Mere Xenophobia Or Hate Speech?

I had a letter printed in The Independent last week. Woo hoo. I’ve always wanted to get into the newspapers.

Actually, I’m being disingenuous. I’ve had plenty of stuff printed in newspapers, but that’s a whole other blog post.

The reason I wrote a letter to the newspaper (this time) was in response to an article by Christina Patterson called “The Limits of Multi-Culturalism“. Click the link. Have a read and then come back here.

I found it an ugly, reactionary piece of writing, but there was one paragraph in particular that caught my attention:

…when I see an eight-year-old boy recoiling from a normal-looking woman (because, presumably, he has been taught that she is dirty or dangerous, or, heaven forbid, dripping with menstrual blood) it makes me sad.

Christina Patterson - a "normal-looking woman"

I have no affiliation with the Hasidim of Stamford Hill (or, indeed, Hasidim from anywhere else), but I question Ms. Patterson’s presumption that eight-year-old boys of any religion are “taught” that women are “dripping with menstrual blood”.

I find the presumption grotesque and unsubstantiated. I wrote Ms. Patterson an email and see-seed the letters column and they printed it, at least online, only slightly edited towards the end.

But then I decided to go one step further. I went to the website of the Press Complaints Commission to see whether there was a way to lodge a more formal objection to Ms. Patterson’s rhetoric.

The PCC site is really well laid out. They’re not messing around. The rules are clearly defined and the process is made clear. In order for a complaint to be considered, the complainant must determine which elements of the Editors’ Code of Practice he believes have been breached. For a complaint to be upheld, the PCC must decide whether or not they agree with the complainant.

I filed my complaint under Section 12: Discrimination.

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

I argued that the stated presumption that Jews are teaching their young children to avoid women because they are “dripping with menstrual blood” is both prejudicial and pejorative.

After submitting my complaint I received email confirmation from the PCC. The PCC charter states that they will make every effort to deal with complaints in a timely manner. They estimate resolution within 35 days. I’ll let you know when I hear more.

Ms. Patterson’s column obviously generated enough attention to require a follow-up:

In the week since I wrote a column about “the limits of multiculturalism”, I’ve been called an awful lot of things. A “stupid, vile bitch”, “a bigoted toe-rag”, a racist and an anti-Semite. The blogosphere, according to colleagues, has gone mad, and so has the twittersphere, and so has the nuttersphere, or whatever it is you call the message boards.

And yet, despite this wave of online opposition:

… of the literally hundreds of emails I’ve received, only about a dozen have been negative.

Really? Patterson says that she has never seen anything like the amount of traffic to her inbox and yet the vast majority was supportive? I don’t believe her. I think she’s lying. About her inbox. I don’t believe there is anything about her original article which would trigger an unusual wave of support via email. I call bullshit.

Her second article ends with a dreadful piece of dishonesty.

She claims that a multicultural society doesn’t work where:

individual cultures cut themselves off from their neighbours, and insist on interacting only with their own. It’s in these cultures that people learn to be suspicious of everything that’s different. And it isn’t a long journey from suspicion to hate to attack.

The exact opposite is true. People outside these cultures (Ms. Patterson for instance) are suspicious of things that are different. People within these cultures, say, Jews, or Travellers, or Sikhs are more likely to be the victims of hate and attacks than the perpetrators.

I don’t agree with what Christina Patterson has written. I think it may be more than merely xenophobic. What do you think?

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2 Responses to Mere Xenophobia Or Hate Speech?

  1. Marc Heller says:

    Hi Daniel

    Met up with Benj the other night before he flew off to Toronto. He told a few of us about your blog and today I found some time to have a decent look around.

    I can see there are plenty of subjects that show we have some similar interests e.g. Modern Family, TV in general (the amount we watch these days must surely be the biggest of guilty feats).

    In a time when nothing should really surprise us any more, I still felt shocked that a national newspapper would print such an article by this Pratterson bitch which is clearly anti-semitic. I will be following your story on this as it evolves.

    Its made me think now that I will try and avoid buying or reading the Independant again in my lifetime if they can print articles like that (much in the same way I will not watch any Mel Gibson movies that come out in the cinema or I come across when channel flicking). But is this the correct reaction?

    We all live in countries, cities and towns that have terrible stories surfacing in their news everyday. People living in Israel / choosing to move to Israel must surely be braver than people who live in Britain, France, the US or any other ‘normal’ democratic country. But do Israeli think like that, do those making aliya have any fear in them that they are moving to a country surrounded by enemies or do they think they are getting away from an anti-semitic country in which they were born in?

    If articles like Pratterson’s are being allowed to be published in these type of newspapers then who is the braver – the Jew living in England with anti-semitism on the rise again as seen easily displayed in national newspapers or the Jew living amoungst its people in Israel but knowing where there enemies lie?

    Kind regards
    Marc Heller

    • guiltyfeat says:

      Hey Marc, thanks for stopping by. I don’t usually read The Independent, but I followed a link to Patterson’s piece and found it appalling. Of course, any paper that publishes Robert Fisk on a regular basis is bound to struggle for my patronage.

      The Mel Gibson thing is an odd one. I can’t stop myself from liking Lethal Weapon, although there is no doubt the man is tainted. I saw his last movie on the plane in June – Edge of Darkness. It’s a credible enough B-movie, but Mel was just terrific in it. Grizzled, weary, at the end of his tether. I can’t imagine paying cinema money to see him act again, but he can act.

      Back to Patterson, I don’t have any regrets about not living in London any more. I found Patterson’s article and its follow up intellectually dishonest, but also exhausting. I just don’t have the energy any more for that kind of bigoted, self-regarding nonsense. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist over here too, but it’s something the English do particularly well.

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