Category Archives: Racism

A Tale of Two Letters

Since I’ve been walking to walk for the last month, I’ve unsurprisingly stopped reading the Evening Standard. And a good thing that is too, being as it is the printed minutes of Boris Johnson’s campaign headquarters. But on Monday I did pick up a copy – a shitty journey back from Guildford left me feeling like catching the fastest tube back home rather than bothering to walk.

A couple of “opinions” on the letters page caught my eye. Why am I only writing about these now? Only the voices in my head know why. And they won’t tell me.

Here they are [emphasis mine]:

Light entertainment at the BBC in the Eighties was a very different place from today – with a culture centred on the bar, full of characters and an almost anarchic sense of fun, with the producers themselves often larking about. 

I recall the rumours about Savile but they also flew around about lots of other people, including BBC executives. Isn’t there the risk of everyone with an axe to grind now jumping on the bandwagon? A well-known actor threw a bacon roll at me once: should I launch into print and say in hindsight it was an assault? And how can George Entwistle, a director-general who has been in post five minutes, chair an enquiry on the issue?

The BBC has been showing us how Britain fed itself during the war. I can only assume this is government propaganda bracing us for the shortage of land caused by its reckless immigration policy.

I play a game called “Two a Day” with the Metro and the Standard. Every single day there are two letters (or texts) which are so far to the right they’re off the lunatic fringe. And Monday was no exception. But it was special in how hard these two people had to work to get their absurd ideas out.

Jeanette Eccles from N7 had to compare child molestation to having a bacon sandwich thrown at her in order to dismiss the possibility of investigating the Saville affair. And Vanessa of no permanent address had to spend the last few years ignoring the fact that net immigration is negative (that is: more people are leaving than coming in) just in order to hold on to her opinion for this long. Then she had to come up with one of the most awesome non sequiturs I’ve seen in the Standard since they had Theresa May write an opinion piece about terrorists.

Congratulations Jeanette and Vanessa. Your prize for today’s piece of gibbering, frothy-mouthed hatred is my ire. Go wallow in it.

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Filed under Journalism, Politics, Racism

Crazy People Think Black People Can Get Away with Murder

Ah, Right Wing Watch. The staff there have the unenviable job of tracking everything that the crazy wingnut far-right of America say or do. Mostly so that there’s a record of every incitement to violence, or mental conspiracy theory, or boycott, or outright racism.

Falling into the last of those categories is Brian Tashman’s post Horowitz: Obama ‘Would Never Be President if He Weren’t Black’. Yes, there are the obvious statements of unremitting hatred, the lies and the conspiracies in there – go read for yourself – but one comment of Horowitz’s did catch my eye [emphasis mine]:

Cornel West is just symbolic of the corruption of our culture and not unlike Obama who would never be president if he weren’t black, no white person with his resume and his thoughts and curious background and radicalism would ever have been nominated, let alone elected president if he weren’t black. So Cornel West is an empty suit who has twenty honorary degrees and he’s taught at all these prestigious universities but is basically an airhead, most people who’ve seen him on TV they’ve noticed. Part of the racism of our society is if you’re black you can get away with murder.

If you were looking for an explanation for why he hasn’t been indicted yet over those drone strikes in Pakistan…

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Filed under Ethics, Politics, Racism

My Favourite Ever Word Salad

One of my favourite unintentionally hilarious websites is Biased BBC: a bilious, self-important ball of super-far-right hatred, all aimed at Auntie Beeb. The belief of the Biased BBC community is that the BBC has some sort of intrinsic preference for some (i.e. left-wing) political opinions over others. A bias, if you will.

And they see their bias everywhere. In particular, they see it in the BBC’s supposed love of Muslims. Y’see, it turns out all Muslims are barbaric, murderous savages. Any that aren’t are easily explained away: they couldn’t possibly really be Muslims, because the Qu’ran is barbaric, murderous and savage. And so peaceful Muslims aren’t really following the Qu’ran, etc etc. A shame he doesn’t have a similar epiphany about monogamous Christians. How many wives did Abraham have again? One? or much much more than one?

But the BBC, who love Muslims oh so very much, reveal this bias by not mentioning how awful Muslims are in every other article. For example – the BBC have mentioned that JK Rowling, one of the most successful British children’s writers of all time has her first adult book out. “WHY AREN’T THE BBC TALKING MORE ABOUT THE MUSLIMS?”, Biased BBC asks.

But my favouritest ever article is this article, titled The Egg Headed Vanguard. If you can work out what they mean, translate into English in the comments:

The BBC?…..‘good examples of moderate, liberal devotion to the idea of a polite, eggheaded vanguard, without whom the proles get distracted, confused, besieged, and eventually succumb to the terminal disease of false consciousness.
The problem is that the contemporary Left has been used to the idea of itself as a paid bureaucracy as the measure of the success of class struggle.
You actually believe that someone like you [intellectual liberal/socialist] is better able to grasp the “objectivity of a social reality” than are poor workers, because your privilege, your education, has better equipped you to see the world as it really is, without the ornamentation of language, without the bias of place or time–absent the subaltern subject position they suffer from. You’ve been able to rise above ideological distortion.
Notice what you have made of yourself: God. Your perspective is from nowhere. In the name of those poor workers, you have turned yourself into the God who will judge them for their sins against the “objectivity of a social reality,” the sins that usually congregate under the heading of false consciousness.’

They’re quoting from some equally mental, equally unreadable screed from elsewhere on the internet, but Biased BBC seem to think this is wisdom so great it needs no further explanation.

If you have an RSS aggregator, follow this site. There a good 15 minutes of giggling every day to be had.

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Filed under Bloggers, Islamophobia, Racism, Republicanism

Examiners ask Stupid Question in GCSEs

But politicians fail to understand why.

The Telegraph article Pupils asked ‘why do some people hate Jews?’ in GCSE exam highlights a huge mistake on the part of AQA. Asking such a politically, racially and religulously charged question of a fair few thousand 16 year olds is clearly in poor taste. It’s in poor taste for many reasons, not least of which at least a few of the kids answering the question will already hate Jews themselves and might unsurprisingly give some pretty hateful answers.

An answer along the lines of “Because they run a secret cabal which rules the Earth on behalf of their shape-changing alien lizard overlords” is not especially enlightened, but is pretty damned enlightening for anyone who might read it. Additionally, there is a fair amount of scope for people who would feel pretty offended to have to explain, however briefly why some people hate one another for no good reason. For some, it’s okay, and for others not so much.

So the really dumb part is not necessarily the question (which I’ll get to later), but the fact that 16 year olds are being essentially forced to answer it. If you’re going to require participation in an exam, probably the best thing to do is to leave questions which remain highly charged in the world of today out of it.

But, predictably, Michael Gove and I don’t see eye-to-eye:

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, branded the move “insensitive”.
He told The Jewish Chronicle: “To suggest that anti-Semitism can ever be explained, rather than condemned, is insensitive and, frankly, bizarre. AQA needs to explain how and why this question was included in an exam paper.”
“Insensitive” is indeed the word that describes the actions of AQA, but our agreement stops there. In fact Michael Gove’s second paragraph is kind of inexplicable. The only way I can make any sense of it is to assume that he can’t tell the difference between the words “explain” and “justify”. For example, the text of the exam question is:

Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews.

When what I think Michael Gove read was:

Justify, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews.

Now, the difference between these two is crucial. The former is asking for the real reasons why people think something which is very very bad to think. The second is asking people to support the prejudice itself. Michael Gove’s statement applies well to the latter question, but not so much to the former. Both questions, as I’ve already said, are not really appropriate for an exam question, but his statement is not just wrong when it comes to this discussion among adults, it’s blatantly counter-productive.
For example, were I a world-reknowned social and political scientist (I am not), and I wrote a paper with the following abstract (I have not), I would be perfectly justified in suggesting that anti-Semitism can be explained: 
An explanation into the motivations of anti-Semitic belief. The following paper, using interviews and polling data from the US population, investigates the fundamental vehicles for the inheritance of anti-Semitic beliefs. In modern society, open anti-Semitism justifiably has pariah status, and yet many continue to openly profess such beliefs. This paper concludes that a combinations of religious belief and political motivaton of group leaders often act as catalysts for such beliefs, and that other group members undergo conformative biases in order to fit in with their group. Once such a belief is expressed openly, the very nature of the belief encourages its holders to retreat to enclaves of anti-Semitic communities, causing groups to become even more closely knit and exacerbating the in-group/out-group hostilities which often arise.
The paper further concludes that greater integration, particularly during primary and secondary levels of schooling would act as a powerful factor in reducing the incidence of such beliefs as they cross such in-group/out-group lines and allow children the capability to see people from different backgrounds.
The point is that explaining a belief is a good thing, even if the belief itself is unjustifiable – understanding why people become anti-Semitic would help us learn how to improve things. We can hope people with stupid beliefs change, but the only thing each of us truly have the power to control is our own actions, and searching for explanations for why other people behave abominably informs us on the best steps we can personally take to reduce such behaviour.
Compare and contrast, for example, the reactions to the London riots last year. Gove, and the rest of the Tories, were quick to dismiss all who took part as part of a feral criminal underclass who can’t be saved. Anyone who suggested that we investigate why they did it was met with scorn: “How dare you suggest it is our fault?” they would scoff.
Of course it’s not our fault, responsibility for criminal behaviour lies with the criminal behaver. But once again: we are not trying to justify the actions of the rioters, only explain them. The riots began for a reason, and all governments have the power to do is change the way the government itself behaves. So the only questions we can ask following the riots is what the government can do differently to prevent more riots, and we can only do that by understanding why it happened in the first place.

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Filed under Ethics, Journalism, Politics, Racism

The Trayvon Martin Shooting

Being here in the UK, some of you may have missed the Trayvon Martin furore. This would be because there’s been essentially zero coverage of the whole thing. You’d be shocked at the date that the actual shooting occurred (26th of February) given that only now are we hearing about it.

Others have explained far better than I the facts of the case (here‘s a good starting point), but I wish to begin with a brief talk of the UK media’s reaction.

None of the mainstream UK media covered the case until mass protests began.
The first BBC News TV article, as far as I can tell, was on the day of the protests. First, that proves that protests do work, and that protests have value beyond making lots of noise. I didn’t see a newspaper article on the subject until the day after. Granted, I only read the Guardian, the Times and the free commuter papers, but surely at least one of these would cover it…

Every article is repeating the lie that Zimmerman was a neighbourhood watch volunteer.
Read James Fenton’s article, the relevant BBC article on the subject. The truth is that Zimmerman wasn’t a member of any neighbourhood watch scheme – he was a self-appointed neighbourhood watch volunteer. And he’s made massive numbers of calls to 911 pointing out suspicious (i.e. black) characters. He was also carrying a weapon, which he’s not supposed to do if he’s in the neighbourhood watch, and he followed the guy. That’s not just something neighbourhood watch officers aren’t supposed to do, it’s the thing he was explicitly told not to do by the 911 operator.

Zimmerman’s actions have been condemned by the National Sheriffs’ Association which sponsors the US’s nationwide neighbourhood watch programme, a crime prevention scheme that allows local volunteers to patrol the streets. 

It said it had no record that the community involved was registered with the NSA programme, calling Zimmerman a “self-appointed neighbourhood watchman”. 

“The alleged participant ignored everything the Neighborhood Watch Program stands for and it resulted in a young man losing his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Trayvon Martin during this terrible time,” said Aaron D Kennard, the NSA’s executive director.

Bastard.

The far-right wing seem to think Obama’s involvement made this falsely about race.
This is an America article which the far-right blogosphere in the UK is currently circulating. There’s a couple of things in here which are just wrong, and I found it pretty instructional to understand them – it helps me understand the mindset of the far right a little better.

A Hispanic man shoots a black kid where no one knows the exact circumstances in which the shooting occurred and where we are likely never to know what happened. Instead of waiting for the facts, narratives have replaced truth and we have a full blown racial incident when it isn’t even clear that race was a factor.

Again – this kid was armed and ready. With a bag of skittles and a drink. He was 17. He was alone. He was followed by a man with a track record of making 911 calls to police of other suspicious (once again, i.e. black) characters.

He was followed by a man who was carrying a 9mm handgun (or as I call it, a “magic death button”), and shot dead. He put up the hood of his hoodie because he was scared he was being stalked. We have that from a tape of him with his girlfriend.

How will he look if it comes out that the shooter was justified in defending himself?

We know better – besides, what could he possibly be defending himself from – are the red ones in a Skittles packet particularly dangerous? Obama has weighed in because of the massive outcry that justice has not been done. Nobody has even tried. Obama came down on the correct side, because a man has shot an unarmed child, and has not even been investigated by the police. This is sick. This is exactly the institutionalised racism that we in the UK think has gone away now we’ve convicted Stephen Lawrence’s killers.

It has not.

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