PC for Me, See?

“US Universities, cringing under a wave of Political Correctness and an extreme form of “multi-culturalism” are abandoning programmes which present the history of Western Civilisation as anything other than the history of the rape and plunder of minorities and other victims by a conspiracy of middle-class white males.” (“The Challenge to Reason”, Skeptic 34.)

Well I’m a skeptic. What is the evidence for that claim? And how does “multi-culturalism” differ from multi-culturalism? Bear in mind that for a very long time, the history of Western Civilisation (or Western “civilisation”) was presented as the activities of few but middle-class white males. The relatively sudden inclusion of non-whites and and non-males, and of the rape and plunder of minorities and other victims by middle-class white males (after such a long and significant silence on the subject) might make it look like that — especially to other middle-class white males.

I don’t see a wave of Political Correctness. I see only a war against something described as PC by its enemies, but which looks to me suspiciously like social justice and cultural sensitivity.

Here in Wellington, we see article after article, syndicated world-wide, all saying in effect, “Help! I’m being silenced! I can’t say that horis/niggers are lazy (and stupid — as in The Bell Curve), homos are unnatural, Jews are avaricious, women are bitches any more. Waaaaaah!” And in saying so, they contradict themselves. And just try to get a rebuttal published. So who is being silenced?

It’s not that something called Political Correctness has arrived for the first time, it’s that the struggle between two paradigms is hotting up. When the prevailing PC was white, male, heterosexual, etc. it wasn’t called that. Hell, it’s only 1993 when the Gisborne Herald refused to publish an advertisement containing the word “lesbian”.

If, as they say, PC is taking over the world, where do I join?

Hugh Young, Pukerua Bay

The Editor Replies

Hugh Young is obviously an excellent Skeptic; he quite properly asks for evidence for my claims regarding Political Correctness in America and for a definition of “multi-culturalism”. Until a few months ago when I was forced to familiarise myself with what is actually happening in US universities I would probably have asked the same questions.

The evidence for the PC Cringe and the new version of “multiculturalism” can be found in a number of publications including P.J. O’Rourke’s All the trouble in the World, Robert Hughes The Culture of Complaint, “End Game” by Pete Hamill in the November ’94 issue of Esquire magazine, “What to do About Education, 1: The Universities” by Gertrude Himmelfarb in the October issue of Commentary, and many issues of the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement.

The most appropriate piece of evidence on the PC cringe, given Mr Young’s particular interest in the issue, is from the case of Doe vs University of Michigan. In the Doe case a student had been subjected to a formal hearing under the university’s “Speech Code” (Yes, they actually have them) because he had expressed the belief, during a class on social work, that homosexuality was a disease susceptible to psychological treatment.

It should come as no surprise that an American student held this belief; until a few years ago it was the official position of most of the medical professional bodies in that country. Many fundamentalist groups refuse to consider any alternative. I am sure that had Mr Young been in the class he would have willingly mounted a well reasoned and well researched rebuttal of the claim. But if a University’s Speech Code prohibits a student from even expressing such a belief in class how will Mr Young or anyone else know that these beliefs continue to be held — and when will they be granted the opportunity to challenge them?

Fortunately the Court held “What the University could not do …was to establish an anti-discrimination policy which had the effect of prohibiting certain speech because it disagreed with the ideas or messages sought to be conveyed.”

Surely the terrifying aspect of the case is that a District Court Judge (of evidently limited literacy) has to point out this obvious truth to such a highly regarded academic institution as the once great University of Michigan. Does Mr Young look forward to such PC Speech Codes being introduced into New Zealand? Is this the PC rule he really wants to join?

As for “multi-culturalism” I experienced the difference between what we mean by the word and what the word means in the US in the course of preparing a paper for presentation to a group of American business executives in Florida later this year.

