Sunday, July 23, 2006

Nick Cohen and Political Correctness

Just a short effort from me. This (updated: I forgot the link last night) is barely worth bothering with, but as Nick's a mate of Francis "Mumbo Jumbo" Wheen and apparently considers himself a rational person, I'm going to do it anyway. To be remorselessly anal, I really dislike

The remorseless workings of the same law of unintended consequences...

There isn't a *law* of unintended consequences, any more than there is a *law* of averages. It's a sentence which sounds meaningful and invokes a certain scientific locution, but so do the ramblings of Gillian McTeeth. Anyway:

A family I know with a severely disabled boy remembers when social workers and doctors stopped saying he was a 'mongol' and instead described him as suffering from 'Down's Syndrome'.

Really? Nick is much the same age as me (give or take a year either way), and I was born in 1962. I'm sure he does know this family (they could be his own), although 'boy' may be a patronising term here.

In 1961, a group of nineteen geneticists wrote to the editor of The Lancet suggesting that mongolian idiocy had "misleading connotations," had become "an embarrassing term" and should be changed.[8] The Lancet supported Down's Syndrome. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially dropped references to mongolism in 1965 after a request by the Mongolian delegate.[9]

Wikipedia entry on Down Syndrome. But it was more than just racial sensitivity which led to a change of name: you'll note that it was a group of *geneticists* who wrote to the Lancet; diagnosis and classification of Down's has moved on from one salient facial characteristic, and the change of language reflects that. (I think this is rational; just don't get me started on the whole 'brontosaurus'/'apatosaurus' deal. They want to steal my childhood!)

I don't think he's much better on the changing terms for skin pigmentation. Indeed the problem with those terms is that like 'Mongolism' they don't go beneath the surface. I don't think "decent white Americans" used the word "nigger" -- in the context of being 'decent' in books, journalism and broadcasting, the word was 'Negro' and that was the word which died out in polite society. The use of 'coloured' was slighty different. The NAACP were, according to the remarkably useful Wikipedia (you should try it Nick), using the term in 1909. But 'coloured' and 'black' and not synonymous. The use of 'coloured' implies a broader, more inclusive approach to race relations. 'Black' as used by say David Horowitz's old chums the Black Panthers was used exclude and classify (one could be blacker than another, more 'coloured' is harder to imagine). 'African-American' isn't a term I particularly like, but at least it tries to acknowledge that not all 'blacks' are of one skin tone. And I really must read this.

Another time, I may expound on whether social workers cause poverty, and where these armies of them roam.


Blogger Sonic said...

What a very odd article, and surely a seal of Dacre.

Exclusive content for next week, why oh why can we not reclaim the good old English word Gay?

7/24/2006 04:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly (to me, anyway), one of the most successful community organisations in the UK, which I think Nick has written about, is the "Southall Black Sisters". Who are, as you would expect from the fact they live in Southall, almost 100% "Asian".


the Left can’t talk in a way that convinces outsiders that it is honest.

"A family I knew who had a son who was imprisoned in an anonymous prison camp with no habeas corpus, secret charges and no legal status, remember the days when they were told it was no longer a 'gulag' but a 'unlawful combatant detention facility' ..."

7/24/2006 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think this is ludicrous. That people no longer use "nigger" has not discredited "the left", if it had anything to do with it, which I doubt.

7/24/2006 08:01:00 AM  

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