Political correctness gone mad – and madder – and even madder

2 May 2014

3:12 PM

2 May 2014

3:12 PM

In a blog for the IEA the other day Kristian Niemietz looked at the economics of holding politically correct views. Disagreeing with the idea proposed by Spiked magazine that PC is motivated by a loathing for ordinary people, he argues that such views are in fact a ‘positional good’.

A positional good is a good that people acquire to signalise where they stand in a social hierarchy; it is acquired in order to set oneself apart from others. Positional goods therefore have a peculiar property: the utility their consumers derive from them is inversely related to the number of people who can access them.

It has long been clear that expressing certain views has been a form of social signaling, although social media has made this far more explicit. Holding what might be loosely called politically correct opinions on a range of issues suggests that the holder is more likely to be well-educated, wealthy, young, probably attractive, and possessing social nous (ie in touch with social trends).

But Kristian’s theory also explains one aspect of political correctness: the speed at which the accepted and acceptable view moves, heading in an ever-more extreme direction.


He uses the analogy of the music fan who, once the band he’s into has been discovered by everyone else, must find some other obscure outfit as a positional good. Once a wacky idea becomes accepted, the high-status politically correct brigadier must stand out with some new area of concern; this he or she does with one of those articles or blogs in which it is argued that, while progress has been made in one particular battle against prejudice or bigotry, the real war is now against racism in food labeling or the lack of transgender dolls for my children. It doesn’t matter if the issue at hand is inconsequential or, more likely, impossible to overcome; in fact the more so, the better.

Unlike with music, however, the trend is always in one direction and there is no re-centering; it would be as if the mainstream of elite taste in music went from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath to Metallica to Slayer and onto Napalm Death. Politically that’s what much of the commentary in places like Slate sounds like to me – just some guy atonally screaming in my ear about some micro-injustice.

Another aspect of this mindset is the desire to punish people who have insufficiently correct views on doctrine, even if the beliefs they hold were orthodoxy ten or five years ago. I’d really like to conduct a Stanford Prison-style experiment in which people were rewarded (perhaps with a dopamine hit) for punishing those with heretical views, and to see where it led. To make it more interesting, only people with unorthodox views on only one side of the political spectrum would be punished, to see how extreme a group would become towards the other direction in a short space of time. Soon they’d be sacking people for disagreeing with an idea that didn’t exist anywhere in the world before 2001 – oh whoops, sorry, that was real life.

My problem with the liberal-Left is not that its ideas are all bad – on a lot of things they’re right and I don’t consider myself that Right-wing [cue sarcastic laughter]. It’s just that in Britain and America the liberal-Left has had a moral monopoly for so many years that this has pushed it to some extreme positions, encouraged intolerance of other opinions, and created a large moral gulf between the rulers and the ruled. Most people would rather just listen to some Led Zeppelin.

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Show comments
  • Donald Oprie

    I’m sick of hearing about homosexual marriage and I say that as a man who is very gay myself.

  • dsae

    Ever since he started ruining cricket pitches.
    Otomatik kapıotomatik kepenk سنگ کورین

    • Donald Oprie

      That’s so funny. Despite your innate intellectual inferiority (because of your race) you’ve really proved yourself as an outlier. P.s. you’re still a greasy poof.

  • milad heydari
  • jaisi

    It summarises all poll data and is very interesting.
    طراحی نمانمای ساختماننمای کامپوزیت

  • noka

    Ukip are largest party for Euro’s in high twenties. Slump back down to where they belong for GE.کرکره برقیراهبند اتوماتیک

    • Donald Oprie

      Muslim poofter

  • Wilf Tarquin

    The malady is bipolar.
    It’s true that you have the left screaming about the dire need to have national holidays celebrating trans-gender lesbianism, but _at the same time_ you have the right screaming about how being university educated equals being a tool of satan.

    It’s as if the radio only played songs by Napalm Death *or* a capella hymns sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

    What you’re seeing isn’t a drift to the left, it’s the death of compromise.

  • Sue Ward

    Signalise? What is wrong with ‘signal’?

  • urbanautomaton

    Eich wasn’t sacked, and he certainly didn’t cop flak for merely “disagreeing” with gay marriage. He was criticised for paying money to directly support the annulment of existing gay marriages, with direct and material effects on the lives of those affected. What you would like to characterise as mere disagreement is in fact a direct and material act taken to oppress those with whom Eich “disagrees”. He resigned on the basis that the loss of support this engendered made it impossible for him to lead the organisation.

    Wiffle all you want about “micro-injustice”, and gussy up your objections with borrowed economic tat if you like; your real problem appears to be that if you don’t personally perceive an injustice, you define it not to exist. Your description of the Eich controversy does not suggest you’ve made an honest attempt to understand the objections; you certainly haven’t made an honest attempt to describe them.

  • Jonathan Gress

    Examples like the Eich scandal actually show just how dangerous capitalism and free speech have become to traditionalists. The reason is that people for the most part want to conform and to be accepted. That’s how you become socially dominant, not by being contrarian and unpopular. Eich was not arrested or fined; he was dismissed by his board for bringing a bad reputation upon his company, in itself an unimpeachable course of action if you are committed to the free market. The Left doesn’t need to use force; it only needs to convince most people that they are the top of the social ladder and everyone else will fall into line.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “Once a wacky idea becomes accepted, the high-status politically correct brigadier must stand out with some new area of concern;”

    A member of a brigade is not a ‘brigadier’. A Brigadier is the officer in charge of a brigade.

