Civilisation at risk from political correctness


PC is not just a set of zany notions but a coherent programme to create a society driven by a perverted equality, writes JOHN WATERS

HEARING ABOUT the Englishwoman who has been arrested and charged with “racially aggravated harassment” because she left a golliwog in her window, our response may be something like exasperated amusement. “Oh my!” we perhaps sigh, “political correctness gone mad again!” (I am not ruling out the possibility some people may harrumph with satisfaction, pleased to see justice pursued with such vigour on the neighbouring island, but I am presuming most people remain, despite everything, fairly sane.)

Still, Jena Mason is not a character in a soap opera but a real, 65-year-old woman with a real family and a real life. Next Tuesday, she will appear before magistrates in Lowestoft, Suffolk, to answer this potentially serious charge, facing a fine of up to £2,500. She was arrested last month after a black neighbour complained about a golliwog being “displayed” in her window.

Mrs Mason said she had simply tidied up her grandson’s toys into the window. Her lawyer said she was “devastated” by the charges and will plead not guilty.

The golliwog controversy has been running since the 1980s, when the once-popular dolls were first deemed racist because, allegedly fashioned in grotesque caricature of black men, they were said to inflict psychic damage on black children.

It is hard to imagine such an allegation gaining traction were it not for the name “golliwog”, since the whole point of dolls is that they are caricatures of one or other category of human being.

Nevertheless, the anti-golliwog lobby has chalked up remarkable successes in banishing not just the dolls, but even mentions of them, from contemporary culture. The word “golliwog” is generally as frowned upon as the word “nigger”, and has been removed from many classic children’s books.

Odd then how, in the reporting of the charges against Mrs Mason this week, the word “golliwog” was used with abandon, and pictures of the dolls were published – without, it seemed, any thought for the sensitivities of black people who might happen to see them.

A man from Mars, even a black man from Mars, would have difficulty figuring the whole thing out.

In his book The Retreat of Reason: Political correctness and the corruption of public debate in modern Britain,Anthony Browne defines political correctness as “an ideology that classifies certain groups of people as victims in need of protection from criticism, and which makes believers feel that no dissent should be tolerated”.

Yes: PC is a form of censorship that exempts some categories of human being from the normal attrition of democratic society, and charges some unspecified “majority” with exercising a mandatory sensitivity towards these exemptions.

When thought about like this, PC ceases to be, as conventionally apprehended, an infuriating absurdity – concern for the sensitivities of “minorities” taken to an extreme degree of literalism – but becomes a dangerous tendency that inhibits public discussion of certain subjects.

It has become more difficult to discuss, for example, the social responsibilities of Travellers, the damaging consequences of incentivising single motherhood, or the potentially lethal dangers of Islamic fundamentalism.

Thus, public debate no longer describes objectively verifiable reality, but an ideologically constructed pseudo-reality in which certain matters become unmentionable. A further problem is that citizens have become locked into this approach to reality to a degree that depends on how they understand themselves socially and ideologically.

Those self-identifying as “left-leaning” or “liberal”, and who read left-liberal newspapers like The Irish Times, tend to regard political correctness as being, on balance and despite occasional “excesses”, axiomatically and unexceptionably well-intentioned.

In such circles, the PC-inspired elisions of public discourse are, if noticed at all, deemed necessary and good. Thus, a new form of thinking has been generated at the level of society at which important decisions tend to be made about future direction and policy.

What appeared to begin as a form of courtesy towards vulnerable elements has become default thinking, impossible to challenge without risk of serious social denunciation.

The phrase “political correctness” has tripped off the lips of so-called conservatives for so long that it no longer serves to alert society to the true dangers it has planted deep in the social realm.

For at issue is not some haphazard set of dissociated, sometimes zany but well-intentioned notions, but a coherent programme to supplant western civilisation with a new society driven, with extreme prejudice, by a perversion of equality that has become something close to its diametric opposite: the tyranny of the omnipotent victim.

Of course, the idea that PC could be a cover for some malignant ideology appears implausible, since such ideas have become so diffused and ingrained in culture as to require neither formal leadership nor subversive strategy. The real subversion takes place between our ears.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.