Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Having their cake and eating it

A bit late in the day, but a chap called Anthony Sappor weighs in on the "golliwog" row over on The Telegraph.

I can appreciate that in all likelihood there was no racist intent behind Carol Thatcher’s words, and that plenty of people own all sorts of Golliwog memorabilia.

I feel a "but" coming on ....

However, the suggestion that she did not use an offensive term is frightening.

Ah, not a but - a "however" instead. A true sign of education.

At what point did comparing a black person to a doll, initially described by its creator as 'a horrid sight, the blackest gnome', become okay?

"Golliwog" per se is not an offensive term, but it is understandable that some people would be offended by it if called a "golliwog", whether there was intent to offend or not, in the same way a statuesque blonde woman may take offence at being called a "Barbie doll".

However (see, I can do it too), that does not mean the person using that term necessarily meant it in an offensive way. Some people actually have a great deal of affection for golliwogs and Barbie dolls (I'm not one of them) and regardless of what the "creator" of that doll intended, do not see those dolls as "horrid".

We are all, regardless of race, religion or creed, subjected to things we find offensive on a daily basis. Some of those things are accidentally offensive while others are quite deliberately so. Most of us manage to deal with that in an adult way without having to have someone sacked or reprimanded.

Jonathan Ross, for example, is simply a crude, immature and egotistical man who probably doesn't even realise when he is being offensive - or if he does, has gotten away with it for so long he believes it to be acceptable behaviour. Jo Brand, on the other hand, is deliberately offensive to certain groups of people on a regular basis, but she is free to do that because she is "politically correct" about who she offends.

Political correctness means that certain designated victim groups have rights which others do not - including the right not to be offended. Why should they have that right? Either we make it a right for all to be free from offence (impossible) or we tolerate ALL those who cause offence (within law) - deliberate or not.

Tolerate does not mean "find acceptable" either. The usual, British way of dealing with offensive behaviour would have been to have told the person that we find their views offensive and request that they desist from expressing them in such a manner in our presence in future- all done in a restrained way with manners, respect and courtesy. Nothing annoys someone who is deliberately trying to be offensive than the person they are trying to offend showing them a degree of courtesy and respect they fail to show others and if the person was not trying to be offensive they will usually apologise - as Thatcher did.

Sappor suggests that the "anti-PC brigade" are "confused". Actually, what they are doing is using the same tactic that the PC brigade us - reacting to offence with moral indignation and (often feigned) incandescent outrage.

Golliwog is an offensive term to some, but not to all. In a polite and well-mannered society we would not publicly use a word where it may cause offence to someone - and that should include on the broadcast media. However, the word "fuck" is also offensive to some and the polite and well-mannered society has been broken down by the self same people who now express moral indignation of the use of the word "golliwog" in private conversations while they continue to deliberately offend and swear with out the same consideration they demand from others.

They want it both ways. To preserve the right - their sole right - to determine who it is OK to offend and to preserve their right - their sole right - what to take offence at. They can't have it both ways. Either they give up one or the other.

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