Anthony Browne, The Retreat of Reason: Political Correctness and the Corruption of Public Debate in Modern Britain (London: Civitas, 2006)
Western civilization has progressed. Today, unlike in earlier centuries, we no longer burn heretics at the stake.
Instead, according to sociologist Steven Goldberg, himself no stranger to contemporary heresy, these days:
“All one has to lose by unpopular arguments is contact with people one would not be terribly attracted to anyway” (Fads and Fallacies in the Social Sciences: p222).
Unfortunately, however, Goldberg underplays, not only the psychological impact of ostracism, but also the more ominous consequences that sometimes attach to contemporary heresy.
“While columnists, academics, and filmmakers delight in condemning, without fear of reprisals, a form of McCarthyism that ran out of steam over half a century ago (i.e. anti-communism), few dare to incur the wrath of the contemporary inquisition by exposing a modern McCarthyism right here in our midst”
Thus, bomb and death threats were issued repeatedly to women such as Erin Pizzey and Suzanne Steinmetz for pointing out that women were just as likely, or indeed somewhat more likely, to perpetrate acts of domestic violence against their husbands and boyfriends as their husbands and boyfriends were to perpetrate acts of domestic violence against them – a finding now replicated in literally hundreds of studies (see also Domestic Violence: The 12 Things You Aren’t Supposed to Know).
Similarly, in the seventies, Arthur Jensen, a psychology professor at the University of California, had to be issued with an armed guard on campus after suggesting, in a sober and carefully argued scientific paper, that it was a “not unreasonable” hypothesis that the IQ difference between blacks and whites in America was partly genetic in origin.
Political correctness has also cost people their jobs.
Academics like Chris Brand, Helmuth Nyborg, Lawrence Sommers, Frank Ellis, Noah Carl and, most recently, Bo Winegard have been forced to resign or lost their academic positions as a consequence of researching, or, in some cases, just mentioning, politically incorrect theories such as the possible social consequences of, or innate basis for, sex and race differences in intelligence.
Indeed, even the impeccable scientific credentials of James Watson, a man jointly responsible for among the most important scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, did not spare him this fate when he was reported in a newspaper as making some controversial but eminently defensible comments regarding population differences in cognitive ability and their likely impact on prospects for economic development.
At the time of (re-)writing this piece, the most recent victim of this process of purging in academia is the celebrated historian, and long-term controversialist, David Starkey, excommunicated for some eminently sensible, if crudely expressed, remarks about slavery.
Meanwhile, as proof of the one-sided nature of the witch-hunt, during the very same month as that in which Starkey was excommunicated from public life, a non-white leftist female academic, Priyamvada Gopal, now a professor of ‘Postcolonial Studies’, tweeted the borderline genocidal tweet:
“White lives don’t matter. As white lives.”
Yet the only repercussions she faced from her employer, Cambridge University, was to be almost immediately promoted to a full professorship.
Cambridge University also, in response, issued a defence of their employees right to academic freedom, tweeting that:
“[Cambridge] University defends the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions which others might find controversial”.
This is indeed an admirable and principled stance – if applied consistently.
Unfortunately, however, although this tweet was phrased in general terms, and actually included no mention of Gopal by name, it was evidently not of general application.
For Cambridge University is, not only among the institutions from which Starkey was forced to tender his resignation this very same month, but also itself the very same institution that, only a year before, had denied a visiting fellowship to Jordan Peterson, the eminent public intellectual, for his controversial stances and statements on a range of topics, and which, only two years before, had denied an academic fellowship to researcher Noah Carl, after a letter calling for his dismissal which was signed by, among others, none other than the loathsome Priyamvada Gopal herself.
The inescapable conclusion is the freedom of “academics to express lawful opinions which others might find controversial” at Cambridge University applies, despite the general wording of the tweet from which these words are taken, only to those controversial opinions of which the leftist academic and cultural establishment currently approves.
Losing Your Livelihood
If I might be accused here of focusing excessively on freedom of speech in an academic context, this is only because academia is among the arenas where freedom of expression is most essential, as it is only if all ideas, howsoever offensive to certain protected groups, are able to freely circulate, and compete, in the marketplace of ideas that knowledge is able to progress through a selective process of testing and falsification.
However, although the university environment is, today, especially intolerant, nevertheless similar fates have also befallen non-academics, many of whom have been deprived of their livelihoods on account of their politics.
For example, in The Retreat of Reason, the 2006 book of which this post is ostensibly a review, Anthony Browne points to the case of a British headmaster sacked for saying Asian pupils should be obliged to learn English, a policy that was then, only a few years later, actually adopted as official government policy (p50).
