Bill Black: The Economist Must Retract Its Racist Headline Immediately

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Yves here. It’s hard for those of us on this side of the pond to appreciate the intensity of racial and class bias in the UK. I got a dim taste of it when I worked for a few months in the early the London office of McKinsey. The local members, virtually without exception Cambridge or Oxford graduates, looked on me as a Yank with considerable antipathy. A Irish woman, an Oxbridge grad, was similarly isolated and made it clear that her being hired by McKinsey was a major event, I inferred as much of a break from social norms as hiring someone who had grown up in a slum but nevertheless got an Ivy League degree. Lest you think I exaggerate, two of my friends in the UK went to Oxford in the 1980. One was Scot, the other half Scot. Both were regularly reminded that they were seen as inferior.

While it is possible that some of these ethnic biases have softened among the young, keep in mind that the cohort that was in college in the 1980s is the pool from which many, and perhaps even most, present business and political leaders come. The Economist has revealed that those prejudices are very much alive.

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

It took exactly one day for the Tory election victory in the UK to produce the confidence among the Conservatives only remaining media organ with even a semblance of journalistic professionalism to reveal its true racism against the Scots. The Economist felt empowered to headline its article about the other electoral triumph, by the Scots, as “Ajockalypse now.” Wow, that is such a clever title. One can only imagine the back-slapping among the staff in the magazine’s halls at the ability to go full-racist given the election results. (The English have historically treated the Celts as separate “races.”)

Here is a translation of the headline for a non-UK audience. “Jock” is defined in the Urban Dictionary (with a helpful example of usage after the definition):

A term used by English people to generally describe Scottish people in a derogatory fashion (was once a common male nickname within Scotland). It is now considered to verge on racism when used by a non-Scot. The Scottish equivalent for the Irish “Paddy” or “Bog-trotter”.

“Those bloody Jocks are at it again with their whinging over the Barnett Formula and North Sea oil revenues.”

Another major dictionary’s definition is similar.

British Informal.

  1. a Scottish soldier or a soldier in a Scottish regiment.
  2. Usually Offensive. a term used to refer to or address a Scot.

The Oxford Dictionary agrees.


informal , chiefly derogatory

Scotsman (often as a form of address).

The Oxford Dictionary confirms that “Paddy” is used by the English in a similar derogatory fashion to demean the Irish.


informal , chiefly derogatory

An Irishman (often as a form of address).

So the “cleverness” is that the once-respected magazine managed to use an ethnic slur and add an ending to it suggesting that the rise of the Scots as a political power in the House of Commons represents an “apocalypse” – a catastrophe of biblical proportions. Such fun! Let’s see what analogous fun we can have using slurs about other ethnic groups that the English have long despised. Jews, blacks, Catholics, Muslims, and Asians all have such endearing slurs that rhyme with so many words and allow “clever” word play in headlines. Oh, except if the Economist chose any of those groups it would result within the day in a retraction and apology. Celts, however, are fair game and the Scots are the Celtic target of choice today for the Tories. Indeed, Prime Minister Cameron’s paramount election strategy was demonizing the Scots as a “threat” to the English – a fact that the Economist chose to omit in favor of the myth that the Scots were on the “warpath” against the English.

The English papers were littered with other forms of “clever” ethnic slurs in the run-up to the election. “Sweaty sock” rhymes with “jock” and insults Scots as “sweaty” because they are more likely to be industrial laborers. The deliberately doubly offensive “Jockestan” – insulting the Scots and Muslims simultaneously – is a favorite of one of the UK’s prominent “journalists.” A Tory media troll whose claim to “fame” was not being chosen by the Donald as his “Apprentice” uses these slurs. She attacks the SNP leader as a “terrorist” and denounces her because she has red hair. Yes, red hair. Calling someone with red hair “ginger” is a common ad hominem insult in the UK.

I must admit that I once had bright red hair. I also must admit that I was attacked in a book for having red hair by recently deceased Speaker of the House, Jim Wright’s, apologist-in-chief. So perhaps I am biased against the Tory troll. I confess to a wicked wish that the Donald had picked her as his “Apprentice” – they richly deserve each other.

Don’t Bother Sending Us Your “Defenses” of Racism

Ad hominem statements about people’s ethnicity, age, gender, “race,” religion, sexual orientation, and nationality (even hair color) have zero value in policy debates. They are not clever. They demonstrate that the writer or speaker knows that their arguments are unsound.

The effort to blame the victim by claiming that there is something wrong with objecting to bigotry simply adds to the offense. Denouncing those who object to your ad hominem slurs as supposedly being “politically correct” compounds your bigotry. Don’t bother telling me about the “Black Watch.” We do not print such slurs or defenses of slurs that blame the victim.

The BBC’s infamous attempt to defend the use of “Jock” by the English to refer to Scots as “a term of affection in the same way ‘Paddy’” is for the Irish, foundered on the small problem that as I quoted above “Paddy” is a derogatory term used by the English to demean the Irish. The BBC’s effort to defend a slur against Scots by noting that it equivalent to using a slur to demean the Irish was a singularly inept effort at defending English bigotry. Of course, the BBC did not bother to inform the reader that “Paddy” was “chiefly derogatory” according to the Oxford Dictionary. U.S. slave owners had all kinds of terms for their slaves that they purported to be “a term of affection.” Every such term was a vile insult. To the extent the slave owners actually believed that the slaves considered such terms “affectionate” they demonstrated that they had no understanding of their slaves because they lacked even the most basic empathy needed to understand the people they routinely abused and insulted.


I call on the Economist to immediately retract its naked racism and apologize to everyone. And make it a real apology, not one of these offensive “to anyone who was offended” non-apologies. Ethnic slurs are not acceptable to any civilized person of any background. I hope that others will join me in calling on the Economist to act immediately to begin to remedy this travesty.

