Some of the bloggers who write to my site condemn the general outbreak of politically correct speech and writing. Some might like to break the rules of modern discourse by saying disobliging things about groups or types of people just for the frisson of it. One of the worst aspects of my job in moderating this site is taking out unpleasant generalisations whilst preserving the sense of the argument of the incoming contribution.
I do so not because I have lamely fallen prey to politically correct speech myself, but because I think observing courtesies to others and avoiding harsh generalisations is a good thing for society and for democratic debate. Under the modern rules of political correctness differential considerations apply. It is thought unacceptable to make harsh generalisations or issue sweeping criticisms of most minorities and all vulnerable groups. On the other hand it is often thought acceptable to condemn in general and unflattering terms the “rich”, members of mainstream parties, senior politicians or holders of other offices of power and influence, types of business, and people with certain views (“climate change deniers”, “Eurosceptics”).
Some of this shows a healthy democracy. The governed should be free to criticise the government, the person in an average job should be free to criticise the bosses, political opponents need some latitude in condemning their rivals. Some is itself over the top. A fair and open society needs to avoid making exceptions or villains of any group or type of people living within it, other than criminals.Some of it is potentially a libel based on prejudice and lies.
Let us take the vexed case of immigration. Many people and two political parties want it reduced. It should be possible in a democracy to make the case for controlled immigration, and to set out criteria for choosing who might come for jobs and citizenship to our country. What is not acceptable is to attribute a series of negative characteristics to groups of potential migrants with a view to creating tensions between communities and groups of people in our society.
In the case of global warming it is important we challenge the lazy and politically correct statements that all so often dominate this debate. It should not be offensive to anyone that some people wish to challenge the assumptions of global warming theory, as good scientists regularly test other scientific theories to see if they are right or if some other model provides a better explanation and predictions of the future.