In the years since the publication of ‘The Retreat of Reason’, such examples have only multiplied.
Indeed, today it is almost taken for granted that anyone caught saying something controversial and politically incorrect on the internet in his own name, or even under a pseudonym if subsequently ‘doxed’, is liable to lose his job.
Likewise, Browne noted that police and prison officers in the UK were then (and are still) barred from membership of the BNP, a legal and constitutional political party, but not from membership of Sinn Fein, who until quite recently had supported domestic terror against the British state, including the murder of soldiers, civilians and the police themselves, nor of various Marxist groups that openly advocate the violent overthrow of the whole capitalist system (p51-2).
Today, meanwhile, even believing that a person cannot change their biological sex is said to be a bar on admission into the British police.
Moreover, employees sacked on account of their political views cannot always even turn to their unions for support.
On the contrary, trade unions have themselves expelled their members for their political views, and indeed for membership of this same political party (p52). They have also successfully defended themselves in the European Court of Human Rights for doing precisely this, citing the right to freedom of association (see ASLEF v UK  ECHR 184).
Yet, ironically, freedom of association is not only the precise freedom denied to employers by anti-discrimination laws, but also the very same freedom that surely guarantees a person’s right to be a member of a constitutional, legal political party, or express controversial political views outside of their work, without being at risk of losing their job.
“One must be very disillusioned with democracy not to find it at least slightly unsettling that in Europe in the twenty-first century government employees are being banned from joining certain legal political parties but not others, legal democratic party leaders are being arrested in dawn raids for what they have said and political parties leading the polls are being banned by judges” (p57).
Of course, racists and members of parties like the BNP hardly represent a fashionable cause célèbre for civil libertarians. But, then, neither did other groups targeted for political persecution at the time of their political persecution. This is, of course, precisely what rendered them so vulnerable to persecution.
Political correctness is often dismissed as a trivial issue, which only bigots and busybodies bother complaining about when there are so many supposedly more serious problems and suffering around in the world.
Yet free speech is never trivial. When people lose their jobs and livelihoods because of currently unfashionable opinions, what we are witnessing is a form of modern McCarthyism.
Indeed, as conservative commentator David Horowitz observes:
“The era of the progressive witch-hunt has been far worse in its consequences to individuals and freedom of expression than was the McCarthy era… [not least because] unlike the McCarthy era witch-hunt, which lasted only a few years, the one enforced by left-wing ‘progressives’ is now entering its third decade and shows no signs of abating” (Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey).
Thus, the McCarthyism of the 1950s positively pales into insignificance as compared to the McCarthyism that operates in the west today. The former involved a few communists, suspected communists and communist sympathizers being forced out of their jobs at the height of the Cold War and of Soviet infiltration (which was very real); the latter involves untold numbers of people continuing to be forced from their jobs, excommunicated from public life, harassed, demonized and sometimes criminally prosecuted for politically-incorrect opinions.
Yet, while columnists, academics, and filmmakers delight in condemning, without fear of reprisals, a form of McCarthyism that ran out of steam over half a century ago (i.e. anti-communism during the Second Red Scare), few dare to incur the wrath of the contemporary inquisition by exposing a modern McCarthyism right here in our midst.
Browne’s ‘The Retreat of Reason’ was first published in 2006. Unfortunately, however, in the intervening decade and a half, despite Browne’s wise counsel, the situation has only worsened.
Thus, in 2006, Browne rightly championed New Media facilitated by the internet age, such as blogs, for disseminating controversial, politically-incorrect ideas and opinion, and thereby breaking the mainstream media monopoly on the dissemination of information and ideas (p85).
Here, Browne was surely right. Indeed, new media, such as blogs, have not only been responsible for disseminating ideas that are largely taboo in the mainstream media, but even for breaking news stories that had been suppressed by mainstream media, such as the predominant racial identity of the men responsible for the 2015-2016 New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Germany.
However, in the decade and a half since ‘The Retreat of Reason’ was published, censorship has become increasingly restrictive even in the virtual sphere.
Thus, internet platforms like YouTube, Patreon, Facebook and Twitter increasingly deplatform content-creators with politically incorrect viewpoints, and, in a particularly disturbing move, even some websites have been, at least temporarily, forced offline, or banished to the darkweb, by their web hosting providers.
Doctrinaire libertarians respond that this is not a free speech issue, because these are private business with the right to deny service to anyone with whom they choose not to contract.
In reality, however, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are far more than private businesses. As virtual market monopolies, they are part of the infrastructure of everyday life in the twenty-first century.
To be banned from communicating on Facebook is tantamount to being barred from communication in a public place.
