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on 28 November 2009
Anyone who is concerned about the state of the UK - should read this AND do something about it. Evil flourishes when good men do nothing!
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on 22 March 2011
Since its publication, `The Retreat of Reason' by Anthony Browne has become somewhat of a Bible to `refugees' of the politically correct hysteria. If you're like me, and fed up to the back teeth of having the PC police attack and attempt to censor you as the modern equivalent of a heretic because you happen not to tow the PC mob outlook, then this book is for you.

The book is written simply, laid out fairly well, and provides a wealth of, what should be, common sense as an antidote to the PC platitudes we're so often fed. Here you'll find recurring themes for this social experiment: the PC militia's lack of faith in human nature and democracy, the overwhelming desire of the PC police to re-`educate' (welcome to 1984), their attempts to censor free-speech, guilt by association, victimhood, group identities, and more.

Along the way, Browne really gets to the heart of this mindset, providing a wealth of observations: To the PC brigade, truth is no defence. Politically incorrect arguments are never engaged with, because PC opponents are not just wrong, they're evil. Factually correct truths don't have to be proven wrong, just by being politically incorrect they are not worthy of serious consideration.

Also too, Political Correctness opposes power, regardless of whether that power is used for good or bad. So police are automatically bad, but minorities are automatically good, simply because they are deemed to be from a minority class (weak).

This is one of the first books I read on this subject some years ago and it's a book I come back to again and again.

It is a sad state of affairs when our education system is so lacking in the skills of critical thinking, that we allow a dangerous system of thought such as this into our lives without even a second thought. We have been warned about ideas like political correctness quite a number of decades ago:

"Totalitarianism demands, ...the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. The friends of totalitarianism in this country usually tend to argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie.

It is pointed out that all historical records are biased and inaccurate, or on the other hand, that modern physics has proven that what seems to us the real world is an illusion, so that to believe in the evidence of one's senses is simply vulgar philistinism.

A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying a historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual."

~George Orwell~

Related reading:

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left Uncovering the astonishing historical revisionism by the left on the real roots of fascism.

The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power The roots of the problem, where we're at, and quite scarily, where we're going.

Decline and Fall: Europe's Slow Motion Suicide

America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It
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on 8 April 2012
On publication no doubt Anthony Browne's The Retreat of Reason was a much needed pamphlet, and still is, to combat a movement that had given up on reality and the truth. From my own experience of working in the public sector I have seen people and heard debates get carried away on emotional claptrap rather than reference to and reliance on the facts. From reading Browne and personal experience, although we make strange political bed-fellows, I must say that broadly speaking I am in agreement with the content of his pamphlet. However, my overall response to the pamphlet has to be subtle and nuanced.

The Retreat of Reason sets out to debunk a dominant ideology that has had, and still do to some extent, far reaching influence into just about every aspect of political and social life, that ideology is Political Correctness (PC). The pamphlet covers a broad range of areas that has been affected by PC. However, Browne points out that his book is about "the intellectual and emotional processes" behind the debate that underlies PC and how those processes apply "across the public discourse and policy spectrum in the twenty-first century, politically-correct Britain."

This is a useful little book with many surprises and for a serious polemic some light heartedness ultimately deriving from the absurdity of many aspects of PC. Although I knew that PC is left leaning in terms of its political stance, I was certainly surprise to learn that its origins goes back as far as 1920's Germany with its roots in the "cultural studies of Marxism." Equally, I had to laugh when Browne in chapter one outlines what PC is and gives some examples of it in action such as left wing councils banning black bin bags or handicapped people being called "otherwise-abled". But the biggest laugh is where Browne, by way of an example, takes these thought processes and action to their logical conclusion by pointing out that the next step could well be to say of the dead that: "he's not dead, he's metabolically challenged."

Browne quite rightly argues that, for whatever reason, PCs tend to side with groups who at a given point in time have less power than perhaps a predominant group. By way of example Browne points to the shift in sympathy away from Jews after their holocaust experience to Muslims who now suffer at the hand of Jews in the Middle East. The pamphlet wants to show that underpinning this sympathy is the aim of PC to perfect human nature. This is flawed and Browne likens it to the failure of Marxism to perfect human nature. Political Correctness: "believes that people can be made caring, selfless and tolerant and see themselves as citizens of the world rather than their country".

Some far reaching claims are made against PC but because Browne writes under the guise of a polemic all too often he does not bother to provide evidence for his claims. Indeed, the best Browne can do to come anywhere near striking a balance and providing evidence is to devote a two-page chapter to show the benefits of PC, and at the end of the book in the shape of an addendum David Conway provides some evidence for the main assertions made by Browne.

