It’s a Free/Unfree Thing

March 12th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A further article from the paper – You Can’t Say That! Freedom of Speech and the Invisible Muzzle.

This one is by , a columnist with the Australian.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

— Mark Twain

It’s tempting to assume that the PC-crowd is having us on. How else can we explain the Seattle school’s decision last year to rename Easter eggs as ‘Spring spheres,’ worrying that a chocolate egg might remind, or even worse, offend kids by alluding to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sesame Street has been sanitised too: episodes made between 1969 and 1974 are screened with an adults-only warning. Enid Blyton has not been spared either. To appease the ‘don’t smack children’ lobby, Dame Slap is now Dame Snap. Feminists have been accommodated: Julian and Dick are now required to share household chores with the female characters. The gay lobby has not been forgotten either: the word ‘gay’ has been replaced with ‘happy.’ Bessie has been renamed Beth to avoid any connotations to slavery. Blyton’s golliwogs have been banished. And The Lion King has been decreed full of racist and homophobic messages. According to Carolyn Newberger of Harvard University, those good-for-nothing hyenas are urban blacks who speak in gay clichés.

Surely, they’re having us on with this PC stuff.

But, of course, we know they are not having us on. And they are not imbeciles. They are smart people who really mean it. Smart because the PC virus has infected so much of what we do, what we read, how we live, how we think.

It’s the thinking part that should trouble us the most.

Earlier this year, Alan Gribben, an English professor at Auburn University in Alabama, published a new edition of Mark Twain’s classics, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The word ‘nigger,’ which appears more than 200 times in the book, has been replaced with ‘slave.’ The professor worried that the word would offend too many students and turn them off from reading the book.

What the good professor doesn’t seem to know is that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn satirises Southern prejudices of the time. It is an anti-racist book. If you mess with the power of Twain’s words, you mess with the power of Twain’s message. If school children are to really think about American history and the Deep South, they need to read about ‘niggers.’ The history and the language are confronting.

Great literature unsettles us. It forces us to think about our reactions. If we’re offended, we think about why we’re offended.

By denying us the ability to think, political correctness is a heresy for those who are truly committed to liberalism. Political correctness tells people what to think. And it seeps into society, so often without us even paying attention to the subliminal message.

Because the purveyors of PC are not imbeciles but smart people armed with clever tricks, we need to pay attention.

The Left in Australia are claiming that those who raise questions about multiculturalism, immigration and the relationship between Islam and modernity have blood on our hands. I say ‘our hands’ because I have been named as someone who bears some responsibility for what happened in Oslo. Others complicit in the mass murder include Keith Windschuttle, Andrew Bolt, and Geoffrey Blainey.

Here, murder is used as a muzzle to close down . And this is just the latest addition to what is a growing list of tactics to curb , and even worse, to stifle genuine enquiry and independent thinking.

Here are some of their tricks.

The emotional hoax

The Left are armed with a range of emotionally charged tools to immediately close down discussion about immigration or border control. Call your opponents racists and point to xenophobia in the community. Opponents are not just wrong, they’re evil. Their views should not be aired in a civilised society.

John Howard copped this for years. When the Prime Minister Gillard called for an open debate about these issues last year, she was accused of whipping up the racists within Australia.

But remember this: the stifling political correctness that rejected an open debate about immigration in the early 1990s fuelled the emergence and popularity of Pauline Hanson.

 The victim game

The victim game has been fuelled by two recent developments. We now live in an age when ‘feelings’ are treated as a measurement of moral values, so you measure your feelings against the feelings of others to determine morality. Hence, we live in what author Monica Ali calls ‘the marketplace of outrage,’ where groups vie for victimhood status, each claiming their feelings have been hurt more than others.

Secondly, the focus on vulnerability is used to justify curbing Enlightenment values such as freedom of expression. The minority simply have to utter the word ‘phobia’ to silence all debate.

Over the last few years, we have witnessed a familiar opera of Muslim oppression.

Act I starts with something simple. Perhaps it’s a book called The Satanic Verses. Or a silly Danish cartoon. Or a film called Submission. Or a cheeky episode of South Park stating that Mohammad is the only guy free from ridicule.

Then the libretto comes: Muslims scream about hurt feelings. The drama builds in Act II: death threats are issued, flags and effigies are burnt, maybe even a few boycotts are imposed, and then we hear that great aria of all accusations—Islamophobia.

Act III is the most depressing. The West capitulates, preferring the path of least resistance to launching a staunch defence of freedom of expression.

Hence then US President George H. Bush declared both Salman Rushdie’s book and the fatwa against Rushdie as equally offensive.

Hence, 20 years later, newspapers across the globe chose not to publish the Danish cartoons and Western politicians muttered about protecting hurt feelings.