  • fondatorey

    “I’d really like to conduct a Stanford Prison-style experiment in which people were rewarded (perhaps with a dopamine hit) for punishing those with heretical views…”

    There’s no need for such a study. Just look at the glee with which those who punish thought-criminals go about their tasks. Observe the joy as they obsess over the details of the supposedly hateful and genocidal comments that are the only basis for their actions. You won’t need to look hard for this stuff: they are doing it in public, to show off.

  • Franc Hoggle

    Please… stop calling these people liberal. They are social authoritarians – the very antithesis of liberalism. They are “liberal” only according to the definition Fox News uses.

    • Thoughtful Ulsterman

      Indeed, they are highly authoritarian Cultural-Marxists / Neo-Gramscians.

  • stevesailer

    We are already moving from World War G (gay) to World War T (transgender).

  • wayne

    The scariest thing and it must be stopped at all costs is the brainwashing of our kids at school.

  • Spencer “Thunderball” Thayer

    I’m glad to hear politically correct speech makes you uncomfortable and annoyed, means we are doing our job.

  • Owi Wowi

    Very good article and a good way of looking at it.

    The example of Mr Mozilla Gay Marriage Man really got me riled up about the short sightedness of these people. Do they not recall that it was not that long ago that the very idea of gay relationships was taboo, not to be discussed by polite society, not to be shown on TV. Those who said or did gay things were excluded from certain aspects of society. If it was not for the opportunity of free speech and the opportunity to challenge the status quo at the time that that set of ideas would be as prevalent here as it is in Saudi Arabia.

  • Richard N

    How can those who force Political Correctness down everyone’s throats possibly be called ‘liberal’ – or ‘neo-Liberal’?!

    Political Correctness is a genuinely fascist instrument of mass behaviour and thought-control, designed and used to put massive pressure on people to conform with Correct Thought as dictated from above.

    And thus, it is the antithesis of Liberalism, which is supposed to believe in diversity, and letting people think and do as they wish, provided they don’t hurt others.

    Political Correctness was invented by the Bolsheviks in the early 20th century to ensure that Communist Party members conformed exactly with whatever the party line was at any time.

    It is the very opposite of liberalism and democracy – and the EU uses it to the maximum to put massive pressure on people to not oppose the destruction of the nation state, and the destruction of Europeans’ sense of national identity – which is the top priority for the EU.

  • g1lgam3sh

    PJ described the mindset quite succinctly.

    “The principle feature of liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things – war and hunger and date rape – liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things… It’s a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don’t have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.”


  • Mike

    A very good analogy of the situation we now find ourselves in.

    Of course, with music whatever your taste from classics to hard rock, pop to rap, no music group whether fringe or mainstream tried to brain wash you under threat of jail or exclusion to embrace an alternative music. From the Labour years and even more now, the liberals have become far more fascist in their approach than say the BNP or other extreme right wing groups. In fact, Germany in the 30’s was taken over by the left wing elements with their own narrow agenda and we all know what that led to.

  • Gwangi

    This article makes a great central point which reminds me of the way campaigns for gender and race ‘equality’ have evolved.

    There was a time when I fully supported groups campaigning for equal opportunity because that is what they wanted – that merit should count and not someone’s gender, gayness, skin colour etc. Agreed.

    However, when that was more or less achieved, and women and ethnic minorities DO get equal opportunity and pay for the same job (and many women and BMEs are privately educated and privileged too), these organisations ‘jumped the shark’.
    So now we get constant propaganda from the Fawcett society and others about the s-called gender pay gap – when they only cobble together those figures by taking the average of pay over a year or lifetime, and of course men earn more if one uses averages because they work more and in more risky, well-paid, private sector jobs, and they retire later. By the same token, women on average claim far more from the state in welfare, and men pay far more tax to fund it – on average.

    The moral is: using averages is dodgy and distorts the reality.

    Now women’s groups want to bash men at every opportunity, to discriminate against them (esp white men) to leapfrog women over them into plum senior roles.
    Ditto for race campaign organisations. I supported them in the past, but not now, because they demand silly things – reparations for all blacks because their ancestors were poor and oppressed (well honest, everyone’s were, and the British Empire gave plenty to its dominions and their people, and in foreign aid), the banning of the word ‘black’ in any negative phrase, the banning of books.
    Equality of opportunity in terms of race and gender has been achieved; that does not of course mean that every job will be 50% female or 16% ethnic.

    But correlation does NOT equal causation here – the reasons for these stats is innate ability and aptitude differences of men and women, and differing social class backgrounds between whites, ethnic minorities and within the BME group (for example, Asians with Hindu backgrounds tend to be richer and educated and in professional roles; Muslims tend to be Pakistani or Bengali and lower class).

    Most examples of gender and race discrimination are now fabricated and dodgy ‘evidence’. Other factors are the reason that every level of every job exactly reflects wider society – yet this absurd ambition is now promoted by the race and gender diversity and equality industry – which has become just that, a well-paying career choice for all those who crave professional victimhood. That is why they have lost my support.

  • NoBigGovDuh

    What you call PC is actually aggregated and educated views that take into account everyone and the effects it has on society. We then move on and not argue about settled issues unless there is a very good reason.
    For instance it is not PC to go around calling people with dark skin nigers, and saying they are inherently less than white people and uncivilized.

