January 5, 2008


The last testament of Flashman's creator: How Britain has destroyed itself (GEORGE MACDONALD FRASER, 5th January 2008, Daily Mail)

When 30 years ago I resurrected Flashman, the bully in Thomas Hughes's Victorian novel Tom Brown's Schooldays, political correctness hadn't been heard of, and no exception was taken to my adopted hero's character, behaviour, attitude to women and subject races (indeed, any races, including his own) and general awfulness.

On the contrary, it soon became evident that these were his main attractions. He was politically incorrect with a vengeance.

Through the Seventies and Eighties I led him on his disgraceful way, toadying, lying, cheating, running away, treating women as chattels, abusing inferiors of all colours, with only one redeeming virtue - the unsparing honesty with which he admitted to his faults, and even gloried in them.

And no one minded, or if they did, they didn't tell me. In all the many thousands of readers' letters I received, not one objected.

In the Nineties, a change began to take place. Reviewers and interviewers started describing Flashman (and me) as politically incorrect, which we are, though by no means in the same way.

This is fine by me. Flashman is my bread and butter, and if he wasn't an elitist, racist, sexist swine, I'd be selling bootlaces at street corners instead of being a successful popular writer.

But what I notice with amusement is that many commentators now draw attention to Flashy's (and my) political incorrectness in order to make a point of distancing themselves from it.

It's not that they dislike the books. But where once the non-PC thing could pass unremarked, they now feel they must warn readers that some may find Flashman offensive, and that his views are certainly not those of the interviewer or reviewer, God forbid.

I find the disclaimers alarming. They are almost a knee-jerk reaction and often rather a nervous one, as if the writer were saying: "Look, I'm not a racist or sexist. I hold the right views and I'm in line with modern enlightened thought, honestly."

They won't risk saying anything to which the PC lobby could take exception. And it is this that alarms me - the fear evident in so many sincere and honest folk of being thought out of step.

The Left objects to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 5, 2008 10:27 AM

A few posts back, everyone was glorifying the econ stats (worse today, BTW) and crowing about how wonderful things under the alternating Reign of the Bush/Clinton dynasties.

While things are better here than in Britain, the lament in this article articulates a slow moral and intellectual decline (in the West) brought about by our individual and collective tolerance of the cancer of Political Correctness (preached from the pulpits of our public schools)

But hey, the baubles are still affordable (for the time being).

Posted by: Bruno at January 5, 2008 12:27 PM

You're stealing my bit.

Posted by: One Note Canary at January 5, 2008 2:32 PM

Anyone describing Britain (and I suspect the US) as sliding into a Third World condition has most likely never set foot in a genuinely poor country.

The differences on all levels are too stark for any such comparison to be taken seriously by those without a political axe to grind.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at January 6, 2008 1:23 AM