I know a kind person who has achieved a lot. We first met 40 years ago, although for many years we were not in touch. Then we remade contact, and now I don’t think we’re friends anymore. He found my political incorrectness hard to bear.
I still remember an incident from around 1990 when I told him I found it frustrating that the checkout girls at my local supermarket — this was in London — could neither speak nor understand English. A chill descended. I had done something wrong by making what I had thought was a natural remark.
More recently we corresponded about a philosophical theory, to which I raised a naïve objection. I don’t remember his reply exactly, but he didn’t like my point, yet couldn’t seem to think of an answer, and said something that struck me as evasive. In our revived friendship I often found myself thinking this of things he said.
Although a philosophy graduate, he is more interested in physics, and might qualify a comment I saw as mere common sense with a reference to the movement of planetary bodies. When I suggested that most people define truth as correspondence with reality, he contested the point by talking about the conservation of momentum and quantum-mechanical limits.
He has immense confidence in his beliefs, which are the yardstick by which he measures the quality of an idea. Yet, while he thought he had worked his beliefs out for himself, to me they bore an uncanny resemblance to those purveyed by the BBC.
In his mind, social class is a prevailing concept. Whereas his parents were working class, mine were middle class, which for him meant that I must have led a coddled life. When I told him a few things that showed that this was not the case, I don’t think he could take them in. They didn’t fit in with his preconceptions.
We enjoyed discussing things — or arguing, if you like — but because his positions were invariably politically correct, and what is politically correct is invariably untrue, I eventually won almost every argument, which I found embarrassing. It would have been better if he had taken less silly positions.
I don’t mean to be unkind about James, as I will call him, who has been very good to me. When I moved back to London in the 1980s to take a new job, he put me up in his flat while I looked for somewhere to live. He had me to stay for a weekend last year and went to a lot of trouble on my account. I would not attack him. I am just describing him.
I know one can’t bring facts home to people who are determined to shut them out, but I couldn’t accept that this applied to James. Surely he must bow to facts, I thought. But I kept finding that when he was proven wrong, it made no difference to his opinion.
He sedulously avoided sources of information he thought would contradict him. Once, when the subject of race came up and he rejected something I said, I offered to send him an article that would explain the situation. I’m pretty sure he never read it.
I found his denials of my statements about things I had looked into and he hadn’t so tiresome that I decided to stop talking to him about subjects on which our opinions might differ. But I couldn’t keep it up, so our discussions continued.
Why did we always seem to have opposite opinions? Mainly, I think, because I had studied political correctness, especially as conveyed by the mainstream media, and it was largely from the mainstream media that James got his picture of the world. I was interested in propaganda; nothing interested him less. The media’s politically-correct propaganda was now so comprehensive that our opinions differed on almost everything.
I was puzzled by his attitude to our cultural heritage. On the one hand he appeared attached to it. He belongs to two orchestras and runs a Shakespeare group that’s working its way through the plays, but he seemed untroubled by the attacks on our culture being made before our eyes. I told him about a recently published illustrated book on the history of music, the first few pages of which contained a dozen pictures including none of a white composer: no Bach, no Mozart, no Beethoven; instead, they contained a tiny picture of a white rock ‘n’ roll group and a couple of enormous ones of black musicians. He didn’t seem to see anything amiss.
He knew that theater producers increasingly mess with the race and even the sex of Shakespeare’s characters; indeed, it was he who told me that they were now also messing with the text, but he seemed to think nothing of it. Wondering if he could see the implications, I asked him what he thought would be next. He refused the question, saying that I was asking him to predict the future.
James has a young daughter who calls him by his first name, a sign of his egalitarianism. He is one of those parents who doesn’t tell a child what to do, but asks her and says please. He won’t let the poor girl know that there is someone above her, in charge.
He had a way of acting as though he didn’t understand the use of the English language. If I made a general statement, he would cite an exception as though this defeated me, appearing to think that generalizations purport to cover every case. Tell him that terriers like going after rats, to give an invented example, and he would say that he once knew a terrier that wasn’t interested in rats.
