I was just thinking right now about a rather odd turn of phrase. It turned up as a comment on an article about gaffes by Prince Philip.
Not gaffes, he is just not a signed up member of the PC Brigade.
Now while Prince Philip’s faux pas tend to raise a smile with me rather than anger or annoyance, I still recognize them as such. It wasn’t the suggestion of support for Philip’s behavior that rankled rather than the phrase “PC Brigade.”
It’s a widespread idiom, calling a group of people a “Brigade”. It usually seems to me to be a turn of phrase used by people describing a nice, positive form of behaviour or viewpoint that they don’t subscribe to. It seems to be an attempt to portray that nice, widespread quality as unusual and problematic. The use of the phrase “brigade” is almost always scathing, and an attempt to portray people that someone doesn’t like as a noisy and problematic minority. The brigade labelled is often trying to deny the fact that the attitude they despise is both positive and mainstream.
As Stewart Lee observes, Political Correctness is just a form of institutionalized politeness. Yes it can be done unthinkingly by idiots, but on the whole it is a positive thing that does more good than harm. Yes, I think there is a case to be made for humour that rises from offensive behaviour. But not for trying to make out that offensive behaviour isn’t offensive, or that those that are offended are kiljoys.
Using phrases like “The PC Brigade” and “The Human Rights Brigade” doesn’t make you look witty or down to earth, it makes you look like a loony and an idiot.
Saarland, where I live, is just about the smallest state in Germany apart from the city states. In terms of population it’s actually smaller than Hamburg.
In January the ruling “Jamaica” coalition between Merkel’s CDU, the FDP, and the Green party in the state parliament fell apart, meaning we have elections on Sunday 25th March. So every time I go to town I get pestered by political people, and have to say in my best German that I’m a foreigner and can’t vote.
There are *ELEVEN* parties contesting the election.
- DIE LINKE (The Left)
- FDP Liberals
- BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN (Green Party)
- The Family Party
- NPD (I think the German BNP)
- FREIE WÄHLER (Free Voters)
- Direct Democracy Initiative
- Die PARTEI
- The Pirate Party
What I’m noticing is that they all have an allocation of A0 Posters on lampposts and on those posters only the FDP is going for negative campaigning. Well the Greens have a cartoon of a nuclear power station with the slogan “Tick tock tick tock” but it’s not a direct swipe at their opponents, it’s all about what they would do. The negative campaigning doesn’t seem to be doing the FDP any good, they’re on 1% of the vote, while the greens are only slightly down on 5%.
The other noticeable thing (to a foreigner) is The Pirate Party which here appears to be a sort of home for the more alternative people who in the UK would be members of the Lib Dems, is gaining votes. They’re actually polling higher than the Greens. And their slogans are nothing to do with IP, but more to do with votes at 16, family having multiple shapes (picture of a toddler with 2 dads), and the environment. And their best: “Don’t trust posters, inform yourself.”
One thing that’s not being asked in this phone hacking scandal, is how did the hackers get into people’s voicemail? Is it some technically complex technique involving getting into the computer systems of the mobile phone network?
Largely, no. Much of the time people are accessing the mailbox in the same way a user can. When we get a new mobile phone account the voice mail is programmed to a default setting, including a default password with which you can “manage” your voicemail from a landline. A lot of the time voicemails were intercepted by journalists and investigators trying their luck with default and guessable passwords. It’s probably not the only way voicemails can be access, but it’s by far the easiest one.
The blame for the hacking, of course, lies firmly with the private investigators and journalists that accessed the phones, and the editors who either condoned the techniques or accepted stories with dubious sources without asking sensible questions. But there are ways that people can minimise the risk. Simple ways.
The message here is: set the pin on your mobile phone. Don’t rely on being to boring for anyone to take an interest in, you never know how things may turn out. Don’t rely on the media turning over a new leaf either, there will probably always be someone devious enough to try this trick on you.
… make sure he isn’t similarly occupied!
The news that a convicted rapist won a case in the ECHR elicited a predictably furious story in the Daily Mail. This prompted many people to post mis-placed anti-EU commentary, even though the EHCR is part of the Council of Europe and not the EU.
Anyway, silly me, I left two comments myself. One pointing out this little factual inaccuracy, and another one that’s more thoughtful and philosophical about how the difference between a regular law-abiding citizen, and the worst criminals ever is not a binary distinction but more of a sliding scale:
While I agree that people who have committed serious crimes should be disenfranchised, many of us break the law in small ways every day. Under your blanket rule anyone who drives at 33 mph in a 30 zone should be ineligible to vote.
Sure there are practical limitations as to who is prosecuted and who isn’t, to give both the general public and police equipment a reasonable margin for incompetence, but the fact remains that the dividing line between breaking the law and not breaking the law is not somewhere between doing something “a little bit wrong” and committing murder.
