Cliché but.......

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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby the hibLOG » Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:36 am

scottish wrote:If we used that interpretation there'd be a helluva lot of racists out there...


I'd agree, but personally I think there ARE a lot of racists out there. Users of the kind of 'banter' you quote I would describe as casual racists, the kind of people who would protest that the phrase they used wasn't 'proper' racism and it was all 'PC gone mad'. They might not actually discriminate against someone on the basis of ethnicity but it's my belief that the language you use and consider acceptable, even in jest, influences the way you tend to think about and behave towards the people you so describe. If it's ok to call someone an English thatcher then it's not too large a step to think that English people are thatcher. If you make a linguistic association between someone's personal qualities and their ethnicity it clearly expresses a generalisation about that ethnicity's generic personal qualities, and if you don't question that then you are more likely to acquiesce when those people are actively discriminated against. You might not say it to their faces, but you won't protest when someone else does, or demands that they 'go back to where they came from' or have their benefits stopped or have their windows broken...

You may be offended by some of these statements (I know I am) but if we call people making these kind of remarks racists what term do we use for the EDL, BNP, Combat 18, Siol nan Gaidheal, Settler Watch, Front National, Vlaams Belang, SDA, FPO, Jobbik, Golden Dawn etc?


They're the professional racists. The ones who WILL say it to people's faces and break their windows. The ones who are enabled by the silence of the people who use the kind of language you referred to. I don't think there somehow has to be a higher threshold at which we label someone racist. It's a continuum from those who merely harbour thoughts or use language carelessly to those who act and encourage others to act. Unless you set the bar of acceptability low you create the environment in which words are allowed to normalise a level of prejudice and discrimination which creates a platform and a justification for the extremists.

During the 1980s, and particularly the miners strike, there was a tendency amongst many people to routinely label the UK government as Fascist. Denis Healey - who had spent five years fighting fascism - denounced this as lazy & incorrect on the grounds that if people thought this was fascism they would never recognise the real thing if it ever came along.


I think that statement was perhaps provoked by Healey's understandable disappointment at having his personal commitment belittled by comparison with Thatcher. But it's simply not true that those calling Thatcher a fascist would misconstrue Adolf Hitler if he were reincarnated. The fact that those same name callers were actively opposing the BNP at the same time is proof of that. At the same time, while Leon Brittan was no Hermann Goering (except in corpulence) some of the police actions under his watch as Home Secretary during the miners' strike would hardly have seemed out of place in 1930s Germany.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby Scottish » Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:08 am

I'm not sure what you mean by a higher threshold. There are laws governing racial hatred. You're surely not suggesting their extension to cover the Inverdales of this world? That strikes me as a mirror image of the totalitarian state.

Whenever I hear the tired old cliché about PC gone mad, I usually ask whoever is saying it if they think it would be a good idea to go back to the days when landlords and landladies could routinely put up notices saying 'No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish.'

Their answer tells me all I need to know.

I don't think there is a continuum and certainly not in the way you outline it. An Inverdale doesn't 'progress' to full on activity in the BNP and would probably be as horrified as anyone else at the idea. What he might do is resort to the welcoming, sympathetic arms of the Rugby Club where he can have a moan about the 'PC Brigade.'

There was an over-reaction to Inverdale with calls for his sacking rather than censure and rebuke. The former would have made a martyr of him on the altar of free speech and, like Rod Liddle, he would have found plenty of other (possibly more lucrative)work.

On Healey, I never saw the comparison you make. The only people who could possibly make any comparisons of this sort are demented Trotskyists, waiting and believing fervently in imminent revolution the way religious cultists herald the approaching apocalypse. In other words, not to taken seriously and someone as experienced as Healey wouldn't give them the time of day. Healey's point is that there were no arbitrary arrests and detentions, suspensions of judicial processes, banning of political parties or pressure groups, removal of the right to strike and forcing all workers into one government run union, shutting down of newspapers or TV & radio outlets, state-backed paramilitary groups marching through the streets and terrorising citizens, government authorised seizure of property from minority groups, banning of demonstrations, closure of parliament, rigging of elections if any were permitted in the first place, rule by decree etc.