Moreover, the problem is only exacerbated by the fact that the few competitors seeking to provide an alternative to these ‘Big Tech’ monopolies are themselves being de-platormed by their hosting providers as a direct consequence of their commitment to free speech and willingness to host controversial content.
Likewise, the denial of financial services, such as banking or payment processing, to groups or individuals on the basis of their politics is particularly troubling, effectively making it all but impossible those afflicted to remain financially viable. The result is effectively tantamount to being made an ‘unperson’.
Moreover, far from remaining a hub of free expression, social media has increasingly provided a rallying and recruiting ground for moral outrage and repression, not least in the form of so-called ‘twittermobs,’, intent on publicly shaming, harassing and denying employment opportunities to anyone of whose views they disapprove.
In short, if the internet has facilitated free speech, it has also facilitated political persecution, since today, it seems, one can enjoy all the excitement and exhilaration of joining a witchhunt, pitchfork proudly in hand, without ever straying from the comfort of your computer screen.
Explaining Political Correctness
For Browne, PC represents “the dictatorship of virtue” (p7) and replaces “reason with emotion” and subverts “objective truth to subjective virtue” (xiii).
“Political correctness is an assault on both reason and… democracy. It is an assault on reason, because the measuring stick of the acceptability of a belief is no longer its objective, empirically established truth, but how well it fits in with the received wisdom of political correctness. It is an assault on… democracy because [its] pervasiveness… is closing down freedom of speech” (p5).
Yet political correctness is not wholly unprecedented.
On the contrary, every age has its taboos. Thus, in previous centuries, it was compatibility with religious dogma rather than leftist orthodoxy that represented the primary “measuring stick of the acceptability of a belief” – as Galileo, among others, was to discover for his pains.
Although, as a conservative, Browne might be expected to be favourably disposed to traditional religion, he nevertheless acknowledges the analogy between political correctness and the religious dogmas of an earlier age:
“Christianity… has shown many of the characteristics of modern political correctness and often went far further in enforcing its intolerance with violence” (p29).
Indeed, this intolerance is not restricted to Christianity. Thus, whereas Christianity, in an earlier age, persecuted heresy with even greater intolerance than the contemporary left, in many parts of the world Islam still does.
As well as providing an analogous justification for the persecution of heretics, political correctness may also, Browne suggests, serve a similar psychological function to religion, in representing:
“A belief system that echoes religion in providing ready, emotionally-satisfying answers for a world too complex to understand fully and providing a gratifying sense of righteousness absent in our otherwise secular society” (p6).
Defining Political Correctness
What, then, do we mean by ‘political correctness’?
Political correctness evaluates a claim, not on its truth, but on its offensiveness to certain protected groups. Some views are held to be not only false, indeed sometimes not even false, but rather unacceptable, unsayable and beyond the bounds of acceptable opinion.
Indeed, for the enforcers of the politically correct orthodoxy, the truth or falsehood of a statement is ultimately of little interest to them.
Browne provides a useful definition of political correctness as:
“An ideology which classifies certain groups of people as victims in need of protection from criticism and which makes believers feel that no dissent should be tolerated” (p4).
Refining this, I would say that, for an opinion to be ‘politically incorrect’, two criteria must be met:
1) The existence of a group to whom the opinion in question is regarded as ‘offensive’;
2) The group in question must be perceived as ‘oppressed’.
Thus, it is perfectly acceptable to disparage and offend supposedly ‘privileged’ groups (e.g. males, white people, Americans or the English), but groups with ‘victim-status’ are deemed sacrosanct and beyond reproach, at least as a group.
Victim-status itself, however, seems to be rather arbitrarily bestowed.
Certainly, actual poverty or economic deprivation has little to do with it.
“It is acceptable to denigrate the white working class as ‘chavs’ , and ‘rednecks’, but multi-millionaires who happen to be black, female or homosexual can perversely pose as ‘oppressed’. The ‘ordinary working man’, once the quintessential proletarian, has found himself recast in leftist demonology as a racist, homophobic, wife-beating bigot.”
Thus, it is perfectly acceptable to denigrate the white working-class. Thus, pejorative epithets aimed at the white working class, such as ‘redneck’, ‘chav’ and ‘white trash’, are widely employed and considered socially-acceptable in polite (and not so polite) conversation (see The Redneck Manifesto).
Yet the use of comparably derogatory terms in respect of, say, black people, is considered wholly beyond the pale, and sufficient to end media careers in Britain and America.
However, multi-millionaires who happen to be black, female or homosexual are permitted to perversely pose as ‘oppressed’, and wallow in their own ostensible victimhood.