Hence, last year, Comedy Central, the channel that broadcasts South Park, inserted audio bleeps and large blocks of black that read CENSORED at the very mention or image of Mohammad to prevent more hurt feelings.

And as the clever guys at South Park lamented, ‘like, we lost.’

And we, too, may lose. If we don’t even recognise the tactics, let alone the consequences, we are left with a new norm of anticipatory surrender and self-censorship.

The legal route

The victim game works so well because it is augmented by laws: the apparatus of the state is used to censor free speech.

The prosecutions are mounting: politician Geert Wilders in Holland, writers Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in Canada. And in Australia, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt is defending a claim by a group of Aborigines that he ‘offended, insulted and humiliated’ them in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The PC crowd is clever and they’re not having us on. They know that there are no useful legal tests about hurt feelings and inciting hate. They enact nice-sounding laws, build bureaucracies, and wait for them to blossom and bludgeon free speech. They have effectively co-opted Islamic style oppression to prohibit debate, be it about Islam or anything else they wish to fence off from free speech.

Death by silence

The other trick is to quietly exclude certain people from the national discourse. It is best summed up by the German word totschweigtaktik.

To be ‘totsched’ is to be subjected to death by silence—books, ideas, people that challenge the status quo are simply ignored.

Shelly Gare wrote about it in Quadrant last year. Those who are totsched find ‘their efforts left to expire soundlessly like a butterfly in a jar.’

It happened to Orwell when he wrote his 1938 classic Homage to Catalonia, which addressed Stalinist Russia’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War. The left-wing literati simply ignored it. By the time Orwell died in 1950, barely 1,500 copies had been sold.

The same death by silence was used to ignore Australian writers such as Chris Kenny, who challenged the secret women’s business behind the Hindmarsh Island affair. It was used when author Kate Jennings aimed her fire at the sisterhood, post-modernism, and women’s studies.

It’s used by those who tell us that climate change will destroy us all if we do not act immediately. The sceptics are being totsched. Opposing views? What opposing views?

 The bipartisanship racket

Governments have their own tactics. In recent times in Australia, those with poor ideas and even worse policies have resorted to what is best described as the bipartisanship racket to fence themselves off from criticism on a range of topics.

The former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for bipartisanship on Indigenous policies. It soon became clear that what he meant was supine obedience to his agenda. There could be no disagreement with the roll-back of the NT intervention. If you dared to disagree, you were immediately charged with politicising the issue. Imagine if these kinds of calls from those defending the status quo had managed to shut out the ideas of people like Noel Pearson.

The Rudd government tried the bipartisanship scam again with climate change and immigration. Each time the aim was the same: to place limits on free debate, to get opponents to rubber-stamp rather than question government policy.

No, the very last thing we want is bipartisanship when it is used so blatantly to stifle dissent and vest moral authority in one voice.

Consensus con

Another trick emerged from Canberra last year from the cloistered offices of the federal Treasury. Treasury boss Ken Henry demanded a supporting consensus from academic economists on major policy issues such as the emissions trading system and the equally ill-fated super profits tax on mining companies.

In one breath, Henry said that he supported the ‘contest of ideas’ and that there were ‘occasions on which economists might, at least for a period, put down their weapons and join a consensus.’

It sends shudders up your spine. A senior bureaucrat—who crafts a policy that, according to many, threatened to undermine Australia’s economy—demands obedience from economists. Henry lost that debate. And that’s the point of free debate. Ideas are not finessed through consensus or bipartisanship. Debate is the single most effective mechanism for disposing of bad ideas.

 Why vigilance?

The aim of political correctness is to tell people what to think and stop them from thinking for themselves. If we are serious about defending free speech, vigilance demands that we look out for the tricks and test the trickery against first principles. The alternative means more moral disorientation and a death wish for the West.

The principles are clear enough: free speech is not a Left/Right thing, as Mark Steyn said. It’s a free/unfree thing. You don’t get to cry in favour of free speech just to defend those with whom you agree. And free speech must include the right to offend. If we prosecute offensive opinions, we encourage ever more ridiculous claims to protection. We fuel that marketplace of outrage. And we end up shutting down the true genius of modern Western civilisation—the contest of ideas.

But, of course, free speech and the real value of debate depend on one more important principle: people genuinely listening to each other.

There are two more articles to come.

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48 Responses to “It’s a Free/Unfree Thing”

  1. paul henry (49 comments) says:

    She writes of ‘totschweigtaktikto’, to be subjected to death by silence:

    “It’s used by those who tell us that climate change will destroy us all if we do not act immediately. The sceptics are being totsched. Opposing views? What opposing views?”