    But go ahead and be non PC all you want, it just makes it easy to spot those with regressive views, you can give in to your animalistic view points and behavior based on your gut feelings an instincts..

    • Gwangi

      Now, PC is not about that at all. Political correctness is an oppressive quasi-religion which intends to tell people what they can and cannot say – and think.

      No-one who is against PC wants to go around verbally abusing people because of their skin colour. Funnily enough, many blacks and Asians do, and that is just fine according to the high priests of the church of political correctness, who are slaughtering the innocents of liberty, freedom and speech and expression on their quasi-fascistic altar.

      You clearly have no idea whatsoever what political correctness is (as an ideology), and just think it is a euphemism for ‘being nice and non-racist’. It isn’t. But as you have been brainwashed to think that, you spout piffle, and parrot what your brainwashers always wanted you to.

    • GeeBee36_6

      Your avatar invites its own comment: are you therefore a troll? You do, however, define the dominant culture to which you appear to belong quite succinctly: ‘We then move on and not argue about settled issue’. I’ll say you do! Once the next plank of progressive orthodoxy has been put in place, that’s it. The ratchet is set and there is no going back this side of a revolution of some sort.

      And the poster Gwangi, who replied to you below, is only partially right when he describes PC as a quasi-religion. It is really more of a tool of a religion. This religion is called progressive universalism, and it derives from ultra-Calvinist protestant puritanism. It has other names by which it is better known, of course. Cultural Marxism is one. Left Liberal Intellectualism another. It forms the dominant cultural and political force in the West today, and within it, PC fulfills the same role as blasphemy does within religions of the book. All non-PC thoughts and speech are punished, just as blasphemers were of old. No actual burning at the stake nowadays of course, but as the link in Ed’s piece demonstrates, you get to have your life and career destroyed instead. Which is arguably even worse.

    • g1lgam3sh

      “We then move on and not argue about settled issues unless there is a very good reason.”


      “We emote our way to a decision.

      Subsequently, reasoning, facts and empirical evidence are not a good enough reason to reexamine a ‘settled issue’.”

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Oh no, my retrained comment has been deleted yet again. Free speech, gimme a break Spec.

    • Gwangi

      It’s all automatic. Avoid certain words and it’ll stay.

  • The Masked Marvel

    Holding what might be loosely called politically correct opinions on a
    range of issues does not necessarily suggest that the holder is more likely to be
    well-educated at all. That’s part of the charade. Nor does it necessarily suggest wealth or youth. It’s meant to suggest intellectual and moral superiority, full stop. Many people may read (and name-drop) the “correct” publications (e.g. Slate) to maintain the assurance that they are part of that crowd who are, admittedly, relatively young and wealthy. Again, that’s part of the charade, as it’s mainly about holding the approved thoughts and reaffirming the aforementioned superiority.

    The ultimate value of the positional good itself lays in its becoming a sort of sceptre of power with which they can control the lives of others. This kind of ego trip is an old and dangerous story.

    • Raw England


    • g1lgam3sh

      “The principle feature of liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things – war and hunger and date rape – liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things… It’s a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don’t have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.”


  • Chris Bond

    “Soon they’d be sacking people for disagreeing with an idea that didn’t exist anywhere in the world before 2001”
    you are wrong. Go look up gender mainstreaming and the UN. Start with the 1985 women’s conference in Beijing, then go from there.

  • GraveDave

    Holding what might be loosely called politically correct opinions on a range of issues suggests that the holder is more likely to be well-educated, wealthy, young, probably attractive, and possessing social nous (ie in touch with social trends).

    And nothing at all to do with the risk of losing it all because of saying the wrong thing in polite society. Anyone remember a certain football commentator , who also wrote for the Guardian, and his ‘off mike’ comments about ‘thick, lazy, n—–s’.

  • The PrangWizard of England

    Those of who wish to rage about the attacks on our freedoms should find something to DO, some form of civil disobedience. The other day we had Paul Weston arrested on the steps of Winchester Guildhall for reciting the first few lines of Winston Churchill’s published opinion of Muslims. He didn’t get to read the whole piece, he was carted off before he could do that.
    Last evening I thought that there ought to be some sort of demonstration, that is say, arrange for 20 people to do the same thing at say 15 minute intervals. When the first is arrested and removed, and the police have gone, the second takes his place; repeat 18 more times. Each participant must of course be out of sight and inconspicuous to prevent any kind of pre-emptive strike by our politicized rozzers.

    • Trofim

      Couldn’t agree more. We should all have the balls. Mass civil disobedience can be very difficult for the forces of law and order to contain. If we were all prepared to pay a small price by being arrested, go to prison for our beliefs, change would be more achievable, but we’re not – and I include myself in that ignoble “we”. Because we’ve got commitments, and we naturally prefer our creature comforts. If we had less to lose, it would be easier. Instead, anger is dissipated in talking shops. Blogs most often resemble a gossipy mutual moan with its attendant emotional gratification or amelioration of distress, and then it’s “Ah, well, best get on”. And that’s it. Although my poorly-disguised antipathy to Islam damaged my career a bit, I think, I still managed to conceal it long enough to get a pension, and I guess that millions of others employ the same faint-hearted strategy.
      But I think that whereas the impetus for limiting freedoms is easier to resist when there are clear totalitarian motives, it is much harder to make inroads when the motivation for acquiescing to censorship is the desire that everything should be sweet and nice. It’s much harder to argue with that.