The Scots, the Irish, and the Welsh all have very short names that are polite and congenial to journalism. Use them. Ethnic slurs are vile and a sure indicator of journalistic incompetence. They are the opposite of “clever.”


  1. Peter Principle

    The problem with England is that Cromwell only cut the head of the off the king. He should’ve kept right on going.

    1. James Levy

      Itself a stupid racist comment–great work defending the principle that the English shouldn’t think in dumb stereotypes!

      1. vidimi

        i must admit i fail to see how that comment is racist. it makes reference to a point in english history which i understood as regret that the english didn’t do as the french and off their entire aristocracy. if anything was ad hominen it was the trivial accusation of racism.

        1. James Levy

          Sounded like he just wanted to kill all the English. Given some of the vitriol I see below, I was not crazy to interpret his comment in that way.

  2. Paul Tioxon

    Many of the Irish in Philadelphia grew up using the term PADDY WAGON for the police van that hauled off the arrested to jail. Many of the Irish in most of America with Irish populations did likewise. During the Baltimore coverage of the arrest and transport in the police van of Freddie Gray, the term came up over and over from the mouths pundits. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell paused to reflect on one such pundit using the term in her discussion of the matter. Lawrence explained the meaning and derogatory nature of the term from a time when most of the arrested filling the police vans were Irish, the criminal class of their time in the eyes of the law and the public. The woman so accused of reviving the slur admitted her Irish maiden name and revealing the most likely source of her socialization in learning the use of the term. Of course, the other term in use, by non Irish and Irish alike from my youth was the more generic MEAT WAGON which highlighted the sordid nature of the means of transport by the police.

    On the nature of the higher levels of British Society, it seemed I flamed a few of our associates at a place I used to work at, upon the opening of a London office at the time. In what was supposed to a friendly exchange of getting to know you email chats, the Brits offered a number of insults aimed at the French using the word MERDE, which is shit in English. Trying to do I can’t even remember exactly what now, other than get us to join in some sort of French bashing I let them know that I would be the first to do whatever needed to be done for the team if the London office would kindly give Ireland back to the Irish. The silence was deafening and I did not get to know them much better than their animus to towards the French and that I was thereafter avoided like the Bubonic Plague. And here we are almost 900 hundred years later and the British Crown just won’t leave the Emerald Isle! I fear for the Scotts because they are joined on the same island with them. At least the Irish have a moat for protection of most of the Republic from the Crown.

    1. bob

      “5% of those arrested NYC in the 1850′s were Irish-born

      35% of the prostitutes arrested in NYC in 1858 were Irish-born.

      70% of all admissions to Bellevue Hospital (NYC’s public hospital) in the 1850s were Irish

      85% of foreign-born admissions to Bellevue Hospital (NYC’s public hospital) in the 1850s were Irish

      63% of foreign-born admissions to the NYC Alms House (Poor House) 1849-1858 were Irish

      56% of all prison NYC Prison commitments in 1858 were Irish-born

      74% of foreign-born prison NYC Prison commitments in 1858 were Irish-born

      70% of persons convicted of disorderly conduct NYC Courts of Special Sessions, 1859, were Irish-born

      74% of persons convicted of drunk and disorderly conduct NYC Courts of Special Sessions, 1859, were Irish-born”

    2. windsock

      Hmmm… maybe your Irish nationalism at the time was unwelcome because we had been the target of a bombing campaign by the IRA aimed at British citizens (not the armed forces)? Maybe a little subtlety could have worked in your favour?

      And maybe the English would not have got so involved in Ireland if it had not allowed itself to be used by the French and Spanish as a staging ground for planned invasions. History goes back a long LONG way and there are always more than two sides to every story. (And the same goes for the Scots with the Jacobin rebellion, backed by the French – bloody royal families causing all the problems, as far as I can see.)

      1. OIFVet

        Re staging ground: by that logic, it seems that every part of the world had been at one point or another a staging ground for planned invasions of your fair isles?

        1. windsock

          As has everywhere else – look at the numbers of different Europeans in the Americas and Australasia. Look at the parts of the globe that speak French and Spanish and Portuguese and Dutch (as well as where they speak English)… as I said below, no side ever comes out clean.

          The point is with Ireland, it is, as PT says, just across the moat, so was perceived as a direct threat.

          1. OIFVet

            And then you sort of got used to exploiting the natives in repayment for carrying out the white man’s burden. I rather like Kipling’s forthrightness, and the Tories’ for that matter.

            1. bob

              It did? When? london is still the financial center of the world, and finance is at the center of the world-wide relations and politics these days.

              1. windsock

                And how many of those financial institutions are foreign owned? Everyone comes here. If it were truly still a British Empire, I don’t think the UK would be in quite the mess it is.

                1. bob

                  Finally, truth! A Monarchist.

                  A self-identified monarchist pushing appeals to authority, in the third person “we”, on a post about racism and class.

                  We are most impressed! Bravo!

                  1. windsock

                    This is surreal. Where do I say I am a monarchist.? I haven’t even used the word “we”, which you think is solely the use of the royal family. I used the third person singular”it” to refer to the British Empire, not the first person plural “we” – can’t even get that right, can you?

                    As you have identified below, I am what you would call “white trash”, so when I use the term the “UK”, I am referring to my fellow “white trash” subjects. I am no monarchist, but I must say I find the idea of Presidents Blair or Cameron even more embarrassing.

                    1. bob

                      You’re so riled up with hate you can’t follow anymore.

                      ” I haven’t even used the word “we””



                      “maybe your Irish nationalism at the time was unwelcome because we had been the target of a bombing campaign by the IRA aimed at British citizens (not the armed forces)?”

                      I don’t claim ownership of this goddam language, but go on and lecture us provincials. Nothing I like better than fucking the kings english.

                    2. windsock

                      Bob… see my reply to you below re the “we”. And where do I express hatred? You seem pretty well versed in that yourself.

