You sexist/racist/liberal/elitist bastard! How dare you?

7 April 2014

2:49 PM

7 April 2014

2:49 PM

While he was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tony Judt found the breath to educate those who believe they could ameliorate pain with soft words and bans on ‘inappropriate’ language.

“You describe everyone as having the same chances when actually some people have more chances than others. And with this cheating language of equality deep inequality is allowed to happen much more easily.”

Worry about whether you, or more pertinently anyone you wish to boss about, should say ‘person with special needs’ instead of ‘disabled’ or ‘challenged’ instead of ‘mentally handicapped’ and you will enjoy a righteous glow. You will not do anything, however, to provide health care and support to the mentally and physically handicapped, the old or the sick. Indeed, your insistence that you can change the world by changing language, and deal with racism or homophobia merely by not offending the feelings of interest groups, is likely to allow real racism and homophobia to flourish unchallenged, and the sick and disadvantaged to continue to suffer from polite neglect. An obsession with politeness for its own sake drives the modern woman, who deplores the working class habit of using ‘luv’ or ‘duck’, but ignores the oppression of women from ethnic minorities. A Victorian concern for form rather than substance motivates the modern man, who blushes if he says ‘coloured’ instead of ‘African-American’ but never gives a second’s thought to the hundreds of thousands of blacks needlessly incarcerated in the US prison system.

As the late and much-missed Robert Hughes said, ‘We want to create a sort of linguistic Lourdes, where evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism’.

You do not have to listen to it for long to believe that the defining features of contemporary debate are:

• a willingness to take offence at the smallest slight that would make a Prussian aristocrat blink;
• a determination to ban and punish speech that breaks taboos;
• a resolve to lump disparate individuals into blocs – “the gays,” “the Muslims,” “the Jews” etc – and to treat real and perceived insults to one as group defamations that insult all;
• a self-pitying eagerness to cast yourself as a victim;
• and an accompanying narcissism, which allows you to tell others just how much you have suffered.

To which you could reply, what’s new? Not so long ago the cult of the House of Windsor was so fervent the BBC banned John Grigg (Lord Altrincham) for saying , truthfully, of the Queen, ‘The personality conveyed by the utterances which are put into her mouth is that of a priggish schoolgirl, captain of the hockey team, a prefect, and a recent candidate for Confirmation’. In the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, no one dared name new railways stations. If the line mangers gave a station a German name, they would insult the Hungarians and Slavs; if they gave it a Hungarian name they would insult the Germans and Slavs, and so on. All societies have their prigs, tribalists and book burners. The fight against them is eternal.

One of the many pleasures of reading Richard King’s On Offence is it allows you to sift the old from the new. It appears to be an attack on political correctness. But King, an Australian author, who deserves to be better read here, is from the Left and understands that the great issues of any time are as likely to be fought out within the Left and the Right as between the Left and the Right.


This account he quotes of the failure of identity politics from George Kateb of Princeton University illustrates how hopeless traditional labels are.

‘If a person thinks of himself or herself as first a member of a group, that person has defined identity as affiliation, and not as first being oneself. To…welcome docility, is to to endorse the thought that one’s possibilities are exhausted, perhaps from birth, and that one cannot change or be changed.’

All true. As I have often observed, the supposed leftists who lump people together as ‘the blacks’ and ‘the Muslims’ go along with a denial of personal choice and individual autonomy they would never accept if others treated them as mere atoms in the homogenous lump of ‘the whites’. The BBC proved my point when it asked in apparent seriousness ‘Who speaks for Muslims?’ It would never ask, ‘Who speaks for whites?’ because it assumes that whites can speak for themselves.

Although they pretend otherwise, today’s right-wingers are just as crude and lachrymose. They subsume their individuality in a nostalgic patriotism, and respond to criticism by claiming that they are the victims of discrimination and prejudice as well. They are also as likely as the post-1968 left to claim that they are fighting ‘the elite’ – although this time the enemy is the ‘liberal’/ ‘cultural Marxist’ elite.

In the Observer recently I noted how British conservatives aped liberals by claiming to be the innocent victims – in their case of a ‘war on the motorist’, a campaign of state persecution against innocent drivers.