These are the hallmarks of the Fascist state. 1980s Britain, though an unpleasant place for many, was not such a state and showed no signs of becoming such a state.

BTW, WRT your last point. No matter how repellent you (or I) may regard Brittan's actions to have been, it's worth remembering that he would have been one of the first to have been detained in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby the hibLOG » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:59 pm

scottish wrote:I'm not sure what you mean by a higher threshold. There are laws governing racial hatred. You're surely not suggesting their extension to cover the Inverdales of this world? That strikes me as a mirror image of the totalitarian state.

I don't think there is a continuum and certainly not in the way you outline it. An Inverdale doesn't 'progress' to full on activity in the BNP and would probably be as horrified as anyone else at the idea. What he might do is resort to the welcoming, sympathetic arms of the Rugby Club where he can have a moan about the 'PC Brigade.'


I wasn't talking about laws - just the social acceptability of certain forms of language. What I'm saying is that if people at large tolerate the casual racism of such stereotyping or denigration of races in phrases like 'thick Mick' or 'black thatcher' then it raises the level of tolerance for worse crimes of speech and also action. Language articulates thoughts. Broadcasters and publishers have an extra responsibility in this regard which is why Inverdale's lapse should have resulted in a thorough carpeting by his bosses and a contrite acknowledgement on his part that he had fouled up. Ron Atkinson, Andy Gray and Richard Keys have already discovered that being caught on air saying things that you might hear in any golf or rugby (or football) club every weekend has greater consequences because it has greater influence. You can't realistically legislate for people's private racism, but you can when it goes public because it's the public that influences the private.

I don't expect to see Inverdale fronting an EDL rally any time soon, but would he be out there marching with the anti-nazis either?

On Healey, I never saw the comparison you make.


I meant simply the implied comparison between Thatcher and what Healey fought against.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby Scottish » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:08 pm

I agree fully re what should have happened re Inverdale and none of us know exactly what went on internally. But to have sacked him would have been, I think, a step too far.

WRT second point, I see what you are saying. I thought at first you were suggesting some ultra-leftist group had made a direct comparison between Healey & Thatcher.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby John Meffen » Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:04 pm

The simple fact is that we are all responsible for our own actions. I am a nothing in the whole scheme of things, but John Inverdale is a broadcaster on a national media channel potentially emitting to 60 million plus people, so has to think about what he says.

I personally detest that 'easy racism/sexism/whateverism' but would never ask for it to be outlawed, I think you ought be allowed to hold some opinions no matter what I think.

But there are times when it has to be stamped upon, and some of us like to point it out.

*Reminds me of the norwegians who complained about the seatbelt law, their point being that they, obviously already used their seatbelts, because it made sense"
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby Scottish » Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:06 am

The thing about laws is that they have to be both acceptable and enforceable. Thus, when the Scottish smoking ban came in, many people said it wouldn't work but I recall saying to people that if it worked in Ireland (which it did) - a country filled with illicit stills, two piss-poor naval patrol boats trying to cover the entire coastline to prevent illegal fishing, and christ knows how many rifles, sub-machine guns, grenades and rounds of ammunition stored away or buried underground, then it would work anywhere.

Thus the ban works, largely voluntarily, despite the Scottish weather and the jobsworth 'smoke police' whose idea of fun is to threaten folk having a puff under the Central Station canopy with a huge fine. Yet if a group of guys out on a stag night all went into a club and lit up, would they really all be arrested and charged?

OTOH the one-time dog licence fell into disrepute simply because the price hadn't been increased for decades. At one time a high percentage of dog owners paid it, even when it was comparatively expensive. The BBC have an image of a licence from 1906 costing 7/6. It was the same price at decimalisation in 1971, becoming the exact equivalent (37.5p). It was actually reduced in value (to 37p) when the half pence was abolished in 1984 and the licence itself was abolished in 1987. It had become more expensive to collect than what was taken in. It was routinely ignored. There was obviously no police enforcement of what was viewed as an anachronism. A fine example of a law which fell into disrepute simply because the cost of obtaining one, seen at one time as something you avoided at your peril, gradually became absolutely worthless.

Of course since then, British streets have become infested with Rottweilers, Pit bulls and the like. Northern Ireland has recently reintroduced licencing. Though given the history of keeping within the law over there, it might not be too successful.

