Sunday, 7 December 2014

Why I'm Intolerant of the Intolerance About Intolerance

It always amuses me to spot the cracks in the non-prejudicial facades that supposedly exist in the world's more enlightened places. We live in a society defined, in many ways, by people's intolerance to intolerance. The three big intolerances that we're not allowed to entertain are religious, sexual and racial. This last week, Mario Balotelli has been charged with the third by the FA, who accuse him of posting a racist cartoon on his Instagram page. The fact that Balotelli left Italy because he was himself the subject of racial abuse carries no weight. Nor does the fact that Balotelli is himself highly vocal about stamping out racism. There's no allowance being made for the fact he clearly made a mistake and didn't realise what he was posting. In any sensible debate about intolerance, the Balotelli incident would be quickly dealt with. However, so paranoid are the authorities that they must be seen to be highly intolerant towards intolerance, they must make a case out of every transgression. They have to be seen being as intolerant as the very people they're charging with intolerance.

The Guardian has a similar policy. The ethos of the paper isn't simply to reflect the diverse makeup of the nation. It seeks to redress decades of intolerance towards minority groups by skewing the news agenda in favour of those groups. There's nothing wrong with approaching a news agenda in this way. It helps define The Guardian and its readers and you can approach the website knowing that you will be condemned if you dare question that new status quo. It is not the place to defend masculine culture or any element of the white Western imperialist patriarchy. The assumption over there is that all people are equal but a few people are more equal that the rest. Don't make a comment which might be read as insulting towards women. Never express an opinion from the centre ground dominated by white middle-class men. It's hard to leave a comment which doesn't run afoul of somebody. Sneeze too much CO2 and you upset the environmental lobby. Quote the Bible and you're suddenly a Christian apologist. Mention the fact that you stand up whilst urinating and you're part of the phallocentric problem that is eroding civilisation.

And like I say: this is all generally to the credit of the newspaper.

Yet, as they attempt to be balanced towards all people and try so hard to be modern and progressive and liberal, sometimes they can't even see their own deeply held prejudices.

I read a comment on The Guardian a day or so ago which I just can't stop thinking about. It's been nagging away at me all weekend. It was a trivial comment to an even more trivial news story and there's a small chance the comment was meant to be ironic .Yet it's much more likely to have been written as it reads and, if so, then it makes me despair about the country at the same time as it perhaps even panders to my own prejudices.

The title of the story was 'Snow forecast to call in UK' and the comment read:
It'll all be up North.
Nowhere that matters.

It's interesting to see how one person's prejudice is another person's 'funny' joke. The comment was uprated and wasn't deleted. Yet I'd like to know how that kind of bigoted prejudice is any different to what Balotelli reposted. Had he tweeted something about 'It'll all be in Israel. Nowhere that matters' or ' It'll all be up Ethiopia. Nowhere that matters' he'd be rightly condemned. So what is the difference?

Now, I know I'm being prickly because I'm from the north and I tend to defend northern people and (as far as they exist) northern values. However, there's clearly something going on that isn't simply about one person mistakenly posting something to social media. The response of the authorities is overblown, hysterical, and without much sense. The same is true of the Dave Whelan story, in which a poor fumble mouthed bugger tries to dig himself out of a hole and ends up even deeper. Anybody with half-a-brain of common-sense can see what's happening. Yet there's some reason out there that these things can't be dealt with in a proper manner. What is that reason?

I think answering that question would start to explain the nuanced politics going on in the background of these very public displays of outrage. Perhaps if we could all be honest about our prejudices of class, race, gender, and privilege, we might actually be able to have some honest debates around the subject. Only then might we start to make a difference about our hopelessly unfair and deeply prejudiced society.



  1. "Common sense" - now, there's a misnomer if there ever was one; it is the rarest of all commodities, rarer, perhaps, than rocking-horse manure or fish milk.

    I agree with you, there should be no toleration of intolerance, no matter how well-intentioned is its intent. Mind you, I have intolerance of everyone and everything; it keeps life so much more simple - if you disagree with it, you are wrong!

  2. Exactly right. The way I ensure that I hold no prejudices is to hate mankind in general and to then only make exceptions where exceptions are warranted. ;o)

  3. Damn. You said it better than I did.

    I hate you now.

  4. I hate you too but less than I hate the rest of the world. ;)