The march of the new political correctness

I hoped that the British sense of the ridiculous, our relish in piss-taking, would keep us safe. Now I’m not so sure

7 February 2015

9:00 AM

7 February 2015

9:00 AM

I wonder how many of you know that you’re cis. Not very many, I’m guessing. So let me break this gently. You are almost certainly cis. It is short for ‘cisgendered’, which means that you ‘identify’ with the gender you were assigned at birth. To put it in everyday language, you were born male and are still male, or were born female and are still female.

Roughly 99.7 per cent of human beings — including gays, lesbians and bisexuals — are cisgender. The rest are transgender (‘trans’), which includes transvestites and trans-sexuals. The latter have had a sex-change operation. Incidentally, male-to-female ops greatly outnumber the female-to-male variety. As a distinguished Australian gynaecologist once told me: ‘You can make a hole but you can’t make a pole.’

Fortunately he didn’t say it online or he’d have been sacked the next day. The trans lobby is noisy and thin-skinned even by the standards of Twitter, though its emergence pre-dates social media.

In the 1980s ‘LGB’ replaced ‘gay community’ as the approved term for non-heterosexuals. In the 1990s the T was added and it stuck. Which wasn’t a bad thing. Transsexual people have a hard time and my own attitudes changed after meeting two dazzlingly bright trans women. One was so convincing that my jaw hit the floor when I was told she was born a man. The other, less so. But I think of them both as women and happily refer to them as ‘she’.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, the cause of trans rights has been appropriated by the internet’s language police, who lurk in the slip roads of the digital highway, looking for any excuse to let off their sirens. Although most of the enforcers are themselves simply male or female, they find trans-related arguments irresistible because it’s so easy to catch people out. ‘Gender identity’ is a minefield. Woe betide anyone who — having patiently mastered the racial nomenclature that tripped up Benedict Cumberbatch — mixes up the queer and genderqueer communities.

Sirens go off all the time, as you can imagine — but now they’re all screaming at once, thanks to an article by the journalist Jonathan Chait that appeared in New York magazine the other week. In it, Chait argued that ‘large segments of American culture have convulsed into censoriousness’ — and what he says of America is increasingly true over here, too: ‘At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate “microaggressions”, small social slights that might cause searing trauma. These newly fashionable terms merely repackage a central tenet of the first PC movement: that people should be expected to treat even faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviours as full-scale offences.’

This hypersensitivity is now so common, said Chait, that it feels as if we’ve all lurched back to 1991. With one lethal difference: in the social media age, everyday chatter can be policed as sternly as academic discourse.

If Chait had been a conservative, no one would have paid any attention. But he’s a liberal who wants climate sceptics banned from public office. So by attacking political correctness — and even indulging in a little light mockery of ‘mansplaining’, ‘straightsplaining’ and other neologisms — he showed himself a traitor.

The reaction was comedy gold. Accused of hypersensitivity, the gender vigilantes shrieked their tits off. (That’s a figure of speech, by the way, not intended to exclude people without breasts.) ‘First things first,’ wrote Vox magazine’s Amanda Taub. ‘There’s no such thing as “political correctness”.’ She then launched into a virtuoso display of this thing that doesn’t exist. Chait was endangering marginalised groups by ‘shutting down the conversation’ — a ludicrous charge, given that Taub’s ideological soulmates on both sides of the Atlantic have always specialised in shutting down conversations.

In the first wave of political correctness, the word ‘inappropriate’ was enough to shame a speaker into silence. The new, digitally remastered PC draws on an ever-expanding lexicon of victimhood. Terf stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminism — i.e. ‘transphobic’ feminists. Swerfs are sex worker-exclusionary radical feminists who think prostitution oppresses women.

For right-wing pundits, these antics are a gift — fresh ammunition for the culture war. For more thoughtful British and American writers, such as the young conservative journalist Robert Wargas, the revived PC is frustrating and creepy. ‘People must understand that PC works like a conspiracy theory,’ he says. ‘The more vigorously you argue against it, the more its proponents see the need to affirm it. That’s because, under their rules, logic and free speech are tools of oppression, at least when used by non-favoured groups. They’ve created this perfectly circular, perfectly sealed universe, packed with bizarre terms and theories that explain why they’re always good and their opponents always evil. By definition, reason will not work against this. PC is like a church whose only sacrament is excommunication.’

The religious analogy is a good one. American intellectual life owes as much to the Pilgrim Fathers as to Jeffersonian democracy. Early New England is a unique example of an English-speaking theocracy. Towns and villages were ruled by Puritan language police. Anxiety about ‘right thinking’ continued long after the fragmentation of belief: as late as the 1920s, H.L. Mencken complained that American culture couldn’t rid itself of ‘the multiplication of taboos’. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the political correctness which now plagues both Britain and America crept out of Ivy League universities founded by religious zealots.

Outside academia, PC became entangled with identity politics, which in turn influenced the ‘tribes’ created by mass entertainment. Then along came the internet, which provided limitless opportunities for play-acting and offence-taking. These days even the most infantile subcultures pontificate about gender identity. ‘Bronies’ — adult fans of My Little Pony, most of them gay men — argue viciously over the ‘queering’ of their dolls. Last year the depiction of women in computer games provoked an infinitely tedious dispute known as Gamergate, in which feminists were joined by — and swiftly fell out with — trans activists. The gap between Smurfs and terfs is narrowing all the time.