Here in New Zealand I am happy to call myself a multi-culturalist because it means no more than that one is tolerant of other cultures and is prepared to assess those cultures and their belief systems on their merits. But in the US, a declared “multi-culturist” holds that one can only respect other cultures if one is prepared to despise everything associated with Western culture or civilisation. My essay objected to those who present the history of Western civilisation as anything other than the history of the rape and plunder etc — a point which Mr Young appears to have overlooked.

Of course the history of Western civilisation has its share of horror stories including the Inquisition, slavery, the Salem witch hunts, Nazi Germany, Marxist Leninism and many cases where it never realised its own ideals. But name the culture that doesn’t. At least the Enlightenment led to constitutions which promoted ideals of liberty, equality, freedom of speech and belief and the other ideals which underpin any form of democracy and freedom.

Mr Young claims that there has been “a long and significant silence on the subject of plunder etc”. Well, the following white males have thundered against tyranny, slavery and despotism in all its forms: Aristotle, Epictetus, Aquinas, Plutarch, Calvin, Shakespeare, Milton, Hobbes, Locke, Swift, Voltaire, Mostesquieu, Rousseau, Smith, Kant, the Authors of the Federalist Papers, Mill, Boswell, Hegel, Tocqueville, Dickens, Doestoevsky, Twain, Darwin, and even Marx. So where is this long silence?

Multi-culturalism in the US means that universities now accept, and even encourage, so-called scholarship which seeks to re-write history so as to deny that there are any good tales to be told. Because Jews have played such a prominent role in the development of Western thought this new “multi-culturalism” has given new legitimacy to a remarkable rise in anti-Semitic “scholarship” such as texts widely circulated within black communities which claim that Jewry was responsible for the slave trade and that the slave trade was a uniquely western crime. (See for example The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, Volume One, The Nation of Islam, 1991)

In fact France was the first nation in history to make slavery illegal. Long after England, and then the US, abandoned the practice, the African slave trade continued to be run by joint ventures between African and Arabic states, as it had been for thousands of years. I have now learned that to write this last paragraph within many once-great US universities would probably cost me my job.

I can understand that given New Zealand’s limited and restrained practise of PC and multiculturalism Mr Young has found the concepts to be positive and encouraging for himself and his friends and colleagues battling against decades of homophobia. But these ideas, which have been taken to extremes in the US, have no place here. We know that child abuse exists; we also know that the US was first to turn this real problem into a victim-based industry which threw many hundreds of innocent people in jail and has damaged the lives of scores of thousands of others.

I don’t need ideologically driven speech-codes to tell me not to refer to kikes, niggers, and bitches in my classes, in my writings or in my private life. Tolerance, good manners and the normal standards of civilised behaviour are quite sufficient.

Owen McShane, Editor, author of “The Challenge to Reason”

Speaker’s Other Interests

Skeptics who attended the conference in Palmerston North will doubtless recall with amusement a talk on magnetic resonance devices given by Bruce Rapley, BSc, Dip. Psych., of Massey University. Mr Rapley, whose calling card describes him as “Bio-Electro-Magnetic Consultant (E.L.F.)”, is an energetic and entertaining speaker who cast a skeptical eye on Australian firms that are marketing magnetic paraphenalia that appear to me to be quack medical devices.

I was therefore surprised to be made aware of some of Mr Rapley’s other interests as described in literature that has come into my hands. Mr Rapley is a leader of something called Resonance Research, a non-profit organisation involved in “furthering the understanding of phenomena occurring at the margins of traditional knowledge”. RR offers “a variety of inspirational seminars and workshops”, and networks in the areas of Bio-Energy, Counselling, Geopathic Stress, Homeopathy, Radionics/Radiesthesia, and Vibrational Memory.

In particular, Mr Rapley has recently been energetically arranging a visit to New Zealand by Viera Scheibner, PhD, who warns against vaccinations. In particular Dr. Scheibner finds “obvious” the connection between “vaccine injections and cot death”.

Denis Dutton, University of Canterbury

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