How Not to Oppose Bigotry

Russ Ball must be confused. In February 2009 in a letter to the Mercury he argued that Prince Harry’s description of a fellow British soldier as a “paki” was not offensive — the same being true for the prince’s use of rag-head for the victims of Tony Blair’s illegal invasion. The resulting “furore” was totally unnecessary, because as Ball put it, “impolite nicknames and jocular abuse are a feature of English culture.”

Then in March last year, Ball was outraged that the BBC dared to edit a few racist words out of an episode of Fawlty Towers. The censored military Major in question having referred to foreign West Indian cricketers as “niggers” and “wogs.”

Fawlty Towers uses Major Gowen's to effectively satirise English upper-class bigotry
Fawlty Towers used Major Gowen to satirise English upper-class bigotry

Ball says that the “BBC’s thin excuse that the language was racist is laid bare by the fact that it is the Major’s sort who smashed a true racist nightmare.” (January 2013, Mercury) He seems unaware that the Major’s privately-educated (white) sort really had very little to do with smashing fascism.

Unfortunately it was the working class that won the war by giving their lives, often like so much needless battle fodder. The majority of those who died were not of the Major’s sort but would have been the type of people whom the Major considered to be suitable brunts for “impolite nicknames”: think the tens of millions of communists or millions of Indians.

In his confusion Ball likes to muddle comprehension of the English language. He says “it is often forgotten that there are at least two views of everything” (March 2013, Mercury). Hence he claims it’s “facile” to label MPs who vote against homosexual marriage as homophobic, when those who favour such equality in the eyes of law could just as easily be labelled Christian-ophobic.

This comparison however make absolutely no sense. A vote in favour of gay marriage does not equate with an opposition to Christianity, it is merely to express an enlightened criticism of one aspect of a Christian doctrine, that has always evolved (if belatedly) to suit the demands of its diverse practitioners. To reverse Ball’s statement, being a Christian does not mean that you have to be a homophobe.

Now it seems Ball is upset that people who lie about immigration (here I am thinking of political leaders from Labour, the Tories and UKIP) are sometimes “labelled as racists” (September 2015). Perhaps he says, “we should characterise” those who believe that political refugees should have the right of asylum “as the racist and anglo-phobic supporters of asylum seekers.”

On one point alone Ball is right: our political leaders are “hypocrites, cheats, liars” and, yes, often racists too. Moreover, austerity is a lie. In just the last five years, £80 billion has been cut from public spending; the same amount of money that the bankers have received in bonuses since the economic crisis began.

Our current economic and political system will always puts the need of profit before those of people. Vast sums of money can be found for war, but never to deal with the millions of asylum seekers that flee from such wars.

That is why we need to build a democratic socialist society, which would harness the wealth, science and technique created by capitalism in order to meet the needs of the majority worldwide.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 5th September. Published in a very edited form by Mercury on 9th September as “A system for the majority.”

Immigration article


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