‘They did not stop to consider the mewling vacuity of their self-pitying slogan. Conservatives complain about others playing the victim card but, without a blush of shame, talk about ‘the motorist’ as if he were a victim of Bashar al-Assad and imagine a ‘war’ in which the enemy is a child who runs into a street. They follow that dismal reasoning by transferring the generalisations of identity politics to road safety. It never occurs to them that there is no such thing as ‘the motorist’: the man or woman who only drives. Everyone walks. And, unless they’re on the fells, everyone crosses roads.’

Indeed, in the 20th century, the right was more likely than the left to verge towards hysteria. You might think that the, always false, stories about public authorities abolishing Christmas are new. Not so. In the 1920s Henry Ford declared Christmas under attack from diabolically powerful Jews, who stopped images of the infant Christ appearing on Christmas cards. In the 1950s the far-right John Birch Society warned of an ‘assault on Christmas’ carried out by ‘UN fanatics…What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.’

What distinguishes our times is the fanaticism about the power language. Starting on the post-1968 left and moving rightwards ever since, is a belief that slips in language reveal your opponent’s hidden meanings and unquestioned assumptions. The wised-up need only decode, and everyone will see the oppressiveness of the elite. A few weeks ago the middle-class left in Britain hugged itself with delight when the Conservative Party issued an advert which announced that it was ‘Cutting the Bingo Tax & Beer Duty to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.’


Once political tacticians would have said it was mad for an opposition to repeat incessantly that a government was cutting tax. But the British left republished the ad thousands of times. It thought the right had damned itself by saying it wanted to help to help ‘hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy’. You see the Conservatives had said ‘they’ rather than ‘we’, and to the left’s mind that slip of a pronoun revealed a whole worldview. Conservatives were patronising the working class. And by saying ‘they enjoy’ Tories revealed that they were not working class themselves – as if anyone had ever thought Conservative leaders were.

In our world, a word or phrase defines everything about an individual. We have just seen the CEO of a Web company resign because he had once given money to a campaign against gay marriage. Even though his views on gay marriage had nothing to do with his professional duties, he had to go because his enemies insisted that his one belief polluted everything else about him.

The second distinguishing feature of our times is governments’ willingness to use the law against ‘hate speech’. I have rehearsed arguments against the sinister trend to take criminal sanctions beyond prohibitions against incitement to violence many times, and was therefore to delighted to find King supply a new one.

Words can of course hurt more than blows, he says. But that does not mean that psychic wounds are the same as real wounds. If I deliver a blow, the broken bones can be seen; the damage measured. If I incite violence, the court can again measure the consequences. The same applies if I steal money. But if I deliver insults, one target may be delighted to have provoked me, another may not care what I say, a third may be offended. In other words, governments are asking the law to assess the psychological states of insulted parties, and introducing a vast element of subjectivity into a legal process where it has no place.

The best case against our snarling willingness to ban was put by Tom Paine 200-years ago, when he emphasised how censorship demeans the censor as much as the censored. In the introduction to his Age of Reason, whose freethinking scandalised Christian America, he said in words worth learning by heart.

I PUT the following work under your protection. It contains my opinions upon Religion. You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.’


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Show comments
  • K BB

    Another splendid piece from Brother Nick.

  • cartimandua

    Aah Nick Cohen. The “modern woman does NOT ignore the abuses meted out to women in ethnic groups. When they speak out about it all the male dominated PC press fails to report it or give such women space to talk.
    How dare you say modern women don’t talk about it.
    We do and we get banned by well people like you.

  • solar
  • zoid

    free speech died under labour when the orwellian concept of hatespeech became widespread and enshrined in law.

    lest we forget, hatespeech is the preserve of the intended target or of anyone who sees/hears/hears of later, something which they deem to be racist/homophobic/religiously offensive… if you walk past someone and say ‘hello’, they can deem it to have been racially etc offensive to them and report you to the old bill for it…

    …for their part, the old bill have to investigate it and, here’s the rub, even if no further action is taken, the file on that incident will be kept for 50 years under the Home Office rules, just in case you become a rabid genocidalist ten or twenty years later.

    on the other hand, you can go up to someone, smack them in the mouth and your violent episode is only deemed worthy of keeping for 3 years (if it’s not deemed racially etc motivated).

    oh and if there are any members of the police, judiciary or members of public bodies who are paid by the taxpayer to take offence on behalf of others, then i’ve found a book which contains all manner of homophobic, racist and religious slurs and which should be removed from public consumption…i believe it’s called the oxford english dictionary.

    criminalising language or even censoring it is a crime in itself.