It’s tempting to quote the old line about high-table feuds: passions run high because so little is at stake. That’s unfair to transsexuals and transvestites, who really do get bullied and beaten up. On the other hand, the scale of the rhetorical fury over these issues is out of all proportion to the size of the ‘trans community’ — 0.3 per cent of the population — and it’s worth pointing out that this hysterical finger-pointing has done nothing to address fundamental inequalities.

PC wordplay, computer games and street theatre are more about feeling good about yourself and guilt-tripping your opponents than eradicating poverty; forcing a British actor to grovel because he let slip the word ‘coloured’ does nothing to alter the fact that the United States, headquarters of the language police, remains one of the most racially and economically segregated societies in the world. Jonathan Chait had the temerity to point this out, and as a result the PC mob went online to do one of the things they do best: witch-hunting.

The original political correctness never quite took hold over here, but that was before Twitter and Facebook. This time round Britain has its own language monitors who embrace the notion that you should ‘check your privilege’ — that is, determine whether you have the ‘right’ to comment on a subject — before you say anything. They may not be quite as fluent in PC-speak as Americans, but they have popularised the notion that offence is identical with harm. To quote a young woman friend of mine, ‘Part of the way they do this is to stretch concepts like rape and sexual assault to encompass things we all once thought were minor aggravations — like being winked at or something.’

One hopes that the British sense of the ridiculous, our relish in piss-taking, will keep terms such as swerf out of our vocabulary. But the mindset that created them is slowly becoming more entrenched. Just this week, the feminist comic Kate Smurthwaite was forced to cancel a gig at Goldsmiths, London University, because she’d been threatened by women activists who disagreed with her ‘disrespectful’ views on sex workers. Goldsmiths, with the trademark gutlessness of all London University colleges, supported the cancellation. The irony is that Smurthwaite didn’t plan to mention prostitution: her subject for the evening was to have been free speech.

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  • Dr. Heath

    Political Correctness. The Puritan’s Charter. A sense of the ridiculous and a fondness for deflating others’ egos are going to seem completely inadequate as the tide turns in the Puritans’ favour. This is a sort of well-meaning totalitarianism and its proponents intend to be taken seriously. People are persecuted for breaking the largely unwritten rules of the Charter whenever and wherever a self-appointed guardian of moral purity discovers a ‘hate crime’. Our spineless legislators have been at work for some time on the task of incorporating Soft Fascism into the statute books. Gutlessness is the new [censored].

    • MikeF

      Why do you describe is as ‘well-meaning’? It isn’t. It is quite deliberately vindictive and sectarian. The same error was made in the report into the Rotherham atrocities published yesterday when it described what happened there as the result of ‘misplaced political correctness’. There was nothing ‘misplaced’ about it – it was the natural and predictable consequence of the self-justifying ideology of the Labour Party councillors and council officers who simply ignored what was happening because it would have been against their political and material self-interest to stop it. Why call it ‘fascism’ when there is a perfectly good and more pertinent word in the political lexicon to describe it – ‘socialism’.

    • Robbydot1

      I’d take issue with “well meaning”.

      • Jody Taylor

        Good point. “Well meaning” is a euphemism for moral vanity IMO.

      • Dr. Heath

        Totalitarians’ aim is to purge the world of unbelievers, those nasty people who stand in the way of the creation of a Marxist or Islamist or politically correct or any other style of utopia. Their tactics involve, in extreme cases, the outright elimination of troublesome doubters. Enforcers from the faith community that embodies the cosmological views that derive from Political Correctness are content merely to shout down opponents, or have Mister Plod call past to make a few unsubtle threats concerning hate crime prosecutions. How, then, are such pious ninnies not well meaning? They, may they rot in hell, are in search of a permanently better world, a sort of Civitas Dei but one ruled over by guardianistas rather than by Jesus.

        • porcelaincheekbones

          they only destroy, and they want their views to be seen as Untouchable, like the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages

    • It may not look like it, but among the general population political correctness is already dead. It only survives among the elite and its acolytes. The Rotherham rape scandal – and the hundreds of others that accompny it – will help bury it.

    • Doctor Crackles

      The much maligned ‘Puritans’ may have been many things we don’t like, but they were heroes compared to the sniveling and spineless worms who hide behind PC.

    • greggf

      “This is a sort of well-meaning totalitarianism……”

      Totalitarianism is never well-meaning – it’s control, pure and simple.

      PC, or new PC, lacks the liturgy that Marxism, Communism, Fascism and Islam relish and proselytize. So it is flexible, adaptable and suits the modern proponent in its many and varied applicabilities. It occurs everywhere and anywhere when some particular perception is required not necessarily a fact or a truth but a convenience.
      Thus: religion, politics, society, humanity and many more become prey to PC; whereas the laws of physics may not.

  • AverageGuyInTheStreet

    From the mid-late 20th century onwards our country has been totally transformed by mass immigration of millions of people from every corner of the world, though predominantly Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies; and “political correctness” is the tool used to suppress any dissent of this for want of a better word invasion, by the English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, ie the people for whom these islands are a racial homeland. What I can’t understand is just how amazingly effective PC has been- government psychologists clearly know a trick or two about mass population control.