  • Gwangi

    Yes, and those who adore political correctness pander to anyone with a dark skin and a religion and excuse their extreme fascistic beliefs, values and traditions. They only attack white males – the uber-baddies des nose jours.

    If you’re a black Muslim man with views that would make Nick Griffin look like Neil Kinnock, then your views must be respected in our diverse multicultrural society, even if they are, more or less, fascistic.

    The left appeases fascism if it is advocated and lived by those with a dark skin and a minority religion – ergo, they are racist because they judge people by different values according to their skin colour. Tsss.

    • Liz

      We’ll let’s face it, in the scheme of things, the most destructive, censorious thing on the planet, bar none, by a long long way, is the white male.

      • Ridcully

        Comments like this almost make me want to see the Sharia boys take charge, if only to see you develop a sense of perspective.

        • anotherjoeblogs

          I often think the same. A lack of a sense of perspective is a serious psychological problem. Like the person who wants to go to Zurich and dismiss the idea that Switzerland is clean and goes around looking for dog poo and taking photos.Well it was clean when I was there in the 80s !

      • Gwangi

        And the white male invented everything you see around you – your computer, your TV, the phone you use to natter absurdities to other Femi-weirdos, the car, the train, satellites, all medicines etc etc etc.
        This is partly because Europe has been the driving force in civilisation for up to 1000 years, and provided the bedrock in Ancient Greece and Rome too (which provided the foundation for all Islamic scholars over 1000 years ago, because Islam ossified in the 11th and 12th centuries and went backwards in time).
        It is also partly because men and women are innately different – the physical differences are minor; the brain differences, which determine behaviour, aptitude, attitude, achievement, are not. That is why even in the 20th century when women – esp upper middle class ones – have had access to higher education and careers – have had equal opportunity to men, it has still been men who invent every single technological development.
        Oh and it was men who banned slavery, have everyone the vote, created the values of liberty in The Enlightenment etc – and it was men who gave their lives to defend that freedom.
        Watch Private Ryan and shut it, femi-loon – a R-ist and S-ist of the first and more mental order. Well done. Strage you seem unaware of the abuses by natives in Africa and Asia though; probably because of your fixation of hating white men – because that boyfriend who called you ugly and used you was a white boy, I presume. Sad sad sad.
        Probably you’ll argue that half the soldiers on D Day were actually female and terrible patriarchal discrimination has erased them from history. Zzzzz…

      • Trofim

        Is there a punctuation mark which indicates irony? There needs to be.

      • Mike

        A typical bigoted and racist statement from the bedrock of racism today ! The left minorities of all races and religion has always been better at racism, genocide and intimidation than the white male and it shows here.

      • jack coyle

        What colour are you Liz.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Clearly you have not got round much. If you had lived my life you would have discovered fairly quickly that the most destructive things on the planet come in all shapes, sizes, colours and genders.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      Once a wacky idea becomes accepted, the high-status politically correct brigadier must stand out with some new area of concern; this he or she does with one of those articles or blogs in which it is argued that, while progress has been made in one particular battle against prejudice or bigotry, the real war is now against racism in food labeling or the lack of transgender dolls for my children. It doesn’t matter if the issue at hand is inconsequential or, more likely, impossible to overcome; in fact the more so, the better.
      It’s also the prime strategy in assuring the ideological underpinnings of political correctness remain in control and increase in political power. Messianic democratic totalitarian authority relies on two things:

      1. Never diminishing discontent – problems and injustices must be continually uncovered, resulting in mass, histrionic, moral panics that mobilize those who feel threatened to re-elect messianic democratic totalitarian pols (who owe much to Mr. Marx, Mr. Boas, and their ilk) who…assure said panicked mob that they will be properly recompensed for their suffering by massive wealth redistribution from “evil” to “good”.

      2. Scapegoats. Whites are the new Jews. Nuff said about that…

  • chudsmania

    ‘Unlike with music, however, the trend is always in one direction’
    Had to slip 1D into it somehow didnt you !

  • Liz

    The politically correct have some way to go before they match the heresy hunters and murderous inquisitions of previous elites.

    • Gwangi

      But their witch-hunting instincts are the same. People (male and female) can lose their jobs and their means of making an income if they dare think in the wrong way’ and express their views. That is Britain now. Because of pc fascists like you and your like.
      Or they won’t get a job in the first place if they don’t parrot the usual pc platitudes in interviews. Or if they get a job they won’t get promoted, and will see mediocrities leapfrogging over them because they are female and/or black.
      Political correctness is NOT the same thing as wanting equality of opportunity through merit, It is a twisted and sick quasi-religion and it turns on heretics like the worst of inquisitions. You are part of that swivel-eyed mob, Lizzy.

  • Raw England

    Something you overlook, is that they don’t actually stand for anything at all. Unless you count fighting against your own people as a stance. They literally stand for nothing. And so they grope, with their cold, veiny, grey hands, for anything – anything – to give their lives meaning. And to maintain their fragile hold on reality, they’re willing to kill.

    They have no popular support at all, which is why they have to use full state power, and laws, to enforce their creepy ‘ideology.’ All they’re doing is preventing the Revolution of the native people. They’re stopping the popular uprising.

    • Chris Bond

      They stand for equality. Ever more psychotic equality. unrealistic, incoherent, nonsensical equality. Just the very word excites them even if they cannot understand it. It makes them warm inside, and has a Pavlovian effect. This whole article reads like a subtle introduction to neo-reactionaryism. Next Ed will start making hints that liberal progressives are maybe religious.

