Friday, February 27, 2015
A British A-to-Z guide to the new PC
From appropriation to zero tolerance, everything you need to keep an eye on while checking your privilege
Anyone who thought political correctness had croaked, joining neon leg warmers, mullets and MC Hammer in the graveyard of bad ideas from the late 1980s and 1990s, should think again. When even someone as gay-friendly and Guardian-hued as Benedict Cumberbatch can be hounded for incorrectness, you know no one’s safe. So what can you say? Here’s an A-to-Z guide to the new PC.
A is for America. One-time land of the free, founded by un-PC white dudes partial to a drink and sex with slaves, but more recently the birthplace of identity politics (see under I) and 21st-century taboos (see everything below).
B is for bitch. Perfect example of a word some can say but others can’t. For a sassy chick to refer to herself and her girl pals as ‘bitches’ is cool; for a rapper with metal teeth it is rampant misogyny. To find out if you’re allowed to utter this word, put your hand in your underpants. Is there a penis? You can’t say it. If you do you’re the other B: bigot.
C is for cultural appropriation. When people from one culture adopt the styles or habits of people from another culture. Like middle-class white kids making rap music or donning Native American head-dresses at a rock festival. This is really bad. Thankfully Glastonbury is now restricting the sale of Native American dress and some British unis have banned sombreros. C is also for check your privilege. You must do this all the time. If you’re white, male and middle class, you’re super-privileged and must never speak about women’s issues or black people’s problems. White women are more privileged than black women, and straight black women are more privileged than queer black women (don’t worry — queer is OK here: see under Q). ‘What about solidarity and cross-class, cross-race empathy?’ I hear you cry. Please. Solidarity has been replaced by intersectionality (see below). Stop being a dinosaur.
D is for dinosaur. I shouldn’t have said the D-word, sorry. Alongside geezer, codger and blue-haired, it’s what the New York Times calls an ‘age-disparaging word’. Never say it, even to refer to actual dinosaurs: in 2012 some New York schools banned the lessons on dinosaurs for fear of offending creationist kids, and offending people is the worst thing you can ever do (see under O).
E is for ethically challenged. You, if you don’t adhere to these rules.
F is for faggot. Fine if you’re a gay man referring to himself, but it’ll earn you a knock on the door from the boys in blue if you’re a straight man referring to someone else. Never write it on a missile. American Navymen were instructed to ‘more closely edit their spontaneous acts of penmanship’ after one of them wrote ‘Hijack this, you faggots’ on a bomb for the Taleban. Members of the Taleban do not accept homosexuality as a valid way of life and thus should not be reminded of its existence as they have their heads blown off.
G is for gender. Never assume to know gender. Someone might look and sound like a man, and even wear a beard and possess a penis, but ‘he’ might identify as a woman, which is his/her/their right. Who are you, or nature, to say whether someone is male or female or something else entirely? Facebook now has 71 gender choices. The City University of New York recently banned the words ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ from ‘all types of correspondence’ with students in order to prevent the faux pas of wrongly guessing a student’s gender ID. Ask everyone you meet: ‘What gender pronouns should I use when referring to you?’
H is for hir and hirs: gender-neutral terms for him and her. Safest bet when you’re at a dinner party surrounded by people whose preferred gender you don’t yet know.
I is for identity politics. Always define yourself by your natural characteristics rather than your character, achievements or beliefs. You are first and foremost male, female, other, straight, gay, black or white and should refer to yourself as such. Martin Luther King should have checked his privilege when he had that nonsense dream of a world where people ‘will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character’. That’s easy for a middle-class straight man to say, Marty. I is also for intersectionality, the tearaway offspring of identity politics, where you must constantly wonder how your various personal identities intersect with each other (or something).
J is for jokes. Don’t tell them. It’s too risky. Rape jokes, Holocaust jokes, sexist jokes, banter-based jokes — you might find them funny but others will experience them as a threat to their mental safety. Learn from the Dapper Laughs debacle: a wicked joke can hurt thousands and end your career.
K is for kiss chase. Never let your kids play this. For boys to chase girls in search of a smacker on the cheek is evidence of a culture of male sexual entitlement, so mercifully this ‘game’ has been banned in schools across the nation.
L is for LGBTQQIAAP. No, not a place in Wales — an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies and pansexual. If you’re the kind of person who says ‘gays’, or even worse, ‘the gays’, stop it at once and learn this by heart.
