It seems that every time British tabloid journalism apparently hits rock bottom, it manages to plumb new depths. In the general euphoria surrounding Danny Boyle’s wonderful, and highly idiosyncratic, evocation of British identity in the Olympics opening ceremony, there were bound to be a few dissenting voices. He almost certainly expected them. You can’t please everyone, and he included some very provocative things – a lesbian kiss on TV, the arrival of the Windrush, a massively high-profile tribute to the NHS. What is surprising is that most people, even on the Right, responded positively to it.
Comment is free, but sometimes it really does cross a line and it becomes necessary to take a stand and point out that being a columnist doesn’t give you the right to say absolutely anything. When I read Rick Dewsbury’s hate-filled piece yesterday, I felt sick to my stomach. For many reasons, the first being his cynical exploitation of a recent tragic screw-up, and his assumption that he’d a perfect right to assume what the family of the unfortunate victim would have been thinking as they watched the show. Sadly, though, that’s part and parcel of the way the Daily Mail operates, and in a sense it’s what you have to expect if you get mixed up in publicity without Max Hastings to cover your back.
However, the bit that really got me was this:
But it was the absurdly unrealistic scene – and indeed one that would spring from the kind of nonsensical targets and equality quotas we see in the NHS – showing a mixed-race middle-class family in a detached new-build suburban home, which was most symptomatic of the politically correct agenda in modern Britain.
This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but such set-ups are simply not the ‘norm’ in any part of the country. So why was it portrayed like this and given such prominence?
Okay, where do we start? Well, to begin with, it’s utter rubbish. I work in a school and it’s packed with mixed-race families who seem to be getting on just fine. They are not “set-ups.” They are people who love each other, who quite rightly see beyond the colour of someone’s skin, and who are raising children who are as British as Winston Churchill (and a lot more open-minded).
One is left with the unpalatable truth – whatever anodyne remarks he goes on to make about peace and harmony (which are almost certainly spliced in by a sub aware of the likely fallout – I for one don’t remember them being there last night, before the comments were closed and the piece pulled for a while), basically he has a problem with black people being middle-class and living in nice houses.
And someone like that has no right to be writing for an influential national newspaper. You don’t have to be one of the “social network’s Guardianista brigade” (another of Dewsbury’s delightful phrases) to think that. Where has Dewsbury been for the last few years? Hasn’t he noticed that Tories also tweet?
I think we Brits can rightly be proud of the show put on in our name on Friday night. But if we tolerate this kind of open, unapologetic racism we should hang our heads in shame. Yes, we know how to laugh at ourselves, and it was totally in our national character that Friday’s jokes included the gentle poking of Royal authority and Mr Bean subverting the entire Olympic ideal. But this kind of thing isn’t funny at all.
So please, get out there. Quote this repulsive stuff, blog it, tweet it, shout it, and support bloggers like John J Williamson who are taking it to the Press Complaints Commission and maybe beyond. This is our “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more moment.”
Then sit back and enjoy the sport, if that’s your thing. Let’s show that the real Britain is closer to Danny Boyle’s vision than the Daily Mail’s.
Since posting this I’ve come across this brilliant article, which not only analyses the piece better than I ever could but quotes from (and links from) the original, and even more offensive, version:
Also (as of Sunday evening) the article has been removed completely from the Daily Mail website.
- Letters: The Mail and race (guardian.co.uk)