Wednesday 22 July 2020

‘Germans are good engineers’ and other slurs

Here! This’ll interest you “ said my beloved as he thrust today’s Times at me. Turns out it was a report about a part-time university lecturer being sacked for a racist remark, even though the 'bigotry' in the remark was ‘positively’ discriminatory. The clever Jews smear, if you like.

The current atmosphere of heightened racial sensitivity is the perfect setting for mountains to be made out of molehills. To extrapolate: As 'one’ myself, my antennae are set to ‘trigger-hair’ mode, and they bristle disproportionately at the merest whiff of the stereotypically racialized innuendo.

Even the assumption that this article would be of special interest to *me*  could be construed as a bit, well, totalitarian in principle, at any rate in the present media-propelled climate of racial ultra-sensitivity.

Anyway, although I have some sympathy for both sides in this particular case, the new taboo on words and meanings that may or may not have  ‘racist’ connotations seems utterly bonkers and amounts to the curtailment of  Free Speech. 

The current ‘racism’ malarky isn’t confined to ‘race’ these days, either. It’s not about race at all now, rather it’s about clumsy, one-size- fits-all categorisations, where exceptions definitely don’t prove (or disprove) the rule. 

Blanket-style categorisations are always potentially dangerous. I must admit that when I read the article, one of my first instincts was to look at the picture of the Dr Bonar to see if she looked Jewish.  I recognise that my small act of curiosity has racist connotations, and the fact that my own physical appearance is hardly typical of anything much clouds the matter further and makes me look hypocritical.

I’m being silly about what isn’t much of a laughing matter, especially to the two people concerned. So I Googled Stephen Lamonby to see how the case has been reported in the wider press. Blimey! It’s everywhere!  The headlines vary:
 “Sacked lecturer said “Jews were cleverest….’ (Times)
“Southhampton lecturer sacked over racial stereotype comments….” (BBC) 
“University lecturer. 73, is sacked after telling colleague…….(OMG Daily Mail)
and so on, almost ad infinitum.

Funny dat. If you look through them, the majority of headlines mention Jews.  “Jews are the cleverest” they scream. I think the collective agenda behind that specific emphasis is designed to mark the irony of ‘even’ positivity being deemed racist and indicates that the media’s sympathies lie with the professor rather than the accuser. “How unfair and ridiculous the sacking is; things have gone too far” is the message I get from the most frequently featured framing.

The conspicuous exception is the BBC, which has a very different take on the issue. The illustration it uses doesn’t feature the individuals at all. It’s a picture of a rather austere university building. 

Solent University building

Pointedly, the focus of the BBC’s report is on (negative) remarks about black people. 
“ students did not have it "in their DNA to do engineering” ” is the example given.
Only twice in the report, towards the end, does the BBC mention Jews - almost as an afterthought.
So what’s going on? 

Has the BBC belatedly become over-sensitive to the whole antisemitism debacle? There’s a lot of it about at the moment, what with the breaking news of damages being  awarded to the ‘whistle-blowers’ who took part in John Ware’s BBC Panorama.

If anyone is interested in my personal opinion, I have mixed feelings about the Lamonby case and I think it’s one example of the BBC taking an unusually independent approach to a potentially ‘low-hanging fruit’ of a news item, albeit for questionable reasons. 

I think demonising the offendee, Dr Bonar, which many of the other reports appear to do is also unfair. When anyone suddenly asks you if you are Jewish because of any perceived stereotypical characteristic they may have divined around your persona, it tends to make your hackles rise. “What does this mean?” one is bound to ask oneself.

And don’t forget, this court case was brought about by Professor Lamonby about unfair dismissal and not by Dr Bonar about racism. The reporting tends to give the opposite impression.

Maybe the pendulum has swung way too far in the wrong direction, and any casual, stereotypical generalisation whatsoever allows the media to make a massive mountain out of what might, a short while ago, have qualified as a mere molehill. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.