M is for microaggressions. A microaggression is an unwitting act of discrimination by people who think they’re super right-on, such as asking a black woman how she keeps her hair so funky or inquiring if a lesbian has ever had ‘real sex’. On some American campuses, professors have been accused of racial microaggression for correcting spelling mistakes in black students’ essays.
N is for nigger. Massive no-no (unless you’re a rapper, and even then tread carefully). New editions of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn come with the N-word expunged. Just as cigarettes are being cut out of old cartoons and Ghostbusters is being remade with the main roles now played by womyn (see under W). The past must be corrected.
O is for offence. The original sin. Offending people is worse than punching them. And offence is in the eye of the outraged — it’s they who decide if your words are hurtful. One man’s joke might be another’s mortal blow to his self-esteem. To avoid offence, speak as little as possible.
P is for people of colour. Coloured is bad, but people of colour is fine. Of course, it might one day be added to the list of once-PC but now sinful phrases, so keep an eye out for updates.
Q is for queer. Queers can say this, but non-queers can’t. Unless you’re an ally (see under L), in which case you can.
R is for racist. You’re a racist. I know you think you aren’t, which is sweet, but you are. Everyone is. By this point, we should all know about ‘unwitting racism’ — being racist without realising it. The solution? Racial sensitivity training for all. Stop racism by encouraging nationwide racial consciousness.
S is for safe space. A zone, usually at a university, in which no offensive language, off-colour jokes, banter, lads’ mags, mansplaining (men talking about feminism), manspreading (men spreading their legs), gender-questioning, or any other wicked words or deeds are allowed. A prototype PC society.
T is for tranny. Never say this word. Ever. It’s the Voldemort of PC. Whisper it and you will be accused of transphobia — not a country but a mental malaise that prevents you from accepting that gender is a fluid concept.
U is for uterus. If you have one of these, you may speak about abortion; if you don’t, you may not.
V is for vagina. People with vaginas, check your privilege. You aren’t the only people who get to call yourselves women. Plenty of folk do not have vaginas but are every bit as female as you. The US women’s college Mount Holyoake recently banned The Vagina Monologues because it ‘offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman’.
W is for womyn. An alternative spelling of ‘woman’ for those who reject patriarchal spelling norms.
X is for Generation X, the post-baby-boom generation that is the architect of PC, which having waged a war of words against its hippy-dippy parents and their harebrained belief in a colourblind, gender-ignoring world, is now caught in a desperate rearguard action against younger activists armed with hashtags and intersectionality.
Y is for #YesAllWomen. A social campaign — well, a Twitter hashtag — created in response to the assertion that said #NotAllMen were rapists. Maybe they aren’t, but #YesAllWomen are victims.
Z is for ze. Gender-neutral term for he or she (see Rod Liddle, opposite). Z is also for zero tolerance. Of homophobia, rude old novels, saucy photos, and anything that might offend someone somewhere sometime. From student unions to trendy workplaces, the PC love nothing more than to boast of their lack of tolerance. You thought tolerance was a good thing? Get with the programme. Don’t be a D-word.
Just Who Has to Adjust in the Name of Tolerance?
by DR. PHYLLIS CHESLER
Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy Fellow Shadi Hamid recently criticized the West as "illiberal" for refusing to accept the fact that Muslims, both in the West and globally, are different from Westerners.
It was an unusual argument, one for which The Atlantic devoted 3,400 words.
Although President Obama insists that the "fight against terrorism is not a religious war," Hamid seems to disagree with him.
According to a variety of polls, Hamid is right. For example, while a 2009 Gallup poll shows European Muslims overwhelmingly reject violence, they are far more religious than those who live in secular Europe (France, England, and Germany), and are more strongly opposed to homosexuality than are secular Europeans. In addition, young, second or third generation European Muslim men favor veiling for women, polygamy, the execution of apostates, and favor prohibiting Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men.
Muslims are more likely to view "blasphemy as unacceptable," Hamid wrote. He described Muslims as "deeply conservative" and, to varying extents, wanting "the application of Islamic law."
The liberal West believes in criticizing everything, especially religion, beginning with Judaism and Christianity. Extending this right-to-criticize, satirize, or examine Islam has led to major Muslim meltdowns.
Creative and scholarly exposures of Islam's history and practices amount to shaming and therefore are impermissible, especially when infidels are doing the exposing. Lawsuits, assassination attempts, lynch mobs, and political murders have been the radical Muslim response to books, films, lectures, and cartoons that detail Islamic gender and religious apartheid.
Documentation of normalized daughter-and wife-beating, child marriage, forced veiling, forced marriage of adults, polygamy, pedophilia, FGM, and honor killing has led to cries of "Islamophobia" and "blasphemy."