Once, he pretended not to understand the expression “to be happy with.” When I told him that Madeleine Albright, whom he turned out to admire, had said that she was happy with half a million Iraqi children being killed as a result of her sanctions, he queried the reference. Was I sure that she’d actually said that the deaths filled her with happiness? He made out that he didn’t know that being happy with something only means that you’re willing to accept it.
Regarding our institutions’ intensifying attacks on the truth, when I said that I’d heard that the Science Museum had removed the statement that there are two sexes from the information it provided about a particular item, he said yes, he’d seen it. He made no other comment. Regarding our institutions’ attacks on our history, I wondered — privately; I didn’t ask him — whether he’d taken his daughter to the Museum of Childhood only to find that it was closed, its whole collection having been disposed of. Would he have just shrugged his shoulders?
When in 2022 I asked him whether he still believed what we’d been told about COVID and he said yes, I told him it surprised me. Did he honestly think that the “vaccines” were safe and effective? He said he did, despite having had the disease after being vaccinated and boosted as many times as recommended. The vaccines weren’t supposed to stop us getting the disease, he said, only to stop us having to go to hospital. That was a new one on me for a vaccine.
When I mentioned that more reports of harmful effects had been submitted regarding the “vaccines” than had been submitted regarding all previous treatments and medicines combined, he scoffed contemptuously. Presumably the BBC hadn’t mentioned this, or had said that it was a myth.
A barrier seemed to come down in his mind as soon as he saw an unwanted fact coming. If he couldn’t escape it, he would misinterpret it, no matter how perversely. Seeing that he wasn’t interested in the truth, or even saw it as the enemy, again I told myself to keep away from controversial subjects.
I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but one day I wondered whether James was not a victim of brainwashing. He acted like a member of a cult.
When I told him I’d been keeping a diary of events following the death of George Floyd, he asked me what beliefs it expressed, seeming to worry about harmful ideas I might be advocating. I pointed out that a diary doesn’t express beliefs, but records events and one’s thoughts about them. “Yes, but what beliefs does it express?” he asked again, seeming to insist that my diary must be a manifesto promoting dreadful heresies.
In being prepared to judge the diary without knowing what it said, he was “doing a Leena,” Leena being a woman I knew who once told me that she hated and despised the Daily Telegraph. “What don’t you like about it?” I asked. She’d never read it, she replied: She wouldn’t stoop to reading such a contemptible publication.
When I told James that, having wrapped up the Black Lives Matter diary after two years, I had edited it to make it readable by others, he suggested that I warn them about the sort of thing it contained. Not only did he still have no idea what this was, but he presumed to think that I might have prepared it to be read by others without writing an introduction.
I sent him the introduction, which mentioned the themes of the events concerned, and said that I saw them in terms of race, a concept many people are afraid of or don’t believe in. He responded by saying he wasn’t sure what I meant by “black people.” His difficulty with this expression apparently prevented him from commenting on anything the introduction said.
Although political correctness, now for some reason called “wokeness,” has only progressed over the years, James seemed to me archaic. He reminded me of a PC zealot of the 1980s, always ready to condemn a generalization or a reference to an unwanted reality. But eschewing generalizations means acting as if you’ve learned nothing about the world, and why would one pretend that unwanted realities don’t exist? Anyway, who says they’re unwanted? What to a hypersensitive PC person might be unbearable, to someone else might be an easily accepted fact of life. But of course, it’s precisely to stop people acquiring general knowledge and to make them think that if unwanted realities aren’t mentioned, they won’t be there, that political correctness has these rules.
James was particularly touchy about generalizations concerning women or non-whites, especially black people. What seemed to me to be a neutral comment, he would describe as “negative,” meaning that it shouldn’t have been made. Of course, if it really had been negative, he would have been incensed.
I wouldn’t describe James as particularly observant. I was surprised to learn that after living in London for 35 years, he still didn’t know that black people were particularly prone to crime. But then, political correctness requires one not to notice things.
He had picked up from the BBC the habit of referring to facts he didn’t like as “views,” making them sound optional. When I sent him a well-argued and highly empirical article by a commentator I admired, he described the contents as “fun opinions.” I found the belittling remark not only insulting to the author, but also characteristic of his way of dismissing arguments he couldn’t counter or knowledge he didn’t want.
