Saturday, January 11, 2014


A great chance here for those who are forever banging on about the dire threat that "moral relativism" poses to western liberalism and our precious bodily fluids, and so on - Ariel Sharon has kicked the bucket.

Now, I'm thinking here of stuff like e.g. the Times devoting two-thirds of its Kurt Vonnegut obituary to claims that Slaughterhouse Five was basically Nazi propaganda, because it lifted an inflated death toll for the firebombing of Dresden from pre-notoriety David Irving.

Or the reception some gave to Harold Pinter turning up his toes, which was essentially to get the bunting out and the party hats on for the demise of "Milosevic's favourite writer" and suchlike.  Perhaps you can think of more examples yourself.

Well, Sharon's record on needlessly rubbing out civvies really isn't a matter of debate, unless by "a matter of debate" we mean - was he as bad as an Arafat, a Karadzic or a Kissinger, or just a pound-shop Douglas MacArthur with menaces?

So this is an opportunity for wailers of the OMG-the-left-has-lost-its-bearings-and-totally-like-supports-murderers-and-that etc genus to really get on their high horses with the denunciation, with no mealy-mouthed quibbling or It's totally different when white folks do it malarkey about a "right to self-defence" that isn't at all in dispute.

We're going to see some serious consistency here, right?  Because if Vonnegut was a scumbag and Pinter a bastard, then Sharon must surely be some kind of Cthulu-esque horror monster, comparatively, what with all the dead people and that.

That's how this works, right?


Update!  A deafening and surprising silence on Sharon from most of the nation's premier relativism-decriers, which is probably understandable - there's precious little milage in trying to explain to hundreds of angry Tweeters why mass-murder is different when our guys do it.

The popular press has stuck defiantly to the "controversial figure/two sides to Sharon's character" stuff in exactly the way that they didn't when, say, Chavez kicked the bucket, but that's hardly a shock either.  Modern liberalism, in the broad sense, prefers its men of violence to be English-speaking, well-dressed and trailed by a sizeable PR department, and Old Arik was certainly that. 

The Times landed squarely on "Flawed man of peace", thus demonstrating a far more compassionate and understanding attitude towards bloodcurdling, deliberate civvy-massacre than it was willing to grant e.g. the novelist Vonnegut, whose death was met with a fiery denunciation for the unforgiveable crime of having written some words in a book.  So it goes. 

Still, Sharon's snuffing it did leave us with moments of high comedy like this, from Britain's most viciously unforgiving denouncers of folk who defend violent people: 
He lit up Israel with the fire that came from within his soul and the country that was both burned by the power of that fire and basked in its warmth will forever be a little darker for that light first fading and now being extinguished forever.  

But my favourite is this piece from Martin Bright, himself something of a vocal decrier of apologism for violent deeds, who tackles Sharon's brutality head-on and discovers that it was... a bit nasty.  The title adequately conveys the content:
Sharon: A gargantuan figure, but his role in Sabra and Shatila diminished him.  

This is, of course, hilarious.  Sharon was and is popular with many precisely because he stomped on Israel's enemies like a crazed thug, and thus those sympathetic to his cause are willing to overlook all those occasions where he also stomped like a crazed thug on the children and family members of Israel's enemies. After all, if Sharon was "diminished" by his crimes - of which Bright only examines the worst one, mind - it sure didn't stop him getting elected.

Brighty's assertion here is fun, but it's a little like contending that John Lydon was a giant among TV swearers, but that his multiple fuck-sayings on the Bill Grundy Show diminished him. 

Now, I'm not that bothered by these countless Sharon/murder minimisers, since I expect it.  It's not like most of these folk are moral monsters or anything, so much as just people doing what people do.

All this nonsense tells us is that Nous sommes touts relativistes maintenant, or something - given the right person or issue, almost everyone "makes excuses" or "understands in context", or whatever OH NO APOLOGISM HAS MADE YOU A NAZI phrase you happen to find most congenial. 

The truth is that when it's convenient, even the grandest moralisers are just swooning groupies for a rugged man of action sporting the right set of blood-caked epaulettes. 

I dare you to look at any one of those Sharon divided opinion obituaries and tell me that the content is wildly different from the crustiest, crankiest old Commie going misty-eyed over some dusty dictator.  Try to imagine one of the top-selling papers running a Che Guevara was a collossus of sexual wonder, but his summary executions diminished him strapline.  No.

Which points us to the singular idea that everyone in the politics game, amateurs and pros, is a relativist and context-understander*, and this surely means that all those long, tedious fits of fainting and screeching over the awful leftist relativism we've been hearing this century were merely...  Politically convenient and humorously obvious bullshit.

But then we knew that - all Sharon's expiry shows us is exactly how hilariously obvious that bullshit is.

So this week's mainstream celebration-of-slash-apologism-for bestial manslaughter is probably worth saving in your memory banks for whenever e.g. Castro pops his clogs, when every pinhead in the nation will climb atop his high-horse to issue denunciations to every human being who ever smoked a cigar. 