In a recent conversation, Israeli Arabist and counter-terrorism expert, Mordechai Kedar said: "Why would anyone get so outraged by a cartoon unless they believe that the cartoon is telling the truth? They are angry because it is the truth."
According to a 2006 Pew poll, 79 percent of French Muslims blamed the 2005 cartoon controversy on Western nations' "disrespect for the Islamic religion." The general population blamed "Muslims' intolerance."
This is completely foreign to the West's post-Enlightenment culture. Many Muslims are very clear on this point.
Hamid writes that French Muslims are "more likely to believe that attacks on the Prophet Mohammed and the Quran should be criminalized as hate speech and incitement, much like denial of the Holocaust is."
This is a shocking but familiar false equation. Jew-haters and Islamists minimize, disbelieve, but deeply envy the Jews as victims of the Holocaust. But they covet the reverence for sacred victim status that they believe Jews have-ostensibly via trickery. Islamists invented the false allegation of "Islamophobia," positioned the Palestinians as the "new Jews," and appointed the Jewish Israelis as the "new Nazis."
Unfortunately, many Europeans signed onto this lethal narrative in the hope that doing so would appease their hostile, unassimilated Muslim citizens. Also, latent European anti-Semitism happily found a new outlet in anti-Zionism, which is the new anti-Semitism.
Are Muslims being falsely accused and even persecuted? Can one even ask this question in an era when Muslim-on-Muslim, Muslim-on-infidel, and Muslim male-on-female barbarism is borderless, boundary-less, and beyond surreal?
Nevertheless, the false concept of Islamophobia - often defensively raised when the discussion focuses on radical Islamic ideology - has become equal to real concepts such as homophobia, sexism, and anti-Semitism. Despite FBI verification that hate crimes against Jews are far greater than those against Muslims, Muslims continue to insist that they are being racially and religiously targeted.
Islamophobia is worse than anti-Semitism, according to Hatem Bazien, the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine and the director of Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender, in a 2011 report co-sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Bazian concluded that, on a scale from 1 (best situation for Muslims) to 10 (worst possible situation for Muslims), "Islamophobia" in America stands at 6.4. One does not know how to greet such brazen foolishness.
Globally, Islamists demand that the West, which has separated religion and state brilliantly, accept and accommodate an aggressive and entitled theocratic state-not only abroad but in its midst.
In Hamid's view, real "moral courage" in France would consist of a "major political party" calling for "a rethinking of laïcité [secularism], and for the broadening, rather than the narrowing, [of] French national identity."
Challenging the "tolerant" West to accommodate an intolerant Islam is the tried-and-true Islamist method of hoisting the West by its own petard. Sophisticated Islamists are trying to use post-Enlightenment laws to achieve the right to practice pre-medieval and barbaric customs. Western political leaders and the intelligentsia are flirting with cultural suicide and siding with barbarism over civilization.
After Copenhagen: resist the empire of offence
The biggest threat to free and open debate is the fear of giving offence
Like the Paris massacre last month, the shooting spree in Copenhagen at the weekend started with an attack on a site that symbolised free speech and ended with an assault on a building used by Jews.
I didn’t watch the events in Copenhagen unfold on the news. The first I heard of what was going on was when I listened to a phone message left by a friend. She sounded upset; her voice was strained as she asked, ‘After this mess in Copenhagen, are you still going to go to Amsterdam to debate?’.
Although her message was framed as a question, it was clear she was worried about my involvement in an upcoming debate in Holland, titled ‘Free speech after Charlie Hebdo’. My immediate reaction was to dismiss such concerns as an over-the-top response to the tragic events in Denmark. After all, Western Europe is one of the safest regions of the world, and exercising the right to free speech rarely exacts a significant cost. However, the more I thought about my friend’s message, the more I began to be concerned by things that, thankfully, I have never needed to think about before.
The Krudttoenden cultural centre in Copenhagen was holding a peaceful and civilised discussion on free speech when it came under gunfire. When I looked at the pictures of this cultural centre, my thoughts turned from the plight of the victims to the realisation that this event was held in a building that was very much like the one that is hosting my debate in Amsterdam. Did I feel a slight pang of unease when I realised that the topic of the debate in Copenhagen was not a million miles from what I will be discussing in Amsterdam? Yes, is the answer. But what really disturbed me was the realisation that we have now moved into a world where the idea of a genuine clash of views on a controversial subject is increasingly associated with physical threats.
