The brilliance of the construct of the PC Brigade

There's a fantastic use of the term 'PC Brigade' in today's Mail article 'PC brigade ban pin-ups on RAF jets - in case they offend women and Muslims', which shows how it is used by the right to stifle debate on certain subjects.

What the idea of a PC Brigade does is create a new 'outgroup', so that it's possible to turn an opponents argument into a massive ad-hominem without anybody really noticing. What this means is that instead of debating the merits of a certain action itself, the right can dismiss any opposition argument by classifying the opponent as a member of the PC Brigade outgroup. Because 'PC Brigade' is a pejorative term that has been built up over the years to describe non-existent loonies that do things like banning black bin-liners for being racist (never happened), it implies that any argument ascribed to the PC Brigade is equally as mad. Once you've referred to your opponent as a member of the PC Brigade, their argument is instantly in the category of banning the words 'black coffee' for being racist (never happened).

In this article, the reader is instantly informed that any argument for the removal of nose art from planes is mad before we even get to the articlewith the use of the term 'PC Brigade' in the headline. It's excellent.

What's particularly good about the use of the term here is the effect it has on the rest of the headline. The idea of the PC Brigade banning things so as not to offend Muslims is one we'll be familiar with, from stories like the ones about how Natwest and Halifax banned piggy banks from their advertising so as not to offend Muslim staff and customers (never happened). The headline gives the imression that the 'ban' is so as not to offend women and Muslims within the RAF.

But this isn't the case, and its only after ploughing through fifteen sentence/paragraphs of it has been said that nose art might offend female RAF personnel (along with some history of nose art) that we get to see a glimmer of what the 'offending Muslims' argument might be, and then it's quickly whipped away, never to be seen again in the remaining 6 paragraphs/sentences, all of which talk about offence to female RAF personnel again. Here's the tantalisingly dangled piece of argument:
There was also concern that they could cause offence in a muslim country where until 2001 all women were forced to wear the head-to-toe burkha in public.
Ah. Not Muslim RAF personnel. Muslims in the countries where the RAF is trying to win the hearts and minds of while bombing. With that in mind, it does seem rather daft to be telling the people in Iraq and Afghanistan that we're really in their countries for their own good, representing the system of thought and politics that is really in their best interests - countries where the overwhelming belief in is that women ought to be covered - and bombing them with planes that have pictures of semi-naked women painted on them? Wouldn't that, you know, symbolise one of the things these people hate most about the west? Seems like a really, really bad idea that should have been spotted ages ago.

You can disagree with that argument as much as you like, but I'm sure most on the right hand side of the political fence would think it a far more tenable position to take than saying we ought to ban nose art so as not to offend Muslim RAF personnel, or even female RAF personnel, which is why the argument's buried in the middle of an extended argument against the art being offensive to women.

I suspect that what's happened here is that a far longer argument from the 'RAF spokesman' than is reproduced in the article exists and the paper have only given us an extended direct quotation of one aspect of it. A bit like how Littlejohn took an explanation for the scrapping of a November 5 bonfire in Watford, removed references to there being a number of reasons for it and then focused on what he thought was the waeker argument as the main one. Either way, there is definitely more than one argument here, and the one that actually argues a practical Military reason is effectively buried at the expense of a more overtly political point Notice that there's no direct quotation, so the paper can add its own spin, mentioning offending Muslims. The 'PC Brigade' label is used to cast further doubt on the more practical argument.

Contrast this article with the way the Mail has covered Channel 4's decision to screen the documentary about Diana's death, including pictures of the aftermath of the crash. Here, we have people trying to censor something so as not to offend people. People in a minority of two. Are Princes William and Harry part of the 'PC Brigade' though?

I'll give you three guesses.

No comments: