A moral crusade against monkey-chanters?
spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).
- It seems that the less racism there is in football, the more we hear about it.
I have not heard a monkey chant at a match for 20 years. Arrests for racist chanting in the Premiership last season totalled 17, down from 23 the previous season. I know that one is too many, but that is 17 out of a total attendance of more than 13 million. The reason why many were shocked to see England’s black players met with monkey noises in Spain, and Dwight Yorke of Birmingham given the same treatment by a Blackburn fan, is because such incidents are so rare.
When I was growing up in suburban Surrey in the 1970s, racism was not so much acceptable as obligatory. In the early Eighties in East London, I went on protests against racists who were driving Asian families off estates. Nobody wanted to put racist attacks on the front pages when they were commonplace.
Yet to judge by the hysteria of the past week, you might think we were witnessing a racist pogrom today. It appears that self-righteous public displays of anti-racism are now being used to promote a sort of substitute national morality – and none more so than the campaign to ‘kick racism out of football’.
That is why some were so keen to seize on the racist abuse in Spain as an excuse to occupy the moral high ground. Once, Brits looked down on Spaniards as dagos and wogs. Now the popular press can sneer at them as racist ‘sick señors’, and ‘sadistic señors’ who torture donkeys. To me this looks like the same national conceit, expressed in patriotically correct language.
Then the Yorke incident was blown up into a major offence, as a rare opportunity to draw a clear line between right and wrong in Britain. Racism is one of the few things that we can (almost) all agree is wrong these days. So let us make ourselves feel good by uniting the forces of Good (all of us) against the forces of Evil (the stupid bloke in the Blackburn shirt whose picture the police plastered everywhere, and who has now been convicted). Football provides an easy target for this moral crusade. Despite all its efforts at social inclusion, it remains predominantly the province of white working-class males – a group that is considered fair game. Football is also the home ground of the id – the emotional, irrational side of the brain – so that people will shout abuse and generally misbehave at matches in ways that they don’t anywhere else. This makes it an ideal laboratory for experiments in sanitising society.
The latest furore about racism in football has all the hallmarks of a moral panic, turning a few deviants into an exaggerated threat to civilisation. I have no wish to defend racist oafs. Making monkey noises at a black footballer is repugnant. But a ‘racially aggravated public order offence’? Please. That makes it sound as if some thug hit Yorke over the head with a corner flag. In reality the gormless little idiot who made a gesture at him says that he has not stopped crying since, and looks as if he needed a clip round the ear rather than a criminal record.
Instead of running to the papers and the police, perhaps the next player who suffers racial abuse could take a leaf out of Eric ‘karate’ Cantona’s book? That is one way to kick racists out of football.
- Some are now asking whether animal rights extremists are the British equivalent of al-Qaeda, and describe Britain as the Afghanistan of the movement.
The Government has just announced a crackdown on protesters against animal research alongside new anti-terrorist laws. The two groups do have one thing in common. They owe their impact not to the power of their nihilistic worldview but to the defensive outlook of their opponents. Just as al-Qaeda feeds off the West’ s own fears, so the animal rights extremists exploit the uncertainty that politicians and scientists feel about defending animal research.
To placate their critics, the authorities like to distinguish between animal rights (bad) and animal welfare (good). But that distinction seems meaningless, when the expanding regime of animal welfare regulations risks interfering with crucial medical research. What is needed is not tougher laws, but stronger arguments. Stand up and say that what matters is human welfare, and the more animal research helps to advance that goal the better. Or will that risk us being arrested as human liberation extremists?
Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)