a lot was also down to ordinary people.
It is because of social change that a political campaign like the one mentioned is impossible for a major party, not because politicians or an elite have said it can't be so.

Political correctness as people criticise it tends to be jobsworths trying not to offend.
The classic example (which is real) is the banning of 'The Ugly Duckling' in schools because the brown duckling grew into a white swan. Needless to say it didn't last long.
Similarly there's not allowing 'P' to be Pig in infants classes because it might offend muslims.

The more serious case comes when the state uses force to enforce the values of a minority. Most of the time this will show itself as censoring speech.
These cases are cause for concern, but they are by far the minority.

That said, I see political correctness as mostly harmless and often for the better. Those who really make a fuss seem to be campaigning against what they see as problems with societal views, like those who claim that they aren't allowed to criticise others but they can be criticised. Most of the time they can criticise but don't want to be critised. (or perhaps those white middle class men who get passed over for something when they think they shouldn't be...)

Here's to the changes in society which make discrimination on inconsequential factors more difficult and long may they continue.
Lets just hope the jobsworths don't ruin it!

Anonymous said...
7 May 2008, 09:04:00

Tristan - I think you are significantly understating the impact various legislation had in changing people's attitudes, particularly the Race Relations Acts. Yes attitudes were canging, but the legislative framework played a big part in accelerating that change and in setting out limits on what is acceptable.

Yes it is taken too far sometimes - although it is usually fairly small incidents down to well meaning mistakes that are blown up by the media.

Tristan said...
7 May 2008, 16:01:00


I agree that it is often small incidents blown out of all proportion.

As for legislation - I think it tends to follow society rather than lead it.
There will be sections of society which lag behind the legislators, but legislators tend to respond to demand on things like this.

jacob_danladi said...
12 May 2008, 11:08:00

It seems to me that the phrase 'political correctness' has been rendered pretty much meaningless. It's used to describe a strange mix of eminently sensible initiatives, silly over-the-top actions (as said, often heavily over inflated in significance) and all points in between. Issues of race, religion and even health and safety restrictions seem to get bundled together. The phrase seems to be used the same way 'liberal' is in the United States, as a catchall term the right use to describe anyone or anything that they don't like.

for those who use it that way, 'political correctness' has the advantage of suggesting that it's somehow systemic, thus allowing those that decry it to paint themselves as plucky anti-establisment types (despite their often being paragons of the old establishment) or even as victims of some larger conspiracy.

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