Whataboutery and Seamus Milne on Conservative Islamic Influence in Education.
Seamus Milne Hints at Plot to Forge Trojan Horse Document.
The fallacy of relative privation, or appeal to worse problems, is an informal fallacy which attempts to suggest that the opponent’s argument should be ignored because there are more important problems in the world, despite the fact that these issues are often completely unrelated to the subject under discussion.
The word whataboutery has been used to describe this line of argument when used in protesting at inconsistent behaviour. e.g. “The British even have a term for it: whataboutery. If you are prepared to go to war to protect Libyan civilians from their government, then what about the persecuted in Bahrain?” Wikipedia.
Seamus Milne is a master of Wataboutery.
Today in the Guardian he begins an article – Michael Gove’s toxic assault on schools is based on naked discrimination – with another tactic, of ‘contextualisation’ by putting an event in terms of the worst possible context.
“The harassment of minorities on the basis of forged documents has a grim history.”
“So the official onslaught on mainly Muslim state schools in Birmingham, triggered by what has all the hallmarks of a fabricated letter outlining a supposed Islamist plot to take them over, should be cause for deep alarm.”
Left in the dark about this “history” (although we might float the words, Protocols, Elders and Zion, around) we launch into some rhetoric before landing here,
But this extremism turns out to be a different beast from the one first trailed in lurid accusations a few months back. It is nothing to do with terrorism, or even the elastic boo-word of Islamism. The target is religious conservatism – or even just plain religiousness.
It is with interest that Milne takes so lightly criticism of Islamism (overwhelmingly from the left in countries where Islamists have murdered democrats, leftists and feminists) that he calls it a ‘boo-word’.
Milne then largely denies that there is much of a problem about the influence of conservative Islamism in schools, notes the patriotism of Birmingham Muslims, denies that most of the reported incidents of enforcing religious norms took place, and, unable to disprove some of them admits that,
That’s not to say, of course, that there’s nothing behind the allegations, which have clearly been fed by former and current staff – or that there aren’t legitimate grievances. These are not faith schools and some have clearly pushed the schools’ religious boundaries.
He then ends with a classic whataboutery,
“There’s a powerful case for secular education. But it doesn’t exist in Britain’s schools, which are awash with religion. And unless the same rules apply to all, the result is naked discrimination. But has Gove sent inspectors to root out anti-abortionism and homophobia in Catholic or evangelical-sponsored schools, or cultural isolation in mainly white schools where racism is rife?”
No he has not.
He has not disestablished the Church of England.
Or promoted equality and secularism.
He is a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary privatiser.
But does Milne advocate promoting the “”same rules for all”?
We await this call with interest.
This is followed by another whatabout….
But the campaign to bring to heel Birmingham’s schools and humiliate the Muslim community in the process is a wider threat in a country where war-fuelled Islamophobia is already rampant. Dog-whistling to Ukip bigotry might seem a cute electoral trick.
The problem then is not the content of the report on the schools: it’s the context in which it’s made. By this sleight of hand Milne has avoided addressing the issues
- Is there anything wrong with the principle of religious influence in education?
- Should the influence of conservative Islam be curtailed?
- Should there be universal secular education?