Thus, in the contemporary West, the Left has largely abandoned its traditional constituency, namely the working class, in favour of ethnic minorities, homosexuals and feminists.
In the process, the ‘ordinary working man’, once the quintessential proletarian, has found himself recast in leftist demonology as a racist, homophobic, wife-beating bigot.
Likewise, men are widely denigrated in popular culture. Yet, contrary to the feminist dogma which maintains that men have disproportionate power and are privileged, it is in fact men who are overwhelmingly disadvantaged by almost every sociological measure.
Thus, Browne writes:
“Men were overwhelmingly underachieving compared with women at all levels of the education system, and were twice as likely to be unemployed, three times as likely to commit suicide, three times as likely to be a victim of violent crime, four times as likely to be a drug addict, three times as likely to be alcoholic and nine times as likely to be homeless” (p49).
Indeed, overt discrimination against men, such as the different ages at which men and women were then eligible for state pensions in the UK (p25; p60; p75) and the higher levels of insurance premiums demanded of men (p73) are widely tolerated.
“The demand for equal treatment only goes as far as it advantages the [ostensibly] less privileged sex” (p77).
Victim status is not only seemingly arbitrarily accorded, it is also a relative concept.
Thus, the Scots and Irish may have a degree of victim status in their relationship with their historical enemy, the English, such that the vitriolic anti-English and anti-British rhetoric of many Scottish and Irish nationalists tends to receive a free pass – so long as it remains safely directed against the English.
However, as soon as Scottish or Irish nationalism comes to be directed, not against the British/English, but rather at recent nonwhite immigrants to Scotland and Ireland, who, unlike the English, arguably represent the real threat to Scottish and Irish identity and nationhood today, it suddenly becomes anathema and beyond the pale.
Likewise, women may indeed, as we have seen, possess victim power vis a vis men. However, as soon as the men in question decide to put on lipstick and dresses and identify as ‘transwomen’, suddenly the feminists find, much to their chagrin, that the high heel stilettos are, both literally and metaphorically, very much on the other foot.
The arbitrary way in which recognition as an ‘oppressed group’ is accorded, together with the massive benefits accruing to demographics that have secured such recognition, has created a perverse process that Browne aptly terms “competitive victimhood” (p44).
“Few things are more powerful in public debate than… victim status, and the rewards… are so great that there is a large incentive for people to try to portray themselves as victims” (p13-4)
Thus, groups currently campaigning for ‘victim status’ include, he reports, “the obese, Christians, smokers and foxhunters” (p14).
The result is what economists call perverse incentives.
“By encouraging people to strive for the bottom rather than the top, political correctness undermines one of the main driving forces in society, the individual pursuit of self-improvement” (p45)
This outcome can perhaps even be viewed as the ultimate culmination of what Nietzsche called the ‘transvaluation of values’, whereby, under the influence of Christian ethics, disadvantage, weakness and oppression are converted into positive virtues and even, paradoxically, into strength.
Euroscepticism & Brexit
Unfortunately, despite his useful definition of the phenomenon of political correctness, Browne goes on to use the term ‘political correctness’ in a broader fashion that goes beyond this original definition, and, in my opinion, extends the concept beyond its sphere of usefulness.
For example, he classifies ‘Euroscepticism’ – i.e. opposition to the further integration of the European Union – as a politically incorrect viewpoint (p60-62).
Here, however, there is no obvious ‘oppressed group’ in need of protection.
“The term ‘political correctness’ serves a similar function for conservatives as the term ‘fascist’ does for leftists – namely a useful catchall label to be applied to any views with which they themselves happen to disagree.”
Moreover, although widely derided as ignorant and jingoistic, Eurosceptical opinions have never been actually deemed ‘offensive’ or beyond the bounds of acceptable opinion.
On the contrary, they are regularly aired in mainstream media outlets, and even on the BBC, and recently scored a final victory in Britain with the Brexit campaign of 2016.
Browne’s extension of the concept of political correctness in this way is typical of many critics of political correctness, who succumb to the temptation to define as ‘political correctness’ as any view with which they themselves happen to disagree.
This enables them to tar any views with which they disagree with the pejorative label of ‘political correctness’.
It also, perhaps more importantly, allows ostensible opponents of political correctness to condemn the phenomenon without ever actually violating its central taboos by discussing any genuinely politically incorrect issues.
They can therefore pose as heroic opponents of the inquisition while never actually themselves incurring its wrath.
The term ‘political correctness’ therefore serves a similar function for conservatives as the term ‘fascist’ does for leftists – namely a useful catchall label to be applied to any views with which they themselves happen to disagree.