And God, that's going to be dull.

*Egregious example - Tony Blair, arch-defender of Saudi Arabia's "Culture" and "Way of life"; Gadaffi-cuddler; Mubarak eulogiser, and globe-straddling hero of the anti-relativists.


Ken Eadie, the Prince of Strikers said...

That scrabbling, hyperventilating sound you hear is Nick frantically calling The Observer to spike his column for tomorrow whilst he flits about Twitter for the first tweets from the islamo-fascist Left. There could well be a decent blockbuster of epic proportions tomorrow.

organic cheeseboard said...

Nah, Nick doesn't give a fuck about the middle east and probably doesn't even know Sharon is dead (no mention of it on his Twitter - though there is someone there skewering a piece he wronte on Hitchens last year). He'll wait til someone else (probably James Bloodworth or someone at HP Sauce) collates all teh leftNazi reactions and blog on it at the Spectator in about 4 months' time, though I think even Nick knows that Sharon is not exactly a saint and will probably leave well alone.

Most Decents eem to have ignored it, too - again underlining my idea that they don't actually care very much about the Middle East, and this is a stick that'll be pretty hard to bash tehleftnazis with.

The HP Sauce posting is a peach mind you - I've really no idea why they keep on posting that bloke's stuff, he is a terrible writer.

This 'Sharon was a warrior' meme is pretty ropey, no? I mean, it's not usually a good thing, is it, (especially not given the generally contested nature of pretty much every war, ever) or have I missed something?

flyingrodent said...

The HP Sauce posting is a peach mind you...

It's just great, isn't it?
Remember folks, the left is horrible for allying itself with violent monsters and whitewashing war crimes and human rights outrages, so let's all salute that wonderful Mr Sharon, who may have done the odd bad thing but since he's a white guy, we'll let it slide...

A warrior, a lawyer, a politician, a farmer, there were many sides to this great man... pragmatism... successfully put down an uprising in Gaza using his particular talent for low intensity conflict... The remarkable transformation of Ariel Sharon from being the man who invaded Beirut and the Defence Minister who backed settlement of the West Bank to the Prime Minister who championed unilateral disengagement and oversaw the removal of the Israeli presence in Gaza is awe inspiring... Now fade away old soldier, we will miss you.

I mean, I know the Sauce descended into slapstick round about 2004, but even I was surprised to see them deep-throating the old goat quite so fulsomely.

flyingrodent said...

It's been bugging me, but I've just worked out what that HP Sauce post reminds me of...

organic cheeseboard said...

Gotta say that I doubt very much that that post would have gone up when David Toube was more active on HP, and Brownie too etc, since the hypocrisy is so glaring - and since it's just so generally unjustifiable.

Not sure who, exactly, is putting anything up there now - I'd imagine Sarah AB wouldnt' be on message with that, nor that Gene bloke (though he's fairly genial in the comments). Maybe it's that nobhead Alec? But even he wouldn't fully agree, surely?

I do think it's an intersting insight into a fairly 'left-wing' Israeli view on the world though - where left-wingers can cheer absolute monsters like him because, er, well, "I sense he would prefer to be remembered in perpetuity for his courage, for always doing what he felt was right" - well yes, woudln't we all?! what kind of bullshit is this? Even the author can't quite articulate why old bloodthirsty Ariel should be let off the hook. we also get:

no higher accolade can be uttered than to say he helped shape this nation.

by dropping Gaza, of no interest theologically, and expanding into the West Bank, of massive interest and which he showed literally no sign of wanting to give up, while erecting the 'security barrier' swallowing massive chunks of the west bank while also approving of expansion outside the 'ecurity barrier'? Yup, shaping the nation alright!

Oh and just to finish:

He lit up Israel with the fire that came from within his soul and the country that was both burned by the power of that fire and basked in its warmth will forever be a little darker for that light first fading and now being extinguished forever.

bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Basked in its fucking warmth????

flyingrodent said...

He lit up Israel with the fire that came from within his soul and the country that was both burned by the power of that fire and basked in its warmth will forever be a little darker for that light first fading and now being extinguished forever.

That is fantastic stuff, there. God knows what the old guard would make of it, but I'd love to find out.

In the wider world, it's really noticeable how many articles refer to Sharon as "controversial" or some similar term, without noting why he was controversial, especially in the US media.

I really can't imagine a Croatian or Serbian leader with such a blood-spattered past being described as e.g. "divisive" and so on. We'd get the full list of crimes in unflinching detail, wouldn't we?

I also liked Senator Ted Cruz's insistance that Sharon was a "great friend to America". No examples of this friendship follow - no favours done or anything like that.

As far as I can see, the full extent of Sharon's "friendship" was that he was willing to accept a bajillion dollars of free aid and weaponry every year, in exchange for which he pretended to give a vague shit what George Bush had to say about things.

Hell, if that's friendship, sign me up! I'll be the bestest buddy America ever had.

ejh said...

