Melanie Phillips on the slide to left wing censorship

Melanie Phillips has written a provocative article about the rigidity of left wing thought, and how British society is becoming more censored.  The article is entitled I think therefore I’m guilty

A target of much of her criticism over recent years, The Guardian,  has a response here which is followed by a lively discussion.  Philips “sinful” trajectory was to move, in the Guardian’s eyes, from the left to the right.. others said to have made the journey include the wonderful Paul Johnson.  The Guardian article, by the man labouring under the name Keith Kahn-Harris, labels her journey as “to the extremes” .  His use of the word “extremes” reminds me of an excellent book by Jay Heinrichs entitled “Thank you for arguing”.  

One section in the book (p179)  discusses the tactic of  labelling someones views as “extreme”.  Heinrichs writes “Being on one side or the other does not make one an extremist.  In fact, no rhetorical rule book forbids you from using the extremist or moderate label as a persuasive technique.  If your own opinion lies outside the public’s mean, you can describe that mean as extreme.  Or you can label your own position as moderate.  But the technique is tricky, to say the least.  Most audiences don’t appeciate being labelled as extremists.  Usually, when a persuader labels an opponent as extreme simply because she disagrees with him, then he’s probably the extreme one.  Don’t trust his virtue”.  

Check out how often the word “extreme” is used in discussion on the Middle East –  ie who uses the expression “Netanyahu is extreme while Abbas is moderate”?

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