  • black11hawk

    Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
    Receive our air, that moment they are free!
    They touch our country, and their shackles fall.

    England, with all thy faults, I love thee still
    My country! and while yet a nook is left
    Where English minds and manners may be found,
    Shall be constrain’d to love thee.

    Book II, The Timepiece, William Cowper

  • ID

    Who speaks for the post-1968 left and today’s right wingers?

  • Mr Grumpy

    “A Victorian concern for form rather than substance”

    Yes, apart from Factory Acts, Reform Bills, sewers, a railway network, nursing, thousands of church schools, suppressing the East African slave trade, opening universities to women, what have the Victorians ever done for us?

    • MrsDBliss

      I would take the monica of being a Victorian as a compliment.

  • Hippograd

    To understand why free speech is vanishing in one of the nations that invented it, try this:

    Britain’s top rabbi warns against multiculturalism

    [The former Chief Rabbi Jonathan] Sacks said Britain’s politics had been poisoned by the rise of identity politics, as minorities and aggrieved groups jockeyed first for rights, then for special treatment. The process, he said, began with Jews, before being taken up by blacks, women and gays. He said the effect had been “inexorably divisive.”

    “A culture of victimhood sets group against group, each claiming that its pain, injury, oppression, humiliation is greater than that of others,” he said. In an interview with the Times, Sacks said he wanted his book to be “politically incorrect in the highest order.”

    Britain’s top rabbi warns against multiculturalism

    If Nick Cohen really believed in free speech, he would oppose mass immigration, particularly by Muslims. He would also point out what the former chief rabbi pointed out: who began the “culture of victimhood” and the use of “offence” to silence people whom a minority disagrees with or has a grudge against.

    • Abdullah

      ” He would also point out what the former chief rabbi pointed out: who began the “culture of victimhood” and the use of “offence” to silence people whom a minority disagrees with or has a grudge against”.

      Coming from Zionists who scream ‘anti-semitism’ at any attempt to condemn Israeli atrocities this comment is comical

      • Hippograd

        Coming from Zionists who scream ‘anti-semitism’ at any attempt to condemn Israeli atrocities this comment is comical

        That is the point of what the Chief Rabbi was saying: the process of claiming to be a victim and deserving of special treatment began with Jews. It has now been taken up by Muslims, who use “Islamophobia” in the same way. Meanwhile, in Muslim nations like Pakistan, Christians are sentenced to death for blasphemy. And in Saudi Arabia, churches are illegal and Jews are banned from entry. Judaism and Islam are birds of a feather. And I wish they’d both fly far, far away.

  • Peter

    I hate bigots.

    I don’t know any, mind. I wouldn’t speak to them!

    But you know the bloody type.

  • Alison

    Labeling theory, ‘ how the self identity and behaviour of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe them, associated with self fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping’ and yet although we would not lump together the Jews, the blacks, the Muslims, because each is a unique individual, yet is it only those outside each group who must not do this, the white, heterosexual Christian “elite”? It seems ‘gay’ is a label that many people wish to apply to themselves. Peter Tatchell hopes that one day the label won’t be needed, but it seems it is needed by some gay people to emphasise their perceived difference. I keep writing this, why do some gay people insist on using “I am gay”?One is not the personification of a particular sexuality. Kinsey was amazed that psychologists and psychiatrists believed the propoganda that said gay people were distinctly different from persons who respond to natural stimuli. He thought the homosexual labels would better describe the nature of the overt sexual relations, or the stimuli to which an individual erotically responds or that it would clarify our thinking if the labels completely dropped out of our vocabulary. Language is important and our freedom of speech would be much less under threat if we were all of the mind that we are one people, each an unique, individual. Equal, Human rights for everyone within the circle of humanity should be the goal of law makers, not intersectionality and splitting hairs over differences between labeled groups of people.

