Sometimes the politically correct lot give me a pain in the butt. There is the coterie that thinks it would be a good idea to take Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and remove the many references to Nigger Jim. A sort of posthumous reproof to a great writer, using today’s customs and standards. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And there was the minor furore the other day in the House of Commons when Scots MP Jo Swinson, who is pregnant, wasn’t offered a seat by any male colleagues during Prime Minister’s Question Time. Not to mention the danger that offering a seat might have been seen as sexist as well.
But the thing that really gets my goat (and I’d like here to make it clear that I once had a pet goat) is the inconsistency of the PC Police. When Ron Atkinson, not knowing his microphone was open, called Chelsea star Marcel Desailly a “lazy, thick nigger”, he was bundled off his TV pundit slot quicker than a Robbie Keane penalty. When Richard Keys and Andy Gray thought their microphones were off and made derogatory comments on the woman assistant referee at a game, that was the end of Richard and Andy in the big-time TV commentating.
Now Roy Hodgson, still flushed from his success in squeezing England into the World Cup finals next summer, has been caught with his verbal pants down. It seems he made a half-time joke about a space monkey – I’d never heard it before, had you? – and some mild criticism of it was made, in that the space monkey was paralleled with Andros Townsend. So is Roy going to get the boot? Er, um – look, everybody knows Roy hasn’t a racist bone in his body. But isn’t that what they said about Big Ron? He still got the boot. I’ll bet Richard and Andy would argue that they have nothing but respect for women in sport, as linesman or anything else. But they still got the boot. Roy though – Roy’s different.
England needs him. Badly. So the PC brigade will swallow hard and say of course Roy’s anti-racist, look at all the different countries he’s coached in, there was no insult intended, in fact Roy is raging that this is taking the gloss off his team’s masterly display in beating Poland. How dare they interpret his monkey joke as racist.
My own view is that we’re far, far too quick to detect and denounce non-PC language. But if we’re going to dish out sauce to the Ron, Richard and Andy goose, consistency demands that we dole out sauce to the Roy Hodgson gander. And I would like to stress that I say that as someone who numbers geese of both genders among his best friends.
There is a difference in this case. Both Ron and Grays/Key made statements that were racist/sexist. Roy made a joke that is being interpreted as rascist though he denies this – it’s not like big Ron could argue calling someone a lazy thick nigger was misinterpreted.
Thanks for thoughts, Anon – but I don’t agree. Roy cracked a joke which made a clear parallel between Andros Townshend and a monkey. That’s what guys who throw bananas onto the pitch do. You either penalise that kind of talk consistently or not at all. It seems to me Roy is getting a free pass because it suits the powers-that-be. An interesting further thought: would it be possible for Big Ron/Gray/Keys to have used that language but still not be racist/sexist? That is, does one such verbal reference mark people accurately as racist/sexist? Conversely might it be possible to be racist/sexist but keep one’s trap shut? Sticks and stones, etc.
You’re welcome Jude. Many thanks for an excellent blog – daily reading for myself. This a rare occasion in which I find myself in disagreement with you !
I believe Roy cracked a joke that made a clear parallel between Townsend’s position and team role as opposed to Townsend himself. As far as I’m aware the joke went along the lines of NASA sending an astronaut and monkey into space. The monkey did all the testing and the astronaut’s sole function was to feed the monkey and keep it alive.
In this case he was making a sloppy point that England’s right back, Chris Smalling (the astronaut) sole function was to ‘feed’ his right winger, Townsend and let him do all the work.
It just happened that Townsend is black and thus some have interpreted his joke as racist. Had say James Milner been playing out on the right wing, no one would be accusing him of being racist.
On your point about language, I do agree with you – it’s entirely possible and indeed probable that Ron/Gray/Keys are not racist or sexist in the true sense of the terms. The language they used was though and as such I believe they had to be reprimanded.
I believe most people have a tribal instinct to some degree that makes us wary of outsiders or people we view as different to our own. When that translates into language and more importantly deeds then a line is crossed.
Can someone be a racist/sexist/bigot based on their thoughts alone ? I’m not sure. I do know if it’s possible then there are a lot of racists and bigots out there…
You miss the point that the butt of the joke isn’t the monkey, it’s the astronaut.
And are you saying that a white man can’t utter the word “monkey” without being perceived as being racist? Grow up.