      • Raw England

        And their psychotic, incoherent, murderous mission for ‘equality’ all comes down to one thing: Distributing the extremely hardwon, precious, depleted resources of White people to billions of anti-White third world immigrants, both domestically and globally.

        Beyond sickness. This has to be stopped, by any means possible. Stopped and radically reversed.

        • Chris Bond

          Well, it’s not about race per se, and there are people discussing stopping the liberals. It’s a bit awkward as the spectator is pretty hot on blocking links and info, but I recommend googling mencius moldbug (especially “open letter to a progressive” and “how Dawkins got pwned”), Nick Land and Michale anissmov of the “more right” blog. They are all part of the (opposite of light =) enlightenment.
          sorry for cyrpticness, but spectator is really hot on blocking the links.

          • GeeBee36_6

            ‘spectator is really hot on blocking the links’ : you’re absolutely right they are. As you and I found a while ago Chris, it almost seems that there are certain movements out there (forget UKIP or the ‘far right’ groups in the UK and Europe, which are mainstream by comparison) that are totally beyond discussion, even in the Speccie. My guess, however, is that in a decade or so, people will pick up the ideas and there will be an unstoppable momentum for change by the means outlined in these ‘verboten’ blogs.

            • Chris Bond

              Loving the blogs, they are way ahead of everyone mainstream, and to find that there were other people who read books pre 1960 and understood history beyond the progressive sludge fed to everyone day in, day out is a revelation.
              If your still following them, then I recommend the following as supplementary reading. –
              Tells you everything you need to know about democracy all the way from 1896. Explains the issues in this article better then old Ed West could (nice try by him though).

              • GeeBee36_6

                Thanks for the link Chris. Crowds indeed – the root of all our problems. They first bring about democracy (I love Moldbug’s definition: ‘If government is the formalisation of power, democracy is the formalisation of mob violence’), and thereby create the circumstances which are later exploited by ambitious intellectuals, who capture democracy by ‘manufacturing consent’ among the electorate (which, of course, is maintained in a condition of state-ordained near ignorance by the cathedral), thus maintaining their own hegemony over the country.

  • Raw England


    And the natural way to react to it is with aggressive, unadulterated speech. And when they lock us up, and attack us, the only option left is violence.

    Those who’re leading the totalitarian religion of political correctness should be getting worried right now, as the people are about to lash out. The cancer has been located (London), and the wagons are circling.

    It’s now London and Birmingham versus the rest of England.

    • wayne

      The cure for this disease is Farage, he will allow freedom of speech and hopefuly those who lost their jobs or were locked up for saying the wrong thing will get compensated, I am thinking of an Irate mother on a London bus where the occupants made a woman stand with two babies. Yes her language was uncouth, but a prison-able offence??? Crazy!

      • Crowfly

        The Buses are ‘The Place’ to be, if you want to experience Hatred of white skin. Growing up in California in the early 60’s, Now I’m in the U.K. common area. This whole Blog line is right. I could always tell when I was home in Leicester. The Buses were suddenly really dirty. Spit on floors. Trash and graffiti and filthy language. Around grandmothers, who remember WW 2.

  • Prof. Colin Talbot

    Why is it only lefties that seek positional goods in this way? Don’t mildly reforming right-of-centre people also move towards extremes to kudos? Isn’t that where the Tea Party comes from? Or maybe this is just a bit of ideologically driven pseudo-science?

  • sarahsmith232

    Ed West, again, v.interesting article. Just had a quick read on that positional good thing. Personally would go with 80% correct, not exactly convinced by the scarce resource part, def’ on the motivation that it sets them apart but more into the contempt for the average Joe argument, not read that, must do some other time.
    But what about the ‘am I not pretty’ motivation? Your colleague Isabel Hardman is a prime e.g of this motivation and her reasons for toeing the Metro line on immigration. It’s not just a female need, watched Tim Farron on Question Time once project that exact same ‘am I not so really very lovely, am I not so much more than kinder, gentler, more beautiful kind of politician when I say ‘immigration has been a blessing for this country”. Stupid response to a question about immigration, it was a non-response, he was effectively just asking the QT audience to see him as so really very pretty in his views on immigration.
    I don’t suppose that motivation could be described as a positional good, it’s absolutely dead typical of their background and world they’re living in. It’s class based group-think motivated by a need to be seen as pretty and attractive, Hardman, no matter how common her statements on immigration are, will hold whatever view on immigration will result in the males in her world believing them evidence of her feminine sweet natured prettiness. Irrespective of how common they become. Maybe I’m wrong.

  • Tron

    In the 60’s and 70’s the Left were always shouting about free speech.. They hated Mary Whitehouse and the Stage and Film censors who they thought were stopping their free expression. They wanted to Let it All Hang Out.

    40 years later the same Liberal Left want to control not only the public media but all private conversations as well. They are of course succeeding.

    I can’t believe that you can lose your job or your liberty for saying one “wrong” word.
    Who exactly decides what we can and can’t say?
    Whatever happened to the phrase “It’s a free country”?

    • Grey Wolf

      It’s not just the liberal left that is PC mad. Its also the group of people who are establishment ‘conservatives’ and the devious creature that goes by the name of neo-con.

      Further, PC is absolutely and thoroughly installed in the large corporates that straddle the planet plus the large media conglomerates. Can you imagine the Speccie being un-PC on an issue of significance?