    Seriously? Opposing views are practically as prolific as pro views which is why its taken such an age to get anywhere.

    And why is it the ‘Left’ that is responsible for this creeping suppression of free speech? Shes does exactly what she complains about: attaches an undeserved negative value to a group in order to marginalise and discredit them.

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  2. Peter Freedman (127 comments) says:

    Janet often makes sense when she doesn’t write about politics. Get her on to that subject and she is a rightwing raving ranter second only to the odious Piers Akerman.

    But away from politics she writes well. I don’t agree with all she says here but she does make some good points.

    Her problem is obvious when you see the photograph that accompanies her regular columns in The Australian. Her glasses are down to the very end of her nose and she is glaring over the top of them. I have told her that must mean not only she can’t see past the end of her nose, she can’t even see the end itself…….I have not yet received any return fire.

    I don’t believe “PC” exists. It is just a convenient label people put on anything, or anyone, they don’t like.

    Janet’s reference to “death by silence” reminds me of one of the reasons why some Liberals here suspect Tony Abbott has a mental illness.

    On live TV he was asked an awkward question. He didn’t say a word, just kept staring at the interviewer, his gaze becoming more and more manic. The interviewer didn’t try to fill the silence, just stared back. And the silence went on, and on, and on…..
    More info available here: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/silence-speaks-louder-than-words-in-this-story-20110209-1an2a.html

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  3. Nick R (443 comments) says:

    I find this whole subject endlessly fascinating. What always intrigues me is the demand on the one hand to be free to express opinions that are controversial or offensive, while on the other demanding that nobody else be allowed to express a contrary opinion because that is PC, or chilling free speech, or “totsching”.

    The article of faith here is that “the Right” are championing free speech by fearlessly expressing their views, and “the Left” or “the PC brigade” are preventing them from doing so.

    But you could just as easily turn that around and say that “the Right” are demanding that “the Left” must be silenced so that right wing views can be expressed without fear of contradiction or objection.

    [DPF: You miss the salient point. There is nothing wrong with countering views you don't like with opposing views. But when you try to say that no one should be able to say such things, when people try to get the person sacked for saying it.

    You also have media self-censorship, such as when the media will not report the ethnicity of suspects, in case it causes offence.]

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  4. adze (1,695 comments) says:

    Good to see that people are thinking about these issues, even if some of the ideas need development. I would agree that we shouldn’t be afraid to address the harder questions, as long as it’s done intelligently.
    I would offer a couple of minor criticisms based on my quick read: “death by silence”, as described, doesn’t sound like an attempt to stifle free speech. Free speech doesn’t mean people have to pay attention to, or engage with your ideas (besides which, if they gain enough currency, eventually they will have to be attended to).
    The other criticism is of this comment in the conclusion: “The principles are clear enough: free speech is not a Left/Right thing”
    This may be so, but it seems a bit late to say this, after earlier using polar language such as “The Left are armed with a range of emotionally charged tools to immediately close down discussion…”

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  5. mikenmild (8,890 comments) says:

    That’s an astute comment paul. None of the tactics complained about are the exclusive p[reserve of any particular viewpoint.

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  6. xy (130 comments) says:

    I’d give this more credit if, for example, there was any evidence the Spring Sphere thing actually happened – it appears to be an anonymous call to a radio station claiming it, and the school couldn’t find anything about it happening (and there were no policies or decisions by the school putting this in place).

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  7. cows4me (248 comments) says:

    “The aim of PC is to tell people what to think and stop them thinking for themselves”, of course it is. Every Time the left has tried to subjugate people with political correctness it has failed. Once the majority realise that to be PC is to be enslaved by an ideology that wants with all it’s heart to control of course it will fail. Unfortunately the world is blessed with morons with a naive belief that to offend race, religion, culture and sex is despicable. Political correctness seeks to redefined human nature, I”m a farmer and I know you can’t change nature nor will the drive for PC change human nature.

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  8. Weihana (4,475 comments) says:

    The very concept of the “invisible muzzle” is an interesting one. Is it really a muzzle or is it merely a feeling that one is being muzzled despite no actual laws or regulations which muzzle your freedom of expression?

    Calling someone a xenophobe or a racist may be nothing more than name calling, but it is hardly a muzzle. Debate will invariably involve those who name call and indeed I can’t deny that I have called people names at times. Sometimes it’s simply an observation, other times it probably reflects a lack of a good comeback. :)

    But the more concerning areas are the legal regulations which attempt to regulate speech. Those should be looked at very closely. But emotion and consensus, for instance, are a legitimate part of the market place of ideas. Just because they may not be logical or good arguments, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be made and if made they are muzzling free speech. If one is called a racist it doesn’t stiffle the speech of the person whether or not the claim is true. Similarly a consensus argument may be used and it may be true or not true, but it is still part of the market place of ideas regardless.

    The marketplace of ideas does not solely consist of logical and well reasoned ideas.

    On the other hand corporate censorship is an interesting issue because in a lot of ways large corporations control access to the marketplace. In this way corporate censorship sets up somewhat of a conflict between the property rights of corporations and the practical ability to communicate a message to the public without the censorship of corporate interests which sanitize and standardize what can and cannot be said. Thus corporate censorship is probably a large contributor to the power of political correctness because generally they tend to prefer political correct messages to unpopular messages.

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  9. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    DPF – its this very reason why you dont screw around with ‘harmful’ speech on the web. Its these sorts of crazies that will silence you if you start going down that track of appeasing everyone who is ‘insulted’

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  10. Dave Mann (1,127 comments) says:

    Hey, DPF, thanks for running this interesting series of posts. Its great stuff and very thought-provoking. I realise that you didn’t write it, but thanks again for putting it up on your blog. Cheers!

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  11. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    What a pack of disingenuous Polyannas this thread has attracted. The social engineers & Muslim cuddlers are out in force seeking to replace the scales covering our eyes that Janet Albrechtsen may have removed. Already the hard to prove ‘Spring Sphere’ has been highlighted but the verifiable ‘Golliwog’ incident & the typically orchestrated reactions of the Islamic hotheads ignored.

    I predict that before 9pm that this thread will have attracted shoals of red herrings each intended to drag us away from the fact that our opinions are being shaped for us.

    Nothing to see here……move along.

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  12. Scott Chris (5,682 comments) says:

    Well I feel muzzled too. I can no longer call anyone a racist or a bigot without being labeled a PC fascist. Where will it end?

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  13. Peter Freedman (127 comments) says:

    nasska, compare your post with the one just above it from Dave Mann.

    Ask yourself which one is the better. Then answer yourself honestly.

    Now move along and next time try harder.

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  14. Nick R (443 comments) says:

    @ DPF – Calling for someone to be sacked for expressing an opinion is itself an expression of opinion. If you believe in free speech, you should support that with no reservations whatsoever. It is always a perfectly acceptable use of free speech to say, “I found Joe Bloggs’ comments disgraceful, he should be sacked”.

    Joe Bloggs’ employer has a different issue to address – he or she has to decide whether Joe has breached his employment contract by making whatever comment it was that started the whole fiasco. That may not be easy – it depends what the job is. If you have been employed as a shock jock or breakfast TV host, then expressing outrageous opinions may actually be part of your job. But the point is that the limit on free speech in this context is the employment contract, not the public criticism. If Joe wants unfettered freedom of speech, he either needs to find a job in which he can say what he likes at all times without fear of being dismissed for it (good luck with that – maybe Curia would offer him a job :-)), or go without a job.

    [DPF: Of course there are consequences for freedom of speech. But if NZ it is almost entirely the left that tries to get journalists sacked if they say something unpopular. A great example is Paul Holmes column on Waitangi Day. Rather than actually debate the points he made, hundreds demanded he be sacked from Q+A, for a column he wrote for the Herald. The net effect is other commentators will not dare write similar columns due to having seen what happens, and this is the problem these columns are about. There are too many people who try to shut down debate, rather than foster it]

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  15. Leaping Jimmy (15,592 comments) says:

    So given this information, do those conservatives on this blog and on Whales who think gay marriage is all about human wights, finally get the FACT it’s about the label and just, as per the above, why that is important to them?

    I bet they don’t [get it].

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  16. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    Peter Freedman

    I wasn’t competing for a Pulitzer Prize in online journalism. Dave Mann has thanked DPF for reprinting Janet Albrechtsen’s in depth article.

    I’m pointing out that such honest writing will bring totalitarian fascists out of the woodwork to desperately spin the subject into am area they feel more comfortable about.

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  17. questions (132 comments) says:

    The right is just as precious as the left about what words are used to refer to their corresponding concepts, but apparently it is ok when they do it?

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  18. wat dabney (3,463 comments) says:

    Wolf-whistling “could be made illegal” under new European convention

    ‘In a special event to mark International Women’s Day, David Cameron will pledge to fight verbal and non-verbal violence against women, including sexual harassment.

    By signing the Council of Europe convention, he will vow to take “necessary legislative measures” against anyone breaking the clauses within, by committing “verbal, non-verbal or physical” sexual harassment.

    This is thought to include sexist comments and street harassment, including shouting or whistling at women in public.