The message here is that while there are rapists and murderers, who can be legitimately described as “evil” they don’t make up even the majority of people who break the law by a long shot, and it’s a good idea to have a sense of perspective on these matters.
OK, it’s not Pulitzer prize-winning standard, but it’s a pretty good and intelligent piece, even if I do say so myself. It amused me to see how being sensible, level-headed, and thoughtful wins you no friends in Daily Mail land. My comment was one of the three on that article in negative appreciation figures, when I last checked it was minus 26.
I’m not sure about giving all prisoners voting rights; I think there is a case for withdrawing rights from serious offenders,.however the responses seem a little simplistic- it’s either all or none, and all prisoners are as bad as multiple rapists. This is plainly untrue.
Just thinking, as you do.
I have this theory about technology. Lots of people say of things like mobile phones, “Why do they have to be so complicated? Why do can’t they just do…” My theory is that while there are some common items in most “Why can’t they just do” lists, but there are also so many variants that if you add up all the lists you get something that’s pretty much what’s on the market- the phone that people complain is too complicated.
Now my musing was this: are “small states” like that? Small state libertarians and anarchists rarely, if ever, advocate a complete lawless vacuum. There is always some role for a society, and some institutions needed for a society to work. My musing is: if you add up all those small states, ring fence all the areas that people don’t want to cut- does the state get any smaller?
It’s a question I don’t pretend to know the answer to, by the way.
The thing I hate about the Daily Mail, for instance, is not its illiberal politics (although I find those difficult to stomach) which tend to be what its readership want to hear, but the way it constantly pushes the emotional buttons of the readership, and plays on their negative character attributes. The fear, bigotry, ignorance of the readership are exploited to engage them with the message of the paper.
There are other things I dislike, the inaccurate skewed reporting, the hypocrisy (the attitude over Jan Moir when compared to Ross and Brand), but it is the emotive and exploitative nature that I dislike most.
I did hope that I would have more time for this sort of thing. But I only have one or two hours a day to myself these days, and the thoughts that occurred to me earlier seem to evaporate.
I like looking after Matthew and cooking. We need to find more places to go as we seem to alternate the family cafe with walking in the Stadtwald and going to the Wildpark. None of which are feasible in the rain. We need to find a suitable playgroup as Matthew doesn’t have any friends his own age.
I sometimes just want to do things to my own schedule, and that can be hard.
Oh well, I am fit and active and my family are all healthy and happy. Which is good.
Sarah has been working properly this week, with me being at home. Matthew is happy- most of the time, he isn’t yet used to his mum leaving for work and not his dad.
My parents are on Skype- eventually. Their desktop needs its microphone switching on and I’m not sure how to do it remotely. But they tried their laptop and bingo- success!
We hear news from the UK through the net, friends and family. The surge in the polls for the Lib Dems is a welcome surprise, although the fact that Nick Clegg when given the media time appears to be better than Brown and Cameron is less so. The response from the Conservatives and their supporters in the media is sadly predictable- name calling and lies.
We are missing ongoing series like Doctor Who and Ashes to Ashes- we had the first episode of Doctor Who, several eps of Only Connect and first two of Ashes to Ashes stored up on iplayer desktop- but we’re running out of that.
Doctor Who was a promising start to the new series. Smith’s Doctor is engaging and likeable- he nailed the character in this episode (which I understand was recorded 4th in the series). There’s a definite effort to make a break from the previous series, which I suppose needs to be made given that it follows the undeniably successful run by Russel T Davies and David Tennant*. The TARDIS is sent away to rebuild itself and there’s a new version of the theme and opening titles which seem to be designed to the brief of “make it different to what they were used to”. There were minor tonal changes, but this was not a radical departure from the successful version of the format developed over the previous five years.
Ashes to Ashes, now where is that going. I am wondering if they’re going to steal the end of the US version of Life on Mars and have 2006 as the past of the true present of Sam and Alex.
* I mean sure you may not like it, but the popularity of the series is palpable, both in public attention and audience figures. You can’t deny that.
1000 km from Steeton- many of our possessions in two cars. I am shocked and amazed that we went all that way with no major upsets.
We are here in Saarbruecken and almost unpacked!
I’m still deciding what they are.
I have several options.
One is to avoid spending too much money in the vending machine at work. Easier said than done, but a lot easier than other options.
Another is to get a grip of my reaction to stressful situations. Also a toughie.
A third is to develop a more relaxed attitude to ignorance and cynicism. Knee jerk cynicism is not the same as intelligent scepticism. It’s a corrosive attitude. We need more sceptics and fewer cynics in my view.