      • NoBigGovDuh

        Yes a corporation going around spitting on customers isn’t a good idea if you want to make money.

        • Grey Wolf

          Would you care to elaborate?

    • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

      And this is how the BBC disallow free speech in a programme about free speech, it’s beyond parody:

    • vieuxceps2

      Yes, Tron, I share your disbelief that we have reached the point where the saying of a single word can lead to a person losing a livelihood.Orwell was right ,I’m afraid. Our language is now controlled to the extent that we can only utter what a lefty clique have decided is permissible.Strange that they at the same time encourage the public use of old terms for bodily functions,once of course anathema to most of us.I sense we are being groomed and it’s not a good feeling.

    • NoBigGovDuh

      It is, your free to say what you want until you cause others harm.

      • uberwest

        Is ‘offence’ harm?
        Not in my book.

      • Mike

        The problem is who defines ‘harm’ !

        • jack coyle

          Or ‘offense’ for that matter. Muslims are always ready to be offended in my experience while other religions are mostly less sensitive.

      • Snipkokken Balsov

        Would you consider destroying someone’s livelyhood for saying something you, or someone else happens to find offensive, harmful?
        would you consider being imprisoned, for saying or writing something that was until recently perfectly legal, harmful?

        • rabenatz

          Well, if that one word happens to be a racist slur to a customer then yes, that would be perfectly fine. After any employer has the right to disassociate from people who might harm their business. There are just some things that are no longer being tolerated today. Racism is one of the few.

          • Snipkokken Balsov

            Go get ’em Beria. 1,400 underage girls in Rotherham have been prostituted due to the twisted priorities of race peddling progressives.

    • monty61

      I was laughed at for using that very phrase in a Post Office in Berkshire last week. Apparently it’s no longer sufficient to look at the ‘banned’ list and say your package contains none of the above. They now want to know what’s IN the package. It’s all to do with ‘9-11’ apparently.

      Cue immediate and permanent departure of customer for a (cheaper!) service booked online which requires only an ‘x’ on a statement that says my package contains none of the above.

      Free Country? The very phrase now makes Post Office staff laugh, apparently.

  • Donafugata

    Thanks Ed for a very interesting piece on a complex and fascinating topic that needs further examination.

    The reasons I hate political correctness is that it is the work of zealots who are obsessed with creating equality, an ideal that cannot possibly exist in human society.

    The zealot is motivated to make laws that carry the principle to absurd extremes, quite rightly earning the label “pc gone mad”.

    It is the absolute certainty of the PCM zealot that I find most offensive as he assumes that he is morally superior so anyone who disagrees doesn’t have any right to another opinion.

    • Donafugata

      Apologies for the typo, I have no idea what PCM is.

      Whenever I reject the I-pad stupid auto-correct suggestion, the keyboard freezes up, hence I am bound to send and apologise afterwards.
      When technology is too clever by half.

    • Ron Todd

      They don’t want equality for everybody. They want themselves to be on top, people like me the white working class to be at the bottom and then everybody else equal in the middle.

      • profitglutton

        Other races being equal won’t mean that you are at the bottom. Developing countries will most likely match the US in about three to four decades economically. If you want to stay on top stop whining, keep innovating and don’t just rest on your laurels.

        • Donald Oprie

          @profitglutton shut up poofter

          • profitglutton

            You must be one of those stupid whiners who are rotting this country from the inside out.

  • Ricky Strong

    Whenever I hear about political correctness or whether Jeremy did or did not say a ‘naughty’ word I imagine the world, then I imagine our solar system, then our galaxy and then the billions of other galaxies in this universe. I then wonder to myself why it is that we are utterly obsessed with so many things that are just lilliputian.

  • Frank

    Ed, I think that you, Nick Cohen and Dan Hodges need to have a chat!
    You are right about the liberal left having had a sense of unique moral rightness (ie the moral monopoly you refer to) for far too long – their intolerance has created a strong public kick-back, as evidenced by the growth of libertarian political parties over the last couple of years. Arguably, these political parties are a good thing and a safety valve for democracy. Manifestly the liberal left don’t see the parties as such, but then the liberal left have so been part and parcel of the establishment and media that they can no longer see the wood for the trees. They do however need to remember that the public is never wrong.
    As an example, once, some time ago, I might have enjoyed the cut and thrust of a debate with, say, Ed Davey. Now I just see him as someone who is robbing my children and grandchildren through his support for insane energy subsidies and I would like to see him prosecuted.
    If you try to crush all intelligent debate by cries that you are a luddite, racist, etc, etc, you eventually provoke the public. I much enjoyed the news last night, when various recent immigrants stated that all immigration should be tightly controlled!

    • Grey Wolf

      I agree with much you say but why confine it to the liberal-left unless you mean mainstream conservatives in the west as also liberal left, which indeed they are. Egalitarianism, the underpinning of PC, has been swallowed by mainstream conservatives too.

      Plus, you can’t have an entire article about PC without any mention of the Frankfurt School of thought and its stalwarts, the pioneers of PC and thought-policing.

    • Mike

      It is a perverse sort of justice to see immigrant minority groups who have worked hard to integrate in a predominantly white christian society and retain their ethnic background to then condemn the mass immigration that threatens their future as much as ours. They know their very existence is under threat by enforced politically correctness and the sort of fascist policies the left love so much that causes far more racism than it ever cured.

