I’m well aware that the fuss over Carol Thatcher’s apparent vocabulary malfunction has pretty much blown over now, at least until some media organisation decides to re-hire her. So no-one’s really going to care about the Animal’s two-pennyworth, especially as others have said what I would have said far better. And its a bit late for me to work up an outrage over the Mayor’s defence of the woman, though given his apparently…er…gritty vocabulary, perhaps he was just as well to take the stance he did.
However, a long series of links followed in an idle moment brought me back to the story, as reported on Tory über-blogger Iain Dale. Nothing particularly remarkable about his take on it: the usual rent-an-outrage anti-BBC meanderings that we expect from the right-wing blogosphere. For some reason, though, I continued below the fold into the comments section and found myself dragged into the happy world of the apologist-for-mild-racism at play. And what struck me was just how formulaic it all was. I’d read the self-same comments in defence of Prince Harry, Prince Phillip, Jeremy Clarkson, Prince Harry again, Patrick Mercer, James McGrath (yes, you’d forgotten who that was too), Chris Moyles and Prince Harry. So, with examples liberally culled from the pearls of wisdom dropped below Dale’s article, the Animal proudly presents the spotter’s guide to the weary old defence lines that will be brought back into play each time a favoured right-wing son or daughter demonstrates their not wholly committed relationship to the modern world.
1. The totalitarian analogies
I think the reasoning behind these is something like: ‘Quick – if we smear the people attacking this person with a few irrelevant analogies to leftist totalitarians, they won’t be able to call us Nazis.’ Sadly the repertoire is a bit limited, so we tend to see a merry-go-round featuring Stalin, Mao, Kim Jong-Il and Honecker. Extra points should be awarded to anyone spotting imaginative linkings-in of Castro, Chavez, Livingstone and Bill Clinton (hold your horses, Obama, your turn will come). At the moment of Thatcher-gate, it appears that the GDR was left standing when the music stopped, although Mao does get a look in:
“What wonderful company [Adrian Childs] must be and what a pity the Stazi [sic] no longer exist. He has missed his vocation.”
“BBC employees must report anything that can be remotely considered racist to protect themselves and demonstrate their own purity and innocence.It’s a bit like working for the Stazi [sic – is this a right wing in-joke?] in East Berlin.”
“Swot up on the Chinese cultural revolution – it has clear parallels and lessons for anyone wanting to go down the thought control road.”
2. ‘Some of my best friends are black and they think that term is bloody hillarious’
You’d have thought this line would have gone out of fashion sometime around the point that everyone started laughing at people who said “Some of my best friends are black, but I do think Enoch had a point.” But astonishingly, it remains in common employment to this very day.
“I have family and friends who are black and brown. They are, mostly,tories [a representative sample of the BME population, then] bar one who likes to be called a Green! [I’m not sure if this is a reference back to ‘tories’ or ‘black and brown’] They believe this is just an attack on the name Thatcher. They took no offence from this useage of the word ‘Golliwog’. Carol is a very entertaining woman [Oh, I see. This is a complete loony.] and I hope she goes from strength to strength.”
3. ‘So much for freedom of speech’
Very few points are available for spotting this one, due to its common usage. The absolutism of this right is never to be challenged, even when the individual has voluntarily chosen to surrender a minuscule portion of that right (or at least of the right to exercise the right without possible consequences) by signing a contract with the BBC that would require them to abide by the Corporation’s equalities and diversity policy. Coming next: right-wingers defend a senior civil servant sacked for breaching his terms of employment after saying to the press that “The government is right about everything, everyone should vote Labour and Gordon Brown is the Messiah.” Or perhaps they would have defended me if I’d been sacked for going canvassing for the Tories whilst employed by a Labour MP. Oh, right, they would have done.
“The BBC is not there to monitor private conversations – whether they were in the “green room” or not….So much for Freedom of Speech.“
4. The appeals to race solidarity
These are normally couched in the language of the school yard, but the implication is clear. They seem to have been particularly prevalent in the Thatcher case, where the witnesses to the remark in question (Childs and Brand) were white. So what were they doing grassing on a fellow white woman for making a rather risqué remark? The right may not believe in the solidarity of the working classes or in the international solidarity of the oppressed, but it would not appear short of members seeking to appeal for intra-race unity against the pernicious march of anti-racism.
