On Golliwogs, One-Eyed Scottish Idiots and Sending Poo Through the Post

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

In England,
one of those weeks has just ended that define an entire period.
This is no consolation for those who have suffered, and who may
yet suffer worse. But I have no doubt that it is worth describing
what has happened and trying to explain what it means.

Let me begin
with the facts.

First,
it was reported on the 3rd February 2009 that Carol
Thatcher
, daughter of Margaret Thatcher, had been dismissed
from her job as a BBC presenter for having called a black tennis
player a golliwog. She did not say this on air, but during a private
conversation. Even so, the BBC defended
its decision on the grounds that any language of a "racist
nature" was "wholly unacceptable."

Second,
demands are rising at the moment for Jeremy Clarkson, another presenter
at the BBC, to be dismissed for having called the Prime Minister
a "one-eyed
Scottish idiot
who keeps telling us everything’s fine."
Various Scotch politicians and spokesmen for the blind let up an
immediate
chorus of horror
that has resulted in a conditional apology
from Mr. Clarkson, but may not save his career.

Third,
it was reported on the 2nd February 2009 that the comedian and Labour
Party supporter Jo Brand was being investigated by the police for
allegedly inciting criminal acts against her political opponents.
While presenting a BBC television program on the 16th January 2009,
she rejoiced that the membership list of the British
National Party
had been stolen and published on the Internet.
Her exact words were: "Hurrah!
Now we know who to send the poo to
." The natural meaning
of her words was that it would be a fine idea to look up members
of this party and send excrement to them through the post. The British
National Party put in an immediate complaint, using the hate speech
laws made during the past generation. According to a BBC
spokesman
, "We do not comment on police matters. However,
we believe the audience would have understood the satirical nature
of the remarks." It is relevant to note that Mrs. Brand was
present when Carol Thatcher made her "golliwog" remarks,
and may have had a hand in denouncing her.

Fourth,
In The Times on the 6th February, someone called
Matthew Syed
wrote how personally oppressed he felt by words
like "golliwog," and how good it was that "society"
was taking a stand against them. Two pages later, someone called

Frank Skinner
defended the employers in the north of England
who prefer to employ foreigners on the grounds that foreigners are
"better looking" and "less trouble." The possibility
that he has broken one of our hate speech laws will probably never
be considered.

This is a gathering
of facts that occurred or were made public during one week. But
if we relax the time limit, similar facts pour in beyond counting.
There was, for example, the pillorying last month of one of the
Queen’s grandsons for calling someone a "Paki."
Or, to give myself as an example, there was my BBC debate of the
16th February 2004 with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, an Asian immigrant
who seems incapable of seeing any issue except in terms of white
racism. During this debate, I asked her: "Yasmin,
are you saying that the white majority in this country is so seething
with hatred and discontent that it is only restrained by law from
rising up and tearing all the ethnic minorities to pieces?
"
Her answer was "Yes." It is possible she did not understand
my question. It is possible she would have clarified or retracted
her answer had the debate been allowed to continue. Sadly for her,
the BBC immediately switched off my microphone and threw me into
the street. Mrs. Brown was allowed to continue uninterrupted till
the end of the program. The hundreds of complaints received by the
BBC and the Commission for Racial Equality were all either ignored
or dismissed with the assurance that nothing untoward had taken
place in the studio. I accept that Mrs. Brown might not have meant
what she said. Had I made such a comment about Asians or blacks,
however, I might have been facing a long stretch in prison.

But let me
return to the most recent facts. The most obvious reason why these
broadly similar incidents are being treated so differently is that
JO Brand and Frank Skinner are members of the new ruling class that
formally took power in 1997. They can vilify their opponents as
freely as Dr. Goebbels did his. Any of the hate speech laws that
might – objectively read – moderate their language will
be regarded as nullities. The police had no choice but to investigate
Mrs. Brand for her alleged offense committed live on television
before several million people. But they made it clear that no charges
would result. According to a
police spokesman
, "The chances of this going further are
very remote. The idea that the BNP are claiming they are the victim
of a race offense is mildly amusing, to say the least." It
may be amusing. The statement itself is interesting, though, as
a formal admission that law in this country now means whatever the
executive finds convenient.