      The left fail to accept that society has to evolve at its own pace to make integration work and enforcement of left wing ideology is a terminal illness eating at the heart of the country. There maybe the odd off colour joke or the recitation of a non PC nursery rhyme of 40 years ago but adopting book burning Germanys 1930’s socialist programs is counter productive and far more divisive to ethnic groups of all races.

      The liberal left with the elite establishment lacks any understanding of human nature or psychology and believes it can legislate over what we think, eat, drink or do. They counter ‘push back’ from the electorate by draconian laws and wonder why we rebel even more. There was a small window of opportunity when Cameron made his incestuous union with Clegg where Labours PC disease could be halted but Cameron missed the boat. The country would rather take a chance with a transparent UKIP party including warts and all than trust the liars, crooks and cheats that inhabit LibLabCon village at Westminster. Maybe, if given a chance, UKIP could cut out this cancer the three parties have propagated into Britain as it won’t happen with the incumbents.

  • IfItPleasethThee

    The problem is that the liberal-left have tried to hold two inconsistent positions at the same time:

    1) Society is best served by a neutral marketplace of ideas, in which no particular morality is privileged.

    2) Racism, sexism, homophobia and so forth are immoral and should be excluded from political discourse.

    If they are right about (2), as I think they probably are, then it follows that they are lying about (1). Which I suppose is a long way of saying that UKIP are right about the “mainstream” but also that the mainstream are right about UKIP.

    Of course, what liberals need to do is drop (1), but they won’t do it because then they won’t be liberals any more. What a mess.

    • MikeF

      No – (2) as you call it is simply authoritarian narcissist intolerance of any opinion that falls outside of an increasingly narrowly defined set of parameters. It is not in any worthwhile sense of the word ‘liberal’ just very ‘left’. Ideas are there to be vindicated or discredited through political discourse not excluded because some people dislike them.

      • IfItPleasethThee

        Well, it goes without saying that liberals will fight hard for their point of view, which may include playing dirty. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. It’s not very nice, but it’s politics, and of course we try to make sure our view wins. Where I really take issue with them is that they do this but also present it as the “neutral” view which one must adopt in order to play the game at all. This is plain lying, and UKIP are right to say so (I don’t usually agree with UKIP, so that’s a major concession …)

        • MikeF

          Is that something you say when you are in the company of other liberals or do you need to come here to say what you really think?

          • IfItPleasethThee

            That’s an astute point, although I think the idea of “other liberals” is pushing it a bit far. I share many of the moral viewpoints of liberals (e.g. I wish racists would f off back to racistland) but agree that their behaviour has been contemptuous and attribute this mainly to their false belief that they occupy a neutral middle-ground. Dan Hodges’ column in the Torygraph was an eloquent lament for this lost dominance.

            • MikeF

              But what is your definition of ‘racism’. For a lot of liberals it is essentially any difference of opinion with them about the nature of and causes of any sort of racial prejudice and discrimination. For the most part they also seem to regard ‘racism’ as something that can only be perpetrated by ‘white’ people against ‘non-white’ people.
              I have no more truck with racial prejudice than I daresay you do – liberals and left-wingers have no monopoly of that, but I loathe the cult of of ‘anti-racism’ which I regard as a deeply hypocritical and remorselessly sectarian ideology that ultimately has nothing to do with diminishing racial antipathies. Instead what it is really about is prototyping, validating and institutionalising the politics of ‘zero tolerance’ – in other words complete suppression of all deviation from a narrow list of approved attitudes. It is a lie that is corroding the public life of this country.
              Ultimately you are wrong about liberals. They don’t have a ‘false belief that they occupy a neutral middle-ground.’ Instead they have an all too real belief that they occupy a highground of complete moral superiority. When you come to recognise that you might not speak so glibly about ‘sharing’ viewpoints with them.

              • IfItPleasethThee

                You argue better than most people on here, and happy to accept much of this. For example, every time I open the Guardian they have split the world into two (e.g. black-white, gay-straight, female-male, east-west, lower-middle class, atheist-Christian) and invariably I’m on the “evil” side of the divide. I don’t see how this is a jot better than the stuff said by the UKIP people who are being outed daily for crazy talk.

                Where I still differ from you is on neutrality. Of course we get high-and-mighty about our morals, for the simple reason that we care about them a very great deal. Liberals are not any different from anyone else in this respect. Where they really get up my nose is that they pretend to set out a neutral field of discussion, but then insist on superintending it themselves and then making up the rules of play. That’s not on; if liberals have such strong views, then they should put in the effort and defend them on their own merit, rather than relying on the fact of opposing views being heretical. Who knows, they might even win this freer debate.

                • MikeF

                  The difference is that the UKIP people ‘outed’ as you say are a fringe element of a party with a commitment to free speech. The Guardian viewpoint, however, is a fundamentalist doctrine that brooks no dissent.

                • IfItPleasethThee

                  Well, look on the bright side. If the Guardian types have managed to offend people like me, then they have massively overreached themselves, i.e. to 1970s levels. Also on the few occasions when I have mentioned my own views within my (achingly left-liberal) workplace, I have more often been met with a discreet nod of the head than any real resistance. Along with “increasingly narrowly defined set of parameters”, as you have put it above, goes decreasing relevance.

    • stickywicket

      You are right. The so called liberals who should believe in 1) have become so obsessed with 2) that they have become totalitarian.

