PC terminology distorts the truth

22 June 2019

4.3 MINS

Editor’s Note: Angela Shanahan astutely unveils ideological narratives shaping our common discourse and the creeping censorship in Australian society. View the original article at The Australian here and subscribe to The Australian here.


Do readers remember when the term “political correctness” was on every conservative’s lips and at the fingertips of every commentator? That term, used as a phrase to denote intimidatory “right think”, is unfortunately fast leaving the lexicon. This is because so much of what was once scoffed at as political correctness has been absorbed into the mental and psychological landscape.

Today almost every political and social problem is looked at through a set of ideological prisms, and opinions on even the most serious issues are conveyed through a menu of acceptable tropes. The result is superficial, ideologically motivated mumbo jumbo.

Take violence against women. Lately the union boss John Setka got himself into a lot of trouble about this issue. Why? Not just because he himself has been charged with harassing a woman through phone and text messages, nor because he has publicly threatened Australian Building and Construction Commission inspectors, claiming their children will be made to feel “ashamed” of them, nor because he is the boss of a union that has used systematic bullying at building sites for years.

No, this is not why Setka has been threatened with expulsion from the ALP and his job. It is because he was perceived to criticise Rosie Batty, whose campaign against gender-based domestic violence has turned her into an untouchable icon of the virtuous right-thinking elite. Does anyone see the irony of this?

Of course, no one should criticise Batty, who had the hellish experience of seeing her child killed by his mentally deranged father. Her son was the victim of the most appalling laxity on the part of the police. Her husband had four outstanding arrest warrants and two intervention orders against him. He should not have been let loose to murder that child. At the inquest the police lack of action was criticised by the judge as revealing “a disturbingly relaxed attitude and a failure to accord an appropriate degree of urgency to the situation”. Obviously.

However, despite her devastating personal experience, Batty’s campaign will be fruitless, doomed to empty breast-beating. This is because it is a direct product of political correctness. The campaign, which was started during the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull with $100 million of taxpayer money, was never going to have any effect on the real causes of domestic violence, because it is seemingly not about looking at the real causes.

It has been hijacked as an ideological campaign by ambitious feminists, harnessing the mantra of gender inequality, to attack something that does not originate in gender inequality.

Rather, domestic violence has its origins in the twin social evils of alcohol and drug abuse, combined with poverty, large-scale family breakdown, and of course inadequate policing. Hence domestic violence is most acute in Australia in Aboriginal communities. However, that fact does not play to the anti-racism ideology. So while the professional feminists are using domestic violence as a vehicle to promote yet more talkfests and paid lectures, Aboriginal women and children are being continually subjected to the most degrading physical and sexual violence.

Meanwhile, in the alternative universe in which we white educated types live, the men are not allowed to question any of this. Instead, they are encouraged to pay homage to the phony gender rubric that frames any discussion about domestic violence by flinging off the scourge of their maleness and sporting white ribbons.

Women are too hamstrung by the platitudes of feminists to query this agenda. So we are all obliged to treat domestic violence not as a practical problem of the drug culture and of policing, but as a seriously vague “gender issue” about which men have to beat their breasts and women take the high ground as victims and then demand that governments should do something, even though government can do very little.

Domestic violence is not the only area where the demands of political correctness have skewed the mental landscape interfering with the truth of the matter. So-called identity politics is rife with this. The language is carefully policed and anyone going outside to call a spade a spade, even in the mildest terms, invites condemnation. Witness what happened to Barry Humphries when he was shunned by the very festival he helped to set up. His fault? He had called the current epidemic of transgenderism “a fashion”.

Then there was the fearless duo of Germaine Greer and the equally acerbic Julie Burchill, special subjects of the bleedin’ obvious, who pointed out, not in mild but in scathing terms, that you could “put on a dress and cut off your bits” but it doesn’t turn you into a woman — unless of course you live in Tasmania, where you don’t even have to cut off the bits.

Despite their “transgressions”, these people are safe by virtue of their fame and intelligence. However, look what happened to Israel Folau, who as a contracted football player was doing the only thing he can do. He was not safe. His case has a strange inverted relationship to that of Setka — who was condemned because he slipped up on the politically correct line rather than his transgressions.

Folau is a good man, a model family man who has nevertheless been pilloried as a bad man, an undesirable and lost his job.


The brouhaha surrounding his posts was caused by one thing.

His employers did not sack him because of his religion, nor was it an employment issue.

Folau’s big mistake was a political correctness transgression.

He crossed a threshold that the commissars of political right think will not allow.

He should have left only one category out of his list of sinners.

We are not interested in the salvation of drunks and adulterers, or anyone else for that matter. After all, there are people who have been taking drugs still playing for the Wallabies — not to mention the footballers of various codes charged with rape.

Apparently, their transgressions are on a par with Folau’s.


Angela Shanahan is a Canberra-based freelance journalist and mother of nine children. She has written regularly for The Australian for 18 years, The Spectator (British and Australian editions) for over 10 years, and formerly for the Sunday Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times. For 15 years she was a teacher in the NSW state high school system and at the University of NSW. Her areas of interest are family policy, social affairs and religion. She was an original convener of the Thomas More Forum on faith and public life in Canberra.

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