  • JohnCrichton89

    Political correctness is used to shame and slander people into silence when left wing agendas are questioned, it isn’t a rational argument. And kids are being politically indoctrinated to hate ‘racists’ and ‘islamophobes’ in our schools.

    We know that pro mass immigration liberals have taken over much of academia and are polarising the youth of tomorrow with political agendas.
    Essentially turning them against their national identity and anyone that speaks up, even family members, in something reminiscent of the Nazi Youth in Germany.

    If you see someone critical of mass immigration or Islam, it’s so common to see others (even family members) speak down their nose at them with condescending ad hominem retorts.
    Adopting the pretentious elitist attitude that left wing policies simply aren’t to be questioned or explained, and are beyond the comprehension of ‘racists’ that dare be critical or think that it’s wrong. I have heard it implied and said that the questioner is ignorant, and they want that person to wallow in that ignorance……….. such a malicious sentiment shared by so many.

    • Coniston

      I recall that the leader of the new left-wing party in Spain – which could win the next election there – is a politics lecturer.

      • Lydia Robinson

        The people who are contemplating voting for them in a few months time, will have the example of the Communist clowns in Greece and the Greek Tragedy that will unfold there.

      • Fraser Bailey

        I am sure that he will be a disaster should he come to power. But you can’t blame people for turning to such alternatives when you look at the mess that politicians all over Europe, and in Brussels, have made.

    • Solage 1386

      Tomorrow Belongs To Them.

    • Jody Taylor

      SPOT ON.

    • porcelaincheekbones

      you subhuman, don’t you know we’re all equal?

  • RavenRandom

    Left-wing version of free speech “You can say what you like as long as none of it offends me or contradicts my views.”

    • steffanjohn

      I’ve got some sympathy with that argument, yet there’s a case to be made that the Right-wing version of free speech is ‘I can criticise whoever I like and you don’t have the right to criticise me for it.’

      Criticism of criticism isn’t in itself anti-free speech; usually it’s the exercise of it.

      In practice, there’s are (moral) lines that neither sides should cross, but where those lines are varies from person to person.

      • RavenRandom

        If you’re right the right-wing version is wrong too, in my opinion. That’s the whole point isn’t it? Say what you like and accept the verbal consequences. Sadly when the consequences are the police knocking at the door then you no longer have free speech.

      • akrasia

        Sorry chap you just showed your left-wing hand there.

        If there is a a ‘right-wing version’ of free speech (how can there be versions? It’s free speech or it isn’t) it’s ‘I can criticise what I like and you don’t have the right to criticise me personally (ie. ad hominum).

        The left won’t criticise the argument(s) they criticise the individuals right to make it. That’s the difference.

        Please define the moral lines that neither side should cross? You’re
        in a position to decide this how?

        Stripped down to essentials, if the left were simply correct (‘morally or otherwise’) there would be no need for a tool such as ‘political correctness’.

      • Grace Ironwood

        Let me explain. SHUT UP.

      • Mc

        “there’s are (moral) lines that neither sides should cross”

        That doesn’t sound like free speech to me.

      • RuariJM

        Allow me to assure you of something, steffanjohn:

        You have the right to be offended.

        If you find you are not being offended then you should worry that your right to free speech is being curtailed and that you could soon find yourself in severe trouble for voicing opinions that, it seems only yesterday, were enthusiastically endorsed by people you thought felt the same as you.

        Reading and encountering things that you find offensive is your guarantee that your own rights to be a complete plonker and to voice claptrap that no-one in their right mind would agree with, are being upheld and protected.

        Conformity is the death of thought.

        You said:

        “In practice, there’s are (moral) lines that neither sides should cross, but where those lines are varies from person to person.”

        You will be relieved to know that I find that ridiculous and a near-perfect example of lack of understanding of what free speech actually means. But I won’t shoot you for it – indeed, I will uphold your right to expose yourself as ridiculously as you feel inclined, and will do so with vigour and determination.

        • Damaris Tighe


          • AA_Bill

            I second that.

        • Kieron Russell

          Nicely put.

        • SimoneNonvelodico

          “You will be relieved to know that I find that ridiculous and a near-perfect example of lack of understanding of what free speech actually means.”

          There’s a marked distinction between what’s legal and what’s moral. It is one thing to say that you should not be jailed or otherwise legally punished for saying something purposefully offensive. It is another to say that it is ethically right for you to do so; a lot of things can be done that are perfectly legal but are still pretty shitty. Just like you can cheat on your wife and it’s not a crime but that doesn’t make it a nice thing to do (from your wife’s point of view at least).

          I think there are lines you should not cross if you’re a considerate and intellectually honest person, as they pollute the debate and are the speech equivalent of kicking someone in the nuts during a boxing match. I do not think these lines can be defined exactly – it is up to our sensibilities to perceive them, and up to us to understand when someone went overboard if they did so in good faith or not. I definitely think that most of the PC stuff I see goes WAAAY overboard in drawing these lines. I do NOT think the law or any other authority figure should have any saying in this. This is stuff that should be settled between peers in sensible debate, not by calling in a mob, a university, or a judge to back you up. It’s just the difference between being a honest person and an actually good person, to me, that’s all.

      • AA_Bill


      • Jody Taylor

        Good points. But I think you’re splitting hairs about the nature of free speech. For example, to use non-pc language one would be censored these days. Can you imagine anybody saying, “he’s a cripple” and not being harangued and silenced immediately? Yet these words are descriptive and accurate and not offensive to the person in question.