Jews, Muslims and the Middle East
Another example of Browne’s extension of the concept of political correctness beyond its sphere of usefulness is his characterization of any defence of the policies of Israel as ‘politically incorrect’.
“While the left endlessly recycles statistics demonstrating the overrepresentation of white males in positions of power and privilege, to cite similar statistics showing the even greater per capita overrepresentation of Jews in these exact same positions of power and privilege is somehow beyond the pale.”
Yet, here, the ad hominem and guilt-by-association methods of debate (or rather of shutting down debate), which Browne rightly describes as characteristic of political correctness (p21-2), are more often used by defenders of Israel than by her critics – though, here, the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ is substituted for the usual refrain of ‘racism’.
Thus, in the US, any suggestion that the US’s small but disproportionately wealthy and influential Jewish community influences US foreign policy in the Middle East in favour of Israel is widely dismissed as anti-Semitic and roughly tantamount to proposing the existence of a world Jewish conspiracy led by the Learned Elders of Zion.
Admittedly, Browne acknowledges:
“The dual role of Jews as oppressors and oppressed causes complications for PC calculus” (p12).
In other words, the role of the Jews as victims of persecution in National Socialist Germany conflicts with, and weighs against, their current role as perceived oppressors of the Palestinians in the Middle East.
However, having acknowledged this complication, Browne immediately dismisses its importance, all too hastily going on to conclude in the very same sentence that:
“PC has now firmly transferred its allegiance from the Jews to Muslims” (p12).
However, in many respects, the Jews retain their ‘victim-status’ despite their hugely disproportionate wealth and political power.
Indeed, perhaps the best evidence of this is the taboo on referring to this disproportionate wealth and power.
Thus, while the political Left never tires of endlessly recycling statistics demonstrating the supposed overrepresentation of ‘white males’ in positions of power and privilege, to cite similar statistics demonstrating the even greater per capita overrepresentation of Jews in these exact same positions of power and privilege is deemed somehow deemed beyond the pale, and evidence, not of leftist sympathies, but rather of being ‘far right’.
This is despite the fact that the average earnings of American-Jews and their level of overrepresentation in influential positions in government, politics, media and business relative to population size surely far outstrips that of any other demographic – white males very much included.
The Myth of the Gender Pay Gap
One area where Browne claims that the “politically correct truth” conflicts with the “factually correct truth” is the causes of the gender pay-gap (p8; p59-60).
This is also included by philosopher David Conway as one of six issues, raised by Browne in the main body of his text, for which Conway provides supportive evidence in an afterword entitled ‘Commentary: Evidence supporting Anthony Browne’s Table of Truths Suppressed by PC’, included as a sort of appendix in later editions of Browne’s book.
Although still standard practice in mainstream journalism at the time his book was written, it is regrettable that Browne himself offers no sources to back up the statistics he cites in his text.
This commentary section therefore provides the only real effort to provide sources or citations for many of Browne’s claims. Unfortunately, however, it covers only a few of the many issues addressed by Browne in preceding pages.
In support of Browne’s contention that “different work/life choices” and “career breaks” underlie the gender pay gap (p8), Conway cites the work of sociologist Catherine Hakim (p101-103).
Actually, more comprehensive expositions of the factors underlying the gender pay gap are provided by Warren Farrell in Why Men Earn More (which I have reviewed here, here and here) and Kingsley Browne in Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality (which I have reviewed here).
Moreover, while it indeed true that the pay-gap can largely be explained by what economists call ‘compensating differentials’ – e.g. the fact that men work longer hours, in more unpleasant and dangerous working conditions, and for a greater proportion of their adult lives – Browne fails to factor in the final and decisive feminist fallacy regarding the gender pay gap, namely the assumption that, because men earn more money than women, this necessarily means they have more money than women and are wealthier.
In fact, however, although men earn more money than women, much of this money is then redistributed to women via such mechanisms as marriage, alimony, maintenance, divorce settlements and the culture of dating.
Indeed, as I have previously provocatively proposed:
“The entire process of conventional courtship is predicated on prostitution, from the social expectation that the man will pay for dinner on the first date, to the legal obligation that he continue to provide for his ex-wife through alimony and maintenance for anything up to ten or twenty years after he has belatedly rid himself of her.”
Therefore, much of the money earned by men is actually spent by, or on, their wives, ex-wives and girlfriends (not to mention daughters) such that, although women earn less than men, women have long been known to researchers in the marketing industry to dominate about 80% of consumer spending.