      2. bob

        “bombing campaign by the IRA aimed at British citizens”

        No basis in fact. This is a big bit that most people don’t get about how the IRA “won”, and they did win. They never went after citizens, and in fact set up elaborate warning codes with the media in case M15 didn’t pass the warnings on. They went after buildings. They broke lloyds of london, by breaking high priced RE in london, and won.

        “And maybe the English would not have got so involved in Ireland if it had not allowed itself to be used by the French and Spanish”

        Glad to see that not only the US in piled high with white trash logic. Sing it for us! “you make us hurt you!”

        How long since the french and/or spanish staged an attack from Ireland? Oh, so “you’re” no longer there then, right?

        1. windsock

          I’m not defending any of the decisions taken by English governments before I was born. I am trying to explain how the governments of the time justified them to themselves and the English and the rest of the world.

          1. bob

            That’s BS, and you know it.

            “And maybe the English would not have got so involved in Ireland if it had not allowed itself to be used by the French and Spanish as a staging ground for planned invasions”

            That’s victim blaming. Not even a hint of sarcasm or snark, but a “lesson learned” afterward- “there are more than two sides to a story.”

            There’s only one side to that story, and it’s a giant pile of irish bodies in Ireland.

            1. windsock

              It’s not, any of what you said. If you want to take up cudgels on behalf of anyone, don’t let me stop you, but you might want to consider how much BS you have swallowed – and reproduce – yourself. There were a huge pile of German bodies in Germany after WW2. Are we supposed to carry the guilt for that too for the rest of eternity? (And before you get on your high horse and suggest I am comparing Irish to Nazis, I am not – I am comparing innocent civilians with each other.) Or should the Germans continually feel guilty about dead Brits, French, Russians? Or the Russians for dead Poles? And so it goes, ad infinitum. What about we start seeing each other as humans whose governments have carried out terrible atrocities in their names?

              1. bob

                “Maybe a little subtlety could have worked in your favour?”

                This is not part of my english to merican dictionary. By sublte, did “we” mean that he shouldn’t have said it? Should have politely avoided the subject entirely, like a good dog?

                “Hmmm… maybe your Irish nationalism at the time was unwelcome because we had been the target of a bombing campaign by the IRA aimed at British citizens (not the armed forces)? Maybe a little subtlety could have worked in your favour?”

                1. windsock

                  Civilians were killed in UK, up to an including the early/mid 1990s. When I say “we”, I am pointing out that I could have been one of them.

                  By subtlety, I was saying that there are ways to make a point without antagonising people at sensitive moments.

                  1. bob

                    MI5 has a larger dead civilian kill list than the IRA ever had, by a factor of at least 100, on both islands.

                    When is the best time to antagonize people? Just so we’re clear on the rules. Because, it seems that Ireland “antagonising” england, in any way, is impolite. Their mere existence seems to piss you off. Talking about that existence is even more rude. Surreal! Mentioning it, out of turn, heresy!

                    So, can “we” talk about ireland without being antagonising?

                    1. windsock

                      So I’m expected to be supportive of MI5? Are you supportive of CIA, DHS, NSA all the time?

                      You can antagonise people any time you want. You’re trying very hard right now, it would appear. I was pointing out that starting work in a new office in a city that has experienced civilian casualties as the result of a terrorist campaign might not be the best time to bond with colleagues by being so vehemently on what would appear to be the terrorists’ side. Hardly rocket science.

                      You are trying to attribute to me beliefs I don’t hold. Your Anglophobia is getting the better of you. There is no need to re-fight 1776 – you won.

                    2. bob

                      You are a living example of just the behavior that this post talks about.

                      You also continue to put yourself above *everyone else* as the authority on public perception in an office you never visited, about a conversation you weren’t a party to, but feel the need to explain.

                      The snake eating itself, in reverse. Would it be rude to call it vomit? You’re the authority.

                    3. windsock

                      I would appear to be one of the few English people commenting here. I am trying to point out an alternative view to that of the post and some of the comments. Mea culpa.

                    4. bob

                      Thanks for the example.

                      Making yourself the victim at the end is the cherry on top of your over-the-top, pitch perfect performance. Well played, exactly to script.

                      the queen is most impressed.

                    5. windsock

                      You can’t help yourself can you?

                      Never has the phrase “two countries separated by a common language” been more apparent.

                      Have a good day.

                    6. bob

                      No, I can’t. I also can’t stand loaded, snide, passive-aggressive bullshit.

                      Have a really shitty day.*

                      *I mean that, really. I do.

      3. Paul Tioxon

        History goes into the 21st century, the year 2000, when this exchange happened. I don’t believe the IRA was doing much bombing then. But hey, it’s always good to fabricate lies when you are as touchy as you are about the truth. Maybe this, maybe that, as always assumptions makes ass out of u.

        1. windsock

          Thank you for clarifying.

          The Good Friday Agreement only happened in 1998, and was implemented on 2 December 1999. A 1500 kg bomb was let off in Manchester shopping centre in 1996. Memories of that history may still have been a little fresh for some people in 2000.

          1. bob

            Que horror!

            Zero dead, in a “targeted civilian bombing” with a “1500kg bomb”.

            Your lies are beginning to show themselves.

            By your timeline, and “facts”, wouldn’t it be much more “fresh” for catholics in northern ireland to have been “upset” by their legally sanctioned subjugation and brutalization until just 1 year before?

            Who would have the highest sneering rights? Or, are sneering rights not even granted anymore- they must be inherited? What is the heraldry of the sneer?

            1. windsock

              Yeah, no dead, but 200+ injured shoppers count for nothing, huh? Twisted logic.

              I believe that Sinn Fein used the arguments you use and the British Government, alongside the Irish, entered into negotiations with them, resulting in the Good Friday agreement.

              1. bob

                200 people hurt? That’s not even a good soccer game over there. Probably less than normal for a day in manchester. Lookup those facts, be a good chap.