Here in Spain, since 2007 there has been a rigourous licencing system. What are classified as dangerous dogs plus those over a certain weight require a licence. On top of that, if you wish to own any of the breeds on the 'dangerous' list you will be required to take out civil responsibility insurance of between 125,000€ - 175,000€.

Licences start from three months old, dogs have to be chipped and vaccinations up to date. A psychologist has to verify you are a fit and proper person to own one of these dogs. You and the dog must undergo a training course, alongside your vet, to ensure the animal displays no signs of aggression.

If you have a criminal record - no matter how trivial - forget it. You've no chance.

Once you have done all of the above, you must still muzzle your animal and put it on a leash no longer than one metre in length. You cannot take it anywhere with children in the vicinity. In public parks there are areas where children can play and other set aside areas for dogs to excrement. Needless to say, you must dispose of the crap( this applies to ALL dogs and is, unfortunately, the least observed of the statutes).

Don't even think of taking one of these dogs to the school gates to pick up your kid.

You will need to provide ALL of the following to the local authority

2 passport sized photos of yourself
Proof of residency or passport.
Certificate showing no criminal record.
Certificate(s) from the psychologist.
Certificate for handling and temperament from vet.
Vaccination card with evidence of micro chip
Pets insurance policy

You must display a 'dangerous dog' logo on your house or flat and in some area also have a high wall and/or gate. Failing that, your dog will have to be chained up.

All told the costs could be as high as 300€. Failure to go through this procedure will result in either very high fines, the destruction of the animal or both.

The mentality of some expats can be seen by regular complaints that these regulations affect "loving family pets."

Now, it might seem pretty draconian,but here's the rub. In over five years here I have seen precisely one Rottweiler and no reports of attacks on children. And this is every bit as dog loving a country as the UK.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby the hibLOG » Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:26 am

scottish wrote:Now, it might seem pretty draconian,but here's the rub. In over five years here I have seen precisely one Rottweiler and no reports of attacks on children. And this is every bit as dog loving a country as the UK.


Similar licensing arrangements exist here in NZ. Every dog has to display valid plastic tags on its collar. Like the UK there is a profusion of nasty breeds, beloved of the drug dealing fraternity to protect their operations and intimidate rivals and police, and in turn acquired by ordinary citizens to protect their own property from the burglary resultant from the aforesaid drug trade (it's not all milk and honey here you know).

Unfortunately, unlike your experience of Spain, dog attacks on children and adults alike, frequently with no connection to the drug trade, are all too common. I don't know what that says about the relative merits of legislation and enforcement. Probably that there is no guarantee that what works in one place will work in another. To return to the topic in hand, Spain has a rather well-publicised problem with racist language in common use (especially in the football sphere). Any idea what the laws on racial discrimination are and how they are enforced?
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby John Meffen » Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:31 am

Just means we have to watch our step, not because 'health and safety' just to make sure we are not the tossers
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby Scottish » Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:37 pm

the hibLOG wrote: To return to the topic in hand, Spain has a rather well-publicised problem with racist language in common use (especially in the football sphere). Any idea what the laws on racial discrimination are and how they are enforced?


Warning: long post alert.

You are absolutely right regarding racism in Spain, and far from restricted to the sporting arena, though one particular sports example sticks out. A few years back a group turned up for the Spanish Grand Prix decked out in Afro wigs and blacked up faces claiming to be Lewis Hamilton fans.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/08/spain.sport

About five years ago, at the Teatro Coliseum on the Gran Via (smack bang in the city centre), the then current production was advertised with a giant pair of black faces, complete with frizzy hair, bulging eyes and bones through their noses. There's no way that could happen in the UK. Worse, when an American woman wrote to La Vanguardia (equivalent of The Scotsman or The Herald) complaining about it, she was met with a deluge of replies wondering what her problem was.

During the 2008 US Presidential election my wife and I were out for a meal with a very good friend of ours (sadly no longer with us), Swiss, not Spanish, who had, when younger, worked in finance for many years, including spells in multi-ethnic London & New York, but who had been resident in Barcelona for over two decades. His observation on the election was "What a choice. A geriatric or a f...ing n...er." He went on to remark that although 'they' were murderers, rapists and thieves, he wasn't being racist as he believed it was white people that made 'them' like this.