Gotta say that I doubt very much that that post would have gone up when David Toube was more active on HP, and Brownie too etc

The Good old Days of HP Sauce? Do me a favour.

organic cheeseboard said...

Yes I guess you're right EJH.

Weirdly that post has now seemingly been removed from its author's own blog. And some cheeky scamp has copied and pasted the piece on 'human rights and double standards' from the Euston Manifesto in the comments.

That website is weirdly inactive though. Am assuming it takes a) the threat of Britain going to war of b) Israel starting a war to really get it going.

flyingrodent said...

To be fair, I note that HP Sauce is an exception, and almost everyone else is keeping their counsel for now. Frankly, if I was them, I'd be doing the same thing.

organic cheeseboard said...

It seems the real warrior hero in Decency this week (judging via Twitter comments and) is some PhD student wearing a t-shirt with an unfunny cartoon on it, on BBC's The Big Questions (which they've suddenly all started watching).

And the BBC are tehnazis for not broadcasting images of Mohammad, or something, despite there being no need to and despite it very obviously being likely to upset most of the (religious) viewers of the programme (with the exception of atheist Decents who are just watching this week).

Strikes me that the whole 'you can wear a Niqab, why can't I wear my t-shirt with an image of Mohammad on it' thing is ostensibly a 'freedom of expression' issue where clearly both people should have the right to wear both. But underlying that is something a bit less palatable - Niqab worn because wearer believes it is an order of God and a central part of their faith, Mohammad t-shirt worn for the sole reason of deliberately annoying Muslims.

The Decent status on the Quenelle (ban Anelka and sack him, the FA love antisemitism) seems not at all relativist with this in mind. (Not an especially good example, granted, but still).

organic cheeseboard said...

Our old chum Chas Newkey-Burden is doing his 'best' for the Sharon camp, accusing Owen Jones of being 'clueless' on Israel and of hating Jews (before then claiming that he never said that) because Jones criticised Sharon; claiming that if you can't name individual killers from Sabra and Shatila you're somehow hypocritical for criticising Sharon's part in that massacre (no, me neither); and proudly parading his and la Burchill's book on lefty hypocrisy which is dedicated to Sharon and Netanyahu (?!).

That last bit is especially weird given that in an exchange I had with him a while back he claimed to despise Netanyahu (and Avigdor Lieberman, someone else he'd previously praised vociferously). For someone who attacks others so often for being 'uninformed' on matters Israeli, he sure as hell changes his mind a lot.

From the nouveau Decent James Bloodworth's Twitter, it seems the line on this is to say 'hmm well i disapprove of course, but others are worse and he rubbed up his own side the wrong way so he must have done soemthing right'... Maybe a bit of Blairite love for that?

ejh said...

Surely nobody in the whole world cares what Chas Newkey-Burden reckons he thinks.

flyingrodent said...

Surely nobody in the whole world cares what Chas Newkey-Burden reckons he thinks.

I doubt anyone does, but it's odd that we're reduced to such minor figures.

The silence here is deafening, although I think we can safely assume that it's a respectful silence, rather than one of those Shameful Silences that we hear so very much about.

I imagine this will continue right up until some minor Galloway figure says something reprehensible about Sharon, at which point we may be treated to a round of the Oh-No-Castros or a few screams and wails about Ken Livingston and Castro or suchlike. But nothing too bad about Sharon, of course.

Nice to see Tony Blair paying his respects to the man himself, though. I assume this is yet another occasion on which the former PM's manhugs with a series of gore-splattered pantomime monsters is far less concerning than some university somewhere or some minor celebrity saying something stupid.

flyingrodent said...

Pardon me there, I meant "wails and screams about Chavez" there.

After all, I'm sure we all remember how much shame we all brought on ourselves by loving the seemingly much more horrendous Hugo as passionately as we all seem to have done, apparently, without exception or reservation.

I mean, I don't remember ever writing anything suggesting that Chavez was nice or that I'd miss him, but maybe I forgot.

(This, because I've just read the Times leader on Sharon. Conclusion - flawed man of peace. It really is remarkable how unconcerned the Times seems to be with all the murders, when you consider that it's still running Chavez Was an Unstoppable Inhuman Commie Bastard Who Brought Misery To Millions pieces about once every fortnight).

organic cheeseboard said...

A shorter version of Blair's speech: 'They have their culture, their way of life'.

Life on this is beginning on Twitter - Kamm offering support for Freedland and by proxy Sharon based on his being the 'first PM to refer to Israel's West Bank presence as Occupation'.

When it's pointed out to him that expansion into said occupied territory massively increased under Sharon, Kamm says nothing.

His tiwtter feed is quite funny at the moment, sice he fired off a bunch of Chomsky-obsessive questions at C4 News last night for some reason.

flyingrodent said...

some cheeky scamp has copied and pasted the piece on 'human rights and double standards' from the Euston Manifesto in the comments.

Just noticed this again, so let's revisit...

We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal, and binding on all states and political movements, indeed on everyone. Violations of these rights are equally to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.