                “I believe that Sinn Fein used the arguments you use and the British Government, alongside the Irish, entered into negotiations with them, resulting in the Good Friday agreement.”

                And you will, until your dying day, resent this fact. The fact that they were even acknowledged as “people”, let alone party to any “negotiations” with the empire, aka British government or, more properly- “her majesty’s government”.

                Who do they think they are?


                1. windsock

                  You could not be more wrong. I was one of those horrible lefties who supported Ken Livingstone when he started talking to Sinn Fein as leader of GLC., which really got up Maggie’s nose, bigtime. I actually agree that Ireland should have been given back to the Irish. But I also understand – because, like, y’know, we had history lessons at school and stuff – that there are two sides to every story (or more), that people around me lost relatives in terrorist attacks, that my own famioly were afraid to come with me to London because of said attacks, that soldiers sent to fight in a situation they did not understand and did not want to be in became brutalised (and brutes) by the conflict and therefore to moderate my views because I live in this community.

                  You, from the safe vantage point of a terrorist fundraising USA, did not have to do that. Aren’t you oh so very lucky.

      4. P Fitzsimon

        And maybe the French would not have been a threat to the English if the English had not made their claim on France starting in approximately 1066 and continuing to the signing of the “Entente Cordial” in 1904.

        1. windsock

          Let’s go back! Who invaded England in 1066? The Normans (who were actually Vikings, but living in a part of what is now France), another bloody royal line, defeating the Anglo Saxon Harold Godwinson (good Olde Englishe name).William !’s descendents married other French aristocrats (notably the Plantagenets), acquiring their lands and the claims to the French throne. French kings also claimed title to the English throne.

          The British monarchs gave up claim to French land by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, after France had become a republic.

          A: If you’re going to argue, research your facts.
          B) I am only presenting facts here, not agreeing with the arguments around them.
          C) I am not a monarchist…. except I really find it hard to see a truly representative democracy that works well. Switzerland? Republic. Norway? Monarchy! Certainly NOT the UK, nor, as I understand from many of the articles I read on NC, the USA.

          1. P Fitzsimon

            Okay, 1802 that’s still a long time with the settling of the remaining disputes in 1904 . And it was England that made a wasteland of Western France during the Hundred Years war in attempts to regain its right to the thrown of France. Almost all the devastation occurred in France not in England in this war and later wars with France.

            1. windsock

              You are talking about wars waged by rival royal bloodlines for territory. Just because I was born in a country over which one of those factions once ruled, does not mean I have to justify it, nor answer for it, although I am, obviously poorly, trying to explain it. The French (for that is what the Normans became), invaded England. And from there, it went downhill.

              The Entente Cordiale was the British attempt to cosey up to France and Russia to prevent Germany becoming a European superpower. It had nothing to do with claims to the throne, nor to lands.

  3. bob

    Alive and well? How about raging?

    The only concrete example of any sort of change due to the LIBOR scandal was the firing of the American CEO of Barclays. Not that he was anything but a scumbag, but still.

    “There we have it. All fixed now. We got rid of the american.”

    Keep calm and carry on buggering, by order of the queen.

  4. OIFVet

    Alba gu bràth and Éirinn go brách. Seems to me that the sneering cleverness, beside being one of the last talents of the English upper crust, is also a symptom of impotent fury at the inevitable.

    1. vlade

      If the Scottish referendum last year included English population, Scotland would be on its way to independence now. So not sure what you mean by the “fury at the inevitable”. Both sides think they know how the divorced future would look like, very likely both are wrong. There’s one really sensible argument for Scotland to exit UK, which is if the rUK exits EU (and the, relatively open, EU market) – while it’s unlikely it could join EU immediately (there’s too much danger to Spain, Italy, Belgium etc. for a precendent like that to be allowed), it at least could think of doing so. The other arguments (on both sides, both ways) tend to be wishful-thinking conjectures (=lies) designed to please some specific part of a population.

      1. OIFVet

        Aye, the English population. However, is their opinion shared by the blue bloods? I see no indication of that. But I agree that it is impossible to predict the future after independence. Still, I am firmly for self-determination, so I couldn’t care less about what the Italians and the Spaniards see as “undesirable” precedents.

        1. vlade

          Ah, but they (Spaniards and Italians) matter – because they can veto Scottish ascension to the EU. And I very much doubt they will. So for SNP claiming Scotland would get into EU automatically is promising something that is not in their powers to deliver. Not that it differs from other political parties, but they seem to market themselves as different, when they are not.

          I have absolutely no problem with Scottish self-determination. I believe their timing is bad, because a small, export oriented nation in the current world environment will either succeed or fail spectacularly, with the balance of probabilities on the latter (given the established competition). But it should be their right to try – but they should be aware what they are going into, not promised heaven on earth. In SNP was truly a great party, it would promise them blood sweat and tears for a chance to make their mark in the world. And I know quite a few people who voted Nay, who would vote Yea in such a case. But SNP promise is that after independence everything will be the same, except better. Which is very clearly not the case (say, if you have a mortgage with Barclays, will it be redenom in Scottish Pound after the inevitable breakup of the currency? I don’t know, and neither does SNP).

          1. OIFVet

            I agree with your assessment of the SNP: they made promises that would be next to impossible to deliver on, to put it charitably. And I get the veto power of Italy and Spain for EU ascension. But therein lies the rub: I truly see no particular benefit of EU membership for most non-northern members, except for the local elites. My own native land has only gotten poorer since ascension, and more corrupt too. Which come to think of it, might be Scotland’s way in: Euro corruption. Italy and Spain are following in Greece’s footsteps, and we have all seen the enormous amount of arm twisting that goes on along that road.

