17/03/2011

Racism by proxy

What do you do if you want to say something that might be you know, a bit racist, but are a bit nervous that you might get called out on it? It's a tricky one.

Tried and tested solutions include the old dog whistle, where you say something that can clearly be interpreted in more than one way. "It's not racist to talk about immigration - are you thinking what we're thinking?" - that sort of thing. Of course, it is racist to talk about immigration if what you say is 'there's too many blacks', which is probably what a lot of the people looking at those infamous tory party posters were thinking.


'Migrant' seems to mean many things beyond 'someone who was born in a different country to the one they live in' for a lot of people too. If you're a newspaper, there's always the judicious positioning of pictures of smiley white British families next to pictures of swarthy men on street corners, smoking. The difference between that and a flashing neon light saying 'WE MEAN BROWN PEOPLE!' is that you can't claim the neon sign is just a coincidence.

Another excellent technique is to shift the blame for what you're saying on to other people. It's one I remember from being a kid, hearing adults talking about mixed-race mates I had saying, "I wouldn't want my kids having half castes. No one accepts them, not the whites or the blacks." (Happily all these people changed their tune after the birth of several mixed race family members and the growing potential for more). This sort of thing is becoming more common now that papers are creeping away from the nudge-nudge, wink-wink stuff of monkeying with pictures and pretending they're really concerned with sheer numbers rather than just numbers of the wrong sort of people.

Late last year, Professor David Coleman, of MigrationWatch infamy, produced a study that suggested white British people would be in a minority in 2066. He justified his conclusion about this being a bad thing by saying most people won't like it. His study got two bites of the Daily Mail cherry in less than three weeks, because a couple of weeks later MigrationWatch commissioned a YouGov poll that showed - wouldn't you know it - most people wouldn't like the 'white British' to be in a minority by 2066. Hey, we don't necessarily say we think there'll be too many black and brown people ourselves. We just need to keep them out for other people. We're champions of public opinion, us.

One of the very poor figleaves the Daily Star used to cover its short lived support for the EDL was that 98% of people who read the rabidly anti-Muslim paper and could be bothered to pay for a premium rate phone call said they supported the EDL. Doing it this way allows the paper to laughably pretend it never supported the EDL now it's been slapped down for it.

We have another winner in today's Express. Reacting to news of Midsomer Murders producer, Brian True-May, being suspended for his comments about keeping the show all-white, 'BRITAIN SAYS BOSS IS RIGHT TO KEEP MIDSOMER WHITE' it lies in its headline, pretending that the 99% of people who read the Express and could be arsed to shell out for a premium rate phone call is actually 99% of Britain. Yesterday, the paper went with 'FLOOD OF SUPPORT FOR RACE-ROW MIDSOMER BOSS' and 'MIDSOMER MURDERS FIGHT BACK'. The latter manages to try to support the producer by visiting the town Midsomer Murders is filmed in and saying:
And it’s not a surprise to find it invariably white and middleclass, just like the TV programme. Three people stopped me as I stood in the station car park and looked quizzically at my map – all of them white. Five minutes later, as I enquired about internet access inside the library, young white mothers pushing prams and queuing to return books fell over themselves to help point me in the right direction.
And then going on to say how many ethnic restaurants there are and quoting an Indian shopkeeper. So, not 'invariably' white 'just like the TV show' then. It even uses the apparent words of the shopkeeper to say the suspension is all a fuss about nothing.

Paradoxically, the Sun (which I'm reading every day this week for a post at the weekend) interviews the Asian landlord of a pub that's featured in the series to argue against the idea that the show should be kept white. And it refers to him as 'British Asian', which is kinda nice. The Daily Star also seems not to be taking the side of True-May either, publishing a story with the headline 'MIDSOMER MURDERS: TV VILLAGE IDIOT'.

And what of the Mail? It's leaving the dirty work to columnist Quentin Letts, who thinks it's 'sinister' that you can't have a whites only TV show, and the comments of True-May claiming he's being victimised to let us know what it thinks. It's not going the whole 'everyone thinks this is madness' hog, although it probably could if it did a rubbish online poll about it.

Perhaps all the papers sense it's probably kind of racist to demand a show has a deliberate policy of only employing white actors. Only the Express goes full on argumentum ad populum.

And only Quentin Letts has the guts to say in his own words:
Why should an ethnic minority be allowed to retain its true-life ghetto, yet the white shires not be allowed to retain their fictitious Causton? But that is the way multi-culturalism proceeds. It attacks the host culture while demanding rights for smaller groups.
Yes Quentin. I'm sure it does.

6 comments:

Gwenhwyfaer said...

Is it "could be arsed to shell out for a premium rate phone call" or "were too stupid to realise that the number they were ringing was a premium rate number"? I'm torn, but I can't imagine too many people would willingly pay even 20p to espouse a position about which they were less than wildly enthusiastic.

So, 99 EDL members and one idiot who doesn't understand 090 numbers? Not for me to say, your honour ;)

Peter said...

Surprised that no one has commented on the Express' front pages this week.

Monday - Tax and pension joy for millions
Tuesday - New hope to get out of EU
Wednesday - Cheap phone calls for all

Today they finally had a headline connected to the Japanese earthquake, but under the headline Energy bills to rocket by £172. World's greatest newspaper?

Sorry for the off-topic rant, but I had to get it out my system!

Alex Greene said...

If Brian True-May had only just kept his mouth shut, he wouldn't currently be digging a grave for his career with it.

Unfortunately, now not talking about or thinking about race in Midsomer Murders will be as impossible as ignoring that persistent toothache that's been bothering you all day. Attention has been drawn to it, and nobody'll be able to watch the show ever again without somebody commenting on it, over and over and over.

I guess John Nettles' recent retirement could not have been better timed.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Exactly right there, Alex. I guess if True-May had said something like 'I haven't really thought about it. We're going for an English village feel, and there aren't usually many ethnic minorities in places like that, but it's not deliberate. If the right character came up we'd have no problem putting them in,' or something, I don't think anyone would have cared. It's the whole thing about deliberately keeping the cast all white that did for him.

sigil said...

As others have said, Midsomer is as realistic as any other market town that has an annual murder rate of at least 25.

The sad fact, though, is that where ethnic minorities ARE reasonably well-represented in middle-class TV drama (if slightly tokenised) in real life I don't think that there are, for example, quite so many black or Asian judges.

Robbert said...

When David Coleman says most people won’t like the white British people to be a minority in 2066, I guess he means most people now will not like it, because after all, by 2066 the people not liking it will be, well… in the minority! This 'problem' solves itself.