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Monday, November 27, 2006

When political correctness and fear intersect

Another disturbing story out of Australia:
A LEADING children's publisher has dumped a novel because of political sensitivity over Islamic issues.

Scholastic Australia pulled the plug on the Army of the Pure after booksellers and librarians said they would not stock the adventure thriller for younger readers because the "baddie" was a Muslim terrorist.

A prominent literary agent has slammed the move as "gutless", while the book's author, award-winning novelist John Dale, said the decision was "disturbing because it's the book's content they are censoring".

"There are no guns, no bad language, no sex, no drugs, no violence that is seen or on the page," Dale said, but because two characters are Arabic-speaking and the plot involves a mujaheddin extremist group, Scholastic's decision is based "100 per cent (on) the Muslim issue".

The assumption is that the book is not being published because of "political sensitivity" over Muslims as the terrorists (imagine how Mafia novels would be if the protagonists weren't Italian!) but I think that this is not a pure case of political correctness.

Scholastic, as a publisher of schoolbooks and other material for children and teenagers, is surely as keenly aware of political correctness issues as anyone. But look a little closer:
Scholastic's general manager, publishing, Andrew Berkhut, said the company had canvassed "a broad range of booksellers and library suppliers", who expressed concern that the book featured a Muslim terrorist.

"They all said they would not stock it," he said, "and the reality is if the gatekeepers won't support it, it can't be published."

It isn't Scholastic that is saying that the book is unsellable, but the librarians and bookstores. Now, why would the people who sell and distribute all kinds of books on all topics be more sensitive to political correctness than the publishers?

In fact, these are usually the first people to complain about perceived censorship, and the first to proudly show that they support controversial content.

No, it is not "political correctness" run amok in Australia, but the abject fear of Muslim backlash. The booksellers and librarians are concerned that the tolerant Muslim community whom they are pretending to protect are going to burn down their bookstores and libraries. Political correctness is a convenient screen to hide their fear behind, but they saw what happened with the Mohammed cartoons and the Pope's statement, and they (understandably) do not want to be on the hot end of Muslim torches during "protests."

What percentage of Western political correctness vis a vis Islam is really fear? How much of European dhimmitude and liberal American protectionism of Muslim values really a mask for pure fear?

Going slightly further, how many of the "brave" attacks on the "Israel lobby" are a reaction of the impotence felt by the supposed defenders of free speech, who subconsciously know that if they were equally "brave" about Islam they could be the targets of fatwas - so to hide their weakness they pretend to defend freedom in the name of attacking Jews, who they know quite well will not physically harm them?

Fear is a very effective diplomatic weapon, and here we see that it can end up having an insidious and subliminal chilling effect on free speech as well. And as long as the effective censors of the truth can point to political correctness as their motivation rather than fear, they are off the hook - and the laws that outlaw defaming the "prophet" are not far behind.