Tuesday, 25 March 2008

"It's Political Correctness Gone Mad!" Gone Mad or Richard Littlejohn, I'm Looking At You

Scott Lemieux over at Lawyers, Guns and Money makes an excellent point about those that complain about the "PC" police, or use the endlessly idiotic IPCGM!!!1!!1 phrase reproduced above, almost (and by almost I mean invariably in my experience to date) use it as a mask for the fact that their stated opinion (often punctuated as "fact") cannot stand up to even the closest scrutiny. When someone says "Islam will find it difficult to be accepted by Western governments until the general Muslim population decries its militant elements more forcefully", then you have the oppurtunity to debate. Are many Muslims too willing to keep quiet about members of their own faith in favour of criticising others? Is that to some extent just a feature of human nature? Is ignoring the problems in your own house ultimately self-destructive? The problem is a complex and multi-layered one, I've read articles on it taking several different positions, and I'm not sure there ever can be one answer, which in turn means I can accept very different viewpoints as all having validity, to greater or lesser extents.

When somebody asserts seemingly at random that "Islam is a fundamentally evil religion because their religious text demands all non-Muslims be executed", though, you're no longer in the same game. Suddenly you're facing an ugly mix of rumour and innuendo and lack of research and often sheer invention, which is then conflated to a ridiculous extent because that way any attempt at nuance or scrutiny can be bypassed. And at that point, there often isn't much you can do beyond shouting foul.

Frequently, of course, those who do so are accused of attempting to silence critics, of cutting off their right to free speech. Well, leaving aside that I'm British, so that the vast majority of people I meet who use that argument have no right to free speech, it demonstrates the sheer poorness of a person's deductive skills that they are unable to differentiate between attempting to deny them their ability to speak, and using our ability to speak to contradict them. If a crappy line of reasoning is expoused, it will be torn to shreds, because no-one is honour-bound to leave opinion unchallenged for fear they will upset the originator of that reasoning (I shall manfully resist the urge to expand this diatribe to include religion). If your ideas aren't getting traction in the real world, it is not proof that people are deliberately quashing them. It's proof that hardly anyone agrees with you.

Or, as Mr Lemieux put it, " "PC" has come to mean (if it ever meant anything else) nothing more than "bigotry that is indefensible on the merits shouldn't be subject to any critical scrutiny." " His contribution comes in response to a list of reasons (up at Instapunk) why one white man thinks other white men (and presumably women) might have a problem with black people. We're talking insights along the lines of "Would it kill you if your kid fixated on Sandy Koufax, Mozart, or Shakespeare rather than Mays, Armstrong, or Jay-Z? Does being black really have to be a full-time job?", here. So black people like black cultural products, and only black cultural products, and we object to that idea. Apparently. The quote combines the two problems I mentioned earlier: a fairly idiotic idea stripped of subtlety (namely that black culture and white culture are two wholly seperate entities which in no way feed off each other, and further that to choose consciously or subconsciously to favour one over the other is somehow wrong) and then generalises it to a idiotic extent (this is something all the blacks do to the maximum possible extent and we don't). It's an argument flawed on so many levels that picking it apart still leaves you with a tangled web of nonsense, and sometimes you're better off just pointing that out at once.

It's worth noting that the above quote is not the most ludicrous one in the rant, too.

Update: I've decided to split this post into two, since although the arguments are linked, I think they hold up better seperately.

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