      • anthony_moore123

        Re: “The moral lines that neither side should cross”… What short-sighted, superficial garbage! So what moral lines? Who’s moral lines? And why should YOUR moral lines not be crossed? What if some place freedom of speech as a higher right than a right not to be (given the excuse to be) offended? In Nazi Germany, you would not have crossed a moral line and criticised the Nazi party? You would not have crossed the line by telling Galileo to ‘button it’ when advocating his theory of heliocentrism. You would have told Emily Pankhurst to get back in the kitchen. Morality is only ever part of culture and culture evolves – it either evolves through democratic debate and progress or through the design of an elite, which successfully controls moral lines.

        • SimoneNonvelodico

          Why would criticizing the Nazi party be a moral line to begin with? Most of the PC speech control is concerned about “protecting the weak”. The point is just: yeah, you shouldn’t bully and pick on people in a position of less power than you, make fun of someone because they’re gay, they have a disability, they are another race or whatever. That’s just common decency. But it shouldn’t be enforced by law or authority (as sadly it instead is in many cases of PC). It’s something that belongs more to personal ethics and so, well, you’re free to do as you want, even behaving like an asshole, though of course no one will save you from being CONSIDERED an asshole at that point.

    • thomasaikenhead

      George Orwell had some very perceptive and still relevant things to say about the use of the English language!

      • Ed  

        Bingo. This article is actually quite perceptive; the British penchant for no-holds-barred humour is a threat to those who wish to control the discussion, and in combating it they’re taking Orwell as an instruction manual, not a warning.

      • Barba Rossa

        One must be allowed freedom of expression, let the bustereds take offense, if they don’t like it they are fre to reply in kind. Feck them.

    • Winston Smith

      The more time goes by the more I think that the Left in general have a serious problem in need of addressing: They just cannot accept differences of opinion, they are intolerant and bully their opponents into silence.

      • porcelaincheekbones

        Disagreement with me is illegal!

        • RuariJM

          No, disagreement with ME is illegal!

    • Jody Taylor

      From that paradigm I would remove, “you can say what you like”!

    • SimoneNonvelodico

      Not really all of left wing. I come from Italy and honestly almost never got in touch with this phenomenon before coming in contact with US/UK communities (on and offline). There is such a thing as being left wing but still down to earth, having ideals about relevant matters like the economy or the way diplomacy should be handled, and not insignificant nonsense like which words cause less microaggression damage to someone who’s looking for a way to feel damaged anyway.

  • davidshort10

    Best response is to say ‘Well, I’d like to air my opinion but daren’t in case I am accused of not being politically correct’. Then the pc people will be curious to know your views and you can say, no, no, sorry, don’t want to offend anyone. Lovely passive aggression.

    • global city

      Created almost 100 years ago and has never been adapted or amended. The target is simply the destruction of the west, despite the subsequent decades proving that our way is better than theirs.

    • Doctor Crackles

      I love the line in Father Ted from Father Barty Dunne,

      “He won’t mind me telling you this (looking at Father Harry Coyle dressed as Ziggy Stardust) but no, ah no”

  • Thales Oak Carvalho

    Great article. PS: remember David Reimer.

  • good article, I guess, but gosh this is boring.

  • InternetPeaceCorps

    Political Correctness: Your right of freespeach ends where my feelings begin

    • developertest03

      But it doesnt. Thats the just your problem, deal with it.

    • vieuxceps2

      IPN-Ihave every right to call you a Kunt and I now do so so. Feelings hurt? Bloody Good.

  • Robert Stevens

    ‘Check your privelege’ indeed. As a WIMP I shall just have to learn to be almost totally mute

  • jmjm208

    I see you’ve removed my comment – you hypocrites clearly don’t believe in free speech.

    • Free speech doesn’t mean that you have to permit all speech in your house. Free speech means that you can build your own house and mouth off to your heart’s content.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Surely you never believed you had a free press Britisher pals.

      • vieuxceps2

        I am offended by being called Britisher, fetch the chains.I’m also offended by being called your pal. Fetch the gallows.

    • Solage 1386

      I’m relatively new to The Spectator. Is there a “real” Moderator, or is it merely a computer programmed to remove any comments containing “key words”, as in the Daily Repress where I usually air my points of view? For example, in the Repress, any word containing “t.i.t” is automatically “modded”……*itanic, *itter, *itle, et cetera….also D**k, Co**-a-doodle-doo, smallp*x, and so on. Even “Richard” or “Desmond” (the Proprietor) immediately vanishes into the cyber-void! If you wanna see REAL censorship, try the The bleedin’ Guardian! They are positively Stalinist, the leftist kunts! Does anybody have more info on this most pressing of problems? I need to know!

      • Lydia Robinson

        I did ask if they’d outsourced their modding to North Korea once but it was instantly deleted.

        This is another comment that was deleted. In response to a torrent of abuse from a leftie, I wrote: “It’s quite illuminating how all PC is instantly forgotten by left wingers when an opposing opinion is expressed.” Mysteriously, this is not in line with their Ts and Cs.

  • developertest03

    We have already been through this. This was rampant in the late 1980’s, and all it did was lead to a backlash for at least 20 years.