Perhaps I'm misreading and there's something in there about how certain human rights violations are less objectionable if you also e.g. cede territory that you had no right to possess in the first place?

That line about HR violations "closer to home... more deplorable than others" also a bit of an embarrassing point, these days.

levi9909 said...

Here's an article on UN Gen Sec Ban Ki Moon's praise for Ariel Sharon:

Bruschettaboy said...

Nice. Everyone's a context-understander and a relativist and a it's-more-subtle-than-that merchant about issues they understand and care about. I once read a comment on the Guardian website that went "Although in general I am a passionate libertarian and anti-nanny-state fundamentalist, as a professional firefighter I really do think that ballon lanterns should be banned". Same principle.

organic cheeseboard said...

It works the other way too, surely - if there's an issue someone cares deeply about, it might well lea them to be a relativist with regard to some people, but not others - see the various Decent hate-figures, not least Noam Chomsky, who they think is 'literally wrong about everything'.

What's more worrying and weird is the way so many of them have eaten up this 'suddenly became a man of peace' thing, seeming to believe that he would have withdrawn from the west Bank, when he sanctioned massive expansion therein and built a fucking wall eating up about 25% of it.

A point of order - John Lydon didn't, I don't think, say 'fuck' on the Grundy show, though he did say 'shit' - it was mainly Steve jones dropping the f-bombs iirc (was watching that clip 2 days ago for some reason).

Bruschettaboy said...

What's more worrying and weird is the way so many of them have eaten up this 'suddenly became a man of peace' thing, seeming to believe that he would have withdrawn from the west Bank, when he sanctioned massive expansion therein and built a fucking wall eating up about 25% of it.

I can almost buy a version of this on the basis of delete "man of peace", insert "committed nationalist who toward the end of his life appeared to understand that the policy direction Israel was heading in was suicidal in the long term". And for "withdrawn from the West Bank" sub "negotiated, in at least a semblance of good faith, a deal which might have been merely amazingly unfair rather than the current status quo".

flyingrodent said...

I can almost buy a version of this on the basis of delete "man of peace", insert "committed nationalist who toward the end of his life appeared to understand that the policy direction Israel was heading in was suicidal in the long term".

This is probably right and had more obits basically said "Peace, in the sense that building a massive wall around everything you can pinch then training a gigantic arsenal on everything on the other side is peace", then I would've been more likely to agree.

I mean, it's a type of peace, although no type of justice or anything approaching it. Not that you'd know this from 95% of the obits.

John Lydon didn't, I don't think, say 'fuck' on the Grundy show, though he did say 'shit'

This occurred to me while writing that, but if I checked it and I turned out to be wrong, it would've messed up the comparison. The wages of laziness, there.

so many of them have eaten up this 'suddenly became a man of peace' thing

I can't say this is surprising. Bear with me on a really stretched comparison for a moment - if you imagine Sharon as management and the Palestinians as an aggrieved union, well, which side are the papers going to come down on there?

organic cheeseboard said...

It's still not quite right, in that Sharon, in addition to commencing the building of that 'barrier', also encouraged expansion outside it - so he was fully committed to exactly the expansionist policy direction, with Palestine as a series of small pockets to which Israel controls entry and exit, which Bibi is still following.

Also, vaguely on topic, Aaro's latest JC column is really, really, really rubbish:

flyingrodent said...

It's still not quite right...

Definitely not, but still a damn sight more accurate than the risible "Sharon: Thwarted man of peace" angle that almost all the obits took.

flyingrodent said...

And on Dave's article, it really is a bit of a stinker.

I can understand the sentiment, since I tend to react very negatively whenever the Scots get a shoeing in the press, like e.g. the dog days of the Brown administration when it was all wailing about the Scottish jackboot on London's neck etc.

And it's worth noting that Aaro does get insane hatemail and lots of racist tweets and, while he's obviously a magnet for them because he's one of the country's best-known writers on why the UK's wars are awesome, this doesn't make them any less reprehensible or Aaro's attitude unreasonable. I'd probably respond similarly.

On the other hand, one way to avoid the crushing feeling that your particular race, sect or nationality are subject to exceptional criticism/persecution would be to NOT spend lots of time on websites that are entirely devoted to searching out racist loonies to publicise for political reasons.

This extends to most faiths and races: Muslims, Jews and Christians can all find loads of sites that intentionally seek out loonies talking conspiratorial shit about their religion, race or nation. This is theoretically done in order to expose racists etc. but in my experience is more often used to push particular political agendas that have little to do with actual racism. See also, Christians crying Oh Noes The Gay Gestapo Want To Force Us To Bum Each Other and variations across various websites.

If anyone doubts that I'm right here, try speaking to a Christian who doesn't spend half their lives Googling for affronts; then try speaking to one who does. People who don't follow religion might have difficulty believing that the two follow the same faith.

The same goes for everything from climate change to smoking in public to, yes, Israel and Palestine, and I'd argue that it isn't much helping to tone down the level of latent racism or anythingophobia in society.

