I have recently had an interesting experience in a university chat room. As might be expected in these pc times, the contributors are overwhelmingly “right on”, positively dripping with mantras about the joy of diversity and the blissful wonders of internationalism and multiculturalism, especially as this affects the university..
When the conversation turned to food served at the university over the past 50 years, a number of non-pc comments unexpectedly appeared. I decided to play a game with the politically correct to demonstrate how oppressive the political correctness has become. Here are a couple of the exchanges I had :
“the reverse was equally felt when you went in a kitchen to find a chinese student had boiled their noodles in the kettle, and/or the kitchen reeked of chinese food”
RH Dearie me, that’s the sort of critical comment about ethnic minorities which can get a criminal record these days….RH ‘
” Internationalisation is taken very seriously here – not just for the fees – but to create a genuine global community that “caters” (as far is possible) for all…. ”
How wondrously pc…. But from the same person…
“It is a common sight for thirty (we’ll, it looks like thirty!) Chinese to squeeze into one kitchen to boil rice together…”
Such offerings had two effects: they reeled in both those who purport to be politically correct but have made distinctly non-pc comments (you could almost smell their fear) and those who are willing to point at the non-pc culprits and shout the modern equivalent of “heretic!” The finger-pointing and denials are still rattling happily along. Most astonishing, many of the chatroom participants are vehemently denying my charge that they are politically correct, including the person who wrote ” Internationalisation is taken very seriously here – not just for the fees – but to create a genuine global community that “caters” (as far is possible) for all…. ” . It is a very, very strange world we are living in.
The comments I reproduced above might be thought harmless enough and in a sane world they would be. But in the mad world we live in they could easily come to the notice of employers and state authorities and be deemed racist.
Take first this “the reverse was equally felt when you went in a kitchen to find a chinese student had boiled their noodles in the kettle, and/or the kitchen reeked of chinese food“. Imagine a white working-class family living in, for example, east London in a tower block where they were the only white family with the rest of the block drawn from those whose ancestry lies in the Indian sub-continent . (This is a very plausible scenario today). Imagine further that they complained about the smell of curry being regularly cooked. Would anyone want to put money on that complaint not being judged deeply racist by politicians, police, the CPS and the media with a strong likelihood of the white family being evicted and criminal charges being brought against one or both of the parents?
Then there is “It is a common sight for thirty (we’ll, it looks like thirty!) Chinese to squeeze into one kitchen to boil rice together…” This comment could easily be interpreted by the university authorities and the state agencies to be racist because whatever its author’s intentions it could be seen as a way of saying “My, aren’t they different from us” or even “We are being swamped by them”. It is not utterly fanciful to imagine the writer losing his job, being labelled a racist which would prevent future employment in his chosen field and being the subject of a police investigation if someone complained about his words to the university authorities and the police.
If readers think that those scenarios are unrealistic I suggest they reflect on the recent case of Conservative MP Tim Loughton’s treatment by the police for calling a man ‘unkempt’.
Tim Loughton, the ex-Children’s Minister, was interviewed under caution by detectives for 90 minutes last August after he sent a strongly-worded email to Kieran Francis rejecting his complaints about a local council.
Police also interviewed the MP’s staff and trawled through his correspondence before the Crown Prosecution Service finally decided last month that the case should be dropped without any charges being brought, the Mail on Sunday reported.
Mr Loughton spoke today of his “huge relief” that his ordeal was over but said he would be demanding an explanation from the Chief Constable of Sussex Police.
The Tory MP, who said he had no idea of Mr Francis’s traveller background, added: “This has knocked my confidence in the police and made me wonder whether there are certain elements for whom political correctness has become too much of a driving force.
“Because of the merest hint of something to do with racism and the sensitivities about travellers, the police go into overdrive.”
Police launched the investigation after Mr Francis complained about an email in which Mr Loughton said a council official’s description of him as “unkempt” was “eminently accurate”.
Mr Francis said he was disappointed the investigation had been dropped, telling the Mail on Sunday: “What he called me was racist and disrespectful. My mother was from a Romany family and my Member of Parliament basically called me dirty.”
Sussex Police said in a statement: “An allegation of malicious communication was reported to Sussex Police, and was fully investigated in the same way it would be for any member of the public.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9905488/Police-investigate-Conservative-MP-Tim-Loughton-for-calling-man-unkempt.html ).
The man called unkempt was a gipsy. This was deemed racist despite the fact that Loughton did not know the person was from gypsy stock and had merely agreed with a description of the man given by someone else. But even if he had known the man was a gypsy so what? It would not change the fact that the man was unkempt if he was unkempt. Yet the police were willing to spend six months on the investigation. If that can happen to an MP it could happen to anyone.
The primary problem for those living in a totalitarian state is that no matter how hard they try to stay on message, no matter how hard they try to show their loyalty to the ruling power they can never be safe. This is a constant theme of those caught up in the years of Stalin’s purges. In 1984 Orwell described the problem neatly with the minor characters Parsons and Syme. Parsons is a dull, stupidly slavish follower of the party with two ghastly children who belong to the Spies and Youth League. Parsons ends up arrested because his daughter claims he shouted in his sleep “Down with Big Brother”. When he arrested he is still babbling pathetically about how his daughter’s informing against him shows how he “brought her up proper”.
Syme is a different kettle of fish. He is a genuine intellectual who is involved with the development of Newspeak. He is deeply committed to the Party at both the emotional and intellectual level. But intellectuals are a problem for any totalitarian state because they are in love with ideas and who knows where their thoughts will take them. On day Syme does not turn up for work at the Ministry of Truth. He is never seen again. No one at the Ministry mention his disappearance or ever refer to him again.
Orwell’s message is simple: no one can be safe. It does not matter whether you are stupid or intelligent, eager to tow the party line or rebellious, the outcome is likely to be just the same.
I conducted the exercise not to gratuitously to frighten those in the chatroom, but simply to illustrate the state we now live in. It is a totalitarian state, a soft form of totalitarianism but totalitarianism nonetheless – at present. We have not reached the stage where people are tortured and murdered or vanish anonymously into labour camps, but those who breach its rules regugaly suffer loss of employment, denial of employment, vilification by the media and politicians and, increasingly, investigation by the police and prosecution. Recently, prison has begun to be used quite freely. Those “soft” totalitarian measures will become more and more severe as time passes because that is the way with such things.
This situation has arisen for one reason and one reason only: people have not protested. That is always why authoritarian regimes survive. Free expression is the disinfectant of elite misbehaviour. It was very illuminating (and depressing) that not one person in the chatroom posted to say how disturbed they were by Tim Loughton’s treatment.
How would most people fare if they were arrested for alleged racism? The odds are that if you were arrested for alleged racism (or any other pc “crime”) you would simply collapse, plead guilty and make a Maoist confession of guilt. That is so because almost every case which comes to public has those outcomes.
When faced with the forces of the state (at least in a place like the UK where the idea of the rule of law still has a strong cultural and institutional hold) it always pays to go on the attack , because the worst thing that can happen is that you cause those with power to think you are frightened. If that happens they will simply ride all over you. Plead not guilty and make it clear that your defence will be that of free expression and against the censorship practised by the politically correct elite. In all probability that will get the charges dropped because the powers that be really do not want their authoritarian behaviour challenged in open court. Even if you are convicted you will have lost nothing important because in the past year or so those who have pleaded guilty and offered the Maoist apology have still been jailed. Moreover, if you plead guilty you will be certain of carrying the millstone of a conviction for racial incitement or something similar for the rest of your life. That will affect your employability and travel to many parts of the world. If you plead not guilty you always have a sporting chance of avoiding that fate.