A couple of days ago I described how I thought that avoiding publishing the Charlie Hebdo “satirical” comics would adhere to the Biblical principle illustrated by the Golden Rule, as such an act would be overly provocative and done primarily to tick off the Muslims. But now we see the other end of the spectrum, courtesy the hyper-sensitive folks at the Oxford University Press. Not only are they trying to avoid insulting Jews and Muslims, but they are going way overboard on the sensitivity front. From the UK’s Daily Mail:
Schoolbook authors have been told not to write about sausages or pigs for fear of causing offence.
Guidance from leading educational publisher the Oxford University Press prohibits authors from including anything that could be perceived as pork-related in their books.
The bizarre clampdown, apparently aimed at avoiding offence among Jews and Muslims, emerged yesterday during a discussion about free speech on Radio 4’s Today programme.
It was immediately branded ‘nonsensical political correctness’.
The ironic thing is that it seems neither the Muslims nor the Jews particularly care about such references. The Jerusalem Post makes the case:
The Jewish Leadership Council said in response that “Jewish law prohibits eating pork, not the mention of the word, or the animal from which it derives.”
British-Muslim Labor MP Khalid Mahmood was also quoted by the Mail as saying, “I absolutely agree. That’s absolute utter nonsense. And when people go too far, that brings the whole discussion into disrepute.”
There’s a difference between being courteous and avoiding undue intentional provocation and taking bizarre steps to avoid mundane, non-confrontational references to normal, everyday words or pictures. The OUP has gone well beyond reason to avoid a problem that doesn’t exist. The Daily Mail quotes the OUP:
A spokesman said: ‘Many of the educational materials we publish in the UK are sold in more than 150 countries, and as such they need to consider a range of cultural differences and sensitivities.
‘Our editorial guidelines are intended to help ensure that the resources that we produce can be disseminated to the widest possible audience.’
But last night the publishing rules were ridiculed amid doubts either Muslims or Jews would be offended by mention of farm animals in a children’s book.
Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘How on earth can anyone find the word “pig” or “pork” offensive?
‘No word is offensive. It is the context in which it is used that is offensive.’
The latter statement by MP Davies IS the point. In the case of the cartoons, the works themselves and the context were unquestionably offensive to Muslims, but obviously the murderous response was (to say the least) inappropriate and unacceptable. With the use of pictures of pigs and mention of pork, the use of the words, pictures, etc. are not in any type of offensive context. There ARE certain words, symbols, pictures, etc. that are blatantly offensive to some groups, yet they do get used on occasion in the same way that the Charlie Hebdo comics were – in an intentionally offensive way. Yes, a publisher should avoid that, unless, of course, offense is intended (which happens). But avoiding words, phrases, pictures, symbols that are perfectly acceptable in normal context? That’s definitely an exercise in political correctness run amok.