But then, this is the kind of comment that generally ends with me getting dressings-down, so I'll leave it there.

organic cheeseboard said...

For me, the article is rubbish not only because of its unfinniness ('Jewday'? really unfunny and unless I'm mistaken, Aaro isn't Jewish, making this sound frankly nasty, even if Aaro is a sympathiser with Jewish people), but also because of its laziness. On the basis of two fairly minor things he experienced recently, Aaro is going to give up on balanced debate about Jewishness and Israel and just come down as totally partisan, implying that he believes that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

I don't think it's possible to 'reply similarly' without accepting that it's an essentially unjustifiable, gut-level response, founded on two fairly rubbish examples:

One - a bloke comes up to him (by chance, so the issue can hardly have been at the front of his mind - he could have tweeted DA surely?) to tell him about the use of the word 'apartheid' in connection with the state of Israel. Hardly an uncommon occurence and in my mind not unjustifiable either, given the Israeli-only roads in the West Bank.

The other - a young woman feeling that her future might lie outside the UK because of her experiences being occasionally confronted as chair of a Jewish Society at a University (as well, one imagines, as the lack of Journalism jobs over here). Sad enough, and i'm sure she's a nice, reasonable person, but it's not like Jewish societies are apolitical entities whose actions and campaigns should necessarily be free from scrutiny or opposition - one of the central campaigns of the Union of Jewish Students claims that "Zionism and Israel are core aspects of many Jewish students' identities and UJS therefore proudly seek to reflect this in what we do" - fair enough, and they're for a two-state solution, but even this is a not uncontroversial position, especially given the generally high level of interest in the ME among students.

I know Aaro never brings his A-game to the JC, but it just seemed like a totally pointless article; who is it likely to win over?

flyingrodent said...

Well, I think you do have to make allowances for people's gut responses to issues like this, but yes - "I met two people who were like, (x) is a disgrace and I was like hell yes, (x) is a disgrace" isn't exactly HL Mencken material. Definitely lazy work.

organic cheeseboard said...

I agree on gut-level up to a point, but that's yer pesky relativism again isn't it; and equally, isn't a columnist's job to do something more than simply say 'I am a bit pissed off'?

I looked up the 'Arsenal and Spurs vs Apartheid' thing he mentions. The 'Gooners Against Apatheid' group has a whopping 60 memers on facebook, and it looks like their last demo (against war in Syria?) had a total of 3 people in attendance, and they just seem to be yer typical anti-Zionist types, with absolutely no indication of any anti-Jewish sentiment. Clearly a massive problem, worthy of a JC column.


To him, all this stuff about Yids at the football, the Anelka quenelle salute, had combined into one big urgent picture, and he was determined to paint it for me. “Why does no-one say something?” he demanded. “What is wrong with this country?”

Again, two examples here. One, someone doing a salute that more or less nobody in this country recognised - soemthing Anelka will have known surely (Aaro claims to have written 2 pages of his book on Dieudonne, which is evidence, I guess, of nobody having read his book?). In any case, he'll likely be banned for ages, and the sponsors have threatened to withdraw their cash if he isn't dropped form the team. Evidence of the innate antisemitism of British society right there?

The other, 'Yids' at football, is something I totally disapprove of - I think non-Jewish Spurs fans calling themselves 'Yids' has always been incredibly stupid and offensive, and Jewish ones doing so, similarly, since they're depoliticising the word whether they like it or not - but Aaro is actually all in fucking favour of the use of 'Yid', saying it's fine "If used by a spurs fan as a self identifier."

As we've said, lazy, but also really silly, too, given that a central piece of evidence which got Aaro angry is something he actually approves of.

flyingrodent said...

I agree that a few football fans are probably nothing to quail in terror about, although I'm not familiar with that group.

I've been a bit taken aback by the response to the Anelka thing, though. My Twitter feed has been a constant, one-sided argument about what an arse Anelka is and how he should be hit with a lengthy ban and fine like Suarez. He certainly should, but I haven't actually seen anyone arguing that he shouldn't - the worst I've seen is Albion refusing to sack him, and that's 100% because they don't want to give him a massive pay-off, rather than anything more sinister.

I also note that the English anti-racism in football body Kick It Out appears to have threatened the JC with legal action.

The lesson I take from this is that when you level unsupported allegations at professional people, they tend to get a bit litigious. The message Pollard's crew appear to have taken is that they were even more incredibly correct than even they suspected, a view that I suspect will land them in court facing great fireballs of litigation sooner rather than later.

Additionally, I'm not sure quite why a French player doing a racist salute that originates in France tells us terrible things about England. Mind you, I'm going to fully side with the Anelka-haters if the FA don't hit him with a hefty punishment.

flyingrodent said...

And on chants by Spurs fans - I have to say that I'm not really bothered what they call themselves.

However, a section of the Celtic support do have a tendency to chant about being the "Fenian army", presumably on traditional N-word grounds of claiming the word from bigots. I can't say I like it myself - it just seems embarrassing and cringeworthy to me, but again - people, innit.

levi9909 said...

I don't think Fenian as a self-descriptor ranks with nigger or yid. The latter two began their life in English only as put-downs whereas originally Fenian meant Irish republican. Certainly orange types began to use it as an allegation of a threat from all Catholics but I still don't think it's the same as words that entered the lexicon as insults. I mean Irish republicans and their supporters have always called themselves Fenians. I think the Irish or Catholic equivalent of nigger or yid would be Taig, which I've never heard used as a self-descriptor by Irish people or Catholics of Irish descent.

I don't mean to nit-pick. I think quite a lot about the legitimacy or not of these words and their usage.

flyingrodent said...

I think you're missing the particular resonance of those words in a Scottish context, and would strongly advise against striking up a conversation about it in e.g. Glasgow.

levi9909 said...

I understand that Fenian is used as a put-down in Scotland (and in Ireland) but that doesn't mean people who call themselves Fenians are running with that put-down like Jews and Blacks using words for themselves that originated as put-downs by their enemies. Celtic fans make a lot of republican expressions. "Fenian army" is just one of many, like singing Fields of Athenry or shouting "up the Provos", though it's a long while since I heard that last one.

Anyway, funnily enough, Glasgow's the only place I can remember having similar conversations, in real life anyway.

flyingrodent said...

We're going to have to agree to disagree on this one - I've always taken this to be exactly that.

organic cheeseboard said...

That was what I meant about the Arsenal fans thing - it's a ridiculously small group of people. Also Aaro seems to have got the title of the group wrong, they don't seem to be united with Spurs fans on it either. Compared to, say, the time I went to the Emirates to watch my own team and sat there as the Arsenal stewards ignored my fellow fans' making monkey noises at Adebayor (who gets regular racist chants aimed at him generally), a few people calling Israel 'apartheid' doesn't seem an especially big deal.

Agreed on Anelka, he needs to get a big punishment, presumably the same as Suarez got, but as you say, a salute that only French people would recognise doesn't really say much about England.

I don't really get the JC position on this - these things have taken a long time in the past, and not releasing details of investigations publicly is surely a good idea. And the sponsors of West Brom have threatened to withdraw their funding if anelka keeps playing - so, again, what does that tlel us about England? 1) that footballers are paid too much, as you say, meaning that they're hard to punish internally at clubs and 2) that in general people feel strongly about antisemitism. Dunno if you subscribe to When Saturday Comes but there are so many documentations in that magazine of things like footballers in other countries leading fans in Fascist singalongs, fans organising themselves on terraces into swastika shapes - hell, Real Madrid fans have been flying swastika flags in recent years. England is a hell of a lot less upfront about it if it's really a hotbed of fascism like those other countries.

I dunno enough about 'Fenian' etc to really comment on that issue but it seems, like the Yid thing, to have fairly well-meaning intentions, but the upshot of both is probably that opposition fans will think the word is legitimate to (ab)use. I don't think it'll ever stop, but I still disapprove in general.

Friends of mine who support Arsenal used to sing things like 'hey yiddos, you scum, I wanna know where your captain's gone' referring to Sol Campbell, and when I took it up with them (having first addressed the more pressing point of trying to stop anyone singing 'hey baby' at football) they were genuinely bemused, saying 'it's what they call themselves'.

levi9909 said...

The JC's position is as always to exaggerate the incidence and incidents of antisemitism and claim that this or that authority isn't doing enough about it.

ejh said...

Dunno if you subscribe to When Saturday Comes

I used to write for it, though not in the present millennium

ejh said...

Real Madrid fans have been flying swastika flags in recent years

You sure about that?

flyingrodent said...

OC - I'm actually surprised and pleased that the sponsors have acted as they have, and it should bring considerable shame on the club that they've done so little. I can't really see how the FA are going to be able to dodge a heavy censure for Anelka here, and it'd be nice if for once they didn't bother trying.

And on the Celtic fans thing - I'd probably have done better to mention Aberdeen, who have entirely embraced the constant accusations of sheep-shagging. It's entirely common for their away support to erupt in chants of "Sheep-shagging bastards, we're all just sheep-shagging bastards" and to show up in wooly outfits and so on.

Not that I think this is anything like on the same level, but the impulse is surely similar.

Levi: The JC's position is as always to exaggerate the incidence and incidents of antisemitism and claim that this or that authority isn't doing enough about it.

From my limited experience, I think this is probably correct. That said, I don't think it's any different to any other paper in the land bigging up the issues that enrage their readers. Newspapers are a business and giving the public things they think they won't get anywhere else is the name of the game - see also, the Mail, the Guardian or Private Eye. It's all about bums on seats, in the end.

organic cheeseboard said...

EJH - the claim about Madrid's in the latest WSC in an article on the club's attempts to change their 'Ultras culture'.

Aberdeen fans seem an odd breed. My cousin who supports them used to love singing a song denigrating Eoin Jess, while he was clearly their best player.

ejh said...

the claim about Madrid's in the latest WSC in an article on the club's attempts to change their 'Ultras culture

Might be right, but the key thing is the "Ultras culture", i.e. it's no more to be taken as representative of the fans in general than any other club's hooligan fringe. (Of course that doesn't tell you to what extent the wider body does or does not tolerate the smaller group, but that's a hard question to address.) I did see a photo of these people in a local Pamplona paper yesterday and there were a few straight right arms in the shot.

levi9909 said...

Flying Rodent, I agree that sensationalism plays a role in reporting in national and community papers but all of them have their political and sectional interests. In the case of the Sun/NoW, the pro-old bill stance has cost them readers in spite of NI being purely a business.

The JC is a not-for-profit chaired by Anthony Julius who brought the employment tribunal case of Fraser v UCU (FUCU). I know you wrote about it yourself here and there but I don't know how much detail you knew.

Organic Cheeseboard, when I was in my late teens/early twenties in late 70s/early 80s some of my Jewish friends were football hooligans with either Spurs or Arsenal. (The non-Jewish ones tended to be West Ham or Millwall) When the National Front threatened to march through Redbridge they all joined a now defunct zionist group called Young Herut. After the NF threat had passed they used to get into punch ups with Arabs and Iranians up at Speakers Corner. I'm still friendly with some of them and they've long since grown out of their propensity for "a good knuckle" but that was why they joined, no other reason.

Bruschettaboy said...

With regard to the "Fenian" thing, surely the issue is that it is an insult in Scotland specifically because it isn't an insult in Ireland; the roots of the insult are precisely in accusing Catholic Scots of being Irish (which up until astonishingly recently was regarded as a very insulting thing to call someone). Also it's specifically fighting talk because of that Rangers songs which goes "up to our knees in Fenian blood"; the Famine Song is, when considered simply as an insulting football song, rather mild, but it's located culturally in a place where someone singing it, or even referring to its lyrics, is signalling himself as wanting to have a fight.

I actually have a little bit of sympathy for Anelka, albeit that he has a long record of being a hateful asshole, and he probably needs to be punished on exemplary grounds simply because I don't want a new racist gesture to gain currency in Britain. The thing is, the quenelle is a bit more complicated than the newly-minted experts in French popular culture want it to be (AFAICS, the JC and quite a few others have taken the "it's an inverted Nazi salute" thing wholesale from the Dieudonne-ban campaign, who have been pushing it as part of their legal strategy because of course Nazi salutes are a criminal offence in France).

It wasn't originally a racist gesture - people aren't necessarily lying when they say it's anti-Establishment. It actually originated from a sketch about a dolphin, who made the gesture with his flippers because of course (?!) a dolphin couldn't do the classic bras d'honneur. The gesture itself is pretty easy to understand - it's the classic French vulgarism, but tapping the shoulder rather than the bicep to indicate an even more vigorous fisting.

It's become an anti-Semitic gesture because it's a gesture of being a Dieudonne fan, and as the man himself has migrated from "countercultural cheeky chap" to "hard-hitting French-African satirist" to "biting critic of Israel" to "no, hang on, this guy really is a fascist" his signature gesture has been carried along with him. The nearest equivalent I can think of is the skinhead haircut-boots-and-braces style - while in principle it might indicate a working class aesthetic, also ska &c, in fact anyone rocking that style by 1981 was sending out a fairly clear message whether they wanted to or not. Also, of course, Dieudonne has acquired a whole new fan base in the Front Nationale, and the fact that the quenelle, while not originally a Nazi salute, kind of looks like a Nazi salute, is certainly a feature rather than a bug to them.

But there's real ambiguity here and I don't think it's necessarily the case that you can straightforwardly say that anyone doing the quenelle today has kept up with the meaning drift, or even realises how far this drift has gone. And it's even possible to be a fan of even quite a massive racist without thereby being a fan of their racism, albeit that this is usually an indicator that someone's not too bright.

(I found it terribly ironic that I first became aware of the Anelka scandal via the cultural critic Dorian Lynskey's Twitter feed. He wrote this article about his favourite album, "A Nation Of Millions". Which is also in my top five, but this doesn't mean that either I or DL would presumably co-sign on the fact that the band were members of the Nation of Islam and from time to time, pretty massive anti-Semites.

flyingrodent said...

surely the issue is that it is an insult in Scotland specifically because it isn't an insult in Ireland; the roots of the insult are precisely in accusing Catholic Scots of being Irish (which up until astonishingly recently was regarded as a very insulting thing to call someone).

This is certainly true historically, although the meaning has migrated a lot. You can now add in strong undertones of treason, credulous Popery and, given the general triumphalist ubermenschery of most of the types who use it these days, it's basically come to mean "nigger" in a Scottish context. It's not precise but you do have to remember that Scotland used to - and thankfully doesn't now - have a culture where it could be difficult to get certain jobs or addresses if your name was Irish enough. My Mum's side of the family dropped the O' from their name for this precise reason in the forties although God knows why, since people seem to detect the Irishness in it regardless.

I can't speak with much authority on Anelka, his loony mate or the Quenelle, since I'm relying on a few articles in the press. What I would say is that regardless of the origins, it looks like a straight-out racist gesture these days, and I think the FA should just stamp on it right now to save us further grief down the road.

On Dieudonne and his ensemble of chuckleheads, again, wherever they started, they're squarely in the EDL zone now. The article in the Indie today has strong EDL resonances AFAICS - evil behaviour of minorities that "the elite" won't let you talk about, racist tantrums masquerading as populist uprising and so forth. All this certainly draws on the ludicrous octupus-tentacles of Nazi propaganda, but looks to me of a piece with ordinary folk in the north of England suddenly being paralysed with terror over Sharia law and Halal meat and striking poses against the the political correct tyranny of the ivory tower set and so on.

Which suggests to me that, if France is anything like Britain, then all this nonsense has bled into culture via endless mainstream hyperventilation over the PC brigade turning the nation over to the immigrants.

Who knows, maybe Dieudonne and his ilk just leech all this anti-establishment stuff off the mainstream but then, so do the EDL.

Bruschettaboy said...

if France is anything like Britain

This is the interesting thing - it isn't, and this is part of the whole horrible toxic mess. Because France, unlike Britain, is a very very non-multicultural society, it hasn't developed the same habits and conventions when it comes to racist language. Having a cultural identity other than "generic French person" is very much frowned on, and making negative remarks about ethnicities isn't. There is a partial exception to this rule to do with Jewish people because of a) Holocaust, b) Dreyfus, but even this is only partial and a lot of The Very Real French Working Class don't observe it.

This fact is a reliable source of embarrassment and trouble for that comparatively small part of the French middle class who code-switch in the English-speaking world of international business, because it's the source of the widespread perception that French people are more racist than English or American people. Which I don't believe they are - but they do have a much higher tolerance for racial slurs.

Which means that a) to get yourself banned in France for racist language really does take some work, and it can only be done by the state - a French racist won't be subject to the sort of informal policing of "not being able to get your shows booked in normal people's venues". But b) when Dieudonne first crossed the line, his initial reaction was (AFAICT) one of genuine indignation - basically "every other bugger gets away with it, why shouldn't I?". Which triggered a lot of really childish behaviour, and crucially because of the way that French culture operates with respect to racist slurs, there was no self-limiting mechanism to stop the whole thing from escalating. Add to that the fact that French comedians often have followings like rock bands (Dieudonne actually owns a theatre in Paris, and as the Indy article shows, he does his tour gigs in sports arenas rather than small clubs), and you have the kind of self-organising process that got everything where it is.

Anyhoo, suppose it doesn't matter much in the grander scheme. If I had been consulted about this at the early stages, I could have offered some useful advice but I wasn't and now we are where we are. It's not quite EDL territory, because France has the FN so there's no EDL-shaped hole in their politics. But it is definitely putting more crap into the mainstream rather than leeching it out and I rather agree with you that on prophylactic grounds, even though I kind of feel that Anelka might be getting hard done by, he needs to be.

flyingrodent said...

That's quite interesting, and not something I'd given much thought to. I've long had a vague impression that outright racial slurs were comparatively common in France but since my main source here is movies, TV and novels, I'd assumed it was played up for dramatic effect.

Mind you, having a large, popular and repellent party like the FN really isn't going to much help the section of the French middle class you're talking about there in the "Honestly, we're not as racist as we sound" stakes. I can remember speaking to some French visitors to a flat I stayed in back in 2004 or so, whenever Le Pen wound up second in the run-off for president.

They were very keen to tell me how nice and egalitarian France was, and I remember nodding politely while privately thinking that the polling data suggested otherwise.

levi9909 said...

Regarding this Fenian thing again, I understand it as a put down by, eg, Rangers, but I still feel its a self-identification by Celtic fans, certainly all the ones I've known. I remember going to the Fete de l'Humanite (a communist party festival) in 1989 with an Irish republican group, the Wolfe Tone Society. There were people from Dublin, Glasgow, Belfast and London. I remember well asking Glaswegians where they were from and two said they were from Donegal. One of the Belfast people told me that the guys "from Donegal" had grandparents from there but they like their parents were all born in Glasgow. I should've said, they were all Celtic fans. The point is the identification with Irishness among Celtic fans runs very deeply though I think the point of the name Celtic was to promote the idea that the Irish and Scots represented some essential Pan-Celtic unity which was thwarted by the Ranger's Orange exclusivity.

Re Racism in France v Racism in the UK, I've had many non-white passengers in my minicab going to Heathrow to return home to the continent. Those I get into conversation with often praise the tolerance and friendliness they find here when compared to other European countries. It could that Brits are nicer if they know you're only passing through or what BB above is saying.

Re FR's last comment, I remember again I think it was back in the 80s when the FN started making headway they won a clear majority of votes in a village somewhere so the Beeb went to talk to the locals. They couldn't find one to admit they voted FN.