However, Browne does usefully debunk another area in which the demand for equal pay has resulted in injustice – namely the demand for equal prizes for male and female athletes at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships (a demand since cravenly capitulated to). Yet, as Browne observes:
“Logically, if the prize doesn’t discriminate between men and women, then the competition that leads to those prizes shouldn’t either… Those who insist on equal prizes, because anything else is discrimination, should explain why it is not discrimination for men to be denied an equal right to compete for the women’s prize.” (p77).
Thus, Browne perceptively observes:
“It would currently be unthinkable to make the same case for a ‘white’s only’ world athletics championship… [Yet] it is currently just as pointless being a white 100 metres sprinter in colour-blind sporting competitions as it would be being a women 100 metres sprinter in gender-blind sporting competitions” (p77).
Another topic addressed by both Browne (p8) and Conway (p113-115) is the reasons for African poverty.
The politically correct explanation, according to Browne, is that African poverty results from inadequate international aid (p8). However, Browne observes:
“No country has risen out of poverty by means of international aid and cancelling debts” (p20).
Moreover, Browne points out that fashionable policies such as “writing off Third World debt” produce perverse incentives by “encourag[ing] excessive and irresponsible borrowing by governments” (p48), while international aid encourages economic dependence, bureaucracies and corruption (p114).
Actually, in my experience, the usual explanation given for African underdevelopment is not, as Browne and Conway suggest, inadequate international aid as such.
After all, this explanation only raises the question as to how many developed countries, such as those in Europe, managed to achieve First World living standards back when there were no other wealthy First World countries around to provide them with international aid to assist with their development.
Instead, in my experience, most leftists blame African poverty and underdevelopment on the supposed legacy of European colonialism. Thus, it is argued that European nations, and indeed white people in general, are themselves to blame for the poverty of Africa. International aid is then reimagined as a form of recompense for past wrongs.
Unfortunately, however, this explanation for African poverty fares barely any better.
For one thing, it merely raises the question why it was that Africa was colonized by Europeans rather than vice versa?
The answer, of course, is that much of sub-Saharan Africa was ‘underdeveloped’ (i.e. socially and technologically backward) even before colonization. This was what allowed Africa to be so easily and rapidly conquered and colonized during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
Moreover, if European colonization is really to blame for the poverty of so much of sub-Saharan Africa, then why is it that those few African countries largely spared European colonization, such as Liberia and Ethiopia, are, if anything, even worse off than their neighbours – in part precisely because they lack the infastructure (e.g. roads, railroads) that the much-maligned European colonial overlords were responsible for bequeathing other African states.
In other words, far from holding Africa back, European colonizers often built what little infrastructure and successful industry sub-Saharan Africa still has, and African countries are poor despite colonialism rather than because of it.
Further falsifying the assumption that the experience of European colonialism invariably impeded the economic development of those regions formerly subject to European colonial rule is the experience of former European colonies in parts of the world other than Africa.
Here, there have been many notable success stories, including Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, even India, not to mention Canada, Australia, New Zealand, all of which were former European colonies, and many of which gained their independence around the same time as African polities.
An experience with European colonization is then, it seems, no bar to economic development outside of Africa. Why then has the experience in Africa itself been so different?
Browne and Conway, for their part, place the blame firmly on Africans themselves – but on African rulers rather than the mass of African people. The real reason for African poverty, they report, is simply “bad governance” on the part of Africa’s post-colonial rulers (p8).
“Poverty in African has been caused by misrule rather than insufficient aid” (p113).
Unfortunately, however, this is hardly a complete explanation, since it only merely raises the question as to why Africa has been so prone to “misrule” and “bad governance” in the first place.
It also raises the question as to why regions outside of Africa, but nevertheless populated by people of predominantly sub-Saharan African ancestry, such as Haiti and Jamaica (or even Baltimore and Detriot), are seemingly beset by many of the same problems (e.g. high levels of violent crime, poverty).
This last observation, of course, suggests that the answer lies, not in African soil or geography, but rather in differences between races in personality, intelligence and behaviour.
However, this is, one suspects, a conclusion too politically incorrect even for Browne himself to consider.
Is Browne a Victim of Political Correctness Himself?
The foregoing discussion converges in suggesting a single overarching problem with Browne’s otherwise admirable dissection of the nature and effects of political correctness – namely that Browne, although ostensibly an opponent of political correctness, is, in reality, neither immune to the infection nor ever able to effect a full recovery.
Brown himself observes:
“Political correctness succeeds, like the British Empire, through divide and rule… The politically incorrect often end up appeasing political correctness by condemning fellow travellers” (p37).
Indeed, this is indeed a characteristic feature of witch-hunts, from Salem to McCarthy, whereby victims were able to partially absolve themselves by ‘outing’ fellow-travellers to be persecuted in their place.
