Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Defending Political Correctness

Anthony Browne of Civitas has published a book bemoaning political correctness, how it is a 'heresy to liberalism' and is 'poisoning the wells of debate in modern Britain'. Given the seemingly positive responses to this line of thinking on the morning radio programs and the utter inadequacy of the responses of the person from the Muslim Council of Britain, I would like to look at Mr Browne's claims more closely.

Firstly there are some things which everyone can recognise as ridiculous. For example teachers supposedly telling children to call the blackboard the chalkboard. These are straw men not worth defending.

More interesting is the claim made by Mr Browne that the politically correct truth that women earn less than men due to sex discrimination is actually a result of different work/life choices and career breaks. The first problem with this is that he is setting up a false dichotomy - just because women may take career breaks does not mean that sex discrimination is not a factor in unequal pay. Secondly, I've listened to at least 2 phone-ins on Radio 5 recently which have discussed the various factors leading to unequal pay with strong representation from small businessmen who have argued that maternity leave imposes costs on their operations which they can not deal with. This is on a BBC channel which is supposed to be the bastion of decadent political correctness.

Another claim made by Mr Browne is that the 'explosion' in HIV is due to African Immigrants rather than the politically correct truth of it being a result of more teenagers having unsafe sex. The biggest problem here is the lack of nuance on a very sensitive matter. It suggests terrible HIV carrying Africans bringing their diseases into this country. The statistics suggest otherwise.

The number of new HIV cases acquired in Africa was around 3000. The black population in the UK is over 1 million - you can do the math. On top of this a lot of this was actually a result of British or British born people of African descent acquiring it on their travels abroad rather than direct immigration. At the same time there has been a significant rise in the number of other STD's in the U.K which have largely been acquired in the U.K. I wouldn't deny that HIV infection in Africa is not a problem, but to suggest nothing is being done about it because of political correctness is stretching it.

The biggest leap which the book makes is the idea that political correctness has led to ghettoisation which has created a climate for the events of 7-7. I think the events this summer in France which is by no means politically correct (its recently passed legislation saying that more time should be given to the benefits of Imperialism), served to demonstrate that ghettoisation can take place despite attempted forced integration. To then make the leap to violence seems completely irrational which is strange as 'reason' is what the author seems to be trying to rescue.
Apart from this it is worth bearing in mind that political correctness can mean different things in different places. Despite the protestations of the right-wing blogosphere in America that the MSM is fundamentally biased against them, as Haroon points out in this post, it can be 'career and social suicide' in America to criticise the occupation of Palestine and a prominent right-wing journal once got away with labeling Edward Said the 'Professor of Terror''.

To conclude, I think a guest on Radio 5 put it nicely yesterday when he suggested the link between people towards whom society is geared i.e. white, middle class men being the most prominent critics of political correctness. You don't really hear the same complaints from the traditionally disadvantaged minorities. T0 me this is they key as political correctness is about tolerance and enabling minority communities to have their voice. In a sense Mr Browne is slightly conflicted on this point as well because he argues that once upon a time politically correct may well have been necessary which suggests that in itself being pc is not a problem. However I don't think that he can speak for others when he claims that prejudice does not exist anymore.


Blogger Jordan said...

I must say, I 100% completely disagree with your conclusions, but I LOVE the way you present your arguments!

Your blog should get more attention, its great!

As a former PC fundementalist, I now feel that PC culture in the west has gone to insane lengths to deny the obvious facts on the ground, and as a result, has done the opposite of what it set out to accomplish.

I have no problem with using sensitivity in addressing tough issues, but to deny reality is a dangerous idiology that is becoming more popular everyday.

For example, there is an apademic of violent rapes in some European countries along with Australia. The nationanality and religion of the attackers has always been a taboo subject, and rarely discussed. The result has been a rise of neo-nazi hate groups as good people are too nervious to discuss such sensitive issues.

And recent riots in France and Australia are good examples of what happens when you wait too long to be honest.

Again, I am really impressed with your analysis of various issues... you are very fair and open minded!

12:38 pm, January 03, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

Thanks for your comments Jordan. Just a quick point which is that I find it strange that you mention France and Australia as they seem to me to be two of the less pc countries.

An example of a country which has integrated migrants very well is Canada which is arguably the most pc of them all.

I think that those who oppose the conventional wisdom should be allowed to have their voice. The biggest problem I have is the lazy use of 'pc' as a catch all term to be dismissive of the other side. For people who bemoan the victimhood culture I see this as double standards.

1:54 pm, January 03, 2006  
Blogger I, Jester said...

Yes, exactly. The fact that a man who professes such obviously un-PC opinions himself is so widely covered by the press tells the lie to his arguement that debate is somehow stifled.

Also, (and I wanted to mention this on my F Word post, but didn't have the time - political correctness is now used to sweep aside a great swathe of things the term should never have been applied to. For example, I notice that the Sun frequently cites the Human Rights Act as an example of political correctness!


11:15 pm, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Jordan said...

I actually am a Canadian and to some extent, you are very much correct!

But even us Hoosers are starting to loose it. We are now seeing a lot of "Holiday Trees" instead of the proper Christmass Trees.

As a Jewish Athiest, I am disgusted by this! Very few countries have been as good to the jews as Canada, and I feel that its majority Christian population has every right to celibrate its (secular) holiday publicly without fear of offending non-christians.

(its the least we can do)

Regarding immagrant integration, we are ok, but America is better. My girlfriend's family recently left everything behind from Iran to move here. Her parents had great jobs back home, but unfortinately, Canada is not making good use their skills.

9:05 am, January 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are bothering defending something from a Civitas thinker?

11:58 am, January 04, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

Jordan I agree with you on the Christmas tree point. I think a lot of this is to do with secular, urban people who are uncomfortable at being associated with religion.

As they are liberal they don't mind people of other faiths displaying their religion, but when it comes to christianity they feel differently.

By doing so they don't realise that they are suppressing the voice of those who do believe.

Anon, the writer is also a correspondent for The Times and I felt that his views are common and influential enough for me to comment on it.

2:06 pm, January 04, 2006  
Anonymous bananabrain said...

it can be 'career and social suicide' in America to criticise the occupation of Palestine
and over here, in some professions (especially academia) it can be similarly suicidal to express anything like support of israel - particularly if you're jewish, because it 'proves you have a vested interest'. harrumph.

there's also a statistics issue - the article you link to says that 73% of *new infections* are most likely to have been acquired in africa. and this figure of 3000 cases from where? 73% of 7275 is 5311. i don't think the number of black people in the UK is relevant; it's got nothing to do with that. for all we know this 73% is white people (mostly heterosexual to) in or from africa.

otherwise jolly interesting.


2:30 pm, January 04, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

bananabrain I agree with your comment on the problems of defending Israel in this country. Too many people forget that just because Israel does some bad things it does not mean that it does no good things.

I got 3000 as it is 73% of the 4287 infections diagnosed in heterosexuals. I do agree with you though that several of these may have been white people in Africa.

3:43 pm, January 04, 2006  
Anonymous bananabrain said...

oh fair dos, you're a reasonable chap anyway - i'm going to comment on the other anthony browne post...



4:42 pm, January 04, 2006  

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