    • TimeandtheRani

      Absolutely. Expect the 2020’s to see the rise of lads mags again. Certain attitudes will die out if they’re out of date, if they seem to be being forced out, they’ll provoke a counter reaction.

  • UnionJihack

    A good pisstake requires a sense of humour.
    What makes you think you were qualified to do that, Damian?

  • Political correctness is bullsh*t.

    • Solage 1386

      Political correctness is a neurosis.

    • Not only that, it’s dangerous bull sh*t.

  • You think Christians are responsible for PC? LOL LOL. No, PC is what you get when people abandon grace and try to create a religion — it is a cult-like mindset where salvation is never sure and favor rests only upon keeping an ever-shifting body of rules. This is not even remotely Christian. In fact, PC wars against any expression of faith, except Islam.

  • PSIs_McBeats
    • PSIs_McBeats

      See? Sometimes you don’t need to write an essay to say exactly what everyone else says.
      As they say, a picture says a thousand words.

      If this subject needs to be delved into, maybe next time ask someone that knows what they’re on about. Most of these statements sound like they were written by angry 13 year olds writing clickbait.

  • Polly Radial

    Damien Thompson? I thought he was brown bread.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Hopefully he’ll be toast in the not too distant future.

  • Big Ern

    The most dangerous manifestation of this new mobthink is when it starts to interfere with rational debate within the legal and political realms. For instance, in my country, there is a legitimate debate among legal experts with respect to the legal definition of rape, concerning force requirements, consent, etc. It is *not* a clear cut issue as some may indignantly claim, with longstanding historical difficulties to establishing a legal standard. However, sober discussion is being drowned out by very loud voices from radicals, determined to malign as “rape apologists” anyone who doesn’t conform to a reduction of the entire debate to an unthinking “If there was no consent, then it is rape. Period.” shibboleth. Any attempt at a nuanced view of things is mercilessly punished, which is creating a real chilling effect. One need look no further than a few days into the past; namely, at the groveling apology that Utah legislator was forced to make for his thinking-out-loud theoretisizing of the precepts of the law under debate. This is dangerous. This is not just about free speech anymore. There are real lives and prison sentences at stake here. Once our legal and political processes have become paralyzed by a Facebook-like avoidance of topics for fear of causing offense, combined with a devaluing of rational debate in favor of “accepting narratives”, your liberties are at stake.

    • cmflynn

      The late, great Auberon Waugh used to write that the day was coming when men would need a signed consent form for every act of sexual intercourse. He was joking of course. How we all laughed.

      • Solage 1386

        We need more jaw-jaw, not Waugh-Waugh. I sign a consent form every time I jerk myself off. Sometimes, I forge my own signature. I’m not joking of course. How I laughed. I’ve copied your literary device of avoiding the use of exclamation marks (!), even though they would be highly apt in my own particular case. Drunk, I apologise.

    • Grace Ironwood

      I’m curious, what is a meaningful and fair definition of rape, if not consent?

      • vieuxceps2

        But isn’t there a legal maxim-Silence gives consent”?

        • salieri

          Thomas More tried that one and look what good it did him.

        • Grace Ironwood

          Well, yes, I agree that that is sometimes completely reasonable to infer consent, but sometimes its not reasonable to infer consent, depends on the situation.

          I may be silent because he’s told me my child will be killed otherwise, or I may be silent because I’m kissing him.
          Nevertheless, your proposal that “silence gives consent” still gives priority to the concept of consent, no?

  • CraigStrachan

    So is Smurthwaite a Smurf or just a swerf? Not a terf, surely.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    The rise of the delicate feelings industry.

  • Benbecula

    On the subject of new political correctness, when does referring to a ‘chair’ apply to a person ? Answer : when the politically correct BBC strips gender from the word ‘chairman’. The new ‘chair’ of such n such.. abject nonsense.

  • Diggery Whiggery

    “As a distinguished Australian gynaecologist once told me: ‘You can make a hole but you can’t make a pole.”

    LMAO you can’t beat an aussie for summarizing a vital issue of the day in a clear, direct and pithy manner.

  • Beauceron

    It’s madness here in the US. It’s a new and cancerous form of totalitarianism.
    As a straight, nominally Christian, white male, the only thing I have going for me is the knowledge that white women will be next on the block– and I can’t wait to see it. No group deserves to be thrown out from under the protection of special privilege and protection and become a target more…

    • Solage 1386

      Are you nominally straight and nominally white and nominally male as well? I am.

    • porcelaincheekbones

      why do you think they’ll go?

  • redrum

    political correctness is one of the worst forms of reversion to the mean and yet it is outliers who ultimately contribute most to society, for better and worse. Sheeple are being neutered each and every day, which is one of the reasons for the rise of right and left. You may muzzle the mouth, but true thought finds expression

  • Solage 1386

    I’m not cis. I’ve always been a great big cissy, and proud of it! And you can take that smirk off yer face right now, or I’ll rip yer effing snout off! Darlings, time for yet another Special Brew. Would you like one? Titter.

  • Solage 1386

    This constant manipulation, refinement, reification and redefinement of language by the left can lead only to madness.

    • vieuxceps2

      No, notl madness. They hope it will lead to power.We should all realise that and resist PC in any form.

    • Lydia Robinson

      “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” George Orwell, again.

  • Solage 1386

    This constant manipulation, refining, redefining and reification of language by the left can lead only to madness.