  • Raw England

    Yet it’s your kind – the far Left – along with your immigrant hordes and repulsive, unnatural, sinister, ultra-fascist anti-freedom laws that have destroyed our nations.

    • em diar

      Redundant pleonasm if ever I heard one, and if any fellow grammar nazis are reading this; yes, I am aware that “redundant pleonasm” is in itself pleonastic. It was a joke just for you. Enjoy (it).

  • ramesesthegrumbler

    This is just Cultural Marxism at play. Get the plebs to fight amongst themselves by separating them into self-identifying groups and then poke the majority into feeling both guilty and unjustly treated at the same time.
    It use to be called ‘divide and conquer’.

    • True Freethinker

      As devised by Gramsci when he realized that the ‘workers’ didn’t want to destroy their own nations and civilization in order to become slaves under communism! Because the workers weren’t fooled by the lies of Marxism, Gramsci set to work on destroying their culture.

      Later Leftists would get so annoyed with the workers failure to become mindless sheeple, that they (the Leftists) decided to elect a ‘new people’ through mass immigration.

  • Liz

    The language we have, with its plethora of derogatory terms for females, ethic minorities, the disabled, and their perspectives and concerns didn’t arrive by accident. It arrived by an orchestrated system of censorship and propaganda over many many centuries which excluded said groups from speaking in public, getting an education, writing or publishing, holding meetings, joining societies, defining club rules, standing for parliament, acting, having the financial independence and rights of free movement necessary; ie. any means of influencing the language’s development or codification.

    The “anti-PC brigade” don’t give a second’s thought to the millennia of positive discrimination and language bias they benefit from.

    It seems eminently reasonable to me for white able-bodied, well-off men to stand aside and let everyone else right the imbalance. Language will gain from it, as will people.

    • wudyermucuss

      There are plenty of derogatory terms for men;TV ads institutionally portray men as incompetent buffoons,women as near perfect.
      Let me know when you see an ad with a bloke using a half naked female as a foot stool or when the giggling blokes nick the woman’s towel so she has to leave the swimming pool covering her privates,cue more giggling.
      It sounds like you want to reverse old roles with women,ethnics and disabled running everything.

      • Cyril Sneer


    • Cyril Sneer

      “It seems eminently reasonable to me for white able-bodied, well-off men
      to stand aside and let everyone else right the imbalance.”

      What imbalance? This is 2014 not 1814. Right the imbalance by employing ‘positive’ discrimination aka legalised racism. I knew you were sexist, didn’t realise you’re a racist too.

      You’re telling me women can’t do as well as me in a job? You’re telling me that in this country today a black man couldn’t get and do my job? You should come work for my company, we have people from all over the world. Take your liberal PC crusade and shove it up your backside.

      Your sort are quite happy to apply a victim status label to anyone who isn’t male AND white. You progressives are the biggest racists and w nkers around.

      “The “anti-PC brigade” don’t give a second’s thought to the millennia of positive discrimination and language bias they benefit from.”

      Examples please. Seen many tv adverts? Why is it the white man who is always the fool, the clueless one, the one who forgets and or is useless at certain tasks. You won’t see a black man nor a woman in that position on any advert on tv. You people make me sick with your ignorance.

      • Ridcully

        What I find far more disturbing is the way that violence against men by women is portrayed in a manner that would never be considered acceptable if the roles were were reversed. This has become a very common trope in comedy shows.

        • Marie Louise Noonan

          Erin Pizzey’s ‘Violence Prone Women’ is an interesting read.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Tripe. It sounds like revenge not equality you are after and inciting hate against a silly stereotype of “white able-bodied, well-off men”.

      Elsewhere you whine about vile, sexist and patronising insults. Here you purvey what you rail against.

    • Nkaplan

      This is satirical right?

  • Liz

    “Worry about whether you, or more pertinently anyone you wish to boss about, should say ‘person with special needs’ instead of ‘disabled’ or ‘challenged’ instead of ‘mentally handicapped’ and you will enjoy a righteous glow. You will not do anything, however, to provide health care and support to the mentally and physically handicapped, the old or the sick. ”

    Is there literally any evidence for this mutual exclusivity?