Once, I asked him whether he thought it would be an exaggeration to say that Britain was turning into a totalitarian police state. People were losing their jobs for expressing disapproved opinions and being visited by the police for posting the wrong kinds of limericks on social media. The police were not only flying over the hills to tell hikers to go home; they were inspecting people’s shopping for “non-essential” items and breaking up church services. They were encouraging people to spy on their neighbors and report them for breaking any nonsensical rule that had just been introduced. It reminded me of Communist East Germany. James replied that totalitarian states were nasty places, whereas we lived in heaven. He said that he didn’t think that these developments amounted to much. He was a modern Pangloss.
I got so tired of his dogmatically-asserted opinions about COVID that I sent him a list of questions. Did he agree with the government’s decision to end our lockdown and social distancing rules, or with the Icelandic epidemiologist who said that such measures might need to continue for 15 years? Did he agree with the Indian professor who said that India’s lockdown had been devastating, or with the Indian government, which put the country into lockdown when only one in every 37.5 million people was affected? How did he explain the fact that the COVID death rate was lower in the US states that weren’t locked down than in the ones that were?
Did he think that Anthony Fauci had been right to say that wearing masks could damage people’s health, or right to say that it was essential? Was Fauci on the mark when he said that the vaccinated didn’t need to wear masks, or when he said they did? Was his advice good when he said that children could go out of doors without a mask on, or when he said that they mustn’t leave the house without wearing one? I wanted to see how someone who took his opinions from the authorities dealt with situations when the authorities contradicted each other, or themselves.
I asked him whether he was aware that the Office for National Statistics had stated, before our first lockdown, that the coronavirus was no longer considered a high-consequence infectious disease, and how he explained the sudden disappearance of it from the news agenda in February 2022. I wondered if he had realized that this was to make room for the next thing that was supposed to obsess us — namely, the coming events in Ukraine.
His reply was strange. This most opinionated person said that he didn’t know what his opinions were, and changed the subject to me. Why had I asked him these questions? Did I have some sort of agenda? He couldn’t imagine that I might simply have been interested in knowing the answers, of which he gave me not a single one.
What can be concluded about the politically correct from this example?
- They are devoted to their chosen authorities and accept whatever they are offered by them.
- They know that there are certain realities that must be denied, and will go out of their way to avoid making contact with them. They are determined not to know what is going on.
- They claim to be unaware of some of the most basic facts of life.
- They believe that certain groups must be protected from all criticism.
- They disapprove of generalizations. They don’t like to admit that human groups have characteristics.
- They have deserted reason. It doesn’t matter how idiotic the statements that political correctness suggests to them may be; they will make those statements.
- They are in favor of racial and sexual equality, by which they mean running white men out of town.
- Where Western civilization is concerned, James is unusual in having a foot in both the pro-camp and the anti-camp, or rather the camp that doesn’t seem to mind what happens to Western civilization. Most PC people are less undecided. They feel thoroughly ashamed of Western civilization and want to see the end of it.
- Yet, they can be basically nice people. It’s just that their minds have been taken over by anti-racism, feminism, and the other ideologies that make up political correctness.
 Newsweek, March 23, 2022, “Watch: Madeleine Albright Saying Iraqi Kids’ Deaths ‘Worth It’ Resurfaces.”
 Summit News, July 29, 2021, “Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Suggests COVID-19 Restrictions Could Last For Up to 15 Years.”
 SpectatorTV, May 7, 2021, “Professor Jay Bhattacharya: India’s lockdown had ‘devastating consequences’ | SpectatorTV.”
 Lockdown was announced in India on March 24, 2020. A week later, India’s official COVID death toll was 32 out of a population of 1.2 billion.
 “As of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK.” See “High consequence infectious diseases (HCID)”, first published by the Office for National Statistics on October 22, 2018. By September 2022 it was published by the UK Health Security Agency. HCIDs are defined as acutely infectious, often fatal, and possibly difficult to detect rapidly or treat. Examples include Ebola, Lassa fever, pneumonic plague, and Avian influenza H5N1.
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