At times Browne over simplify his arguments by setting up false dichotomies. A good example of this is where he takes the view that the last Labour government tolerated halal slaughter of animals but banned fox hunting. The distinction and debated between halal slaughter of animals and fox hunting is a bit more complex than Browne would have us believe. The tolerance of halal slaughter, cruel though it might be for some, is based on deep seated cultural and religious beliefs. For the purposes of bolstering an argument against PC halal slaughter should not be simply compared with fox hunting which is cruelty to animals for the sake of fun.

Anyone with an over simplified view of PC seeing it as merely bound up in the use of language will find this book educative. Browne is not just interested in the way language is used though of course that is very important. Perhaps more importantly Browne is keen to highlight the far reaching ramifications of PC. Here is an example: "Political Correctness promotes the creation of a victim mentality, discourages people from taking responsibility for their own lives, suppresses free speech, and distorts public debates, leading to bad policies being adopted." As someone who works in the public sector where PC is rife my experience suggests that Browne is right.

Although on the whole I sympathise with the broad trust of Browne's argument, whilst reading his pamphlet one should not become complacent and naïve. He weakens his position in that it is clear that he has an agenda. The repetitive mentions of the BBC, The Guardian, The Observer, and The Independent newspapers indicates that Browne is combating anything or anyone who is not merely PC but takes a left of centre stance on issues. In an odd way this almost undermines his stance against PC and puts him in a position of creating his PC. He appears to say you are either with me or against me there is no sitting on the fence.

It must also be said that at times it feels as if Browne is doing battle with straw dogs. Not admittedly set up by Browne but inadvertently by PC itself. So when, under the sub-heading Extremism, Browne gives us examples of some PC behaviour we should not be too surprise to find that PC has been taken to extreme lengths of absurdity. By way of example, Browne tells us that: "the canteen of the school of Oriental and African Studies upbraided one German student for asking for white coffee because it could be construed as racist: she was told to ask for coffee with milk.

Reading through this pamphlet one comes to a conclusion laced with irony. In the end Browne seems to want to blame all the ills of capitalist societies on PC. Taking this stance in his anti-PC drive, Browne almost becomes an extremist himself and is in danger of creating another ism or all embracive political tool one that bashes PC whether it is right or wrong.
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on 18 October 2009
I fail to understand why this is described as a pamphlet; it is over a hundred pages long. Your reaction to this book will depend on how many anti-politically correct books you have read. If this is your first such book you may be impressed; I was far from impressed. This is a small book which covers a wide range of aspects of the effects of political correctness. Unfortunately it has little or no depth; the more books on the subject you have read; will determine just how you react to this lack of depth. The book was published in 2006 and after a quick `flash in the pan' ; it's back to business as usual. The book rarely achieves more than a series of rants and raves. The author seems to think he is a white-knight (very unPC) rescuing society; in fact he has been about as effective as Don Quixote. If this is the best defence society has against the ravages of political correctness; I am not surprised that it is spreading through our society unchecked.
This country is commonly portrayed as a democratic society; it isn't: never has been and probably never will be. Democratically elected representatives may be elected in a democratic manner but since they are under no obligation to keep their election promises; this country does not function as a democracy. Even when public opinion polls show that government is out of step with the public; the government blow raspberries at the public. Hardly a democracy. Political change in our society has always been attributed to our intellectual elite from the posh universities. Where are all these people; they can't all be pro-political correct. This book doesn't seem to have noticed the lack of serious intellectual opposition; merely blaming it on the media (partly true). James Bovard , the American author offers a better explanation; they are all serving on government funded Quangos and enquiries. Quangos are supposed to be a way of reducing government costs and getting access to expert advice; in reality it is a way of hijacking the intellectual elite so they cannot disagree with the government.
The book is clearly aimed at the university educated academic intellectual elite, judging by many of the words used; they certainly wouldn't be used by the ordinary person in the street. The most glaring example of this is the use of the word `demos' which is a word used in Greek philosophy for the general public. You definitely won't find many people in the street who are familiar with this word.
The section on the defence of Capitalism is pathetically one sided to the point of childishness. Clearly the author is unfamiliar with the phrase `the unacceptable face of Capitalism'.
The author does make one chilling prediction of what will happen to this country if we don't find a way of getting political correctness under control. We could find our country repeating the problems of the Netherlands and suffering assassination, murder and public unrest. Five years ago , few people would have taking this prediction seriously; today , I think many would. This is yet another book which avoids the link between political correctness and the police. British media and the public are calling the UK a police state and this author says nothing about it ; it all seems very sinister.
The major problem in Britain is that political correctness is driving people to voting for BNP which although few people like this party; it is the only way that many see of breaking the stranglehold that political correctness has on our society. The intellectual elite have abandoned the ordinary people and if the ordinary people try to sort this mess out; you could see the `killing of the golden goose'.
The author has a section on how to defeat PC; it is very wishy-washy and unconvincing.
Political correctness is supported by the political classes because it is good for them; only when the public show them that the it is likely to cause them harm (eg people voting BNP) will the political classes abandon it and look for another vehicle to control the ordinary people.
To defeat your enemy; you must know your enemy: this book suggests that the PC monster is not sufficiently understood to defeat it. I agree with the author on one point; whatever good has been achieved by political correctness, has been more than wiped out by the harm it has done and is still doing. There are numerous books on political correctness; this book is no better or no worse than any of the ones I have read. Each book gives a part of the story; this book is no different. The only way to get a wider understanding of the sheer harm that is being imposed on Britain by political correctness is to read a daily newspaper. So far the books written by our intellectual elite are just not up to the job.
All anti-politically correct books make the comparison with George Orwell's book 1984. None actually point out that Orwell called the book 1948 and that Big-Brother was Hitler-Stalin-Mussolini rolled into one character. It was never intended as a prediction; it was a statement of what was already happening. Although most people would admit that political correctness is turning our society in 1984; they seem reluctant to openly rebel against it apart from media ridicule. As Private Fraser used to say in Dads Army `we're all doomed'.
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on 2 April 2009
"The Retreat of Reason" is almost a perfect book. In addition to all the other positive reviews of this book, I would like to emphasise that, since reading it, I have become very much quicker at recognising political correctness (PC) whenever it appears in our media. And it is frightening - seriously, frightening - how often such instances occur. Instances of PC can be seen every day, in many news reports. One typical example would be when a person argues that a particular trend is happening based on particular studies or surveys which have taken place, another person will attempt to discredit either the person putting the results and conclusions forward, or discredit the way the study or survey was done. The book also argues very well that factual correctness and political correctness are opposites - one of many things to be aware of in the field of politics.

