Saturday, 25 February 2017

Political Correctness (PC)

In his recent TV programme on Channel 4, Trevor Phillips, suggested a strong connection between political correctness and the rise of 'popularism'; Trump, Farage, LePen, Brexit etc.I have been suggesting this for some time and was pleased to see Trevor Phillips - ex head of the Commission for Racial Equality - addressing this important issue. But let me take a closer look at PCness.

We need to distinguish between, on one hand, words/phrases that are liable to give offence and, on the other, opinions that can cause offence. The potential for offence generated by words/phrases varies over time and common usage. For example, the f-word has been largely blunted by its constant use in the popular TV comedy, "Mrs Brown's Boys" as well as its ubiquitous use from building-sites to the board-room. Calling a homosexual man a "queen" is not the eyebrow raiser it once was. Having said that the use of these words/phrases is often unwise and sometimes can give offence. Why refer to a Jewish man as a 'yid' when it is just as easy to say Jew and avoid the possibility of being taken for an anti-Semite?

On the other hand, it is unreasonable to claim to have been offended by an expressed opinion when you have the option of countering with evidence to the contrary. If you opine that the Holocaust didn't happen, I can counter with massive amounts of evidence that it did. If the opportunity to challenge isn't there - for example, it's in a TV documentary - frustration is understandable as is the suspicion of bigotry/offence.

How is this connected to 'popularism'? Over-use of accusations like 'sexist', 'homophobic', 'Islamophobic' have generated latent frustration in the general public. Politicians have been overcautious in trying to avoid giving offence. The menace of violent Islamic extremism has been down-played by politicians for fear of causing a violent anti-Muslim backlash. The populist politicians have broken through these bounds and this is resonating with the feelings of the person-in-the-street. Is this a good thing?

To the extent that these issues are now on the agenda, yes. Is this not putting the wrong people in powerful positions? Also, yes. We have to hope that this is a passing phase and that these people will be seen for the opportunists they are and will eventually be replaced by much better and wiser leaders.


  1. Hello John, I've been enjoying reading your blog posts, but would like to ask you about something not directly related to them. I hope that's okay! (I tried to find an e-mail address for you, but without success.)

    I noticed that on another blog, The Jewish Mother, you used the word 'uchagut'. It's a word my mum used to use, but when I asked her what it meant she found it hard to define. Can you tell me the meaning of this expression?

    You might be surprised to learn that, when I googled for it, your comment was the only result that came up, at least with that spelling! I did try out other possible spellings, but drew a blank. It doesn't appear in any Yiddish dictionary I've looked at either.

    I hope you can help me with this mystery! :)

    All the best,

    1. Hi Rose !! I've only just seen this. It means 'Poor thing'. If you use it as an adjective it means that the person looks like a 'poor thing'.