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Unacceptable

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

This blog entry follows up from my discussion yesterday about extreme views of Islam. This time I want to say something more general about how politically incorrect and highly controversial views are treated by both the general public, the news media, and by public figures.

Before I start I’ll just reiterate and update the situation. New Zealand First MP, Richard Prosser, made a series of very insulting claims against Muslims, such as that they are “a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan”. He received widespread condemnation from most public figures and the international press, and was forced to apologise today.

As I said, the general view seems to be one of outrage and there have been multiple demands for his resignation. There are also a lot of absolute statements that the comments were “unacceptable”, racist or bigoted, and totally out of touch with reality.

But few people actually went through the claims (like I did yesterday) and analysed them. When you do that you see that he does have some good points… and some very bad ones as well. But even if everything he said was rubbish I don’t think the correct approach is just to outright condemn his opinion with statements such as he is a racist. The correct approach would be to show where he is wrong, because doing that can be far more effective as a counter to extreme opinions.

In fact as soon as I hear the phrase “that is unacceptable” I generally feel a certain amount of contempt for the person making that statement. If I ask why a person doesn’t like something and they say it is unacceptable they are really just being lazy, arrogant, and disingenuous.

Saying something is unacceptable is really just another way of the person saying that they don’t like it. So when I ask why they don’t like something and the answer is that it is because it’s unacceptable then all they’re really saying is that they don’t like it because they don’t like it and feel as if that opinion should be sufficient.

It’s no surprise that the “unacceptable” approach is a favourite of politicians and managers. They both like to avoid any in-depth analysis and both have sufficient arrogance to think their unsubstantiated opinions have some special order of merit above everyone else’s. They are, of course, as in most other things, wrong.

So why shouldn’t Prosser have made these points? I’m sure they are what a lot of people believe anyway. It’s really an opportunity for people who don’t think Islam deserves that kind of criticism to score a win because by refuting Prosser’s argument they can also refute the same opinions secretly held by some sections of the population.

If, on the other hand, they either don’t or can’t refute what he says then they are really just reinforcing that view while pushing it further out of the public discussion. There is one thing for certain I think, the PM and other politicians feigning disgust and outrage without really answering any of the points made just makes it look like political correctness has kicked in to protect a conspiracy of silence on the subject.

So I would really prefer to see the subject treated in a way which criticises Prosser based on whether he is right or wrong rather than whether he is discussing an “acceptable” subject in an “acceptable” way. And admitting that he has made a few points which have some validity isn’t bad as long as it is also pointed out where he has pushed the issue to a ridiculous and totally unsupported extreme which I don’t think anyone could reasonably defend.

Instead of apologising for saying something which is deemed inappropriate he should be apologising for getting so many of his facts and conclusions wrong. That’s what real debate is all about.

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