  • Bonkim

    Be insensitive and ignore all this junk – use the language you want.

  • thomasaikenhead

    It is political correctness that led to massive child abuse on an industrial for decades in Rotherham.

    Will anyone ever be held to account for that situation?

    • Cedders_B

      I am sure that if the various politicians involved decide that declaring someone at fault is a demonstration that they have dealt with the problem, then somebody will be thrown under the bus. Based on past history, it would be reasonable to assume that person will be chosen for political reasons rather than actual guilt.

  • Doctor Crackles

    Cis and Trans is all very clever, but we should be alarmed about this further abuse of our language. Once again a peripheral group is using the subversion of our language to control what we say and how we think. A similar example is the use of ‘straight’ and even ‘heterosexual’ to describe people who until very recently had no such label associated with them. They were just regular people. In the future the regular folk will be called ‘zoophobic’.

    So, on the one hand we are directed to use certain terminology, but the masterstroke of PC dogma is that it utterly forbids the use of the old language. Common notions of evil and perversion are disallowed and people who speak of something being disgusting or heaven forbid ‘sinful’ are met with howls of derision and dismissed as a bigot. Thank God for Mrs Duffy!

  • gerontius redux

    Dear editor,
    Every time I open the Spectator site I am confronted with a pop-up inviting me to subscribe to this magazine. As you have blocked me from commenting, without explanation, you could at least extend me the courtesy of not pestering me to renew my lapsed subscription.
    Thanks awfully,

  • Guest

    Muslims can scream ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas’, like they did this summer, and our police will stand by and pick their noses.
    But put me on a corner shouting ‘Mohammed pedophile’ and I either lose my head, or I’m arrested and thrown into jail.

    • Liberanos

      You’d be all right in Rotherham now.

      • Not yet, not while the Common Purpose Cops are still lurking around.

    • Ted Bishop

      Outside of the Danish Embassy there were many hundreds of Muslims protesting about the cartoons. As they demonstrated I heard and saw via the TV many of them shouting, “Bomb, bomb UK, Osmam is on his way.” Plus “behead all those who insult Islam,” “Kill all unbelievers,” and also there were many placards being held up with the exact same words which was a clear incitment to murder and yet the PC authorities did nothing and not one person was arrested for this outrage of mass threats to kill. It was clear that the incitement worked as one of the protestors who was so hyped up shouting “behead those who insult Islam,” was one of the men who attacked and beheaded Trooper Lee Rigby. Clearly the people in control of the UK are like a wibble wobble jelly when it comes to Islam, afraid to speak the truth, afraid to take action against the guilty in Rotherham and spineless to do anything that smacks of confronting out of control Islam in the UK. The fact the whole Council in Rotherham resigned shows just how much they knew about what was taking place but did nothing in case they were accused of racist. How can it be rasict when its a relgion that is the subject not a race? Notice that the news was full of a other child sex offenders going to jail a white Doctor jailed for child sex abuse, Gary Glitter jailed for sex with girls of 13 years of age and a jailed 82 year old pedophile being charged with other sex offenders and all this media coverage was used to gloss over the outrage of mass child sex slavery within the Muslim community in Rotherham and a failure to mention the links with the other Muslim child sex slave and abusers of other towns that are all linked via the taxi networks of the core offenders of these awful crimes. I wish PC dogma was booted out and the truth was told without fear but I think PC dogma is too deeply entrenched to be done away with. Its like an infection that cannot be controlled and no one want to tell the patient.

  • BigDhimmy

    ……..and all this talk about being PC, about Rotherham and
    accountability. Like in punishing? That is pretty extreme.
    This desire, to make intelligent lifeforms feel the sensation of being
    uncomfortable, just because of their actions or in-action’s, is in fact quite
    I am happy to say that our politicians and bureaucrats have designed a more
    PC system, more or less without the need of these extreme measures.
    You see, accountability in our system is like the finest of dust,dropped from a few meters height, hardly noticeable.
    Accountability is like having a real close friend giving you a gently nudge,
    pointing you in the direction, away..away from the sensation of being uncomfortable.
    As for the PC steps to be taken, we should definitely look to the
    proven and effective methods of BBC and The Guardian and altogether ban the
    words Rotherham and accountability from being combined and used in the same
    sentence in the public domain.
    Because, quite frankly; these words is very fast becoming very offensive to a very
    large group of people and extensive use could endanger our whole PC system.

  • Mc

    “The original political correctness never quite took hold over here [in the UK], but that was before Twitter and Facebook.”

    Pull the other one. Has Damian Thomson never heard of the justifications of PIE, the justifications for the UK’s multiculturism, or the likes of Harman?

  • Mike Howard
  • Wojciech Pisarski

    Can anyone tell me why it appears incorrect to mention the Germans in conjunction with the last war, let alone the atrocities that they committed. Even Francois Hollande stated at the Normandy commemoration that the Germans were the victims of the “Nazis” – those mysterious Nazis who appeared from nowhere and built the so-called “Polish camps!.

    • Doctor Crackles

      Your observation is correct. I believe there has been an orchestrated policy to refer to ‘Nazi’ when dealing with ‘German’ actions in WW2. Anyone with an ounce of history knows that most of the Wehrmacht officers were not Nazi. Hitler hated the generals, this is well known. Yet, the Wehrmacht committed many unspeakable crimes in various theaters and were just as brutal as the SS.