The likely target of the Copenhagen attack was the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. He has acquired a reputation for being a provocateur and, since the publication of his cartoon of Muhammad in 2007, has faced many threats to his life. In 2013, he, along with other ‘offensive’ artists, was placed on a hit list published by al-Qaeda.
Like his ill-fated Charlie Hebdo colleagues, Vilks is considered by many to be inflammatory and offensive to many Muslims. Likewise, Vilks’ critics argue that, through his provocative work, he has brought the wrath of angry Islamists on himself. Many institutions and publications have been wary of giving him a voice, and he has had numerous lectures and exhibitions cancelled by cultural organisations.
Sadly, far too many public figures and institutions take the view that anything that provokes Muslim sensibilities cannot be said. Indeed, their argument sometimes goes so far as to imply that the only way to prevent murderous attacks, such as the one in Copenhagen, is to cease publishing provocative cartoons and articles that Muslim people find offensive.
I must confess that I am not a fan of Charlie Hebdo or cartoonists who, instead of making a deeper point, opt for insulting their target. I find that such self-consciously in-your-face cartoons tend to infantilise discussion about difficult problems that actually require serious thought. But we don’t get to choose whose freedom of speech we uphold. Cartoonists have every right to offend, since that is what free speech is all about. By its very nature, the free exchange of views and sentiments will inevitably result in someone being offended. Throughout history, every new and important idea has been deemed offensive.
Alongside regarding freedom of speech as inviolable regardless of the offence it causes, there is also an absolutely compelling argument for not making concessions to the ‘I am offended’ lobby. In the Western world, the ‘feeling offended’ sensibility has acquired an expansive and unrestrained quality. Those who are offended by the work of Vilks will not be placated by the censoring of his cartoons.
Tomorrow, they will raise objections to an ‘offensive’ essay that criticises one of their cherished beliefs. The day after tomorrow, they will express their offence at a supermarket that sells pork in the wrong neighbourhood. And other groups of the offended will pile in to demand the silencing of their critics.
The concessions already made to those claiming offence have led to the ongoing expansion of words that cannot be said, and the continued extension of what is deemed unacceptable behaviour. What has also expanded are the death threats. You don’t need to be a cartoonist to invite a threat to your life. This week, the media reports that the artist Paul Cummins, whose poppy installation drew millions of people to London last year, has received death threats because some of the money raised by his project has gone to charities that have connections with the military.
Many, including Vilks, have predicted that after the Copenhagen murders it will be even more difficult to organise open debates on issues that hardline groups regard as offensive. And now, with the news that a Jewish radio broadcaster in Copenhagen has been forced to shut down for security reasons, the fight for freedom of speech has become ever more urgent. Instead of looking for excuses, we have to insist that speaking out and defending free speech is as important today as it ever was.
Ukiphobia: the prejudices that dare not speak their name
UKIP is a conservative British political party that aims to remove Britain from the EU
With 78 days left till election day, when us Brits will visit the ballot box to put our crosses next to the party that has disappointed us the least, Channel 4 has done us a favour by airing the docudrama UKIP: The First 100 Days.
A badly written, poorly acted fantasy born of the caliginous minds of the most aloof and self-satisfied section of the UK’s cultural elite, the drama imagines what Britain would be like if UKIP won the election and its pint-downing leader, Nigel Farage, became PM: in a nutshell, this once fine nation would become a hellhole in which those fat blokes with rough hands and even rougher accents would finally feel confident enough to air their racist prejudices on the streets rather than just on their beercan-strewn sofas.
This is what is so brilliant about C4’s drama: in setting out to confront what it imagines to be the prejudices of the numbskulls planning to vote UKIP, it unwittingly exposed the bigotry of the chattering classes themselves, of the self-styled progressive sections of the politically switched-on classes, whose visceral contempt for the white working class makes every other prejudice in 21st century Britain pale into insignificance in comparison.
With a couple of months of election-talk to go before we vote, you couldn’t have asked for a better insight into the minds of the upper echelons of society than this drama. It exposed a prejudice that usually does not speak its name, which normally only makes a public appearance dolled up in pseudo-progressive garb and fortified by advocacy research from Demos or some other wonk-station showing that the white and uneducated aren’t massive fans of immigration — we might call this prejudice Ukiphobia, a swirling fear, not simply of Farage and his footsoldiers, but more urgently of the incomprehensible blob of non-Guardian-reading, pale-skinned plebs whose passions and worries Farage and Co. might tap into.
