Liberal law-enforcers: Laurence Fox and Kevin Whately in "Lewis"
In an analytical moment, Bertrand Russell examined the faults of those who marched with him in favour of liberal causes, and concluded that they had an unerring ability to fall for "the fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed". They could not just say that oppression was wrong, and leave it there. They had to imagine that the oppressed were virtuous; that their noble struggles raised them above the mass of compromised humanity; that their poets were geniuses and their leaders were the most principled statesmen on earth.
Ever the philosopher, Russell worried that the fallacy's logical conclusion was that, far from causing harm, oppression was good for its victims and the more oppression there was the better the human race would be.
The sanctification of Nelson Mandela is a modern example of the fallacy at its most cloying, while the assumption that we would not have had a banking crisis if women had been in charge of high finance shows its timeless ability to generate comforting delusions. Nothing however illustrates its unintended consequences more regularly and blandly than British television drama's treatment of ethnic minorities.
Take as a minor instance the following scene from Lewis, the series ITV span off Inspector Morse after the sad loss of John Thaw. I should explain that Lewis was Morse's sergeant. To keep a lucrative format alive, ITV promoted him to the rank of inspector, and removed his wife to allow love interest to sneak into the plots.
Lewis investigated a murder during a reunion of former students at an all-female Oxford college. He was convinced that an attack at the college a decade before held the key to the case. He questioned an attractive ex-policewoman, who worked on the original crime. Their eyes met, and they arranged to go out for a drink.