Carol Thatcher
and Jeremy Clarkson are not members of the ruling class. They have
no such immunity. Mr. Clarkson may get away with his act of hate
speech because he is popular and clever, and because the main object
of his contempt is only the Prime Minister. Miss Thatcher may not
be allowed to get away with her act. She used a word that borders
on the illegal. And she is the daughter of Margaret Thatcher. She
is the daughter, that is, of the woman elected and reelected three
times on the promise that she would make the British State smaller
and stop it from being made the vehicle for a totalitarian revolution
by stealth. Of course, she broke her promises. She did nothing to
stop the takeover of the state administration by politically correct
totalitarians. But there was a while when the people who actually
won the cultural revolution in this country thought they would lose.
They looked at her rhetoric. They noted the millions of votes she
piled up in her second and third general elections. And they trembled.
As said, they won. Mrs. Thatcher herself is too old to suffer more
than endless blackening at the hands of the victors who now comprise
the ruling class. But they still tremble at the thought of how her
shadow darkened their 1980s. And if they can do nothing to her now,
her daughter can be ruined, and that will now be tried with every
chance of success.

It might be
argued that what Miss Thatcher and Mr. Clarkson said was offensive,
and that they are in trouble because we have a much greater regard
for politeness than used to be the case. Perhaps it is offensive
to say that a black man looks like a golliwog. Perhaps it is offensive
to imply that Scotchmen are idiots or that people with defective
sight also have defective judgment. It might be. But it might also
be offensive to millions of people that the BBC – which is
funded by a compulsory levy on everyone who can receive television
signals – broadcasts a continual stream of nudity and obscene
language; and that it pays the biggest salary in its history to
Jonathan Ross, whose only public talent is for foul-mouthed buffoonery.
The British ruling class – especially through the BBC, its
main propaganda outreach – has a highly selective view of what
is offensive.

And it is worth
replying that the alleged offensiveness of the statements is minimal.
Let us forget about golliwogs and implied sneers at the blind. Let
us take the word "nigger." Now, this has not been a word
admitted in polite company in England since about the end of the
eighteenth century. Anyone who does use the word shows himself a
person of low breeding. Whatever its origins, its use for centuries
has been as an insult to black people. Any reasonable black man,
therefore, called a nigger, has cause to take offense.

This being
said, only moderate offense can be reasonable. Anyone who runs about,
wailing that he has been hurt by a word as if it were a stick taken
to his back, and calling for laws and social ostracism to punish
the speaker, is a fool or a villain. And I can think of few other
epithets that a reasonable person would greet with more than a raised
eyebrow – "poof," "paki," "papist,"
"mohammedan," "chinkie" and the like. Anyone
who finds these words at the very worst annoying should grow up.
We can be quite sure that most of the Asian languages now spoken
in this country contain some very unflattering words to describe
the English – for example,
goreh
, gweilo,
and so forth. There is no pressure, internal or external, for these
to be dropped. And we know that there are any number of organizations
set up by and for non-whites in this country from which the English
are barred – for example, the
National Black Police Association
.

However, the
highly selective use of speech codes and hate speech laws has nothing
really to do with politeness. It is about power. The British ruling
class may talk the language of love and diversity and inclusiveness.
What it obviously wants is the unlimited power to plunder and enslave
us, while scaring us into the appearance of gratitude for our dispossession.
Because the tyrannized are always the majority in a tyranny, they
must be somehow prevented from combining. The soviet socialists
and the national socialists kept control by the arbitrary arrest
and torture or murder of suspected opponents. That is not presently
acceptable in England or in the English world. Control here is kept
by defining all opposition as "hatred" – and by defining
all acts or attitudes that might enable opposition as "hatred."

I am the Director
of the Libertarian Alliance. Not surprisingly, my own opposition
to the rising tide of despotism is grounded on a belief in individual
rights. I may occasionally talk about my ancestral rights as an
Englishman, or about how my ancestors fought and died so I could
enjoy some now threatened right. I may sometimes half-believe my
rhetoric. Ultimately, though, I believe that people have –
or should be regarded as having – rights to life, liberty and
property by virtue of their human status. Anything else I say really
is just a rhetorical device. This is not the case with most other
people. For them, opposing the encroachments of a ruling class is
grounded on collective identity – "they can’t do
that to us." Now, this sense of collective identity
may derive from common religion, common loyalty, common culture,
but most often and most powerfully – though these other sources
may also be important – from perceived commonality of blood.

Now, this collective
identity is not something that is seen at times of emergency, but
otherwise is in abeyance. It is important in times of emergency
so far as it is always present. People work together when they must
because, at all other times, they have a mass of shared rituals
and understandings that hold them together. These shared things
often define a people in terms of their distinctness from others.
Jokes beginning "There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a
Scotchman" or "What do you call a Frenchman who…?"
are part of what reinforces an English identity. So too are comments
and gestures and assumptions that assert the superiority of the
English over other peoples. To change my focus for a moment, take
the phrase "Goyishe
Kopf"
– Gentile brains! This is what some Jews say
when they do something stupid. It can be taken as expressing hatred
and contempt of non-Jews. More reasonably, it is one of those comments
that reinforce the Jewish identity.

