When the protection of political correctness becomes a minefield ; Devon DJ David Lowe resigned - but where does this blame game end, asks Martin Hesp [Western Morning News (England)]
(Western Morning News (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Here's a brilliant idea for a get-rich-quick money-making scheme that I am willing to share with anyone who can mastermind the technical side of my proposal - it is for a politically-correct smartphone app which you can consult, or which sounds a warning, if you are in danger of dropping a clanger, or worse.
It may, for example, have helped save David Lowe all the stress, sadness and his job in the moments before the BBC Radio Devon broadcaster decided to play the now infamous 82-year-old version of The Sun Has Got His Hat On.
Exactly how my app could have predicted the offending record's one-word racial slur, I don't know - that is why I need to find a hi- tech business partner who can help develop an inbuilt social radar for such a clever, allseeing, app.
I've come up with the idea because it seems to me that we are entering a whole new minefield when it comes to whatever is, or isn't, politically correct - or, indeed, to simply judging what is or isn't acceptable in a modern civilised society.
It all used to seem simple enough... If you actively and intentionally used racist, sexist or generally out-oforder language, then it was - and is - right and proper that you should be censured, sacked, reviled or even arrested.
We need vile racist bullies in our society like we need machine guns aimed at innocent citizens.
But there are varying degrees of any kind of crime. Next in this area comes the lesser sin of mouthing bad words or thoughts, but unintentionally or inadvertently. The best known example of this was the recent Jeremy Clarkson blunder. Anyone over the age of 50 will have chanted the eeny, meeny, miny, moe thing when they were young - back then the rhyme was deemed acceptable, to the extent that I can recall a schoolteacher leading the class in reciting the wretched thing.
Far be it from me to defend Clarkson, who is a television presenter I've regularly moaned about in these pages. Neither will I defend the use of totally unacceptable words or phrases simply by saying: "Yes, but we grew up doing that and it was OK back then - so you mustn't judge us too harshly now."
However, I do believe that the older person - unthinkingly using racist or sexist language which was deemed acceptable when he or she was a child - is committing a much lesser crime compared to the idiot who sets out deliberately to upset or offend. It is like the difference between murder and manslaughter. In one you actively mean to do something, in the other you've done it without thinking or though being plain stupid.
But in the list of politically incorrect crimes, I wonder if hapless David Lowe has actually committed one at all.
It would be a crime if he'd sat there in his Radio Devon studio thinking: "I know this funny old song contains a really unpleasant word - and I am happy that by broadcasting it I am going to stir racial hatred and strife..." But of course he didn't think any such thing. The poor chap says he's felt devastated ever since a sensitive listener saw fit to complain to the BBC - which is an overly sensitive organisation that should never, for a single instant, have accepted Mr Lowe's resignation. Why not? Well, if this case were to set a precedent, you have to ask where will it end? For instance, should every manager of every bookshop that sells works of literature containing the N-word, or other offensive phrases like it, be sacked? Should the giant Amazon internet bookstore be closed down because it sells digital ebook versions of works written by people like John Buchan? I am a huge fan of the author of The 39 Steps - but occasionally cringe from the bottom of my heart when reading some of the words he penned to describe racial matters. Nevertheless, I have every belief that Lord Tweedsmuir, as he was otherwise known, was an intelligent, sensitive, kindly and upright man. It's just that in the early 1900s - when he was writing about the likes of Richard Hannay - he adopted the language of the times.
What are we to do? Ban his books or burn every copy? Or fire every person involved with selling new digital versions or old secondhand volumes? The trouble with political correctness is that it gets a bad press because it sometimes goes too far. Then what happens is that millions of people begin to regard the whole thing as "leftie nonsense" or whatever... It isn't. We constantly need new and sensitive ways of protecting all parts of our society from unreasonable prejudice or hatred. But the word protection shouldn't be converted to mean minefield.
If it becomes one - if most of us innocent non-sexist-orracist citizens become afraid to play records or read books - then we'll either turn our backs on the whole thing, or we will require my new politically correct app to protect us.
LETTERS - PAGE 11 >Is there any justification for the actions of BBC Radio Devon's management? Leave your comment at westernmorningnews.co.uk
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