It's Political Correctness Gone Slack!

Since starting this blog, I've become familiar with the work of Mail hack James Slack and his interesting relationship with the truth. He was, after all, the guy responsible for kicking off my 'How the Daily Mail lies about immigration' series, with a headline and story that claimed 120 people came from Romania and Bulgaria every day to be circus stars in the first three months of last year, when the real total number of Romanians and Bulgarians who had arrived was less than 120 a day, and the actual number of those arriving to be circus artistes wasn't over 10,000 (as his figures suggest), but 55.

He was also responsible for the story about a report on Polish immigrants that prompted one of the report's authors to write to him saying:

Unfortunately, your piece is a mixture of ignorance, misinterpretation and speculation. I couldn’t care less about your intellectual capacity to absorb the data, but you have included my name in an article that conveys a false impression of what the study was about.

Couldn't have said it better myself. As I've said elsewhere, I'm sure there's an office ready with Slack's name on the door in the eighth circle of hell.

Another thing I've become familiar with is the way that almost every Political Correctness Gone Mad story that appears in the tabloids is either made up from whole cloth or has been exaggerated and distorted from a little kernel of truth until the original story is all but unrecognisable.

Spotting a James Slack Political Correctness Gone Mad story is a bit of a win double. You just know there's going to be a withdrawal before you even start reading.

So I wasn't disappointed by his 29 December story 'PC prison bosses ban sexist jokes in jail'. A claim Slack pushes to the limit with:

It means that Fletch, played by Ronnie Barker in the classic television comedy Porridge, would certainly have been in trouble.

In a 1974 episode, while fantasising in his prison cell about having a night out, Fletch mused: "I could call up a couple of birds - those darlings who dance on Top of the Pops, what are they called? Pan's People. There's one special one - beautiful Babs ... I don't know what her name is."

He even includes a graphic of Fletch with speech bubbles showing just what would have got him in trouble and everything.

Except none of them would have got Fletch in trouble. See, he was joking in his cell and hadn't written any of those jokes in a magazine for prisoners, where rapists and wifebeaters would be chuckling along with him. And even if he had, he probably wouldn't have got in trouble either, because all that's really happened is that a magazine for prisoners included some sexist jokes and a reader complained. One reader, not 'prison bosses'. Seriously, that's it.

We begin to see the house of cards getting carefully dismantled with this:

The controversy stems from a lighthearted piece in Inside Time, the monthly newspaper of prisoners in which they swop [sic] jokes, concerns and stories. It was headlined "Victorian views perhaps?"


But Steve Orchard, a head of operations at the Prison Service, was not amused - and he instructed Inside Time not to trade such "sexist" jokes again.

In a letter to the magazine's editors, the official, who works at Nottingham Prison, said he is not "fanatically 'PC' or lacking a sense of humour," but the jokes go too far.

This still leaves the impression that someone with some clout at the magazine has written a letter and threatened some sort of punishment if similar jokes are repeated.

But he doesn't have any clout at the magazine. Steve Orchard is head of operations at one prison and has no position on the editorial team or board of directors of 'Inside Time' magazine - so would actually have no power to ban anything anyway. He's just a reader.

Nor has he threatened or 'instructed' anything, which we learn from:

Mr Orchard said the magazine would be wise not to repeat its mistake - as good as an instruction, given his seniority.
So, not actually an instruction - just 'as good as', not actually an official prohibition, not actually a ban, not actually 'prison bosses' and not actually anyone with any responsibility at the 'Inside Time'. Just a complaint and a request that the sort of joke in the article were not repeated in the magazine.

On top of that, the request isn't the same as the paper claims - remember the danger of accepting paraphrased or partial quotes from the tabloids. The paraphrase makes the comment look like a veiled threat. Here is the issue of 'Inside today' with the letter in it. The actual request says:
[...] I suggest that you give greater thought in future before publishing such pieces.
See how he 'suggests' and doesn't instruct? See how he just says 'give greater thought before publishing' and not 'would be wise not to repeat', which includes a greater impression of a threat of consequences? Slack knows that bit too, you see. That's why he paraphrased instead of quoting.

So, all that's happened is that a reader has written a letter of complaint. Does this mean that because some negative comments seem to be getting through about Littlejohn's columns recently, he's been banned?

We can but hope.*

*Strawman buster - that was a joke. I don't want him banned. What are you, some sort of PC idiot who gets offended by every little joke?
Have I been banned?


Ross said...

Ha, nicely deconstructed.

culfy said...

My favourite bit was this comment from a Mail reader

"Typical of Brown's version of nuLabour to focus on small irrelevant unimportant details such as this when the bigger picture shows the total collapse of the prison service owing to huge major issue of overcrowding.
This is the huge issue ignored in favour of unimportant politically correct rubbish.
Roll on the spring elections when hopefully Brown himself will be lost in the mire of his own details."

I'd like to think he was attacking the Mail concentrating on an unimportant detail (someone writing a letter to say they don't understand something).

Chris Baldwin said...

Why is no one mentioning that it's Christmas today? I sense the hand of the PC liberal elite in this. Things have been going this way since the Education (Banning of Ba Ba Black Sheep) Act of 1998.