    In particular, the convention sets out a definition of sexual harassment, as “violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

    This, it says, is “subject to criminal or other legal sanction”. ‘

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9130864/Wolf-whistling-could-be-made-illegal-under-new-European-convention.html

    Of course, a logical next step from this is to outlaw speech which offends someone’s religion.

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  19. Bob R (1,253 comments) says:

    Good article. Boris Johnson had a good piece last year about the BBC replacing BC with ‘Before Common Era”, another way of stripping away any reference to Christianity in the West.

    “But if the BBC is going to continue to put MMXI at the end of its programmes – as I think it does – then it should have the intellectual honesty to admit that this figure was not plucked from nowhere. We don’t call it 2011 because it is 2011 years since the Chinese emperor Ai was succeeded by the Chinese emperor Ping (though it is); nor because it is 2011 years since Ovid wrote the Ars Amatoria. It is 2011 years since the (presumed) birth of Christ. I object to this change because it reflects a pathetic, hand-wringing, Lefty embarrassment about thousands of years of cultural dominance by the West.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/8788464/BC-or-BCaE-The-BBCs-edict-on-how-we-date-events-is-AD-absolute-drivel.html

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  20. mara (641 comments) says:

    DPF, I’m with Dave Mann. Good stuff. I am finding the reaction interesting but not all that surprising. I attend family events with depressing regularity to be surrounded by pointy heads who find my rightwingedness to be both quaint and remarkable. Comfortable Mt Eden socialites with a fondness for Montessori schools and a fine drop of single malt once the rabble have gone home, are really quite transparent and might, if convention allowed, actually learn something from the likes of Janet Albrechtsen.

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  21. Scott Chris (5,682 comments) says:

    BC with ‘Before Common Era”, another way of stripping away any reference to Christianity in the West.

    Nah, that’s just Christian paranoia. BCE is becoming irrelevant anyway as the more practical Before Present takes over.

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  22. Nick R (443 comments) says:

    @ DPF – We are going to have to agree to disagree here, I’m afraid. You can’t argue that people should somehow be prevented from saying that Paul Holmes should be sacked from the Herald without breaching their freedom of expression. I get that you don’t like that and that it could inhibit other columnists from speaking their minds. But let’s not forget that it is ultimately the editor that will decide what is published, and who writes columns. And editors usually love controversial columnists. So I think the risk of self-censorship is pretty small. To the contrary, I suspect editors want their columnists to be controversial.

    [DPF: You miss the point again. I am not advocating that people be banned from trying to suppress speech they disagree with. I am saying we should highlight their tactics when they do it and make sure they do not succeed]

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  23. Fletch (5,726 comments) says:

    Calling someone a xenophobe or a racist may be nothing more than name calling, but it is hardly a muzzle.

    Weihana, I’d say it is a muzzle. The fact is that everyone wants to be liked and no one wants to be shunned or thought badly of; that is just human nature. What is and is not politically correct is being defined by the Left and their pals in the media, and has developed into a situation similar to having bad manners. No one with any awareness would sneeze without putting their hand over their mouth in public – and why? Because society tells us it is not polite (for one), and to do so would invite public embarrassment.

    Likewise, to go against popular opinion invites the same sort of embarrassment and no one likes to be embarrassed. For instance, saying ‘black’ instead of African American is a no-no these days. People are self-censoring when they talk about blacks African Americans. I’ve done it myself.

    It’s a muzzle of fear – fear of saying the wrong thing, and being frowned upon.

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  24. KH (686 comments) says:

    Plenty of nasty comment, on this very Kiwiblog, from people who seem to have a right wing bent. They toss out terms like ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobia’ because they don’t like certain viewpoints about the Crafar Farms issue.

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  25. Bob R (1,253 comments) says:

    Curiously it was Communist Russia which introduced the first “racial vilification” law. The 1936 Soviet Constitution, in Article 123, stated that “any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law”. :)

    These laws now are generally used to institutionalise multiculturalism and prohibit/chill discussion of immigration policy.

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  26. mikenmild (8,890 comments) says:

    Scott
    Doesn’t BC or BCE remain very relevant for exact dates? It is hard to see any change to post-common era dates (AD) – we just don’t use the abbreviation any more.
    Fletch
    What you complain of is interesting. You contrast ‘political correctness’ (bad) with ‘politeness’ (good). Surely there is a huge overlap there?

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  27. stiglet (11 comments) says:

    PC is about subtlety.

    Lets take the word “PROBLEM” as an example.

    I am a “PROBLEM solver”. I always have been. If I see a PROBLEM I seek a solution.

    Years ago I was told to stop using the word in a corporate context. “They are issues now”. I was told.

    Now we talk about ISSUES.

    We talk a lot.

    We seldom solve anything.

