Among certain members of the Guardian’s comment is free readership a conspiracy theory is gaining currency that the newspaper is trying to ‘airbrush’ out an article that got heavily panned by readers.
The article in question is Joseph Harker’s Flutters of Anxiety, in which he asks:
Is it just me, or is anyone else slightly worried about the number of St George’s flags flying from road vehicles right now?
In fact, they started appearing the day after the local elections on May 4. Apart from the Labour meltdown and the Tories getting their first respectable vote for 14 years, the big story of the election was the rise of the British National party, which gained 28 seats, nearly 20 in London alone. Could it be that many of the England flag-wavers are in fact supporters of this racist party, glorying in their “victory” and celebrating their racial pride?
There is a perfectly logical explanation to why it did not appear in the weekly roundup, but there is little point in mulling over that.
If Joseph and I were sitting in a pub and he asked me that question, I would reply by saying: “Nah mate, you’re just being paranoid. The BNP did ok, but only in Barking/Dagenham. Anyway, we need to become less wary of people carrying the St. George’s flag despite its previous connotations.” After a couple of points that may even come out slightly slurry. And that would probably be the end of that.
His mistake was to ask the question in a national newspaper with a majority white audience because the response was expected. Before you accuse me of being racist, let me explain.
Different media spaces and countries have different values. An editorial line that may be expected in the Guardian (e.g. being pro-immigrant) would not be taken at another paper such as the Daily Mail. That different audiences with different values would respond in different ways should come as no suprise to our readers. As another example a Muslim blog could engage in a serious debate about the relevance of Shariah law while on Harry’s Place the discussion would probably revolve around stoning and wife-beating, with Old Pickler repeatedly stating that Muslims should stop being silly and give up Islam.
The response to Harker’s article may indicate that it is still impossible to have a reasonable debate about race in Britain except in private spaces aimed at different racial groups. If all the responses below the article were similar in tone to the letters he got in response I would probably not come to the above conclusion, but the level of vitriol directed at him is way more than necessary.
Debating this on Georgina Henry’s roundup, Tomahawk said:
But I’m an old-style liberal egalitarian in these matters: I always ask whether saying something about Race X would be unacceptable if said about Race Y, and if the answer is ‘yes’, that’s hypocritical and not at all “progressive”.
I agree with him. But that also makes the assumption that not only are all races treated equally, but that there is an equal opportunity to right of reply.
But there isn’t. Are immigrants (let’s not pretend he is referring to the white middle-class ones) and asylum seekers continually panned by Richard Littlejohn given a chance to explain themselves?
And why is Melanie Phillips allowed to get away with equating immigrants with suicide bombers almost daily? Isn’t that as racist as constantly equating Jews with money-grabbing Palestinian killers? When is her BNP party honourary membership being announced? But I digress.
As another example the advantage of having your own (racial) space is that you can ask if media coverage is racist and get much more reasonable responses in agreement or disagreement. In that space I can say Asians are the most racist group without anyone batting an eyelid.
But I suspect that because Joseph Harker is the Guardian’s deputy comment editor he wants to use a national newspaper to ask those questions openly rather than write an article for The Voice or New Nation. Except I don’t think Britain is ready for it yet. Ethnic minorities are not the only ones quick at throwing the word ‘racist’ at others.
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Filed in: Media,Race politics