These are just a couple of instances but there are many. I believe there are two reasons for the high levels of racism in Spain. Firstly, the Franco regime lasted until 1975, elements of it remained in control thereafter and later subsumed themselves into the main party of the Right, whilst still holding on to their beliefs. Manuel Fraga, Franco's Information Minister, thought of as a reformer (this is a relative term) and Interior Minister after the death of the old nail-puller, was President of the regional Government of Galicia (think Welsh Assembly) until 2005, and a Senator (think House of Lords) until his death last year, aged 89.

That's an indication of the lingering strength of the Franquistas. Another incidence is that of Colonel Tejero, as late as February 1981, bursting into the Cortes (House of Commons) with 200 armed men and holding the MPs hostage until a televised appeal by the King urging the upholding of the constitution saw the plotters surrender after 24 hours.

Now, consider the position of Western democracies around the same years. The UK had already passed several statutes on racial equality by this time. The USA had seen the Civil Rights movement and LBJ's 'Great Society.'

And this is where I cut Spain some slack. If your jumping off point is 1975 or 1980 then almost inevitably you're going to be behind countries that started to deal with these problems in the 1960s. That's not to condone it, merely to understand it.

The second reason is that until the 1990s Spain experienced virtually no immigration. Since then Spain has been subject to EU legislation regarding freedom of labour. In addition there has been an influx from Eastern Europe beyond EU borders, some from Asia, and above all, from Latin America. My late night shop is Pakistani, daytime Peruvian and local cafe Colombian.

There has also been much internal migration - e.g. from Andalucia to Catalunya - which causes its own problems with linguistic purists unwilling to afford internal migrants the same courtesy they extend to non-Spanish nationals when it comes to speaking Castellano instead of Català.

I can't distinguish one regional accent from another (just as most people here can't hear any difference between Wellington, NZ and Wellington, Shropshire) but I can see the level of internal migration simply by the numbers of Betis supporters who go to the Camp Nou. No other team, not Madrid, not Espanyol, brings so many away fans. There's no way any more than 100 of them have come from Seville.

There is also much discrimination against Roma (as is the case elsewhere in Europe) and while obviously this is unacceptable, so too is it unacceptable to be stopped in the street every couple of minutes (sometimes more frequently than that) by old women or younger ones with clearly doped up babies (babies who are never awake or ever crying) begging. This is not 'I'm not a racist but...' rather an accurate description of life in the city centre. Anyone who says otherwise has never been here.

Spain is experiencing immigration in the 1990s and 2000s the way Britain experienced it in the 1950s and 1960s. They are forty years behind in their experience and about the same behind in attitude.

One other recent and disturbing aspect is that many regional governments are starting to restrict or even ban healthcare for people from non-EU or EHIC countries

On law; Spain must comply with EU statutes, the same as any other member country. As to whether they do so, this recent Amnesty report makes for interesting reading. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/spain-di ... 2011-12-13

Spain also has a long history of racial intolerance and one of the ironies of the situation today is that many of the prejudiced are descendants of the Conversos - those Jews and Moors forcibly converted to Christianity in the 16th century.

Sometimes it is beneficial to, as the Bard said, "see oursels as ithers see us" and for many here, English-speaking countries are viewed as havens of tolerance. Others less so. I read an article the other day which asked if Germany was ready for a black MP. The first Asian MP in Britain was in 1892, there have been black MPs both male and female since the 1980s and Cabinet ministers since 1997. The late Ashok Kumar (who I was proud to have called my very good friend) was the first non-White candidate to win a by-election (in 1991) and did so in a constituency which was 99% white. Yet here is the economic powerhouse of Europe struggling over whether it's okay to have one black MP. There was a stir in France recently when the first black newsreader appeared on screen. In the UK Trevor McDonald and Moira Stuart are both long in retirement. The USA of course has a black President.

A good example of the difference in timescale between the UK and Spain is abortion law, where that passed by Spain in 2010 was essentially the same as in the UK in 1967. The current government is pledged to restrict this. They will have the support of the majority of the Catalan MPs from Catalunya's ruling CiU.

