Leave us Yids alone

Now the thoughtpolice are attacking the dictionary for its accurate definition of ‘Yid’.

Frank Furedi

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Yet again the word Yid has become a focus for controversy. This time Tottenham Hotspur has criticised the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for expanding its definition of a Yid to include ‘a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club’.

As a long-time Tottenham supporter and a season ticket holder, I can confirm that the OED’s new expanded definition of a Yid is absolutely correct. The dictionary notes that though the use of the term Yid is ‘usually derogatory and offensive’, it is also often a form of ‘self-designation’.

Anyone who has attended a Spurs game will have heard supporters chant ‘Yid Army’ or ‘Yiddo’ and will have been in no doubt about the pride with which these words are used. So the OED is right to draw attention to a specific cultural context within which the word Yid is used by supporters of Tottenham to describe themselves.

So why is Tottenham objecting to this? In a statement on the controversy, the club even acknowledged that ‘our fans (both Jewish and gentile) have never used the term with any intent to cause offence’.

The main reason why the club felt compelled to complain – albeit in a half-hearted manner – is to protect itself from the customary accusation that it is tolerating racist behaviour. ‘We have never accommodated the use of the Y-word on any club channels or in the club store’, said a spokesman for Spurs. After all, it only takes one identity entrepreneur to say that the use of the word Yid is unacceptable before other easily offended people pile on.

In the current climate, the policing of language has become so intrusive and so expansive that institutions and individuals feel continually compelled to mind the language they use. Officious censors are always on hand to challenge spontaneous expressions of feelings and the use of contested terms. In such circumstances, Tottenham has opted for an easy life. Unfortunately, the club would rather its fans abandoned their traditional chants, which make up an important dimension of their cultural life, than deal with the inevitable pressure from the language police.

It only takes a handful of censors to silence people. This is a challenge that comedian David Baddiel has embraced with great relish. Baddiel, who has campaigned in the past against people chanting the word Yid at football games, said the positive connotations that the OED has given to the Y-word are mythical.

Baddiel says the ‘vast majority of fans of the club, including those who self-designate as Y-words, are not Jewish and therefore have no right of “reclamation”’ (that is, to reclaim the Yid slur as a badge of honour). But why not? Who gets to decide whether a Spurs fan has the right to use the word Yid? Why should Baddiel’s views on the word Yid count for more than anyone else’s?

Baddiel personifies the identity entrepreneur who acts as if he owns a patent on all things Yid-related. Not only does he present himself as the lone voice of racial sensitivity and awareness – he also acts as if he speaks for all Jewish fans. In fact, the truth is more complex. Surveys show that, unlike Baddiel, the majority of Jewish Spurs fans are not offended by the use of the word Yid in the footballing context.

Baddiel’s crusade against what he calls the ‘Y-word’ is not really about challenging anti-Semitism. It is about acquiring the authority to determine which words can and can’t be used. Indeed, it trivialises anti-Semitism and distracts attention from areas where anti-Semitism is a serious and genuine problem.

As a Spurs fan, I am emotionally invested in the word Yid. However, the issues raised by the controversy go far beyond football.

Society is constantly being confronted by attempts to control and alter the language used in public life. Identity entrepreneurs have successfully managed to get the authorities, and even the police, to support their project of gaining control over the language people use. The policing of language on- and offline has had a significant impact on society.

Time and again, people say they are at a loss to know what words they are allowed to use. Many people self-censor and are reluctant to express their real views in public. The policing of language constitutes a fundamental threat to the right and capacity of vast numbers of people to express themselves. There is a lot at stake in the battle over words. The struggle for free speech is the most important conflict in the current culture war.

Frank Furedi’s How Fear Works: the Culture of Fear in the 21st Century is published by Bloomsbury Press.

Watch Spurs fans speak up for their right to use the word Yid:

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Agustus Haggerty

21st February 2020 at 6:13 pm

This seems familiar to the beloved “comical” mascot/trademark of the Cleveland Indians, Chief Wahoo. It’s racist. Resentful because your nickname for a sports team is an antisemitic slur? Snowflakes.

Sam Ford

19th February 2020 at 6:29 pm

The spiked crew aren’t edgy..The irony is wasted on many who don’t know the Furedi bunch that well. The we don’t want to have Baddeil “own” the identity groups complete thoughts and words we prefer Furedi, who always claims leniency and free speech but his top tier cult members betray the truth & show that this is a cover.(not that Furedi has a group..according to him only everyone else who knows) similar tactic you see.. Barbara Hewson for the past 5 years long before the labour anti semitism smears was smearing child sexual abuse survivor’s with the same brush, calling those calling out many links like the Janners of this world as anti-Semites calling a survivor a Nazi, dozens of antisemitism slurs to some with jewish family even..sick beyond belief a coincidence her key influencer is named as Furedi, she is also a friend of his wife? They all bleat appeasement toward abusers as did another of the crew Helen Reece who advised May to allow paedos to adopt. Coincidence ? Angie boy pseudonym ( the crew all have them) a spiked writer leapt to attack as he was also programmed to (being a holocaust speaker at their battle of ideas) due to having a wife & kids of the right identity. Id not known only fathomed it out when he turned hostile after friending me after meeting him with Jean Marc Drefus who said culture was owned by intermarrying aristocracy( as my attacker was that ) I was asked if I was and if I was Jewish as so many aristos were in the UK Drefus had been suprised to learn..I left them both at this event they had wanted me to join them for speakers dinner it was a little odd and a little flirty..I chatted to Angie boy about Sweden many things in a free speech way to be told he didn’t like what I said how I said it and my conspiracies which I’d said earlier the gang hate as it can prompt witchhunt against uh hum certain groups..Freaky man..agressivley refused to explain why, when we met again..accused me of following him when I’d just wanted to understand what thought crime I’d apparently commited…the usual one it seems, to question what I’d heard the 1st night and make unthought out comments about what they’d think of such a genteel gentile talking in Sweden about culture..I do apologise for not having realised my crime…Drefus had when asked what he thought of Angie boys type called him a horse…when speaking online I was treated like dirt…why ever befriend me..I would advise caution with all this groups antics..while appearing free speech and not into group categorisation and being spoken on behalf off due to identity they hide sinister allegiances of the exact kind in this group Angie boy writes the same spurs drivvel in his spiked peices to please guru. ..those who know are excluded..Seems Angie boys strings pulled include fearmongering over his own daughter, who I casually asked about a photo of the response beyond any norm….resulted in threats ..I was shocked..banned from being at an event he held with a free mic and attacked in his room when I tried to talk about it with him after some gentle slightly sozzled physical intimacy to help him calm down he was paranoid it would be something else I’d speak of…he always blushed when he saw me..the contrarianism hides a method of madness..and after the assault my rights to safeguarding were ignored by Frank who followed the whole goings on from the 25000 views on my social media in month only known to this man he had set a bot on..to supporting my attendance at the event…to see beyond their agenda is dangerous it seems, don’t be fooled they see themselves as the white male superman identity under attack by all other identity groups the fairy on this mad tree the self declared ultra white male Frank says are the Jews under attack as elites …they hide behind anything to distort this control mechanism using people like props (and horses) the set changes but the mantras never do..be aware.

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Dick Barrett

19th February 2020 at 3:52 pm

Followers of North London’s other, better club, will readily confirm that the “yids” are referred to as such all the time, but without any sinister intent beyond good healthy rivalry.

Trevor evans

19th February 2020 at 3:31 pm

At my first Arsenal game, age 11, I stood on the North Bank down near the front towards the corner of the terrace. Around twenty minutes before the game started, people near me started pushing and shoving, lashing out, kicking and punching at people, and shouting Yiddos. It took the Old Bill sometime to restore order and eventually corralling the mob of a hundred or more into the terrace that use to run alongside the West Stand. But not before several had been injured and had to be treated pitchside by the St John’s, including an old man who had a head-wound. The people that did this spent the rest of the game behind the police line gesticulating, chanting “we are the Yids” and waving Star of David flags. Before that day I had not of heard of the word nor did I know that what these Skinheads, mostly were shaven thugs, were waving was the flag of Israel.
Spurs fans are wrong to claim it as a word of self identity when they are just appropriating it to as a mask for their sociopathic unhingedness that makes their ground one of the most dangerous in the country and their fan-base the most loathed in London. And for Baddiel and the many Jewish fans of Arsenal, Chelsea, and West Ham are right be appalled that Spurs fans pull the reputation to Jews into the mud by claiming to affirm the Jewish identity but going around behaving no different to Brown-Shirts.

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