    • pedestrianblogger

      You are not a very clear thinker are you, Liz? Cohen could have added, for the benefit of people such as yourself, the words “by doing so” after the word “sick” but I doubt if it occurred to him that anyone reading the article would be obtuse enough to miss the point he was making. He reckoned without you, however.

  • Liz

    “An obsession with politeness for its own sake drives the modern woman, who deplores the working class habit of using ‘luv’ or ‘duck’, but ignores the oppression of women from ethnic minorities.”

    A total mischaracterisation. We deplore the use if vile, sexist insults and patronising, because they are harmful. And plenty of us do not ignore the oppression of women by ethnic minorities thanks.

  • NickG

    “evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism”.

    Is not the word ‘gay’ – which is used 3 times in the article – itself a euphemism for male homosexual?

    • Fergus Pickering

      No It is another word. Toilet is not a euphemism for lvatory. They mean the same thing. Everyone knows they mean the same thing. Consider Tory and conservative.

  • Kitty MLB

    Labour take issue with the word Conservatives use ” they ” instead of “we”
    its been a very long time since Labour saw their voters as a “we”. We saw an example
    of that with Brown and Mrs Duffy during the last election. She was one of Labours
    traditional white working class voters. Yet because she asked a reasonable question
    Brown decided she was being racist.etc. He used that to pretend being offended
    and avoided answering a real issue in this country . Which that party caused.

    • ramesesthegrumbler

      Isn’t ‘they’ the correct word to use? Wouldn’t ‘we’ imply that the hard working were being encouraged to do the things the poster writers liked, rather than the things they liked themselves?

  • Kitty MLB

    Freedom of speech has most certainly disappeared from this country.
    Sexist, racist, homophobic- people are accused of all sorts because you are not allowed to offend. Yet its the Left who- make an issue of gender, race and sexuality
    who are guilty of such discrimination ( they are very clever in the way they hide that fact) and yet the point the finger at the likes of Right Wing Conservatives and UKIP.

  • Jabez Foodbotham

    Maybe Henry Ford and the Birchers were over the top about Christmas but someone or something converted the Americans en masse to Happy Holidays from the pre-existing form.

  • Fatcol

    “the, always false, stories about public authorities abolishing Christmas…”

    Not really. What typically happens (and this can be quite easily demonstrated if you have access to a newspaper archive like UKNewsstand, or even just Google) is that:

    1. attention-seeking council officers try to impress their professional peers by planning Christian-free festivities
    2. the local press gets told of the plan and realises that they’ve got a story – the national tabloids may then pick it up too
    3. the public react badly
    4. the councillors panic
    5. the council PR dept deny any such plans existed
    6. the Guardian, Huffington Post, QI, etc have a little chuckle about the paranoia/naivety of Mail/Telegraph/Spectator readers

    It is much sillier to believe that local newspapers make a habit of completely fabricating quotes from councillors and LGOs, which is where the so-called “myths” originate.

  • DavEd CamerBand

    “hundreds of thousands of blacks needlessly incarcerated in the US prison system.” Where?

    • TimeandtheRani

      In the US (prison system).

      • DavEd CamerBand

        My goodness, let’s free them immediately!

  • Curnonsky

    A few corrective points to an otherwise sound article –

    “Hundreds of thousands of blacks needlessly incarcerated in US prisons”? Oh really? Sounds like the sort of self-righteous fiction the author decried in the context of language – or perhaps he has some special knowledge he’d like to impart? The reason blacks are over-represented in US prisons is that they commit crime at a disproportionate rate.

    And to cite the war on motorists as an example of the Right’s equal propensity to abuse language is logically unsound: plainly if, say, motorists are targeted by government as a class distinguished only by the fact that they drive, then yes, they are a victim class in that sense – same as if they were deliberately targeted on the basis of their religion, race or any other buzzword. The distinction is critical – the Left seizes upon any trivial excuse to elevate (or debase) any criticism or dissent to an attack on a self-identified victim class. It is simple totalitarianism, an expression of the repression that extends to the tiniest aspects of private life, which has long been the critical difference between the authoritarian Right and the totalitarian Left. They are not mirror images.

