Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I'm quite in favour of PC, but...

Political correctness gets an unfairly bad press (probably mostly thanks to the likes of the Daily Mail). In part, this is because it's easy to forget just what things were like before PC. Take a look at a comedy TV show of the 60s, full of racist or sexist jokes, and it is absolutely cringemaking. We have moved on a long way, and political correctness has helped shape our thinking.

It's also true that when disgusted of Tonbridge Wells complains about political correctness, the 'news' story (s)he is reacting to is often fiction. Infamously, Birmingham is supposed to have once banned Christmas from the city, insisting that the 'neutral' Winterval be used instead of Christmas in any council activities. This is just baloney. The city ran a winter festival, called Winterval, but this had nothing to do with Christmas, and didn't replace the Christmas celebrations, which ran as usual.

However, the danger with political correctness is when it comes up against logic, and a knee-jerk reaction to what might be but isn't politically incorrect causes an overreaction.

A couple of weeks ago on the news I heard an interviewer in absolute PC shock. 'Are you saying,' he said to his interviewee, 'that Asians aren't British? How can you say that Asians aren't British?' Quite easily.

Just take away the racist connotations and substitute neutral terms. 'Are you saying that Europeans aren't American? How can you say that Europeans aren't American?'

This isn't about racism, it's about poor use of English. Asians are inhabitants of the continent of Asia. British people are inhabitants of the British Isles. Of course they aren't the same thing. Now if the interviewee said that Britains of Asian origin, or of Asian descent aren't British, then there would have been cause for concern. But this was different. I'm of second generation Irish descent. I would love to say I'm Irish - I think Ireland is great. But I'm not, I'm British. I was born in Britain and I hold a British passport. It would be ludicrous to say that I was Irish.

Come on, media, get your act together. PC will be mocked if you use it an illiterate fashion. And it shouldn't be.


If you aren't convinced, I gather the T-shirt is available here.

3 comments:

  1. Brian, Dear Brian, I have to disagree. PC is an attempt by special-interest groups to engineer the way we think by manipulating language in its favour. Go read about 'Newspeak' in '1984'.And I loathe the Daily Mail.

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  2. LOL! But, some of the PC-ness, is, I reckon, using English in such a way to fluffily-wrap things in order to disguise what we actually think? E.g., 'learning difficulties' => 's/he's a bit thick' [with a probability approaching 1].

    And, if I'm totally honest, I still find some of those cringe making old sitcoms funny ... maybe because they make me cringe, I don't know.

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  3. I agree it's partly true, Henry, but I think in some cases the engineering was justified.

    What, even 'Love Thy Neighbour',Peet? I'm not talking the likes of Alf Garnett...

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