  5. YankeeFrank

    I was quite shocked when, in the mid-90’s, I spent a year in London, and amongst educated and supposedly enlightened “gentlemen” racist slurs against blacks and others were commonplace, not to mention the rampant misogyny. If you ever watched the English version of The Office you got a taste of the misogyny, and a bit of the racism too. England is a cesspit in many ways, and I fear it always will be. The reelection of the Tories and this outpouring of racist language is just the latest example. There are of course many wonderful people in England, but the sneering racist underbelly hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. Of course racism exists in the US as well, but we have enough shame to generally hide it behind anonymous internet comments and closed doors.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, the Brits as a whole really do not like women. I don’t think you can put too fine a point on it. By contrast (Clive may disagree), my dealing with the Japanese indicate they do like women, but have very firm ideas as to their place. Japanese women are rebelling against their place in typical passive aggressive manner. Many are refusing to go along, by becoming “parasite singles” (living with their parents comfortably) and not marrying and having children.

      1. windsock

        That’s a bit sweeping, Yves. There is a whole swathe of English working class population where society is matriarchal, and women are the equal of men in terms of respect.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I will admit that my experience is anecdotal. But are you a woman living in the UK? If not, with all due respect, your basis for having an informed point of view is dubious. Moreover, having women’s authority accepted in the household says little about how well they are accepted outside the home. Japan is a classic example. Women are unquestionably in charge at home but are expected to be subordinate outside (Western women, by being giajin, are so alien as to not be able to lose any more points by virtue of being female).

          I have worked in six continents, and for protracted periods in some that are generally considered to be sexist (Australia and Japan). I found London to be even worse than Turkey, where I made the mistake of packing for a three week trip in a whole bunch of countries with insufficient forethought and showed up in Istanbul with only short skirts, a big offense in a Muslim culture. Everyone politely pretended not to notice. And I was meeting with very senior people, including a bank president. I never, and I mean never, found anything close to the overt hostility I encountered as a junior women in London. I’ve even encountered it at INET events with big name Oxbridge types who must go unnamed who made it clear they don’t like outspoken American women. So even on neutral territory (as in not in London), I run in this attitude from some members of the male plummy accent set.

          1. windsock

            I am a gay English man living in London, working class, approaching 60 and I speak only from my experience. Brought up on council estates (what you would call housing projects), NO ONE ever tangled with the woman of the household – except other women. My wider family were involved in the running of Working Men’s Clubs – sort of pubs for hoi polloi which you could only access by membership and where you never EVER heard a plummy accent – and women would go there alone and never be hassled and receive the same level of respect and service as the men. England (and/or Britain/UK) is not monocultural in many respects and attitudes to women is one of them. I’m sorry you had a hard time here. There are some impolite people here, but that is not all of us.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Thanks for the description of your experience. However, I have to stress that how women are treated in realms where their position is accepted (households where women rule the roost) and in service settings (where manners or commercial good sense argue for decent treatment) does not translate well into how women will be treated when they are in positions of authority, even the limited authority that a young person at a professional firm has.

              1. windsock

                I appreciate you have your own experience. But dismissing the working class culture/experience so offhandedly is a little bit surprising.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  I’m afraid you are still missing my point. Women being treated decently in a service setting (a pub) is not the same as in a work environment and not in the stereotyped female role of support staff (secretary, nurse). I don’t see you citing any examples from your experience of women in positions of authority outside the household. As indicated, there are a lot of cultures, ranging from Japan to Orthodox Jews, where women are in charge at home but are relegated to a secondary role in broader society. I haven’t seen you provide examples that show that working class men accept working class women as bosses better than middle or upper class men do. And I don’t just mean direct hierarchical authority. For instance, there were shared resources at McKinsey. Even though you had your own secretary, the secretaries were in a pool so if your secretary was tied up doing work for another one of her associates, another one would take it up (as in you didn’t always have formal authority over the person doing important work for you). We also had a Visual Aids department that did all the charts for presentations. The secretaries and the men in the VA department in New York never seemed to have any problem taking work from women. By contrast, in the McKinsey London office, the resentment of women as professionals was so strong that the secretaries made it clear they preferred working for men (this was not just my experience but also that of the few other women in the office).

                  1. windsock

                    Let’s see. Hospital ward matrons? School headmistresses? News editors and chief reporters on local newspapers? Trades unions?

                    I think you are missing my point, where I challenge your statement: “Yes, the Brits as a whole really do not like women.”

                    Lots of us do, we really do… kind of ironic from a gay man, but there you go!

                    1. reprobate

                      It’s funny how you and Yves are talking past each other. I look at your list. Most of your examples are feminized professions, certainly hospital wards (where the staff would be largely nurses) and schools (maybe it is different in the UK, but most teachers here are women). Again the role structure may be different, but a lead reporter has status, but is not a manager.

                      My guess is that Yves is taking about dislike of a particular sort. Most men don’t swallow having a woman telling them what to do very well. The cultural element is how acceptable it is for them to be open about it and how they go about it too.

                  2. vidimi

                    to be fair, britain elected a woman prime minister. the u.s. may finally elect a woman president next year, but that will only be catching up. the queen is, tautologically, also a woman so it’s not unheard of to have women in positions of authority, even though it was by right of birth for the latter.

                    england’s elite is, however, a mysoginist, racist, religionist, ageist, elitist clique and it’s mostly because they raise their little mandarins in the most insular circles they can.

                    1. RalphR

                      Actually, to play devil’s advocate an itty bit, the British people didn’t elect Thatcher in the way Americans do. Remember, this is a parliamentary system, so the leader comes into power without having won a popular vote for their candidacy. I was sorta following the British press in the early 1980s. Maggie Thatcher as Home Secretary was called “the milk snatcher” and I recall a lot of open unhappiness during the campaign that she might be PM, of the sort: “Oh, I suppose it’s time we had a woman PM, but does it really have to be her?”

                    2. windsock

                      She was never Home Secretary. She was Education Secretary, under Ted Heath. They famously hated each other.

