The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'political correctness'
A survey of British Sign Language users, asking signers of various ages to show the signs for various ethnic and other minority groups, has revealed that signs based on stereotypes have been replaced by more neutral signs; well, in most cases:
It is no longer acceptable to sign a slanted eye when talking about the Chinese or to mime a hook nose when referring to Jewish people. The flick of a limp wrist is now an offensive signal for homosexuals. A finger pointing to an imaginary spot in the middle of a forehead is no longer appropriate as the sign for India.As for the new, culturally sensitive equivalents? Well, Chinese people wear Mao jackets and Jews have beards. India is indicated by the triangular shape of its continent, and being gay is indicated, for some reason, by “an upright thumb on one hand in the palm of the other, wobbling from side to side”. Meanwhile, France is no longer represented by pantomiming the twirling of a moustache, but instead by the comb of a cockerel (the symbol of France).
Did I say in most cases? Well, the Germans, it seems, are still the Huns of the Great War in Deaf Britain:
All British signers put their fist to their forehead with a finger pointing straight up, mimicking the shape of a Prussian spiked helmet, to refer to Germans.The change in sign language is analogous to the change in accepted word usage among the hearing, with older people likely to use older terms which may have become offensive since they learned them. Interestingly enough, the “offensive” signs have to an extent been reclaimed by those referred to them:
"Gay deaf people use the old sign for gay, and disabled deaf people use the traditional sign for disabled, even though no one from outside that group who was socially sensitive would use those signs any more," said Woll.
A musician on the Isle of Wight was arrested for racial harrassment after playing the 1970s hit Kung Fu Fighting in front of a Chinese mother and son. He denies deliberately playing the song at them, and says that he was already playing it before they entered and took offence. Does this mean that the Oriental Riff is now considered musical hate speech, the melodic equivalent of a racist epithet?
Senior Catholics in Scotland are claiming that the old song Hokey Cokey was written to mock the Catholic mass, and singing it could fall foul of hate crime laws:
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Catholic church in Scotland, said: “This song, although apparently innocuous, was devised as an attack on and a parody of the Catholic mass.”
According to the church, the song’s title derives from “hocus pocus”. The phrase is said to be a Puritan satire on the Latin “hoc est enim corpus meum”, or “this is my body”, used by Catholic priests to accompany the transubstantiation during mass.
John Birmingham puts forward the case that the political right pretty much has a monopoly on humour, with the left having become too puritanical and politically correct to laugh, with the voices that dare to be outrageous being predominantly right-wing, from shock-jocks and reactionary bloggers to institutions like VICE Magazine (infamously offending the uptight by pejoratively calling things "gay") and the creators of South Park and Team America (who skewered Hollywood liberals and left-wing sanctimony alike).
Of course, this relies on a rather broad definition of "right-wing", as anything that goes against a doctrinaire liberal/progressive view of propriety and "political correctness". By this token, one would classify Coco Rosie as a right-wing band, placing them in the same ideological milieu as Pat Robertson and Little Green Footballs, because one of their number attended "Kill Whitey" parties. And while VICE's Gavin McInnes claimed in American Conservative to represent a hip new conservatism (a view he later retracted, claiming he was joking/being ironic), the cocaine-snorting, nihilistic libertinism epitomised in the magazine, as much as it may offend "liberals" (or straw-man caricatures thereof), hardly fits well with the canon of conservatism and its emphasis on values, tradition and authority. However, it does fit in with the recently noted shift towards Hobbesian nihilism and radical individualism.
On a tangent: some American conservatives are concerned about FOXNews' alarming slide to the radical left; the channel, once the shining beacon of all things Right-thinking, has been compromising its Fair And Balanced™ reputation by running programmes on topics such as global warming. Pundits blame the influx of liberally-inclined ex-CNN reporters, the staffers having spent too long in Godless New York, away from the Biblical certainties of the Red States, or Murdoch not really being "One Of Us", but rather a cynical opportunist.
And finally, a study on the neurology of political belief has showed that True Believers of both stripes are adept at ignoring facts which don't jive with their beliefs, and experience a rush in the reward centres of the brain when they do:
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."
The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say. Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.
The Liberal Democrats have volunteered to be the butt of humourless-environmentalist jokes by issuing a Christmas statement saying that Santa Claus should deliver his presents by bus because reindeer are too polluting.