However, although bemoaning this trend, Browne nevertheless himself provides a prime example it when, having rightly deplored the treatment of BNP supporters deprived of employment on account of their political views, he nevertheless issues the almost obligatory disclaimer, condemning the party as “odious” (p52).
In doing so, he thereby ironically perfectly illustrates the very appeasement of political correctness which he has himself identified as central to its power.
Similarly, it is notable that, in his discussion of the suppression of politically incorrect facts and theories, Browne nevertheless fails to address any of the most incendiary such facts and theories, such as those that resulted in death threats to the likes of Jensen, Pizzey and Steinmetz.
After all, to discuss the really taboo topics would not only bring upon him even greater opprobrium than that which he already faced, but also likely deny him a platform (or at least a mainstream platform) in which to express his views altogether.
Browne therefore provides his ultimate proof of the power of political correctness, not through the topics he addresses, but rather through those he conspicuously avoids.
In failing to address these issues, either out of fear of the consequences or genuine ignorance of the facts due to the media blackout on their discussion, Browne provides the definitive proof of his own fundamental thesis, namely the political correctness indeed corrupts public debate and subverts free speech.
 After the resulting outcry, Gopal insisted she stood by her tweets, which, she insists, “were very clearly speaking to a structure and ideology, not about people”, something actually not at all clear from how she expressed herself, and arguably inconsistent with it, given that it is only people who have, and lose, “lives”, not institutions or ideology, and indeed only people, not institutions or ideology, who can properly be described as “white”.
At best, her tweet was incendiary and grossly irresponsible in a time of increasing anti-white animosity, violence and rioting. At worst, they could be interpreted as a coded exhortation to genocide. Similarly, as far right philosopher Greg Johnson points out:
“When the Soviets spoke of ‘eliminating the kulaks as a class’, that was simply a euphemism for mass murder” (The White Nationalist Manifesto: p21).
Similarly, the Nazis typically referred to the genocide of European Jewry only by such coded euphemisms as “resettlement in the East” and “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question”.
In this light, it is notable that those leftists like Noel Ignatiev who talk of “abolishing the white race” but insist they are only talking of deconstructing the concept of ‘whiteness’, which is, they argue, a social construct, strangely never talk about ‘abolishing the black race’, or indeed any other race than whites, even though, according to their own ideology, all racial categories are social constructs invented to justify oppression and hence presumably similarly artificial and malignant.
 Thus, according to the sort of evolutionary epistemology championed by, among others, Karl Popper, it is only if different theories are tested and subjected to falsification that we are able to assess their merits and thereby choose between them, and scientific knowledge is able to progress. If some theories are simply deemed beyond the pale a priori, then clearly this process of testing and falsification cannot properly occur.
 The book in which Horowitz wrote these words was published in 2003. Yet, today, some seventeen years later, “the era of the progressive witch-hunt”, far from abating, seems to be only accelerating. By Horowitz’s reckoning, then, “the era of the progressive witch-hunt” is now approaching its fourth decade, and, not only, in Horowitz’s words, “shows no signs of abating”, but seems to be going into overdrive.
 Discrimination against men in the provision of insurance policies remains legal in most jurisdictions (e.g. the USA). However, sex discrimination in the provision of insurance policies was belatedly outlawed throughout the European Union at the end of 2012, due to a ruling of the European Court of Justice. This was many years after other forms of sex discrimination had been outlawed in most member-states.
For example, in the UK, most other forms of gender discrimination were outlawed almost forty years previously under the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. However, section 45 of this Act explicitly exempted insurance companies from liability for sex discrimination if they could show that the discriminatory practice they employed was based on actuarial data and was “reasonable”.
Yet actuarial data could also be employed to justify other forms of discrimination, such as employers deciding not to employ women of childbearing age. However, this remained unlawful.
This exemption was preserved by Section 22 of Part 5 of Schedule 3 of the new Equality Act 2010. As a result, as recently as 2010 insurance providers routinely charged young male drivers double the premiums demanded of young female drivers.
Yet, curiously, the only circumstances in which insurance policy providers were barred from discriminating on the grounds of sex was where “the differences result from the costs associated with pregnancy or to a woman’s having given birth” under section 22(3)(d) of Schedule 3 – in other words, the only readily apparent circumstance where insurance providers might be expected to discriminate against women rather than men!
Interestingly, even after the ECJ ruling, there is evidence that indirect discrimination against males continues, simply by using occupation as a marker for gender.