                    3. Ralphr

                      I did say “sorta followed” :–) . However, I recall pretty clearly, even after such a long period of time, unhappy remarks in print stories about Thatcher, and it went beyond the “milk snatcher” label. And it also went beyond intra-party rivalries. It stuck with me due to the change in her image over time.

                    4. windsock

                      She was definitely schooled (an irony, considering her education post) in her presentation skills. She was also vastly unpopular after her initial election as PM. What rescued her was her reaction to the Falklands, which appealed to the national pride of the British, which she enhanced.

                      After that she was returned in the next election with a thumping majority in HoC, in which she pushed through union strike activity restrictions, resulting in the bloody and bitter confrontation with the miners’ union.

                      That divided communities all over the country and after the strike collapsed, she declared herself victorious and closed down the mines.

                      Everything was then privatised – electricity, gas, water, telecoms, BA. And despite needing the navy to win the Falklands, she shut down naval dockyards and local industries around them collapsed. Communities perished.

                      I lived in one such and watched the collapse of a thriving conurbation into a dormitory London satellite where you could buy heroin on the High St for £10.

                      She was hailed as a saviour by some, restoring pride to the British, rescuing industry from the grip of the unions, encouraging investment and entrepreneurism.

                      To others, she was one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Thing was, even those who hated her (for the most part) held a grudging respect for her.

                  3. optimader

                    In my admittedly limited interaction in the UK, mostly professional, I am guessing what might be shaping the perception are effete snob Public School boys that were boarded w/o mixed gender socialization that as a consequence are dysfunctional treating females as equals, particularly colleagues. That I did observe.

                    As well I have observed the same behavior here in the States w/ guys that went to Parochial Academies, like Jesuit all boys schools. They don’t necessarily know how to behave normally w/ females when chucked out into the world. At least to start.

          2. Jack King

            Yves…this topic (sexism around the world) is a bit of a surprise to me. In your opinion, how does the US stack up against these other countries?

            1. AllanW

              It’s no surprise to me or anyone else who has read this blog closely for so many years. It’s a shame. Stick to the financial investigation and cross-posted journalism, please; that is done well.

              1. RalphR

                Even from my not terribly sensitive vantage point, your comment reeks of misogyny. Keep it to yourself. Yves just about never brings this up and it’s not hard to imagine that she’s been on the receiving end for years. You as a presumed man have no business playing censor.

                1. AllanW

                  No misogyny at all. No playing censor either. Try more comprehension and less White Knighting, THAT’S real misogyny.

                  1. reprobate


                    Hint: when in a hole, stop digging. Your name calling and denial of the obvious aren’t persuading anyone. Saying that someone who makes a perfectly sensible remark is acting as a white knight, as in an attempted diss of Yves and RalphR, just confirms that you are the one with a bias problem.

                    1. AllanW

                      Thanks for the advice but from someone who thinks Ralph is making perfectly sensible remarks it falls short of being taken seriously.

                    2. archer


                      Persistent name calling is a sign that one has lost an argument. And I also agree with reading of you as a misogynist, even more so as you feel compelled to persist despite your inability to make substantive responses, and maintain a pretense of civility.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Please look at our Policies section. We have pre-existing moderation tripwires. We do not have humans moderating comments, If we did, each and every comment would go into moderation and need to be liberated.

          3. PlutoniumKun

            I think there is definitely a strongly bigoted undercurrent within certain specific streams of English society – most notably, but not exclusively the upper-middle classes (in my experience the true upper classes are actually quite nice, as they can feel comfortably superior to everyone, its the ones a step below who are relentlessly competitive, mixing arrogance with a fear of being dragged down). I’m Irish and male, but I’ve worked in various parts of Britain and briefly in the US and elsewhere, and I’ve worked for and with companies from a variety of countries in Europe, the US and Asia. As in several of those places I’ve been involved in resolving workplace issues, I’ve had a back room view of some of the issues. The most deeply misogynistic organisation I worked for was one dominated by what I suppose you’d call lower middle class males in the West Midlands. I was quite shocked at some of the stories I heard from my female colleagues. Maybe the least sexist one was a US/UK engineering company – maybe because it was dominated by middle class males old enough to have adult daughters, and so anxious to ensure that the younger female staff were properly treated.

            I think the Japanese situation is quite different, as there is a very deep tradition of men and women having very different roles, even when notionally ‘equal’. My Japanese is not up to reading the primary sources, but I understand that most Japanese feminist writing actually is quite comfortable with this – possibly because of the recognition that absorbing women into the salarimen lifestyle would be a step back, not forward for Japanese women. Many of the Japanese women I know will both stay that they can never hope to be treated as an equal in a Japanese company, but many actually revel in the freedom they have not to pursue conventional careers. There is a very good reason that the majority of happy and confident Japanese travellers you meet from Bali to Paris are women, not men.

            1. Jack

              Everything I’ve ever seen and read on the subject leads me to believe that the life of the Japanese Salaryman is one of the most bleak and depressing forms of existence possible in ‘civilized’ countries. I would imagine real progress would eventually see the total abolishment of such an institution.

            2. Jack King

              Yves… women in Japan quickly hit the glass ceiling, but they are happy about it because they can pursue unconventional careers? Really? Could you flesh this out a bit to clarify?

        2. AllanW

          Too sweeping and thereby inaccurate. Sadly. Most working class societies in Britain are matriarchal and all the better for it. But there is an axe to grind here, we’ve seen it before. However inaccurate that view might be it will be aired by the author of this blog.

          1. RalphR

            Looks like projection to me. I’ve been reading this site for years. NC just about never brings up gender issues, and when it does, it’s most often to take issue with stereotyping. You had to have a go at Yves twice over a single comment. That’s a tell that the axe to grind here is yours, not hers.

              1. RalphR

                You plainly have a deep ego investment in this issue, and lazy slurs are no substitute for a good faith reply.