    The American “War on Christmas”? Oh yes, it’s over. Christmas lost, by the way.

    • Ian Walker

      In the USA, blacks are arrested for about 20% more murders, the same number of burglaries, half the number of rapes and about 40% less aggravated assaults, compared to arrests of white suspects. However, in each of those categories of crime, they are three to four times more likely to be subsequently incarcerated.

      So “The reason blacks are over-represented in US prisons is that they commit crime at a disproportionate rate” is incorrect – if anything blacks commit less crime overall, but once arrested they are far more likely to go to prison.

      • Curnonsky

        According to the FBI, in 2011 blacks (who make up around 11% of the population) accounted for nearly 50% of US murder arrests, 33% of rape arrests and 34% of aggravated assault arrests so your numbers are simply wrong. And incarceration rates (not that I believe your numbers there either) can reflect prior offenses, the nature of the crime (gang-related, drug-related, etc.) so hard to draw a conclusion there either – unless of course you begin with a conclusion and then invent evidence to back it up.

        • Ian Walker

          I stand by my numbers:

          20% more = 54% of total (near enough)
          “half the number of” = 33% of total (same figure)
          40% less = 37% of total (near enough)

          11% of the total population is irrelevant, unless you are implying that the higher per-capita arrest rates for black people is due to them being black, and completely ignoring all of the socio-economic factors that come into the causes of crime (and incidentally ignores the point of the article too)

          My point is that if you are arrested for a crime in the USA, then you are considerably more likely to go to prison if you are black. Since that decision is completely out of your own hands, then the only conclusion is that the justice system is discriminatory, whether that’s juries, judges, police or a combination of all three.

          • Curnonsky

            If you can’t understand that committing violent crime at a rate of three to five times that of the general population is a real problem then obviously mere facts are not going to persuade you.

    • Jack

      “The reason blacks are over-represented in US prisons is that they commit crime at a disproportionate rate.” This is not a valid claim: it simply indicates that they are (perhaps) arrested and (clearly) convicted at disproportionate rates. The causal relationship you would like to claim as fact isn’t clear.

      • Curnonsky

        Most people would find the causal relationship between committing a crime and getting arrested for it pretty clear. And before you trot out the tired trope of racist law enforcement unfairly targeting blacks, remember that blacks are also grossly over-represented among crime victims. Unfortunately, the serious criminal predilection of young black men is a subject that cannot be discussed for fear of offending the race-baiters and the victimology industry who would rather silence discussion of it than admit that its roots lie in the terrible destruction decades of socialist do-gooding has has wrought on the black family, education and culture.

        But then, isn’t it so much easier to cry “racism” than admit you were wrong?

        • Jack

          For you it’s clearly easier to synthesise simplistic indignation than deal with complex reality. If you can, try thinking rather than ranting: Are you actually able to provide evidence for your claim, or are you simply intent on venting your prejudices? For instance, does whether or not “blacks are . . . grossly over-represented among crime victims” really explain anything about “law enforcement . . . targeting blacks,” or vice versa? And the disproportionality you refer to depends also on the numbers of people who commit crimes yet are not arrested or are arrested yet not convicted. That’s before you address the cases in which people who have committed no crime are arrested and sometimes convicted. Isn’t it so much easier to bang on about your pet hates than support your claims with evidence?

          • Curnonsky

            You have thrown up a large rhetorical dustcloud and I’m sure that somewhere inside there is an argument, but I’m afraid I can’t discern it.

            • Jack

              Then let’s try again with smaller words. You have made a claim: “The reason blacks are over-represented in US prisons is that they commit crime at a disproportionate rate.” I have asked you to provide evidence which demonstrates not simply that blacks are over-represented in US prisons, but that this is because they commit crime at a disproportionate rate, i.e., to demonstrate the causality you claim. To do this, potential confounding factors obviously need to be excluded. These include law enforcement disproportionately targeting blacks, the justice system disproportionately convicting blacks, law enforcement disproportionately ignoring crimes committed by other groups, and the justice system disproportionately providing alternatives to prison for crimes committed by other groups. Do you have anything beyond your own prejudices, i.e., real evidence, which can exclude these factors and thus support your claim?