The Church maintains a strong position of influence which puts the occasional comments of churchmen in the UK in perspective. Here, Bishops constantly rail against abortion and gay rights. The Catholic Church has tax exemptions way beyond that of most other countries and unlike any (AFAIK) receives money from personal income tax.

There are two boxes on the income tax form for personal returns, one gives 0.7% to the church, the other 0.7% to charitable causes. Easy, eh? Just tick the box you want. However, and here's the rub, most people pay PAYE. The default position is that the money goes to the church. Unless an employee goes through the laborious process of amending this to good causes, the Church takes the cash - a modern form of tithing.

All that said, there are some areas where Spain is ahead of other European countries. Spain legalised same-sex marriage in 2005, behind some European countries on civil partnerships, but way ahead of most on full marriage rights.

The current PP government has tried to overturn this but lost in the Constitutional Court. This is the Spanish Supreme Court and it's role is more akin to its counterpart in the USA than in the UK. Highly 'political' controversies often find their way to it.

So, at the end of a long post, lots of discrimination still exists. None of it is justifiable but in one instance (Roma) it is virtually invited by the community discriminated against.

My personal belief is that the government of José-Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (which left office reviled in many quarters) will, in the fullness of time, come to be seen as one of the great reforming governments of Europe, in much the same way as the Wilson government left office in 1970 similarly under a cloud but is being treated more sympathetically today.

One great saying of those who hold reactionary views is that government can't change attitudes. They're right. But what they never admit is that governments can create a climate by which attitudes can change over time. That happened and is continuing to happen in the UK and I believe it will happen in Spain too. It's just that they started the race when the British and American runners were halfway round the track.

Edit: I've just realised the two friends I've mentioned in this post both died in their mid-fifties. This is scaring the crap out of me.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby John Meffen » Thu Jul 25, 2013 7:41 pm

When in Spain I certainly found some "turns of phrase" 'eyebrow raising' when reading El País of a morning, and I do that rough equation of El País to the Guardian [horrible clunky analogy I know, but I am being 'rough'], they used terms like 'hombre de color' in a way I was not used to in an upmarket Newspaper.

I know, different societies have different mores, just saying that even the Centre-Left in Spain was quite different from the UK in 2000/2001 [when I was there]

ps I was reading La Edición País Vasco [I was actually in Cantabria, but they didn't have their own edition then] I don't think that was relevent though.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby the hibLOG » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:38 pm

scottish wrote:So, at the end of a long post, lots of discrimination still exists. None of it is justifiable but in one instance (Roma) it is virtually invited by the community discriminated against.


I totally understand that the deplorable forms of begging by many Roma are beneath contempt, but you still have to admit that they wouldn't be doing that if they weren't so systematically excluded from society. Criminal and anti-social activity has to be condemned and acted upon, but at the same time (in my fantasy ideal world anyway) you work to change the circumstances that give rise to the behaviour in the first place.

One great saying of those who hold reactionary views is that government can't change attitudes. They're right. But what they never admit is that governments can create a climate by which attitudes can change over time.


It's the same mentality that says governments can't create jobs. Governments can't do anything that unfettered unregulated sociopathic rich people can't do better, don't you know? Unless it's clearing up the mess left by unfettered unregulated sociopathic rich people.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby Scottish » Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:15 am

Exclusion? Self-exclusion? Or a bit of both? I suspect the latter, having had some involvement in this area some two decades ago.

Interesting too that here people are quite happy to buy a 'brazo de gitano' Literally, a gypsy's arm. We call it by the much less offensive Swiss Roll.

I never cease to be amazed that many of those, particularly,in the USA, who make such claims about government and jobs, are invariably the sort of people who understand exactly what the term 'pork barrel' means and how best to procure their share of it.
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Re: Cliché but.......

Postby the hibLOG » Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:35 am

scottish wrote:Exclusion? Self-exclusion? Or a bit of both? I suspect the latter, having had some involvement in this area some two decades ago.


Fair point. It's a lifestyle which is very hard to reconcile with the lifestyle of the stationary majority. Then again it's also a heritage and an identity chosen for you by birth. An intractable problem.
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