Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
Anthony Browne believes that civilisation is being destroyed by ‘Political Correctness’
. First things first. There has always been political correctness in some form or other; some subjects have always been taboo, some policy prescriptions have been proscribed and debates have been couched in the acceptable language of the time.
Now, as for Browne’s ‘thesis’ (I must confess that, having read a good portion of the pamphlet, I saved the .pdf to my desktop under the title ‘Browne’s thought turd’, it really is that awful), I suggest that you go to The Virtual Stoa
, which has eleven short posts
dissecting this piece of garbage. I do wish that my thesis could be produced with so little consideration of evidence, or indeed, evidence of consideration.
One of my favourite quotes is; “No country has yet been destroyed by political correctness – although the Netherlands has come close...”
This piece of ridiculous hyperbole, and please remember that Browne couches his argument as a return to reason (he also borrows the mantle of science to legitimate his attack on PC), prompted a wonderful to reply from Alex in the comments boxes:
“…only someone who has very little clue about the conditions under which most people in the world live could imagine that the Netherlands has come "close" to being “destroyed”. War? Terrorism? Not a sausage. Disease? Economic depression? Hyperinflation? Hunger? Infrastructural failure? // To be more accurate, one mad Islamist (presumably not PC, given that they believe women should wear bags on their heads) stabbed a mad film director who specialised in insulting other people's religions (which is hardly PC), and a mad veggie fundamentalist (not very PC either) shot a mad fascist (fascists not being very PC the last time I checked). That's it. That's like saying the United States were “close to being destroyed” by Mark Chapman.”
Presumably, what distresses Browne about ‘political correctness’ is that is associated with liberal societies. Like Melanie Phillips and her counterpart rant-bot Paul Johnson, I suspect that Browne’s major concern is that we now live in what is a permissive and tolerant society. This is the ‘destruction’ that Browne refers to, and why he chose the Netherlands as his example. He wants you, I suggest, to think of the headline grabbing assassinations, and concur. But as Alex points out, only if reason has retreated completely are these the ‘near destruction’ of a society. For a reactionary social conservative, however, the permissive model of Netherlands is in itself the destruction of society. Do not be fooled; he seeks to recruit liberals to social conservatism by presenting an illusion of a world in which their liberal values are under threat. This is a successful tactic, witness, for example, how the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association has bought the ‘racism as defence of liberalism’ line
*. Melanie Phillips
, another social conservative who likes to present herself as a defender of Western Civilisation, provided that it is not permissive or tolerant, has this to say on Browne’s brain spasm:
“Browne is one of the few who very clearly understands that ‘political correctness’ is not some ludicrous absurdity that can be laughed away, as it is so often depicted. It is instead a terrifying, totalitarian and in Britain wholly successful putsch against truth itself, the weapon of subversion of a moral, political and social order.”
I wish that we could dismiss Phillips (and Browne) as a ‘ludicrous absurdity’. But we cannot. For while there has been, apparently, a ‘wholly successful putsch’ of a ‘terrifying, totalitarian’ belief system (can you see where she is going here; a wine bar putsch anyone?), people holding views like those of Phillips still seem to find work as commentators, columnists, broadcasters. Indeed, I would suggest that they do all this while holding large portions of the wealth and power of this country. This attack on PC – something that Browne almost admits is an invention of the American right wing, at least in so far as it is any sort of coherent entity – is reactionary in its most simple and straightforward sense; it seeks to reverse the social progress, the increase in tolerance and permissiveness that has occurred over the past half century. This is a threat to it far more dangerous than a few violent Islamists. The best they can do is blow up some stuff and kill a few people. Harold Shipman, a middle class white professional, holds the post-War British All-Comers record for this kind of action. When comparatively politically powerful, persuasive actors such as Browne and Phillips get to work, they actually can effect change. There views are no defence of liberal, tolerant civilisation, but an active rejection of it.
, who, among with others has been busy publicising Craig Murray’s torture memos, has just posted up a nice little piece on the depressingly predictable response to the new 50 Cent film