    Changing the language changes the idea.

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  28. mara (641 comments) says:

    KH… “plenty of nasty comment”… Really. Is “nasty” stuff you don’t like? Spare me.

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  29. mikenmild (8,890 comments) says:

    stiglet
    That’s a common organizational phenomenon – renaming the same stuff to keep up with fashion. Not exactly a PC issues, but it can be about power within an organization by controlling the language – and most organizations have more power over language than is experienced in the wider world.

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  30. Australis (99 comments) says:

    “It’s used by those who tell us that climate change will destroy us all if we do not act immediately. The sceptics are being totsched. Opposing views? What opposing views?”

    Right. But there are plenty of opposing views and you can find them on the web, by the water cooler, in the pub, at the sports grounds and around barbecues. You just can’t find them in the mainstream media. Why is that?

    Do editors think that “mainstream is as mainstream does”? Is New Zealand too small to allow more than one view to exist at any one time? Or do they think readers too thick to understand that there are two sides to most stories?

    I absolutely don’t agree that a “disgraceful” opinion could ever be a sacking offence – unless it’s also a criminal offence. Can be people be sacked for NOT have correct opinions?

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  31. stiglet (11 comments) says:

    milkenmaid.

    I totally agree with you. Were it an isolated situation it wouldn’t bother me. What I have experienced is not isolated. I have trolled my skills through many organisations and industries. Some more PC than others. Once you start changing the language you start changing the thought.

    If you change the word you change the meaning.

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  32. mikenmild (8,890 comments) says:

    In my experience the language is often of great importance to the senior execs in the organisation. Using the ‘wrong’ word is a no no. the right words often have a tendency to steer discussion along safe, pre-ordained lines.

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  33. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    Political Correctness:

    1. The laws of moral and ethical relativism where all systems of cultures and thought are equal in value, stemming from a perceived guilt from white liberals who believe that the Western Civilization is the root of all evil to the exclusion of all else.

    2. A powerful form of censorship.

    3. A method of controlling and dictating public speech and thought.

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  34. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    If you change the word you change the meaning.

    Exactly. Credit where credit’s due, the socialists in our midst have understood this for a long time.

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  35. mikenmild (8,890 comments) says:

    Australis
    I’m not sure I entirely agree with you. An organisation would be perfectly entitled to sack someone whose comments brought the firm into disrepute, eg a TV channel would have no pr.oblem sacking someone who, say, ridiculed the Governor-General

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  36. Shunda barunda (2,964 comments) says:

    I have a theory about political correctness.

    The degree that one is likely to engage in ‘politically correct thinking’ is the degree that one believes himself, herself, or ‘themselves’ to be born to lead.

    You see, the more illegitimate ones authority is on a subject the more threatened one is by their opponent. The easy way out of such a situation is to remove your opponent by dismissing them as some sort of tyrant so dangerous as to warrant a complete dismissal and a quick condemnation to the non believers version of Hell, henceforth know as “Mega bigot land”.

    Once you have been condemned to Hell – oh, I mean “Mega bigot land” there is no way out unless you repent and become “saved”.

    How does one gain said salvation? one must rehearse politically correct mantra until it flows from thine mouth like the product of digested grass flows from the butt of a bovine beast.

    When this is flowing freely, you will be saved and you will know the truth, and the truth is good and the unbelievers can rot in Hell.

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  37. stiglet (11 comments) says:

    milkenmild.

    Only if those comments were made publicly.

    What about internal comments?

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  38. francis (712 comments) says:

    huge amount of attempted totschweigtaktik on display here. you seem to have struck a nerve with this one.

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  39. transmogrifier (518 comments) says:

    Political correctness = the insane notion that everything that is expressed (whether it be in writing, verbally or visually) should contain no offence to any other group of people, and it is the government’s job to write laws that eliminate the chance of said offence. It is predicated on the concept that everyone’s self-worth is completely dependent on the groups to which they can be said to belong, while also assuming that individuals are unable to cope with or react to offence on its own terms, but must be shielded away from it in case it destroys their fragile self-confidence.

    The irony is of course that so many of the people who complain about the poor treatment afforded a particular group are seldom members of that group themselves, but rather see it as their mission to be offended on their behalf.

    It is correct to say that calling for someone to be sacked is free speech and must be allowed to occur; it is also true to say that it is the crudest, most unimaginative and self-righteous way to complain. Learn how to boycott, or to explain logically how the offence is so serious. Demanding that people listen to you because you are loud and won’t go away is the tactic of a 2-year-old having a tantrum in the supermarket. I mean, I think Paul Henry’s a dick, but I would never dream of demanding that he be sacked as if I have right to dictate the employment decisions of someone else. I simply didn’t watch him and got on with my life – if enough people did the same, he might would probably have lost his job, but if no-one agreed with me, he wouldn’t have. And yet I still would have been stress-free because I didn’t watch him.