              • Curnonsky

                This is simply not an argument, it is a series of claims and speculation with no evidence to back them up. And of course there is no way to prove a negative, any more than one could prove that all crime isn’t really committed by the Atomic Mutant Lizard People.

                When even race-baiters like Obama have admitted that criminality among young black men is a real problem and not the result of their being singled out by The System, then perhaps it is time to deal with that reality honestly.

                • Jack

                  I’m not making a claim; these are simply some examples of the obvious potential confounding factors you’ve failed to exclude. You, on the other hand, are making a claim, and you admit you have “no way to prove” your claim, since you are unwilling to examine or unable to exclude confounders. But if you know you can’t prove your claim, why make it?

                • Curnonsky

                  I should have suspected a troll all along.

                • Jack

                  You should have suspected your claim was indefensible. As you say, a generally sound article.

                • Bob

                  Whilst I have no interest in your tedious comments debate, indeed I loathe those that hijack comments sections for their own pet topics and or ego demonstrations, I do find it staggering that under an article about the expulsion of language, in a superficial political attempt to socially engineer harmony, you attempt to shut down another’s valid opinion. Yes, blacks are over represented in US prisons AND yes, blacks are demonstrated to have higher likelihood of committing violent crime in US per percentage of population AND yes the root source is poverty. It’s not binary.

                • Jack

                  I’m not interested in harmony; I’m interested in facts, and the contributor didn’t simply offer an opinion; he made a claim. Out in the reality-based community, it’s customary for claims to be supported with evidence rather than bluster and bigotry: why do you find that ‘staggering’?

    • K BB

      Oh dear, poor you.

  • Your Correspondent

    How we use language is really important, innit, like.

  • andagain

    Indeed, in the 20th century, the right was more likely than the left to verge towards hysteria

    If this is true, surely you could have provided some examples from this country, rather than one three thousand miles away on the other side of the Atlantic?

    • Fergus Pickering

      Nonsense. Utter bloody nonsense. Most terrorists are of a left-wing persuasion.

      • Anthony Veitch

        AQ is ‘left-wing’?

        • Fergus Pickering

          No. It is the exception that proves the rule. I’ve been longing to quote that bit of bollocks. You are right. Shall we say all white terrorists?….

          • Ailine

            Like Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Waco wackos … more ‘exceptions’, or just more of your bollocks?

            • em diar

              Well done. I was hoping someone would point that out. Historically there have been so many right wing terrorists that to talk of exceptions proving rules is ridiculous. Guy Fawkes was an early example. Right wing terrorists pop up where ever democracy raises its head.

              • balance_and_reason

                or left wing ones.

  • saffrin

    Thought police?

  • Sadmaninagame

    Isn’t the root of this the concept of “privilege” – the idea that we aren’t allowed to criticise someone else unless we’ve first stolen and then walked a mile in his or her shoes?

    I use the term “his” and “her” above advisedly of course, because I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that gender is a continuous non-linear multi-dimensional spectrum.

    To avoid confusion from now on I’m just going to call everyone Dorothy.

    • saffrin

      Everyone except call me Dave of course?

    • em diar

      Nice try, but you might like to learn some English grammar if you find having to write “his or her” to be PC gone mad. The English language has used the demonstrative pronoun ‘they’ to indicate a person of unknown gender for at least 500 years, so relax. If you answered the phone and the caller hung up without saying a word, and someone asked you who was calling, I’m sure you’d reply, “They didn’t say”. I doubt very much you’d say, “He or she didn’t say”.

      • Sadmaninagame

        You say “they”, I say “Dorothy”. Stop splitting hairs.

        • em diar

          I see. “Dorothy didn’t give Dorothy’s name” it is then. Well argued.

          • Sadmaninagame

            We are all the same. There’s no reason why we can’t all be called Dorothy Dorothy.

