Diane Abbot's so racist - it's just like David Starkey. Oh, hang on.

Today, I break cover from my self imposed stint of blogging hermitry* to point and laugh at professional Gumby Toby Young. Ha ha.

Not six months ago, historian David Starkey cropped up on Newsnight to examine the causes of the riots that burned their way through some of our cities last summer. You might remember him putting his foot in it by saying a number of things that were on the surface of it, pretty racist.

But guess what? Scratch the surface of those things and underneath, and they were pretty racist.

That didn't stop the chorus of totally not racist right-wingers turning up to deliver the traditional response to accusations of racism levelled against probably ignorant oafs who stumble about saying racist things and then being all surprised when they get called out on it.  You know the sort of thing. I covered it here.

While covering it, I looked at one particularly good example. Toby Young had grabbed his knotted hanky, pulled it down over his forehead and declared Starkey's comments to be totally not racist, so everything was alright. Except it wasn't.

What Young had done was pull out a box of rhetorical tricks and wave his hands about. He expertly directed us away from the things Starkey was in trouble for saying toward some other things he said instead for context, demanding strict adherence to one particular definition of racism from one dictionary along the way.  Then, with a wave of a knotted hanky...poof! The racism disappeared! Except it didn't.

I mention all this because last night Diane Abbott said something on Twitter, inviting fresh racism-accusing shenanigans all over the place. Toby Young knotted his hanky again and swooped in. Ms Abbott must have breathed a big sigh of relief to see the Gumby who can magic away accusations of racism charging to the rescue. Except - you can guess what's coming next.

In today's effort, Young is appalled by the horrible racism on display.  All the rhetorical tricks he deployed to defend Starkey have been left locked away.

The headlines tell the story pretty well. Back in August, the question was 'Was David Starkey being racist on Newsnight last night?' Today, the question is 'Was Diane Abbott's tweet racist?' One of those invites us to look at a lot of things one person said in a discussion on a TV programme. The other restricts everything to the contents of one 140 character tweet in an exchange.

Abbott is guilty of 'playing the race card' for mentioning race in a dicsussion about, uh, race. Starkey of course wasn't accused at all of playing the race card when he brought up race in a discussion about the causes of riots.

All Young's speculation about Abbott errs on the negative. What she was doing when she warned that not seeing a "black community" was playing into a "divide and rule agenda" was "effectively saying that any criticism of black leaders was a betrayal of her ethnic heritage."

But Starkey? When he attempted to explain the causes of riots by saying Enoch Powell's speech that warned about how allowing black immigration would lead to civil unrest was absolutely right - except that it wasn't inter-communal violence because "the whites have become black" - hey, we don't know what he means. Could be something nice.

When Starkey said that if you listened to David Lammy without seeing him you'd think he was white, he was just "condemning a particular sub-culture, one that may have originated in parts of the African-Caribbean community, but which has now been taken up by some white people as well." By saying you'd think black people who didn't sound obviously criminal were white if you listened to them - after saying that white people who spoke with "this language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that's been intruded in England" were literally black.

"Imangine the uproar," we're asked today, "if an equally prominent white Conservative MP said something similar about black people on Twitter?"

Now I don't know about you, but I think I can imagine pretty well what Toby Young would be doing.

*I'll be away out of the country for a while after this weekend, and there's a lot going along offline that's keeping me away from blogging for a while. I'll explain some of it when I'm back from India at the end of the month.

1 comment:

Richard T said...

There is something of a link between the two in that they are both on occasions silly, self opinionated publicity seekers.