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  40. Peter Freedman (127 comments) says:

    nasska (2,920) Says:

    March 12th, 2012 at 6:09 pm
    Peter Freedman

    I wasn’t competing for a Pulitzer Prize in online journalism. Dave Mann has thanked DPF for reprinting Janet Albrechtsen’s in depth article.

    I’m pointing out that such honest writing will bring totalitarian fascists out of the woodwork to desperately spin the subject into am area they feel more comfortable about.

    nasska, I was sure you weren’t competing for any prize. That much was obvious.

    My point was that Dave Mann wrote something positive. All you did was call people silly names just because you didn’t agree with them.

    PS: I agree totally with your last sentence. But isn’t Janet’s column also spin?

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  41. Peter Freedman (127 comments) says:

    [DPF: Of course there are consequences for freedom of speech. But if NZ it is almost entirely the left that tries to get journalists sacked if they say something unpopular. A great example is Paul Holmes column on Waitangi Day. Rather than actually debate the points he made, hundreds demanded he be sacked from Q+A, for a column he wrote for the Herald. The net effect is other commentators will not dare write similar columns due to having seen what happens, and this is the problem these columns are about. There are too many people who try to shut down debate, rather than foster it]

    True as far as it goes. True that the left often calls for journos to be sacked (a position I don’t agree with) but isn’t that because most columnists (ie people who are paid to write their opinions) are rightwing?

    I have frequently asked my Aussie rightwing friends to name one leftwing Australian columnist. They can’t.

    I issue the same challenge here. Can anyone come up with just one name we can debate? I can at least think of one who claims to be leftwing. But is he really?

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  42. Peter Freedman (127 comments) says:

    Sorry to hog this thread but I did work 25 years fulltime as a journo and much of the rest of my working life as a freelancer, so I guess this is close to my heart.

    Some of you have asked about editors. I worked under many and had no respect for most of them. The exceptions were Jack Kelleher (great guy), Ted Frost (liked his drink and largely left us seniors alone) and Frank Haden (claimed to be far right but wasn’t, was often acting editor of The Dom, but was never appointed to the main job).

    The editor I disliked most was Geoff Baylis. He hated me with equal passion. I was an outspoken unionist as well as a journo. He also hated me because, unlike the rest of the Dom staff, me and a mate decided that just because he had worked in the UK didn’t mean he was a Fleet Street boy wonder.

    In fact, and in this I am relying on memory, we found Baylis had never worked in Fleet Street and had drifted from one provincial paper to another, never staying long anywhere. We passed the word along that Baylis’ record suggested he was useless and that was why he never went to London and never stayed anywhere long.

    Even now I cannot find a bio of Baylis anywhere. This man headed The Dom, then the Listener and won some award for services to press freedom and journalist education. Yet there is nothing of a biography not even on Wikipaedia.

    Baylis also no doubt knew I had once given a fiery speech at an FOL conference highly critical of editors. The Evening Post made it their front page lead.

    From the moment he arrived at The Dom Baylis was a disaster. He gained the nickname “Secret Squirrel” very early because he never told any of his staff anything. He once had two senior journos working for months on some tremendous scandal which led nowhere and kept the paper starved of two reporters at a time when we were short staffed to begin with. To this day I have no idea what the investigation was about.

    One day Baylis had a smart idea. He decided to offer me the role of writing editorials and suggested I write one just to see. He asked me to write an editorial supporting voluntary unionism.

    I did as I was bid. Baylis read it, muttered something about me “not being suitable for the Dom” and rushed off to an appointment before I could reply. I left the paper soon afterwards. I was a senior journo but editor Baylis didn’t even front up to my farewell.

    What the silly Pom didn’t know is that I have always supported voluntary unionism. If someone doesn’t want to join, but is forced to be a member, he just drags the organisation down.

    My overall impression is that newspaper owners don’t interfere with how their papers present the news. They don’t have to. They simply appoint toady editors who know what to do without being told.

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  43. tom hunter (4,010 comments) says:

    I think this article has a sadly accurate take on where freedom of speech stands in the West, in that the defence of it is declining:

    Back in 1989, most in the Western world were still shocked by the threat against Rushdie, and after some hemming and hawing eventually came out in support of his right to say what he wanted to say about his own, lapsed religion. Today, virtually no one seems to notice or care when Rushdie is once again threatened for his speech. That is because today, Islamist death threats made against persons who speak about Islam-related topics are so commonplace (recall South Park, Charlie Hebdo, and David Letterman). The world is so accustomed to placing the blame on the speakers that there really isn’t much to get indignant about.

