What would happen if a well-known TV presenter was responsible for a magazine that advocated for blatant anti-Semitism? That identified one political party where that increased incidence of anti-Semitism should take place? That chided said party for not being nearly as anti-Semitic as the magazine was urging? The presenter would be sacked in disgrace and the magazine would be - rightly - shut down within weeks.
But in the looking-glass world of our free and fearless press, especially where it intersects with the hermetically sealed world of the Pundit Establishment, some forms of racism are less unacceptable than others. And Islamophobia scores so low on the Media Concern Index™ that magazines can get away with it. Then, TV presenters responsible for magazines can also get away with allowing, indeed enabling, it.
All of which brings us to the aftermath of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s incendiary comments in the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph earlier this week, and a school of thought out there on the right that believes Bozza should have been more, and not less, racist about Islamic dress.
That school is exemplified by Rod “a smile, a song and a four-pack of Stella” Liddle, whose latest offering for the increasingly right-wing Spectator magazine is introduced to readers thus: “Why Boris is wrong about burkas … My own view is that there is not nearly enough Islamophobia within the Tory Party”. Liddle wants the Tories to be more racist.
There is more. One Tweeter noted that Liddle had also included this nugget of unpleasantness in his screed: “If you are an unpleasant person who enjoys rather macabre entertainment, wander down to Mile End and watch women in full burka trying to cross the A11. That's always good for a laugh”. And yes, that Tweeter was right that this does nothing but stir up hatred and division.
Meanwhile, Owen Jones had made the all-too-obvious conclusion: “If a magazine published an article saying ‘there is not nearly enough anti-Semitism within the Labour Party’, it would rightly be a national scandal and both the writer and editor would be fired. Why is this different? Because Islamophobia is rampant and normalised on the right”.
So who is responsible for enabling this sewer outfall of bigotry? The Speccy’s editor Fraser Nelson is one of them; the other is the chairman of Spectator magazines, and that is Andrew Neil, still a regular presenter for the BBC.
And it's not just one Speccy contributor
Now, one hates to go all Neil Kinnock here, but here we have a BBC presenter - a BBC presenter - hiring hacks to scuttle round the political landscape, digging up race hate to hand out fear and loathing to British citizens, merely because of their colour and religious affiliation. Liddle’s bigotry is repellant. Brillo enabling it is arguably worse.
And don’t come the “it’s only free speech” one. This isn’t about freedom of speech. It’s about presenting racist bigotry as somehow acceptable, because it’s been artfully packaged as part of a supposedly upmarket magazine.
But it’s not acceptable. So where does that leave the BBC? No pressure, chaps.
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