Monday, 22 January 2007

Bowing to the Inevitable

AVPS has been a Celebrity Big Brother free zone. Until now.

Lately I can't move about blogland for the sheer weight of comment on the "racist bullying" controversy. It's everywhere. It's leached into virtually every left blog. People are falling over themselves to offer analysis and opinion.

I'm no exception. Too many times I've found myself pondering Jade's relationship with Shilpa in other people's comment boxes. I hope by presenting some thoughts my compulsion will now abide.

Channel 4's board met earlier this afternoon to decide how to handle the CBB furore. Predictably they decided not to do much. C4 has released a statement apologising for "any offence caused" and announced a review of the programme. That's alright then, problem solved.

Well C4 were always bound to wriggle off the hook. After all it wasn't them who were guilty of the banal racism of Jade. They're only the ones who decided to broadcast the incidents, no doubt with an eye to generating publicity and ratings for what was shaping up to be a lacklustre installment of the franchise. And what of CBB's production company, Endemol? It has emerged unscathed. Just take a look at their website, there's nothing about the storm it's cynically whipped up. The concentrated press venom spat at Jade has seen both these faceless institutions get away virtually scot-free.

This should come as no surprise. The likes of The Sun are past masters at throwing stones in their tabloid glass house. But I am disappointed a lot of left-blogland comment has chosen to ape them. I've waded through reams and reams of text condemning Jade and her companions in crime, Jo and Danielle, and it strikes me a number of them appear to be revelling in the opportunity to put the boot in. Yes, Jade is dim, inarticulate, uneducated and uncultured. This is what made her famous and as such she is the epitome of the celebrity mediocracy built up by bourgeois multimedia interests. Still, this isn't an excuse for the abuse Jade has come in for.

You can take the woman out of the working class, but you can't take the working class out the woman. Jade has had, by her own admission, a rough upbringing. Before she found fame in BB3 a life of crap wages and bleak prospects stretched before her, as it does for millions of young working class women and men. As she's amply demonstrated on many occasions, her behaviour and outlook remains stamped by her formative experiences at the bottom rung of the class ladder. Add to this an unhealthy dose of insecurity dating from before she was famous and amplified by that self-same fame predicated on being the nation's laughing stock, is it any wonder the privileged and (apparently) talented Shilpa coaxed out her explosive inferiority complex?

Let me be clear. I'm not excusing Jade's comments, but I believe socialists would do well to reverse John Major's dictum: we should understand a little more and condemn a little less. The kind of banal bigotry and ignorance aired on CBB is common among our class. If we were to condemn such sentiments in the shrill and superior tone adopted by some on the U75 CBB thread for instance, we'll get nowhere. Or worse, help drive such sections of the class into the arms of the racists and xenophobes of the BNP.

Right that's it. No more Big Brother commentary for me.


ejh said...

If you were to read through that posting and ask yourself what your point is, you'd probably find that you haven't really expressed one: it's all what other people shouldn't do, without even saying what it is that they've done.

Phil said...

Proof if proof is needed that you shouldn't pen a post when your brain is running at half-speed.

An awful lot of left commentary on various blogs, discussion lists and forums have taken it upon themselves to condemn the person of Jade Goody, ostensibly on the grounds of her low level bigotry and racism. If you were to cast your eyes over the U75 thread for example, a number of liberal-left types have condemned her in terms usually reserved for paedophiles, serial murderers, fascists and the like. My point is what she said is no different to what passes muster for a large section of white working class people every day. None of these commentators seem concerned about understanding how such views arise and how best to combat them. Hence my call to understand, not condemn, as more is required than pious anti-racist sermonising.

ejh said...

Well, I wouldn't take "what somebody's said on a bulletin board" as much evidence of anything. It doesn't help us discern how widespread given reactions are, how representative (and representative of whom). But isn't it the thing about discussions involving racism and racial tension that they do tend to be very heated and a lot of strong things get said? And isn't that partly because people's feelings run very high on the subject?

I really don't go for the argument that "if people condmen racism noisily it'll drive people towards the BNP". I don't see where people can go with that: and isn't there a counter-argument that if socialists are seen to be soft on racism, they'll drive its victims towards demagogues and loudmouths instead?

Possibly one alternative would be for people not to find it necessary to have opinions about what people say on Big Brother or construct detailed arguments about what it's supposed to prove. There's a lot of racism? We knew that. There's a lot of racial tension? Knew that too. Big Brother is an artificial environment designed to provoke controversy so that people talk about it? Not enough people, I think, know that one.

Jenya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil said...

Just before I post I've enable comment moderation. For some reason the word verification system has turned itself off, letting spam leach into the comments. I hope this will be a temporary measure until it's working again.

Anyway, on sources - noted. I'll endeavour to be less sloppy next time.

There is still a problem here and that is how to tackle low-level bigotry, of which Jade's comments are a typical example. Naturally as socialists we both strongly oppose racism and we have to be tough, but there are ways of being tough.

From my own white working class background I know the high horse approach will not work. I've had the arguments with friends and family many times, and so when I hit the doorsteps I know it won't work there either.