According to the Lib Dems, nine reindeer would emit methane with a global-warming impact equivalent to 40,667 tonnes of carbon dioxide as they covered the 122 million miles needed to deliver to every house in the world.
This makes his sleigh ride almost as environmentally unfriendly as an aircraft, which would produce 41,480 tonnes of CO2 on the Christmas Eve trip.Of course, the question arises of whether a bus covering those distances at the speed required to deliver all the presents would be any less polluting. Unless they mean that Mr. Claus uses existing bus services and other public transport to do his deliveries, in which case they would most probably take many years to complete, and leave many non-urban children completely without presents.
Banks in Britain are getting rid of piggy banks, because they may offend Muslims. Pigs are considered unclean under Islam. Some Muslims have applauded the move, while others have joined criticism of it as taking political correctness to absurd lengths:
"We live in a multicultural society and the traditions and symbols of one community should not be obliterated just to accommodate another," Mr Mahmoud said. "I doubt many Muslims would be seriously offended by piggy banks."
Today's Onion has some great stories, including No One Makes It To Burning Man, Horrified Teen Stumbles Upon Divorced Mom's Personal Ad (heh!), and the very insightful Graphic Artist Carefully Assigns Ethnicities to Anthropomorphic Recyclables:
Added Bellisle: "That brings another problem to light: If you include one woman in the mix, no one cares what race she is. As if one female recycling drum can represent female recycling drums of all races, but male recyclables deserve further distinction."
Drawing friendly, nondescript male characters is not the answer, said Bellisle. "Look at this grinning soda can giving the thumbs-up here," she said. "Everyone subconsciously assumes it's a Caucasian male."
"I have no idea how to make the plastic milk jug look gay," Bellisle said. "I don't want to make him a bottle of water, for obvious reasons. Maybe I'll use a soy-milk container when I draw the gay jug. Or maybe they'll let me switch him with the Chicano, this tin can here.
Unfortunately, though, the Onion seem to have switched their system so that the URLs of stories become invalid after the current week, thus reducing their bloggability. Which sucks.
Proof that the Professional Australian commentariat don't have a monopoly for daft acts of grand symbolism: there's a movement in Britain to add the colour black to the Union Flag. The campaign, calling itself reFLAG are pushing the redesign of the flag to better reflect Britain as a multiracial society (the presence of white and not black, you see, reflects the inherent racism in British society, much like the word "manager" is a sexist term and the use of binary numbers in computers is phallocentric). Though wouldn't the inclusion of black marginalise the Queen's yellow- and brown-skinned subjects, by implying that they're invisible? And what about Wales?
A Guardian piece denouncing the Lord of the Rings as racist; in particular, taking issue with the way that the entire orc race is condemned, and the problematic characterisation of good and evil ethnicities and races:
To cap it all, the races that Tolkien has put on the side of evil are then given a rag-bag of non-white characteristics that could have been copied straight from a BNP leaflet. Dark, slant-eyed, swarthy, broad-faced - it's amazing he doesn't go the whole hog and give them a natural sense of rhythm.
Over-the-top political correctness, or does he have a point? Is LotR any more "racist" than mainstream consensus was 50 years ago? If not, should old literature be sanitised or censored to kill the poisonous ideas lurking within it? (Perhaps it should be treated like Mein Kampf, and released only with scholarly annotations deconstructing it?) Discuss.
Greenpeace have released a guide to environmentally safe sex, for highly principled people, with advice such as "if you like to use produce to get the blood boiling, make sure it is GE-free", and making sure that paddles are made from sustainably-harvested timber; not to mention suggestions for role-playing S&M games such as "George Bush and Corporate America at the Earth Summit":
6. Have you got something more than a good time up your sleeve. Could it be polyvinyl chloride? Ditch the PVC and vinyl accessories for your playtime. The production of PVC creates and releases one of the most toxic chemicals - dioxin. You also don't want to be sucking on that stuff. The use of PVC in young children's toys has already been banned in many countries. Instead, opt for accessories made from natural substances like rubber or leather.
Not sure what animal-liberation groups will think of Greenpeace telling people to use leather instead of PVC. How about sex toys made from hemp and recycled tyres?