      Where did the Nazis come from? My reading shows me that many of the characteristics of the Nazis existed in Germany before the Great War. Germany is a great nation with many great things to be proud of, but there still exists dangerous tendencies in the national character which must be held in check.

      It greatly disturbs me that while the West went through a cleansing after the war and very much came to terms with the past and was able to draw on the Christian tradition of true repentance the East did not.

      • Wojciech Pisarski

        I agree with these comments – one has to remember that Germany is a comparatively recent invention, built on the basis of the Prussian state, which was itself built on the conquest of Slavonic and Polish lands which established the deep-seated conviction that the Slavs were inferior beings who deserved to be conquered,

        Most soldiers in the Wehrmacht were happy to commit atrocities in Poland from 1/9/1939. Yes, most Wehrmacht generals were happy to watch their soldiers obeying the injunctions from Hitler to be ruthless and kill men, women and children.

        Ironically it was Eastern Germany which inherited the traditions of Prussia while Western Germany was to a large extent the heir to more liberal traditions. However, let’s remember that it was ordinary Germans who committed countless war crimes in occupied countries throughout Europe.

    • Ted Bishop

      To the victors the spoils is the truism. If it were just the Germans who we class as guilty of war crimes then we would have to include the Allies in the same breath as we too committed equaly heinous war crimes. Poland was invaded by Russia in 1939 and proceeded to begin a mass slaughter of many Poles. Once Garmany or Nazis, the ordinary soldier had no choice to fight unlike the UK or USA, it was sign up to fight or be shot in a death camp. Once Russia began to take back lands Germany taken over their soldiers went of a spree of mass killings and mass rape on a scale not seen since Ghengis Khan and for a couple of years after the war ended slaughtered many people and raped women often killing them once they had been raped by many soldiers one after another. A war crime. On the Rhine large POW camps were set up to hold the ordinary German soldiers, the SS were in separate camps and were treated as war criminals. Many thousands ordianry soldiers were starved, beaten, shot and worked to death by US soldiers who were guilty of war crimes but of course because we won all these war crimes were brushed under the carpet and the war criminals who slaughtered innocent German soldiers were allowed to go home with meals and loot. Of the many millions of ordianry German POW’s who were marches into Russia only 55,000 came back alive, the last I think in 1960, the others just like our ordinary troops, honest soldiers fighting for their mates were killed and abused in many ways and yet this is not a war crime. A war crime is a war crime is a war crime no matter what and if we are going to be able to finger point to the guilty then we need to point it to many allied soldiers who were just as guilty as the German soldiers and we as nations should be blamed as you blame Germans after all it was we who declared war on Germany.

  • trace9

    Personally, I still call gender SEEEEXX!!

    There was a daft LGTB
    That was neither a he nor a She
    It got so worked-up
    When it got rather stuck
    Whether It sat or stood for a Pee.

    My dear Dammo; all language stems from a simple Yes or No. PC = No, no, NO!
    (Well you started with the piss-thing..)

  • ODB

    “Transsexual people have a hard time and my own attitudes changed after meeting two dazzlingly bright trans women. One was so convincing that my jaw hit the floor when I was told she was born a man. The other, less so. But I think of them both as women and happily refer to them as ‘she’.”

    I find it interesting the onus was clearly on the two women to ‘persuade’ the author of their legitimacy. Would it have been different had they not been “dazzlingly bright”, I wonder?

    Words like ‘convincing’ are interesting, too: the idea that the women somehow had to ‘perform’ a particular notion of femininity (conceived of by the author) in order to achieve the aforementioned convincing. Whether they wanted to or not is, of course, irrelevant.

    Why must the burden of proof lie on the Other? Why, indeed, must any proving be done at all?

    (cis white male – almost certainly a hypersensitive one)

  • locomotion

    As Churchill said, the fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.

  • John Bindon

    Amazing how many words there are in this article I have never heard of before. Don’t worry though, Damian Thompson, it is still perfectly possible to go through life without a) Being taken in by any of this nonsense or b) have to spend any time with anyone who actually believes in it. I have never once in my entire life been taken to task – nor have I ever seen anyone else be taken to task – for inappropriate speech. This clearly isn’t to say it doesn’t happen or that it’s not a problem, but as yet, I think its still a pretty minor one in the overall vale of tears.

  • finzi_holst

    Damian wrote: “. . . that the United States, headquarters of the language police, remains one of the most racially and economically segregated societies in the world.”

    And that is by design, the hyphenated American, as favored by the divide-and-rule Left. It is much easier to control small groups and turn them against one another, if necessary, than it is to serve a larger group.

    There is a reason that US elementary schools emphasize comfort and emotion over life skills, competition and logic. And now those brought up in this abominable indoctrination are permeating all walks of life her: what is called the long walk through the institutions.

    And, is it any wonder, the Left hates the Constitution. It has never been about equality to the Left, but about power. The US grows weaker by the day and only the mind-numb would think that is a good thing.

    • John Bindon

      Just been reading “Leagacy of Ashes”, the rather depressing and frightening history of the CIA. It’s clearly not only the Left who seek/sought to

      undermine the Constitution.

