This is chuffing brilliant. A review by Julian Petley of 'The Retreat of Reason: Political Correctness and the Corruption of Public Debate in Modern Britain' by Anthony Browne.
Some great quotes:
Its title notwithstanding, the book actually defies engagement on a rational basis. Browne himself is an admirer of the tabloids as "torch-bearers for truth by daring to write deeply uncomfortable things that others refuse to", and his method of argument is the same as theirs: set up a straw man, then knock it down with a few killer facts and a dose of "common sense" (in other words, received wisdom). The only problem is that, as usual, the straw man bears little or no relation to realityThat's-a what I been saying! (Not the bit about this book - you know).
In similar vein, no council has ever banned black bin-bags as racist; this is another press-generated myth, as I demonstrate at some length in Culture Wars: the Media and the British Left (Edinburgh University Press 2005). When the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh was killed, Index on Censorship did not "automatically side with the comparatively powerless Islamic Dutch-Moroccan killer", nor is it "on the brink of turning from an organization that campaigns for freedom of speech to one that campaigns against it". This is simply pernicious nonsense. School curricula have not "re-written" history to portray Shakespeare and Florence Nightingale as homosexual, whatever the occasional individual school text may (or may not) contain. Multiculturalism does not require people "to give up feelings of tribalism and belonging and [...] to prefer 'the other' to the familiar", nor does it believe that those coming to this country should isolate themselves in "parallel societies". Quite apart from the fact that both these claims are false, they're also mutually contradictory. Again, it's demonstrably untrue that "there are virtually no pressure groups that promote politically incorrect views", still less that the ubiquitous Migrationwatch UK is "a lone group campaigning for less immigration" which is "almost totally blackballed by the BBC". Need I go on?And best of all:
The basic dishonesty and untenability of this position is perfectly illustrated by the role played by anti-PC stories in the current rise of the BNP. It cannot but damage community relations if the majority white population is constantly regaled by the conservative press with stories that ethnic communities, or organizations acting in their interests, are demanding apparently absurd or excessive changes to traditional British ways of life. Most people are simply not in a position to understand that the vast majority of these stories are either inaccurate, wildly exaggerated, or indeed entirely fabricated, and when by dint of sheer, grinding repetition in the conservative press, some of these stories manage to bounce themselves onto the broadcast agenda as well (Today take particular note), it is perfectly understandable that they feel resentful.That's what I've been trying to point out, in my own clumsy way. I've read 'Culture Wars...' as well, and it's a great overview of how the tabloids just made shit up in the eighties, much like they do now. Of course, one thing they can do now is refer to the stuff they'd previously made up as if it were true, but the original classics like the black bin liners are covered in 'Culture Wars...'. One minor quibble I have is that one chapter claims that the papers' tactics couldn't have worked because the Labour vote wasn't damaged in the Councils the papers targeted. That seems a little short sighted to me. It's the people living far away from these areas in marginal seats who'd be likely to believe the stories and vote accordingly. But that chapter was written by somebody else.
And before I go:
British conservative newspapers currently lamenting the rise of the BNP should seriously consider the role that the myths they have created about PC have played in this process.Bloody marvellous.