                What proof do you have for your claim that women are better accepted in positions of influence outside the home in the UK by the working classes than by the upper classes? Do working class districts vote for women candidates more than wealthier districts? Do working class women in the UK show higher educational attainment than working class men (as is true of black Americans, another matriarchical society)?

                1. windsock

                  Betty Boothroyd, Barbara Castle, Gwyneth Dunwoody, Frances O’Grady… and I hate HATE to say this… Margaret Thatcher.

                  1. RalphR

                    Did these candidates get more votes from working class voters than middle and upper class? That’s the question at issue and I’m not sure it has been answered yet. Thatcher became PM as a result of being party leader, not by direct popular votes for her, so you’d need to look at the votes in her district only.

                    1. windsock

                      I think that reply demonstrates how little you understand the crappy Parliamentary democracy that is used in the UK.

                      Although we technically vote for someone to represent our constituency on their personal ability, many are parachuted in from outside the area which they represent and votes are cast on the basis of what parties present as policies in their manifestos. Allegedly. Lots of it is tribal loyalty, so you would think MT would not have stood a chance with the working class. They voted for her in millions.

                      Nah, I don’t understand that either.

                      Frances O’Grady is the secretary general of the Trades Union Congress.

                      Betty Boothroyd was widely admired (i.e. across all social strata) as a fiercely independent working class MP and Speaker of the House of Commons.

                    2. RalphR

                      I’m not sure why you are arguing with me, since you actually supported my point re saying that Thatcher was voted in out of “tribal loyalties” and not as a candidate personally. And yes, I have heard of “pocket districts”. But the point remains that in the US we vote more directly on a national basis for our President (we do have our peculiar electoral college system) while Margaret Thatcher’s name did not appear on ballots all across England.

                    3. windsock

                      I don’t think I’m arguing with you. I’m trying to explain the working class voters were happy for vote for a (any?) Tory candidate because they knew they would then get MT as PM, as she was leader of the Tory party.

                2. AllanW

                  None of that. Please try to keep up.

                  You are inserting yourself into a point that Yves made vis ‘Yes, the Brits as a whole really do not like women. I don’t think you can put too fine a point on it.’

                  I know the evidence on the ground and have experience with it for more than fifty years; I know it is false. You are playing so far behind the ball if you expect me to teach you (by justifying the opposite of the premise that you accept from Yves without evidence; hint, it’s a logical fallacy) that you place yourself outside adult conversation. It would take years to get you to a position of understanding what simple plain words mean (so far in a few short comments you have confused opposition with censorship and misunderstood that two people with opposing views who happen to have different genitalia is not misogyny).

                  1. archer

                    I am finding it difficult to restrain myself from stating the obvious: that you are rude, completely full of shit, and think that bullying and refusing to drop an argument is tantamount to winning. And if a man sees you as a misogynist, based on how you choose to try to defend your argument (as in evidence in our face right here, in the comments section) it’s pretty strong evidence that the assessment has nothing to do with the genetics of the observer. That also means that the only evidence you have, your personal experience, is invalid as a basis for judgment, since you are part of the problem and thus blind to the issue at hand. Where is Lambert? This guy needs to go into moderation.

      2. vidimi

        the problem with the english political class in general, and the conservatives in particular, is that the most of them went to boys-only schools such as eton and so their interactions with women were limited to drunken groping in discos and whatever female family memebers they may have had at home. their insular environments are hugely important to understanding why they are such exclusive cliques.

      3. YankeeFrank

        Don’t group Scotland and Wales in with England in that statement. Its not Britain, hell, its not even barely England. Its the English upper class that is horrendously misogynistic, going back centuries. In Scotland, a woman inherited from her parents, in England, she did not. This is just one huge difference that exemplifies the vastly different ways women have historically been treated in these very different countries.

      4. Clive

        Unfortunately I’m a bit late to this debate (and it is a fascinating one that I could write reams on time permitting) but briefly, from what Yves said, I’d confirm yes (that within Britain misogyny is rife and that it is the worst sort of rifeness — rife but not overt kind of rife, more of a systematic belittling*) and yes, misogyny is equally prevalent in Japan but takes a different form in so far as women’s role in society is celebrated, revered almost, but in that reverence lies a trap because the role which is so applauded becomes a constraint. In Japan, there’s no bra burning, but there is a subtle withdrawal by women from fulfilling the expectations of a (male dominated) society which they are supposed to adhere to.

        * by way of example, the TBTF which I am acquainted has 1 out of 10 c-suite occupants who is female and in my division there are NO (as in zero) women in the c-suite direct-report roles. Every single one of those which were appointed over the last 10 year or so have left and been replaced by men so that now there are no women at all in the 12 senior department positions. The excuse is that it is a “male dominated” sector of the business, but this simply doesn’t wash (it is case in all walks of life in the UK that women are grossly underrepresented in upper echelons of business).

        1. Jack

          Well the Japanese seem to be one of the few societies that actually celebrate womanhood, with eating a special meal of red bean rice when their daughters reach menarche, compared to Western societies which are downright terrified of menstruation. Judging by much of their fiction the Japanese are downright obsessed with femininity (though what is considered feminine is unfortunately often consumerist in nature, and a lot of the attention is undeniably creepy and perverted…).

      5. Yves Smith Post author

        Wow, I see this thread really went off the rails. I’m not sure whether I should clarify, given how heated this discussion has become.

        Without belaboring this issue, I’ve been treated as unwelcome regularly based on my gender, on Wall Street and later in consulting. It would occur both internally and sometimes with clients. It’s pretty normal for the client staff to regard the consulting team as a nuisance, making demands on their time when they don’t get paid more to help them get information (and that’s before you get to studies where they worry that their jobs are at risk). Some take their resentment and anxiety against the consulting firm on the people they saw as the easiest targets, which most often was the women. I have to stress that this was not just my experience but that of other women at the firms I worked at. For instance, I had a woman engineer from MIT (as in clearly used to male dominated environments) come into my office at Goldman and burst into tears over how the senior men were acting so as to undermine her.