            • em diar

              The point you were trying to make is hardly supported by your attempt at humour. You seem to be complaining that political correctness is robbing you of the right to use the male possessive pronoun “his” in isolation without some bolshy Guardian-reading feminist insisting you say “his or her”.
              I’m just pointing out that, as with most self styled victims of anti PC cultural censorship, your argument holds no water. You chose to use the “his or her” construct when there is a better and more commonly used solution merely to point out it’s unwieldiness, and then claimed you did so ‘advisedly’. I should sack your adviser if I were you. He or she doesn’t know what he or she is on about.

              • Marie Louise Noonan

                Maybe he’s a fan of Judy Garland. Lighten up already.

      • NC

        Yes, although ‘he’ was always far more common. ‘They’ (or even ‘she’) has only become common practice recently, undoubtedly motivated by political correctness. The grammatical correctness of ‘they’ is a matter of debate.

        • em diar

          ‘They’ has been in common use as a none gender-specific singular pronoun for at least 500 years, long before the concept of political correctness came into being. It is not political correctness, but unwieldy syntax that has made this usage common place, although I’m prepared to concede that it may have had some influence on its wider use these days. Not much though. Even if you were the most anti PC sexist alive, I doubt you would have ever used ‘he or she’ in the ‘phone related examples I give above, PC or otherwise.

          Further more, ‘they’ is often used even when the gender is known, if the speaker wishes to keep it secret. When Joan Armatrading sang “‘Cause I’ve found the perfect someone/ Who would take me in their arms and love me”, no one noticed that she used ‘their’ rather than ‘she’ because it is grammatically correct. (Joan hadn’t yet come out.)

          Then there’s the married man who announces “I’ll be having a drink my new colleague after work. They said they’d meet me outside the pub”, craftily avoiding both a lie and a jealous wife.

          They, their, them. All plural pronouns that have a singular form. There is no real ‘matter of debate’ about its grammatical correctness, unless you want to take on The OED. The Oxford Modern English Grammar quotes “Not everyone given a Steinway considers themself a concert pianist”. ‘Themself’, not ‘him or herself’, and nothing whatsoever to do with political correctness.

  • MikeSStewart

    I will repeat that: there are peeople behind bars in my countrry for writing stuff. This is entirely wrong. The answerr to a poor argument is a better argument, not phoning the old bill.

  • ugly_fish

    I agree with philiphuw wholeheartedly. One point about the Bingo poster, it wasn’t so much the “they” that pissed off the people I know, it was the fact that a penny off a pint was utterly meaningless. As some commented – buy 300 pints and get one free!

    • andagain

      Now that’s a much better attack line than the one that was used…

    • Kitty MLB

      You didn’t appreciate the 1p off then. Maybe you should just drink more
      to get your moneys worth. Maybe the government is trying to encourage
      people do actually drink more.. you never know.

      • allymax bruce

        “You didn’t appreciate the 1p off then. Maybe you should just drink more to get your moneys worth.” Kitty, that’s funny; I like your style.
        Kitty, are you sure you’re not Scots’ ? There’s a wee bit o’ Scots humour to your argument.

        • Kitty MLB

          Maybe I might become that honorary Scots lady, Ally.
          Although, the native ladies may not like it,
          I am sure all you chaps would not want the ladies to start battling with horses, swords and all that stuff 🙂

  • philiphuw

    Another superb article from Nick. 2013 will go down as the year freedom of speech died in the UK. What have now is a system whereby you are permitted to speak your mind, or write something for public consumption, only if your views are in accordance with what is perceived to be acceptable by the self-ordained metropolitan intelligensia. I happen to go along with what most of these well-meaning types believe, most of the time, but understand that either we have freedom of expression for all, or the entire concept dies.
    There are people in prison in England for writing (admittedly disgusting) things on twitter. I will repeat that: there are people behind bars in my country for writing stuff. This is entirely wrong. The answer to a poor argument is a better argument, not phoning the old bill.
    One day there might be a very different sort of government here who might want to lock me up for what I say or write. By then it will be too late. We will have lost freedoms and privileges that took hundreds of years to secure.

    • David Prentice

      I happen to go along with what most of these well-meaning types believe, most of the time

      Well meaning? How about sinister and controlling?