My only misgiving about the book concerns a short but very significant sentence on p.65. In the section concerning Environmental Protection, it refers to global warming which it still considers to be a `threat'. It is sad to see such a politically correct statement managing to find its way into the book. Throughout the history of the earth the climate, of which warming is only one of many aspects, has always changed - it is nothing new. There are many scientists, proper scientists all with proper qualifications, who are investigating the various influences on our climate, a consequence of which is that a minor, carbon-based gas in the atmosphere is only one of many influencing factors. Unfortunately these scientists are struggling to be heard and, as the book itself states as early as the second page, `those who do not conform [are] ignored, silenced or vilified'. And this is exactly what is currently happening to scientists who do not believe the popular global warming message.

The glaring PC statement highlighted above takes nothing away from the main thrust of the book, and the presentation of the well-researched detail. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who wishes to get a new perspective into politics and political correctness.
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on 25 August 2010
I was disappointed in this book. It's not really terrible.... I would happily recommend it to those who have already made up their minds about political correctness and enjoy reading things which reinforce their views.

Ironically for a book that claims to stand for public debate, it is totally one-sided. For anyone seeking balance or intelligent, structured argument, I would suggest you look elsewhere. The book is a polemic rather than an exploration, a rant rather than an inquiry.

The author is often guilty of reification, i.e. the fallacy of treating an abstraction as if it is a person. Some examples from the book: "political correctness seeks to redistribute power" or "liberal guilt never feels more satisfied than when it is self-flagellating". Personally, I find these kind of statements stop me from being able to take a writer seriously. Gravitas is also lost by the continual presentation of opinion as fact and the absence of evidence.

If you're the sort of person who enjoys huffing and puffing while you read the Daily Mail, you will love this book. If you are the sort of person that finds a cabbie's diatribe less than enlightening, you will not love this book. Personally it feels to me like a waste of money because I haven't learned anything except that this author has strong opinions about political correctness and has written them down.
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on 1 July 2012
The main thesis of this book is that political correctness started with the correct intentions of reducing bigotry and 'irrational discrimination' - battles that the author thinks have been won - but now have gone too far and is stifling free speech and proper public debate.

I have given the book a 3 star rating as I think the book is worth reading but has significant drawbacks in it's analysis. The author's main gripes seem to be with immigration, women's rights, affirmative action for minorities, membership of the BNP and European integration. The author argues that political correctness prevents the public and it's representatives from having rational debates about these subjects. I agree with his main point but, as the book always seems to argue from a privileged, white, male point of view, it loses a lot of credibility as it reads like a polemic rant in favour of the rights of that group of which I am pretty sure he is a member.

He argues that the increase in heterosexual HIV in Britain since 1997 is due to Labour's lax immigration policy and British people being infected by HIV positive African immigrants. I am an immigrant from an African nation myself and I was not aware of this statistic. It surprised me, but without getting into the policy prescriptions, I certainly agree with the author that an honest public debate should take place about this if for no other reason than to make British people aware of this potential risk to their health. He also argues that Multiculturalism has not worked and has led to a lack of cultural cohesion. Another point I agree with. However, I would like to have read some comments about other countries experience with British immigrants and whether they have attempted to integrate culturally. The proliferation of English and Irish pubs on the continent probably indicates not.