  • James Hamilton

    I’m glad that I’m an out and proud old fashioned unreconstructed bigot. There is no way I could be bothered keeping up the latest PC fads. Also, I do not think the political correctness that plagues US campuses can be blamed on the puritans. It stems from another religious group entirely.

  • Barba Rossa

    being racist is no doubt good thing…it a question of choises really

  • Lydia Robinson

    What would George Orwell say? I think we already know: “Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

    • ODB

      But isn’t this ‘political correctness’ trying to destroy an already extant linguistic orthodoxy that has produced and reproduced (gender, racial) inequality?

  • Realismista

    What is fascinating here is how easily so many people seem to be cowed into submission. If everyone just did a real life and online version of a middle finger up to these PC zealots, they’d soon run out of steam.

    • Cedders_B

      Finding the right way to resist these people is easier said than done. Most of them are extremely alert to anything which might threaten their well-being and will use all available measures to destroy such threats. In my experience (30 years of management consultancy), the most egregious institution by far is the NHS.


    “gays, lesbians and bisexuals”? “transsexuals and transvestites”? For someone who has met transgender folk, you know surprisingly little about the LGBTQ community. Do your research before you write such bilge.

    • Suzy61

      Haven’t you just proved his point?

  • wudyermucuss

    But I think of them both as women and happily refer to them as ‘she’. –

  • John Hawkins Totnes

    It seems a lot of people, including many of our politicians, are obsessed with their genitals. Though I guess they might be adults they seem to still have a masturbatory mindset.

  • kandanada

    “Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the political correctness which now plagues both Britain and America crept out of Ivy League universities founded by religious zealots.”

    I thought it came from the Frankfurt School. That’s a Marxian thing from Europe. It happened when Marxists got bored with just making an economic argument against capitalism and decided to have a crack at culture in an effort to take over the world..

    “…they sought to draw answers from other schools of thought, hence using the insights of antipositivist sociology, psychoanalysis, existential philosophy, and other disciplines.The school’s main figures sought to learn from and synthesize the works of such varied thinkers as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Weber and Lukács.”


  • Dave Sykes

    One word describes political correctness: Bullsh*t

  • kandanada

    “Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the political correctness which now plagues both Britain and America crept out of Ivy League universities founded by religious zealots.”

    I thought it came from the Frankfurt School. That’s a Marxian thing from Europe. It happened when Marxists got bored with just making an economic argument against capitalism and decided to have a crack at culture in an effort to take over the world..

    “…they sought to draw answers from other schools of thought, hence using the insights of antipositivist sociology, psychoanalysis, existential philosophy, and other disciplines.The school’s main figures sought to learn from and synthesize the works of such varied thinkers as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Weber and Lukács.”


  • Mister Rible
    • justsomeone

      And the follow-up article http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/09/wiltshire-police-apologise-details-charlie-hebdo-readers
      So according to the police, they were doing it with the best of intentions and purely in order for the newsagent to be vigilant. Unbelievable. It’s such a ridiculous excuse and the police shouldn’t be allowed to get away with making such patently absurd excuses.

      • Mister Rible


        • justsomeone

          One would think that what happened in Paris was that innocent Muslims were murdered by people who had one thing in common, that they all read Charlie Hebdo, a subversive, pro-terrorism magazine. Otherwise why would the police be so interested in finding out who ordered the magazine?
          I’ll go out on a limb and wager the policeman was a Muslim.
          And that 10 years from now, not only would the police collect this sort of information but will also place the ‘suspects’ under surveillance and visit them or arrest them, then let them go and explain that it was all done with the best of intentions.
          Now let’s guess what will happen 5-10 years after that.

  • Dave

    Recently read “Retreat of Reason” by Anthony Brown (Civitas). All you need to know about the machinations of the Politically Correct lobby.

  • Umberto

    Fahrenheit 451 of the speech.

  • Dave

    “The Retreat of Reason” by Anthony Browne…..(Civitas)…..Enough history of political correctness to choke on. Damn good book.

    • justsomeone

      It’s brilliant. Ideally, it would be taught in high school.
      The Conservatives should have done that, but didn’t.
      UKIP should do it, and will almost certainly not.
      There’s also another aspect. The right is as guilty as the left when it comes to preferring slogans over reason. This book is a brilliant analysis. It’s a defense of reason. As such, only people who like books and reason will read it. That’s perhaps 5% of the population. Most of the population is reasonable but does not like to reason. The future will be tweeted.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    A Catholic mentioning witch hunt: Foot in mouth or shot to the foot. I lean towards the latter.

  • anthony_moore123

    If no offence is intended, which it generally isn’t, the appropriate response to a Leftist accusation of causing offence is to note that such a posture is solely the deliberate choice of the person making the claim. It’s literally an infantile strategy for disagreeing with someone. The accusation of intolerance is just a weak and dishonest attempt for these people to try and project their own inadequacies and intolerances on to others, for it is they who have the serious personal problems with another’s way with words.

  • lionstorm

    I’m offended that my opinion wasn’t sought before this piece was published. As a white male, and thus nearly continuously in the role of asphalt under the PC steamroller, I should have been consulted, assuring that my thoughts, desires, and such received a proper hearing.

  • Cedders_B

    In my experience, the most vigorous proponents of PC behaviour and PC-speak are people who are the least willing and least able to engage in any form of discussion or negotiation about what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviour / language. I think this attitude could be called “tyranny of the timid”.