There is a fine Militant tradition of 'patient explanation', where bigoted and reactionary viewpoints are challenged sensitively and skilfully. I've found this to be the best way of going about things. Unfortunately the CBB examples In have in mind tend to condemn the person, rather than the comments.

red cynic said...

Here we go, SPs usual economism whether its Ulster loyalist bigots, a lot of whom happen to be working class or the white trash of Essex and assorted neanderthals. Always excuses for their bigotry, racism and other backward attitudes.
Heard it all before and quite frankly it bores me to death, yawn! A racist is a racist full stop. Of course people can change, but pandering to backward wiews isnt the answer.

ejh said...

There is a fine Militant tradition of 'patient explanation', where bigoted and reactionary viewpoints are challenged sensitively and skilfully.

1. Is there not also a fine working-class tradition of calling a spade a spade and not allowing people to think that you'll accept a different standard of ethical behaviour from someone of a working-class background?

2. When you're considering what will "work" with working-class people, are you implicitly thinking of white working-class people? Would a sizeable proportion of non-white working-class people consider that a different approach was merited?

3. When you're binning spam (or abuse) you're probably best off ticking the "remove forever" box, as that way no trace is left of the comment and you don't have to explain it.

Anonymous said...

Why has no-one really picked up on Shilpa's own bigotry? She is a product of the abbhorrent Caste system and regards certain people as below her, indeed she has said as much on multiple occasions within the house. I would say that Jade has picked up on these attitudes, even though Shilpa masks them very well by being polite and seemingly nice. Jade has been unable to properly express this, not really by being "thick" just that dicriminating by class or status is something not really discussed in the main and is generally tolerated (possibly due to the fact that aknowleging it in the same way race or sex dicrimination is would mean some pretty darn big changes for society).

big_d said...

good point phil- 'patient explanation' and 'class aproach' are the only 2 things a socialist needs to remeber when tacking bigoted view points.

Phil said...

Well Red Cynic, all I can say is I'm glad you won't be joining us on the doorsteps of Stoke anytime soon. Your comment is straight out the left version of how to make enemies and alienate people. How oh mighty sage do you propose tackling these views?

In reply to you ejh;

>1. Is there not also a fine >working-class tradition of calling >a spade a spade and not allowing >people to think that you'll accept >a different standard of ethical >behaviour from someone of a >working-class background?

Not at all. The working class aren't saints. It is the class that has to sell its labour power to survive and as such is more alienated and dehumanised than other classes. The issue is how to tackle the crap the class acquires in the process.

For instance if someone comes up to our stall or we encounter them on their doorstep and they start spouting off about migrant workers or asylum seekers we treat all comers the same. We tell them they're dangerously mistaken, and take it from there.

>2. When you're considering what >will "work" with working-class >people, are you implicitly >thinking of white working-class >people? Would a sizeable >proportion of non-white >working-class people consider that >a different approach was merited?

Well at this very moment in time when we consider election work for instance, we're talking about areas where there are virtually no non-white people and the BNP have a presence. This means we have to sharpen up arguments around issues the BNP have capitalised on in the past.

When I'm talking about the white working class, I usually make clear that I am.

>3. When you're binning spam (or >abuse) you're probably best off >ticking the "remove forever" box, >as that way no trace is left of >the comment and you don't have to >explain it.

Cheers for the tip. Just felt I had to mention the moderation thing though. For some reason the word verification won't work, though it was fine last night.

I suppose I'll just have to be vigilant re: spam. *Sigh*.

ejh said...

You're sure there's not more phraseology than substance in those answers?

Phil said...

I don't think so. But in cyberspace, a place once removed from events in the real world, can we engage in anything but phrasemongering?

Anna said...

When this sort of bullying, including the racist overtones, happens in the left, everyone transforms into Cleo and Ian and turns a blind eye. It's surely more disturbing when it's university-educated "comrades" who are doing the kicking as they're supposed to have some sort of consciousness going for them, not to mention better politics.

Perhaps the left should put its own house in order as all this hand-wringing is laughable to those of us who see how it actually works.

ejh said...

Phil: "phraseology", not phrasemongering. It wasn't an issue of whether discussion on the internet has any substantial effect on the world outside. It was a question of whether you might (to a degree) have been answering specific questions by proferring formulations rather than responses. Bits of pre-packaged advice for all situations.

Anna: "everyone transforms into Cleo and Ian and turns a blind eye". Do they? They may do sometimes, or even often. But my experience is that the left are more than keen to point out one another's faults at every possible opportunity.

Anna said...

ejh, not in my direct experience over several years, certainly not in these circumstances.

Phil said...

Well I would hope not ejh. I say things as I see them - it just so happens my thoughts on anti-fascism, establishment anti-racism, and so on have a certain consistency to them.

PS Anna's experiences are well documented. I'm sure a google search will turn them up. If memory serves there's something in a back issue of What Next?

ejh said...

It's not the consistency, Phil: it's just that there's a certain pattern of language. If you look back at your answers and ask yourself whether they sound like you, or whether they sound like formulaic phrases, you'll see what I mean. What you're saying, I don't necessarily disagree with. (I don't necessarily wholly agree, either, but I'm not expecting to - all approaches have their flaws and most have their merits.)

Phil said...

Well part of the reason for this blog's existence is to improve my writing ...