Telling the story of the imagined UKIP government’s first Sikh MP, who slowly but surely realises that the party she represents is a bunch of nutters, the drama features every middle-class fear made flesh. There’s the white working classes, depicted, in the words of the Telegraph’s review, as a ‘stereotyped mob’. It’s as if C4 execs were put on a therapist’s couch to have their inner-most fears teased out and turned into TV fare. Then there are the petit-bourgeois supporters of UKIP, the Middle Englanders, who aren’t quite as dumb or corpulent as the working classes — who is? — but who are presented as nasty and racist. The good middle classes who love Jon Snow, dodge Starbucks and feel bad for Palestine hate the bad middle classes who drink pints and moan about the EU almost as much as they hate those inner-city swarms. Speaking of Palestine, the drama also contained a shot of a hard-right, immigrant-bashing demonstration on which someone was waving the Israeli flag. Well, supporters of Israel are all racist brutes, right? Yet another media-elite prejudice, chucked in for good measure.
The drama captured brilliantly a prejudice that is now so commonly and deeply held among the cultural and political elites that they don’t even think of it as a prejudice. Really, they don’t! It’s a prejudice that imagines Britain is neatly split between a cosmopolitan and enlightened elite which is pro-EU, pro-gay marriage and allergic to the St George’s flag and a throng of Daily Mail drones who are overweight, anti-EU and, of course, racist.
This belief that vast swathes of Britain are a problem needing to be nudged or re-educated towards a slimmer and more enlightened existence is now the most powerful bigotry on the political scene. Only it doesn’t call itself bigotry, or even think of itself as such. But given that the OED definition of bigotry is someone who is ‘unreasonably wedded to a creed or opinion [and] intolerant of others’, there could be no better description for those convinced that they’re right about everything and contemptuous of anyone who thinks differently.
The C4 drama has proved unpopular. Hundreds have complained to Ofcom and newspaper reviewers have slammed it. But it’s important to note that this ugly drama, with its dehumanising caricatures of whole sections of Britain, was merely a more extreme version of what increasingly passes for mainstream politics. The elitist treatment of the swarm as incomprehensible, as unknowable, as potentially volatile and given to poisonous ways of thinking, informs pretty much all mainstream political thinking and commentary these days. You can see it in the handwringing over the wisdom of debating immigration when it might ‘inflame’ the prejudices of you-know-who. You can see it in the widespread acceptance of the nudge industry and its right, its duty in fact, to reshape the behaviour of the masses. You can see it in the political interventions into ‘chaotic families’ (note: not families in the Home Counties) which are ‘white trash’ (Jamie Oliver) and don’t know how to feed their kids (everyone). And you can see it in the daily drip of commentary about communities that are ‘paranoid, suspicious, mistrustful, misogynist and racist’. Guess what communities that Guardian piece was referring to? Yes, obviously, we all know.
In recent years, this elite disdain for the unhealthy (in mind and body) sections of society, which has been alive and thriving from the New Labour days through to Cameron’s war on the ‘chaos’ in poor people’s homes, has crystallised around the issue of UKIP. Through attacking this party, the cut-off elites can express their ugly prejudices in a seemingly political and progressive fashion. They can pose as pro-Europe (when in fact they are just in love with the Brussels bureaucracy) and pro-immigration (when in fact they vote for parties that are just as keen to limit immigration as Farage is), when in truth their Ukiphobia is fuelled by something utterly unprogressive in nature: a disdain, even a disgust, for the little people, for those who still wave the national flag and eat chips, who still call their female colleagues ‘love’ and read a redtop [popular newspaper], who aren’t PC and aren’t enamoured with the European Court of Human Rights. The elite’s self-conscious distancing of itself from the horde now finds its keenest expression in their panic about UKIP.
So, thank you Channel 4, for exposing in a bit more Technicolor than normal the liveliest, coarsest bigotry in politics today. Looking ahead to the debates and clashes before the election in May, some of us now know what really needs to be put squarely on the agenda and challenged passionately: the cultivation of a new divide between the pseudo-cosmo elite and a vulgar public, and the spreading of the nasty prejudice that says the less well-off lack the lingo and ideas and decency to be able to do politics in a grown-up way. Let’s kick this idea to the kerb, and stand up to the hijacking of mainstream politics by a professional elite and their denigration of the once-proud tag of ‘liberal’, which on their watch has come to mean nothing more than: ‘Better than the blob.’ And let’s remind people that the problem here isn’t UKIP — it’s the now Grand Canyon-sized chasm that exists between Us, the everyday public, and Them, the mainstream parties that are bereft of members and ideas and now view the electorate as a problem to be solved rather than a people to be seriously engaged with.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.