“I never did like Adrian Chiles, the little sneak.”
“Political Correctness in overdrive. I think whoever snitched on Carol Thatcher should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Why does everyone think it was Chiles that ratted her out?
There was another woman privy to the conversation and my money is always on the woman when it comes to being shitty.” [Misogyny too! Top class stuff!]
5. ‘That’s not a racist term – here’s the etymology’
When all else fails, reach (selectively) for the OED. Because the nature of the evolution of language means that very few terms of abuse started off that way – and if the root is inoffensive, then it goes without saying that the word could not possibly have picked up any overtones whatsoever in its passage through the ages. The best possible outcome is if you can find that the word in question is of a non-Anglo Saxon pedigree. If it’s a foreign word, then it’s the foreigners’ fault if they’re offended by it, innit?
“The BBC are a bunch of ignorant conceited self serving bastards. I apologise to readers for pulling my punches. A ‘wog’ by the way is an acronym for Willy [sic] Oriental Gentleman. ie Arabs and Indians” [Not that anyone had mentioned that particular term of abuse up until that point, but I think the commenter felt much better for explaining that it really isn’t an offensive term. Oh no. ‘Wily (I think is what was meant) Oriental Gentleman’ isn’t in the least bit…er…dodgy. And doesn’t ‘oriental’ normally mean Chinese or Japanese in English parlance? Ok, giving up trying to make sense of it now].
“A quick browse of the online Cambridge Dictionary reveals this:Definition
noun [C] (ALSO golly
a child’s toy made of soft material, in the form of a small man with a black face and stiff black hair
To compare the hair of Andy Murray [who was not, apparently the tennis player in question] to the stiff black hair of a golliwog is in no way racist or a slur. The fact is a doll of that name, with stiff black hair, existed and Murray’s hair is considered by a woman to resemble it. It was unwise for Ms Thatcher to say it only because fools like you seek to make it a matter of offence. Why should words from our rich language which are inoffensive be sacrificed in this way just because some ignorant people used it as a derogatory term? [Because that’s the way language evolves, perhaps? There are plenty of words I wouldn’t put on a family-friendly blog because they are now so vulgar to be beyond the pale that were once mild swear words at worst] How come it is right to ‘reclaim the flag’ from racists, but not common words in our vocabulary?” [Gollywog. Such a common word. Can’t get through a few sentences without using it myself]
6. ‘It didn’t do me any harm’
More commonly associated with debates on corporal punishment, perhaps, but it has its place here. Usually along the lines of ‘As a child I used that word all the time, entirely unaware of its context, and I didn’t grow up to be a racist. I only go leafleting for the BNP at the weekends.’
“I had a golliwog when I was a child and I loved it! I also had a Robinsons Golliwog badge which I thought was wonderful. I certainly didn’t think black people were something hideous to be laughed at because of the Golliwog image but rather endearing.” [‘Rather endearing’, eh? There’s a compliment if ever I heard one]
7. The wingnuts
There’s always a few aren’t there? The ones who spoil everyone else’s quiet afternoon of bitching about equality, respect and all those other no-good products of the 1960s by just overstepping the mark a little. Not so much that our good host will have to moderate them, mind, but it makes one feel just a tad uncomfortable.
“This would be the same racist BBC who have lied & censored to encourage racial genocide in Kosovo. Who have deliberately censored any mention of the way NATO police kidnapped thousands of teenagers & sliced them open while still alive to steel body organs for the “great & good” across Europe. Perhaps the Nazis running the BBC owe her an apology for thinking she was ever a suitable person to work for such a corrupt organisation in the first place.
http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/ips040108.htm” [I’ve checked, so you don’t have to. That is the website of the Slobodan Milosevic Freedom Centre]
“I have a Golliwog Key-ring in my car,,,,it has a noose round it’s neck….”
A fitting and reconciliatory note to end on, I think you’ll agree. If it wasn’t for the contents of the comment, I suppose I might find the punctuation offensive.