What Carol
Thatcher said was part of this reminding of identity. Her
exact words
, so far as I can tell, were: "You also have
to consider the frogs. You know, that froggy golliwog guy."
The meaning she was trying to convey was: "let us consider
how quaint and absurd outsiders are. Is it not nice that we are
members of the same group, and that we are so clever and so beautiful?"
I am not saying that I approve of what she actually said. Indeed,
she would have done better for herself and the English in general
had she kept her mouth shut.  Calling someone "froggy"
is neither here nor there. Calling him a "golliwog" is
moderately hurtful. Saying this on BBC premises, and in front of
people like JO Brand, shows that Miss Thatcher is stupid or that
she was drunk. Her words, as reported, do less to reinforce English
identity than make the whole thing an embarrassment.

However –
her name always aside – she is being punished not because her
words were crass, but because they fell into the category of actions
that must at all times be discouraged. Powerful or crass to the
point of embarrassment, nothing must be tolerated that might tend
to promote an English identity. I say an English identity.
The rule does not apply to Scotch or Welsh or Irish nationalism.
These are not regarded as a danger to the ruling class project of
total enslavement. They are controllable by subsidy. More usefully,
they are anti-English. The various ethnic nationalisms and Islamic
identities are likewise allowed or encouraged. They are not perceived
as a danger to the ruling class project of total domination, and
may be used against the English. It is English identity that must
at all costs be repressed. The English are still the largest national
group in these islands, and will remain so at least until 2040,
when there may be a nonwhite majority all through the United Kingdom.
English national ways are the raw material from which every liberal
doctrine has been refined. The English are an unpleasantly violent
nation when pushed too far.

This explains
why words and expressions are defined almost at random as "hatred,"
and why names of groups and places keep changing almost at random.
The purpose is not to protect various minority groups from being
hurt – though clever members of these groups may take advantage
of the protections. The real purpose is to hobble all expression
of English identity. It is to make the words and phrases that come
most readily to mind unusable, or usable only with clarifications
and preemptive cringes that rob them of all power to express protest.
Or it is to force people to consult their opponents on what words
are currently acceptable – and whoever is allowed to control
the terms of debate is likely to win the debate.

And look how
easily it can be done. Also during the past week, we have seen working
class demonstrations in the north of England against the employment
of foreign workers. "British jobs for British workers"
they have been chanting. A few raised eyebrows and warnings from
Peter Mandelson about the "politics
of xenophobia
," and the trade unions have straight-away
sold out their members and are preparing to bully them back to work.
Better that trade union members scrabble to work for a pound an
hour, or whatever, than that they should be suffered to use words
like "Eyeties" or "Dagoes."

I should end
by suggesting what can be done to counter this strategy. I suppose
the answer is not to behave like Carol Thatcher. We must accept
that certain words and phrases have been demonized beyond defense.
Some of them are indefensible. These must be dropped. Others that
are just about permissible – Scotchman, for example –
should be used and defended on all occasions. We should also at
all times bear in mind that political correctness is not about protecting
the weak but disarming the potentially strong, and it must be made
clear to the ruling class that its management of language has been
noticed and understood and rejected. A strategy of apparently casual
offense, followed by partial and unconvincing apology – of
the sort that we may have seen from Jeremy Clarkson – may also
be appropriate.

Another strategy
worth considering is the one adopted by the British National Party.
In a free country, JO Brand would be at perfect liberty to incite
criminal acts against unnamed and reasonably unidentifiable people.
But we do not live in a free country. There is a mass of laws that
criminalize speech that was legal even a few years ago. The response
to this is to invoke the laws against those who called for them.
As said, people like JO Brand and Yasmin Alibhai Brown are unlikely
ever to be prosecuted for crimes of hate speech. But the authorities
will occasionally be forced to go through the motions of investigating,
and this can be made a form of harassment amounting to revenge.
Otherwise, it is useful to establish beyond doubt that the laws
are not intended to be enforced according to their apparently universal
working.

There is much
else to be said. But I suppose the most important thing is not to
behave like Carol Thatcher. It will be unfair if she is broken by
her words. But if you stick your head into a lion’s mouth, you cannot
really complain when you feel the teeth closing round your neck.

All told, this
has been an interesting week. Understood rightly, it may turn out
to have been a most productive week.

February
10, 2009

Sean
Gabb [send him mail]
is the author of Smoking, Class and the Legitimation of Power.
His new book, Cultural Revolution,
Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back
,
can be downloaded for free. See his
website.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts