It is natural that modern multi-racial societies should adopt a censorious attitude to the abuse of others on the basis of their race. But a problem arises when that attitude become so rabid that reasonable discussion of social and political phenomena becomes a taboo and when relatively trivial incidents are distorted out of all proportion. There are signs that people are beginning to revolt.
I’m a regular listener to Radio 4’s Today programme, and so I have a good ear for the unusual. Yesterday and today we were treated to two such exceptional ‘incidents’. You can hear them both on the attached MP3s for which I’m grateful to Roy Bard. In the first (marked ‘lobby’) Michael Scheuer, an ex-CIA agent, says something like this (I haven’t had time to transcribe it exactly), in response to a question about a potential Israeli attack on Iran:
‘No president can distance the US from Israel, particularly in the run up to a presidential election. Although the Jewish community of the US is comparatively small, perhaps 5 or 6 million, it is unbelievably powerful in terms of its influence with money, organisation (AIPAC) and in the media. If Israel attacks Iran the Muslim World will assume that the US gave the green light.’
In the fifties such a commentary would have been regarded as normal, but today to talk of Jews, rather than Zionists or ‘the Israel lobby’ is to attract the career-destroying label of ‘anti-Semite.’ Scheuer was himself dismissed from his position as senior fellow of the Jamestown Foundation for saying that the US relationship with Israel undermined US national security. That the BBC, doubtless knowing this, chose to interview him on this subject must be regarded as significant. Scheuer’s remarks were, in my view, a welcome breath of fresh air in an area where the real situation is generally obscured.
And then this morning, James Naughtie of the Today programme ‘cheekily’ (as he put it) poked fun at Mark Toner, US State Department spokesperson, over his attitude to the Russian and Chinese veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria (listen to him on the MP3 marked ‘veto’). Would the US never do such a thing to support an ally of its own in the Middle East, he wondered? And then pressing his point he suggested that indeed the US acted precisely in this way. Israel was never mentioned – the price would still be too high for doing so – but everyone knew what he was talking about, including Toner, who was, of course evasive.
I can imagine there has been an unusually high volume of complaints to the BBC from a certain quarter over the past 36 hours. For what it’s worth, I sent them congratulations for the Michael Scheuer interview.
And now to the John Terry debacle. As Mark Reason remarked in a New Zealand sports blog : ‘if every Brit suspected of making a racist remark was prosecuted, the police and the judiciary would suffer a collective nervous breakdown. They simply could not cope with the sheer numbers. The same is true of almost every country in the world. And so we have selective justice.’ In other words, captains of national football teams have to be super-humanly squeaky clean.
Can it really be sensible to regard Terry’s error as so grave that he should be deprived of the England captaincy? Fabio Capello, when asked whether he agreed with the sacking, was very clear in his answer to that question. He snapped back in Italian: ‘No, absolumente no!’ And of course for that he finds himself removed from his position as England coach. What will future generations think of such behaviour?