Saturday, 22 August 2009

Mail Political correctness story not correct, or political

Posted by Jamie Sport of Daily Mail Watch:

Political correctness.

Whether you believe it’s a tool used by the state to suppress freedom of speech and kow-tow to minorities, or think it’s just another example of different people forcing acceptance upon us, one thing is certain: political correctness is everywhere.

Well, it is if you’re a Daily Mail journalist and can’t think of anything to write about, anyway. All you have to do is take an utterly mundane, entirely innocuous event, twist it around a bit, add an agenda, misrepresent the details and – bam! a ready made tale of political correctness gone absolutely raving bonkers.

Such were the circumstances (probably) behind Master Daniel Bates’ storming piece of journalistic ineptitude ‘Blacklisting banned: Citizens Advice axes ‘offensive’ word and tells staff to use ‘blocklisting’ instead‘, which managed to slither itself limply onto page 3 of Monday’s Mail.

‘Blacklisting banned?’, you can almost hear Mail readers splutter with disbelief, ‘well that’s just politicalcorrectnessgonemad! For fear of upsetting the blacks, no doubt!’, they honk.
Bates has the scoop:
The Citizens Advice service has banned staff from using the term "blacklisting” over fears that it is offensive and “fosters stereotypes”. The taxpayer- funded quango, which advises members of the public on consumer, legal and money issues, has instead replaced it with “blocklisting” to avoid appearing “prejudicial”.
‘Banned’ it, they have. ‘Replaced’, it has been. Pretty firm words. You can be sure that the word ‘blacklisting’ really has been done away with when such strong terms are used. Note the use of quotation marks around things that The Mail deems to be silly: 'stereotypes’ are silly, and ‘prejudicial’ is absurd newspeak. These are the crazy things that result in political correctness going mad and stop us talking freely. Also note the word ‘quango’. We all hate quangos, whatever they are, because they waste money and David Cameron said they were bad.

Bates adds wearily:
Critics branded it “daft” and “political correctness going over the top”, but the Citizens Advice has refused to back down, even though critics say it renders everyday communications unintelligible.
Notice how the traditional ‘political correctness gone mad’ has been replaced with ‘political correctness going over the top’. Presumably the politically correct brigade did away with ‘gone mad’ because it offended the mentally ill or something, and decreed that ‘going over the top’ would be an acceptable replacement. It’s political correctness gone mad.

But I digress. I wonder who the critics are?

John Midgley, co-founder of the campaign against political correctness, said: “This is just daft and another example of political correctness going over the top.”

A man who spends his time seeking out and decrying examples of political correctness is the source. Objective, I think you’ll agree, and I’m sure he was in full possession of all pertinent facts when Dan Bates called him for a quote.

In fairness to Mr Midgley, he couldn’t have been aware of the intricacies of the case because, in fact, our intrepid hack Daniel Bates wasn’t either.

When we spoke to Citizen’s Advice, they told us that, actually, the word ‘blacklisting’ and variations thereof have not been banned at all, and that the whole story has a somewhat prosaic IT related explanation.

Far from being some meaningless new PC term, ‘blocklisting’ is actually a word commonly used in the IT industry referring to a list of blocked IP addresses or users. Apparently, the IT department at Citizen’s Advice issued a memo in July regarding spam emails, explaining that a number of them had been blacklisted. In reply, an employee pointed out that ‘blocklisted’ was probably a more appropriate word, and everybody forgot about the whole thing because it was really quite boring.

The ‘offending’ word was not ‘banned’, and there was no communication or policy asking people to use ‘blocklist’ instead of ‘blacklist’. Our contact was also keen to point out that, contrary to The Mail’s description, Citizen’s Advice is not a ‘quango’, but a network of independent charities.

None of which matters of course, to the Mail commenters who will add the hackneyed saga to their catalogue of examples of things banned in the name of not offending those different to them, who splutter such outraged responses as ‘Good grief!! And we’re paying these idiots’ salaries!’ and ‘Makes me wonder why anyone would go to these idiots for advice.’ Nor will it matter to The Star or The Telegraph, who picked up on the Mail’s enthralling tale of IT memos gone mad without bothering to contact Citizen’s Advice for comment, thereby ensuring the story’s continued presence as just another example of bureaucratic lunacy.

It’s journalism gone rubbish.

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