 It is difficult to muster much sympathy for the feminists for at least two reasons. First, the central tenet of transgender ideology, namely the denial of the reality of biological sex, is a direct inheritance from feminism. Thus, feminists have long contended that there are few if any innate biological differences between the sexes in psychology and behaviour and that instead, to use a favourate phrase of feminists, sociologists and other such ‘professional damned fools’, such differences in psychology and behaviour as are observed are entirely ‘socially constructed’ in origin. From this absurd position, it is surely only one step further to claim that a person of one sex can unilaterally declare himself to be of the other sex and will henceforth, and even retroactively, be of the sex she/he/they/‘ze’/‘xe’/etc. declare themselves and should be referred to and treated as such. Indeed, if biological sex differences are indeed as trivial and next to nonexistent as the feminists have so often and so loudly claimed, then this raises the question as to why a person should not be able to unilaterally declare themselves as of the opposite sex to that which they were arbitrarily ‘assigned’ at birth. Transsexual ideology is then the logical conclsion, or perhaps the reductio ad absurdum, of feminist ‘sex denial’. In short, the feminists have only themselves to blame.
The second and more important reason that one should not waste one’s sympathy on feminist TERFs who find themselves ostricized, persecuted and sometimes ‘cancelled’ by the transgender lobby is that the feminists, including many of those subsequently demonized as ‘TERFs’, have themselves been responsible for exactly the same sort of persecution and intolerance of which they they now find themselves the victims, namely the persecution and demonization of anyone who questions the central tenets of feminism, including those who question ‘sex denialism’, prominent victims having included Lawrence Summers, James Damore, Suzanne Steinmetz, Erin Pizzey and Neil Lyndon among countless others.
 Actually, the term ‘fascist’ is sometimes employed in this way by conservatives as well, as when they refer to certain forms of Islamic fundamentalism as ‘Islamofascism’ or indeed when they refer to the stifling of debate, and of freedom of expression, by leftists (i.e. politically correctness itself) as a form of ‘fascism’.
 This use of the phrase ‘anti-Semitism’ in the context of criticism of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians is ironic, at least from a pedantic etymological perspective, since the Palestinian people actually have a rather stronger claim to being a ‘Semitic people’, in both a racial and a linguistic sense, than do either Ashkenazi or Sephardi (if not Mizrahi) Jews.
 Of course, at the time Browne wrote these words in 2006, his proposal that, for sports is to be truly non-gender discriminatory, then men should be allowed to enter women’s events was nothing more than a hypothetical thought experiment. It was not a serious proposal, but rather a reductio ad absurdum to illustrate what taking the feminist rhetoric of non-discrimination in sports would actually look like if taken to its logical conclusion. Now, of course, it has become a hilarious reality, with biologically male transgender athletes entering and outcompeting women in women’s sporting events.
Feminists have, of course, been the first to cry foul. However, they really have only themselves to blame. As Browne argues, if sports is really to be non-discriminatory as between men and women, then presumably men should indeed have a right to enter women’s athletic events. Indeed, the entire rhetoric of transgender ideology is based on the feminist claim that sex (or ‘gender’ to use the preferred feminist term) is a social construct with no basis in biology.
 Actually, contrary to what Browne says, international aid may sometimes be partially successful in alleviating povery. For example, the Marshall Plan for post-WWII Europe is sometimes credited as a success story, though some economists disagree. The success, or otherwise, of foreign aid seems, then, to depend, at least in part, on the identity of the recipients.
 Relatedly, it is surely no accident that the two sub-Saharan African countries that, until relatively recently, remained under white rule, namely South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), at that time enjoyed some of the highest living-standards in Africa, with Rhodesia famously being described as ‘the breadbasket of Africa’ and South Africa long regarded as the only ‘developed economy’ in the entire continent during the apartheid-era. Since the transition to black majority rule, however, the decline in both countries, especially in the sphere of law and order, has been dramatic and, given the experience elsewhere in post-colonial Africa, wholly predictable.
Interestingly, a few studies have investigated the relationship between a history of European colonization and economic development. Easterly and Levine (2016) found that a history of European colonization was associated with increased levels of European development, while Grier (1999) similarly found that, among former colonies, the duration of the period of colonial rule was positively associated with greater levels of economic growth, while Feyrer & Sacerdote (2009) found that, among islands, there is robust positive correlation between years spent as a European colony and present day GDP.
However, interestingly and directly contrary to what I have claimed here, Bertocchi & Canova (2002), in a study restricted to polities on the African continent, purported to find an inverse correlation between degree of European colonial penetration and economic growth.
 For more on this plausible but incendiary theory, see IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen and Understanding Human History by Michael Hart.
16 thoughts on “A Modern McCarthyism in our Midst”