    What’s most worrying is the way that people you would think would defend free speech have managed to warp themselves into arguing against it. Here’s what the idiot bureau chief of the Paris branch of Time magazine said regarding the bombing of Charlie Hebdo:

    Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts … to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good.

    Contrast that with this comment in the Thuggery thread, where toad proudly talked of being willing to confront political enemies and taking physical punishment. Apparently things like South African rugby tours, union solidarity and environmental causes are worth it.

    Threats against free speech? Not so much.

    Perhaps it’s that the left only have one political enemy – the Western right-wing – allied with a cultural attitude that has arisen from thirty years of Post-Colonialism, where the actions of the “other” are only ever reactions to something our society has done.

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  44. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    tom hunter

    Thanks for the link. What we are seeing is the clash of an oppressive religion, which shuns all attempts to bridge the 7th & 21st centuries, with modern Western secular thinking. They are aided & abetted by liberal activists who have swallowed the socialist line of west = bad, everything else = good.

    Only in Western civilisation does free speech exist. The concept is anathema to socialists who see it as a major stumbling block to control our thinking & thence every facet of our lives.

    To them every successful attempt to further ‘political correctness’ takes them one step closer to their goal.

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  45. Weihana (4,475 comments) says:

    Fletch,

    Weihana, I’d say it is a muzzle. The fact is that everyone wants to be liked and no one wants to be shunned or thought badly of; that is just human nature.

    Agreed, everyone does want to be part of the group. We are social animals.


    and has developed into a situation similar to having bad manners. No one with any awareness would sneeze without putting their hand over their mouth in public – and why? Because society tells us it is not polite (for one), and to do so would invite public embarrassment.

    Likewise, to go against popular opinion invites the same sort of embarrassment and no one likes to be embarrassed. For instance, saying ‘black’ instead of African American is a no-no these days. People are self-censoring when they talk about blacks African Americans. I’ve done it myself.

    It’s a muzzle of fear – fear of saying the wrong thing, and being frowned upon.

    I take your point but as you point out it’s a self-imposed muzzle. What is to be done about this? Should other people censor themselves and not offer their earnest opinions that so n’ so is a racist? Should such opinions be out-of-bounds? How do we simultaneously guard the freedom to make value-judgments whilst also creating an environment where people feel free to propose unpopular ideas?

    In the public sphere I think the inescapable reality is that if you want to promote something you best have the courage of your convictions. You cannot expect others to tailor their own opinions to suit your feelings. However, on the other hand the right to anonymously promote a political message is also an important right and if your feelings are going to be hurt by the responses of others then anonymous speech can protect you from the consequences of your own opinions and in this regard it should be considered a fundamental right to freedom of speech in my view (albeit a right which electoral regulation often attempts to do away with).

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  46. Sam Buchanan (499 comments) says:

    Seems a mostly, but not entirely, silly article. If the cherry-picked (and not necessarily accurate) examples of ‘political correctness’ are all we have to worry about, it seems that PC-ness is a pretty minor problem. Much of them aren’t even examples of ‘PC-ness’ – the word ‘gay’ wasn’t dropped to appease some supposed homosexual lobby, but to stop kids who speak modern English misinterpreting the text. Big deal.

    And referring to anti-Islamic material as causing ‘hurt feelings’ is really stupid. It’s true that some people don’t like being lied about or slandered (which is why we have defamation laws) and get upset about it, but racism also leads to a fair few murders. A bit more at stake than ‘hurt feelings’.

    Absurd also to attack the left for not buying ‘Homage to Catalonia’. Personally I reckon everyone should have grabbed a copy as soon as it came out, it’s a great book, but I don’t think that not buying a certain book is some sort of political crime.

    One person who seems to have committed the sin of not buying this book is the author of the article. If she read it she might realise that it isn’t about Russia’s intervention in Spain, but about Orwell’s own experiences and in particular, the suppression of the anarchists by the Communist party. Russian intervention isn’t much examined.

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  47. YesWeDid (1,003 comments) says:

    The whole Seattle school ‘spring sphere’ thing is a total myth.

    DPF you are so uncritical of views that support your own position you don’t bother even making the most basic checks.

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  48. KH (686 comments) says:

    to ‘Mara’ at 7.22pm
    You comment does not follow. Let me explain for you.
    The article above says. “The Left are armed with a range of emotionally charged tools to immediately close down discussion about immigration or border control. Call your opponents racists and point to xenophobia in the community.”
    My point was that this behaviour was not confined to the left. And there are plenty of right wing commentators who have used just such words, on this blog, recently, in relation to Crafar.

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