Women's rights
He argues that as woman perform better at school and University at all levels, and that gender pay gaps are probably caused by factors other that discrimination such as time off work (e.g. maternity leave) and retirement age, it is discrimination against men that is becoming more of a problem. He completely loses me here. Women perform better in all levels of education yet not a single FT-SE 100 company is run by a woman and I'm pretty sure the proportion of women on the boards of these companies is in the low teens. How do you explain this if not discrimination? The author seems to assume that the success of men at the top of British society is entirely due to their superior ability. I would beg to differ. Several totally incompetent men have reached the top. The worlds banks in America, Britain and Europe are all run by men and they were all insolvent in 2007/8. All of these men reached the top and were incompetent. A more plausible, RATIONAL explanation for men dominating the top jobs is that there is a glass ceiling. Giving women certain protections in the workplace is not giving them an advantage but reducing their obvious current disadvantage. The author doesn't seem to understand that the resentment of men who feel they have been passed over by a less qualified woman is currently felt by a much larger proportion of women who have been passed over by much less competent men.

Affirmative action for minorities
See the above comments on Women's rights. The author mistakenly thinks these classical discrimination battles have been won. The numbers tell a completely different story. The author fails to acknowledge this point blaming women and minorities for their lack of performance. Yes, other factors are at work but one of the factors is surely 'irrational discrimination'. These battles have not yet been won.

Membership of the BNP
The author says free speech and democracy mean that anyone should be able to be a member of the BNP and it not affect their career. He also says that speech comes with responsibilities and that if speech leads to violence (hate speech) then it should not be tolerated. I used to live in East London and I got the BNP campaigning literature. I consider it hate speech as it whips up an irrational hatred for all things 'foreign' which often leads to intimidation and violence. I guess the author and I will have to disagree on membership of the BNP

Membership of the European Union
The author argues that anyone not for Britain's further integration of the EU is branded a xenophobe which is not fair. I agree with him here but Britain is not the Empire it once was and with America and China set to dominate our future, it may be a good idea for us to be part of, and have influence in, a United States of Europe that can compete in terms of market size, people, and military strength. Otherwise we may end up like so many other small countries, sovereign in name only. Alone in the world with no friends. Anyway, I acknowledgw his point here. We should have a public discussion about the UK's relationship with Europe and hear from all sides in an open manner.

Lastly, the author does not mention that political correctness is also something the left must also suffer. I am not in the least bit religious. I believe morals should come from within, and should exist whether or not anyone (God. Your mum) is watching. I think all religions are foolish...and I mean ALL. Political correctness prevents me from airing these views in public. The pope is just a paedophile sympathiser in a silly dress. I have to keep these beliefs to myself generally. The 'Royal' family is a complete waste of public money and should be cut off from the public purse. The idea of having to bow to any of them makes me want to vomit. Watching Roger Federer, a man who has achieved so much (greatness!) in his life bow to Prince Charles, a man who has achieved nothing, and Camilla, the adulterous hussy, at Wimbledon was embarrassing. This country should not allow this in 2012.

In summary, the book is thought provoking but one-sided (for Telegraph and Daily Mail readers). Buy it, read it, but get other views.
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on 2 July 2009
This question demands the kind of clear thinking that appears to be way beyond Browne's compass.
Yes, of course, Sharia law is a dangerous and beckward practice, which should have no place in any civilised society. And yes the silly Trotskyists of the SWP seem to embrace a tolerant approach to Sharia law (as does the vain and foolish Archbishop of Canterbury). The SWP also seems to be very tolerant of the anti-semitism of some of its mullah allies.
But who does the SWP speak for? And how significant is it? For very few, and not very influential, might well be the answers.
In fact Nick Cohen, Melanie Phillips, Anthony Browne, Peter Hitchens, etc. have an interest in overestimating the SWP's importance. It justifies their obsessive opposition to what is really a very, very minority trend of opinion.
Their (justified) opposition to the SWP is a cover for their (unjustified)opposition to many broad popular modern movements, like the trade union movement, the civil rights movement and the women's movement.
But there are great gains that should be credited to the trade unions - who fought for the weekend? For equal pay for women? For better wages and conditions? The USA's civil rights movement did brilliantly in terms of moving towards equality of treatment and an end to discrimination. The women's movement also made great gains, in improving women's legal, social and economic positions.
Anyone really disagree with these statements?

Like the editors of the Sun newspaper, Browne always avoids the hard questions, preferring the easy sneer.
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on 6 February 2009
There is little 'reason' to be found in this book. Full of unsubstantiated fear mongering. Exaggerated and often plainly untrue. It cannot even be called a polemic - as it has no argument. It is a rant.
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