Strange stories

His Imperial Majesty the Man-Eater

 (Published in Grail World 62/2010) 

What is "politically correct"?

For several years there has been a new point of view for everyone who wants to publish: the "Political correctness" (political correctness).

Anyone who publishes something would do well to express himself "politically correct" if he wants to make sure that he is not disqualified as an extremist, populist, racist etc. or even prosecuted.

It is not so much a matter of pure facts or historical truth (which has been and is being twisted often enough) than it is to follow the "zeitgeist", that is, what is currently generally recognized or accepted by the public is applicable.

The concept of “political correctness” (3), which like much modernity comes from the USA, may be new; the point of view is old that one (and not only in authoritarian regimes) has to be careful not to express an unpopular opinion.

This can be illustrated by an example from 1815. In this particular case, public (or "published"?) Opinion was changing at breakneck speed that journalists could barely keep up with the rapid change in attitudes:

Napoleon's return from Elba

After the collapse of the Napoleonic system in 1814 it was Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) exiled to the island of Elba under generous conditions.

His comfortable exile, however, was not as safe as it seemed. In England in particular, there were influential voices who considered Napoleon's stay near the French coast to be far too dangerous and would have preferred to have known him, under safe guard, far from Europe.

In addition, Napoleon had a few smaller ships available with which he could escape the English or French fleet and land in France in favorable wind and weather conditions.

The tensions at the Congress of Vienna, at which the rulers of Europe argued about the future political structure of this continent, were the final impetus for Napoleon to flee back to France in order to regain power there. There were still many Bonapartists who mourned the splendor of the Empire and the return of the Ancien Régime and the Bourbon King Louis XVIII appointed by the Allies. refused.

When Napoleon set sail at the end of February 1815, he said to his entourage: "I will come to Paris without a single shot being fired." (1, p. 533). On March 1, he landed unexpectedly near Cannes, gathered troops who enthusiastically overflowed to him, and promised radical democratic reforms.

Now events precipitated. The political balance of power in France changed faster than the newspapers could report:

Political correctness
In his speech at the University of Michigan attacked on May 4, 1991 US President George HW Bush this new media term and sat with it in connection with the free speech apart:
“Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, we are finding that free speech is happening across the United States, including some university campuses. The idea of political correctness has sparked controversy across the country. And although the movement grew out of the laudable need to sweep away the remnants of racism and sexism and hatred, it is only replacing old prejudices with new ones. She declares certain topics taboo, certain expressions taboo and even certain gestures taboo. What began as a crusade for decency has turned into a focus of conflict and even censorship. Those in conflict regard pure coercion as a substitute for the power of thought - for example by having their opponent punished or expelled. " (2).

Newspaper comments from March 1st to March 10th, 1815:

Also the Monitor, the official newspaper of the French government, was surprised by the return of the ex-emperor. The editors of the Monitor did not really know how to comment on Napoleon's landing and his march on Paris. It's exciting to see how the headlines of the Monitor developed in the first days of March 1815, and how the names for the emperor of the French, returning from exile, changed from day to day. (4).
1) The Man eater left his cave.
2) The Wehrwolf of Corsica has just landed at Cap Juan.
3) The tiger has reached Gap.
4) That Enormous stayed at Grenoble.
5) The bully came through Lyon.
6) The usurper is sixty lieues[1] been seen from the capital.
7)      Bonaparte is moving fast, but he will never move into Paris.
8)      Napoleon will be under our walls tomorrow.
9) The Emperor has reached Fontainebleau.
10)  His Imperial and Royal Majesty entered your Tuileries Palace yesterday evening, in the midst of your loyal subjects.

What to say about the headlines from back then that should be politically correct reporting?

Aren't they a good reflection of the journalism in practice today?

(1) Gallo Max, Napoleon, Structure of Taschenbuch Verlag, Berlin, 2002.

Final grade: 
[1] Lieue = mile. 1 Lieue = approx. 4 km.