      Liberal Totalitarianism is an oxymoron. Which is why they are in so much trouble.

      Then they persist in ad hominem attacks against people like Delingpole and Hannan rather than debating their arguments. This is the weakest form of attack and betrays the weakness of their position.

      • Grey Wolf

        You present Delingpole as a martyr. Why? Because of his climate change stance?

        • stickywicket

          Partly but JD writes controversial pieces about more subjects than just climate change.

          The essence of free speech is to allow it tp happen and then debate the points rather than suppress ideas you don’t agree with.

      • Mike

        The main definition of the word ‘liberal’ is the freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties.

        Looking at the actions and practices of liberal advocates in the PC world, that definition is a very far cry from that definition. As an example, we saw them fighting for the rights of gay people within the white community but there’s a deathly silence when it comes to gay Muslims rights. Hence their very real problems over gay rights within Islam as they refuse to get off the fence and be truly liberal.

        If the truth be told, most liberals are callous opportunists who cherry pick social causes to enlarge their egos and pretend they have changed the world for the better. In reality, they leave social destruction behind them, racial tensions where none were before and spread disharmony among the population as a whole. They are todays worst disease that needs to be eradicated before even more harm is done.

      • rabenatz

        I have just realised the term liberal has been adjusted in Europe. Here it means being non-conservative, progressive, against racism, sexism and homophobia. Which is a perfectly valid position to hold and created a pleasant and compassionate society imo. However, that is not to say there aren’t people who take it too far and become obsessive and do no longer regard the context in which something is being mentioned. There is the extreme left for example who will jump to the defense of anything immigrant, foreigner or muslim on principle and would blame a gay man from having been beaten up by a bunch of muslims just because certain minorities are never at fault or bad or worthy of criticism. Ever. Even if those people hold racist, sexist and homophobic views or actively express and pratice those views. Those people have jumped the shark and the majority of liberals in Europe do not agree with them. It’s just that many people are afraid of being branded a racist as soon as they criticise the reality of a big percentage of followers of a certain religion behaving badly in their host countries.

    • Alison

      The article is about the shifting definitions of (2). There can be no absolute definition because offence is in the ears of the offended. We need (1) so that we can concentrate on policng not politically incorrect speech by individuals but ACTS of racism, sexism, homophobia. While there has been this furore about Jeremy Clarkson recording his silly video, how many young black men have been stopped and searched, how many young women have been sexually assaulted, how much violence has there been among different ethnic minorities. The answer is probably a lot less than there used to be when we didn’t talk about them. You have to allow (1).

      • IfItPleasethThee

        Then you are more of an optimist than me. If you want (1), then you need to protect the even playing field, which presumably means finding ‘guardians of debate’ who are interested enough in politics to do the job but don’t have an opinion. Good luck with finding someone like this; I have never met the like. After all, this is the role that the BBC tries to fill, and look how well that has gone.

        I think politics is a fight to the bitter end, which includes rigging the terms of debate wherever possible; of course lefties are doing this. My suggestion to people here after reading all this debate is that rather than complaining about unfair behaviour from lefties, you just counter them, again using any techniques at your disposal. That might all sound rather Machiavellian, but if you fight clean against lefties who are fighting dirty, you will lose again and again and again.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Young black men are stopped and searched more than old white men like me because they are more likely to be up to no good. What do you mean exactly by ‘violence among ethnic minorities’. Do you mean brown muslims raping young girls? Do you mean black Somalis performing cliterectomies on even younger girls? Or do you just mean them killing each other? Do you know what you mean?

        • Alison

          What I mean is that all of the above, those things you mention, happen and that we know that they happen because we talk about them freely. We need to be able to discuss all of the above in a free climate where we are not accused of racism if we mention them. At the same time we need to acknowledge that there has never been a golden age of free speech because when people were free to use the n word they were also free to beat up their wives with impunity because violence in the home was regarded separately from ordinary gbh, just as one example. Both the left’s pet topics such as those defined as (2) and the right’s, those that you mention, for example, need to be discussed freely. Freedom to mention these things is the first step towards acting to prevent them happening. As for your first assertion in order to believe it is true one would have to believe that the quantity of melanin in a person’s skin is sufficient grounds to believe they have criminal tendencies. You are free to believe what you like but those who enforce the law of this country we are still pleased to call a free one, need to base their actions on something more solid than such a notion.

    • Thoughtful Ulsterman

      #1 is not only impossible, it is also not desirable in its entirety. Civilization needs a set of certain absolute moral values to prosper and avoid destructive human degeneracy. These can be found by observing natural human behaviour and consequences of actions over hundreds of years i.e. science, and no better documented observation of instinctual human behaviour over thousands of years than the bible. The problem with the bible is that it is chock-a-block full of observation in the form of metaphors, and the biggest obstruction to this being understood are Christians themselves who focus on the spiritual when making their arguments, rather than using the rational logic of consequence for civilization that is placed right in front of their eyes!

      tl;dr: we need to return to the values of the early Enlightenment, before it corrupted by the malign influence of the French Revolution and obsession with “equality”, and everything and everything self-contradictorily having to always be “equal” no matter what.

      • IfItPleasethThee

        Sympathise with much of this but am more pessimistic with the Aristotelianism. I don’t think we can ever underestimate the human ability to scr3w things up, whether it be interpreting the Bible or deriving the truth from ‘nature’. Agree on equality though; we have no choice but to take a stand.