        The simplest way to state the difference between what I saw happening to me and the other women professionals when I was in London was that in the US and other cultures where men are going after women (and it is often unconscious) is by attacking their competence (as in subjecting their work visibly to vastly more scrutiny than similar-level male colleagues receive) or putting them in an awkward position socially, as in visibly cutting then out of the herd. That often comes about via come-on remarks in front of third parties (this is a favorite of trader types, to see if the woman can handle sexual banter designed to embarrass her) or the subtler version of making passive-aggressive comments that aren’t how you’d talk to a respected business colleague (“Gee, don’t you look pretty today?”, say at the top of a serious presentation). BTW I got very little of either type of treatment personally, but I’ve seem it happen to other women, and also have heard lots of war stories of those types.

        By contrast, some men in the UK came close to sneering and being overtly rude when dealing with women they didn’t want to deal with. The fact that they could be obviously hostile when that would not have played well in the other cultures I’ve been in (where the preference not to have women around has to be wrapped in cultural norms of needing to be polite to women) was striking. And while this did take place mainly at the McKinsey office, and I no doubt got a bigger dose by being American, upon reflection, I also encountered it among some of the traders I was dealing with at the client. And in the early 1980s, money markets and FX traders had only a high school education and were from lower-class backgrounds (in those days, the British “clearers” as in clearing banks, were a route for upward mobility). But the men in support staff roles (the back office types) were very civil.

        So it was not just the antipathy towards women. It was how they expressed in front of third parties, and what that seemed to say about social norms.

  6. windsock

    “Ajockalypse” was used by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, now also an MP. in a Q and A session broadcast on UK tv.

    Just a small clarification – Jock is a derivative of Jack/James, just as Paddy is a derivative of Patrick, so not entirely horrible. Yes I know it’s racist to assume all people of one nationality have just one name, but it’s not as horribly pejorative as newer terms suddenly sprouting in the hells of the internet.

    The worst I have seen – and it is truly vile – is to call Scots “porridge wogs”. If you have no idea how offensive that is, it would be akin to calling the Irish “potato n****s””. I am English and British and a UK resident – and you have absolutely no idea how poisonous this is going to get, with Conservative plans for repeal of the Human Rights Act, English Votes for English Laws, and freedom of movement and migrant benefits claims as part of its agenda to “reform” it’s relationship with the EU.

    Everything is confused at the moment – there is a tone of unrepentant triumphalism from the press of the right and a balance of anger/despair from the left. Those who don’t fit into the Conservatives worldview of a decent human being, by definition, as a “hard worker” (preferably speaking English for low pay and not complaining) are going to be hammered.

    1. MRW

      I have Jocks and Paddys in my extended family. No one perceives them as slurs. Jock is a common nickname, as windsock said, for James. So is Jocko on this side the pond. And I’m supposedly a pure-blood Celt, although I suspect reconnoitering with the scullery maids.

      I’m afraid I don’t share Dr. Black’s indignation on this one. To me, it’s more like complaining about the menu than the meat. Besides, the Scots don’t need defending. They’re pretty good at shooting back themselves. What do you think Betty Britain would do if Scotland seceded, and the Scots charged her the hell out of property taxes for Balmoral? Then you’d see the British mewl.

      Far more serious, in my view, is the kind of culture that Yves describes, an endemic one that robs the soul of half the population slowly, over time, like Chinese torture. However, Americans don’t understand the British cast-of-mind. The Brits gave up moats and jousting a few centuries ago, but have embraced a particular form of language as their distance-placers and personal weaponry ever since. Yanks don’t do that, at least not to the degree that the British revel in it. And they do revel in it. It always takes my breath away when I go over to England and encounter it again during the first week, until I find my chops.

      1. windsock

        MRW: You put it well.

        I think despite our common language, Americans mis-perceive how different our cultures are.

        I lived in California for three years during the 80s and what surprised me most is how polite Americans are. Though the British have a reputation for reserve and a stiff upper lip, that may only be true when we are among “foreigners”. Amongst ourselves, we are bawdy, uncouth and our conversations can be brutal and coarse – but we accept that is the way we are with each other. Shakespeare caught it well.

        I think that also goes to the core of Yves comments about how she was treated in London. Especially among the working classes, women are expected to be as uncouth and bawdy back (and usually are), and the reserve she mentions about manners around women disappears. They are our equals – they don’t need protecting. Class is also very much an issue – the middle classes do have more “sophistication” around women.

        When I was in California, Americans who became friends said they admired the way my conversation was direct and unconventional – when they visited me here on my return to live in London, they said they recognised where that approach originated and found themselves laughing at Americans who thought we were just plainly rude.

          1. windsock

            It only ever really existed among the courtly classes of the ” verray, parfit gentil knyght.” (Chaucer). Maybe they morphed into the middle classes while the serfs became the working classes?

  7. Synoia

    The top expertise of the “Eton Boys” currently ruling the UK is bullying.

    Disclaimer: “The Eton Boys” is a slur. “The” is probably not.

  8. windsock

    I would just clarify – most English people use the terms “Jock”, Paddy” and “Taff” for the Welsh as shorthand signifiers of nationality and don’t see them as at all racist. We English are referred to as “Sassenachs” by the Scots – Gaelic for Saxons I believe. The Welsh usually call us “the bloody English” and switch from using English to Welsh as soon as an English person appears.

    Racism works both ways and is used against the English too, and the SNP are not above stirring the waters either, if it suits their purposes. No “side” is really clean on this issue which is why “British” was adopted as a national identity when the islands became the United Kingdom.

    1. vlade

      Amen. And half of Americans are unable to take/understand the british humor – which is why John Hempton has a specific sidebar for just that.. (it maybe a slur…)

      To be honest, Irish (even Welsh) tended to get it harder than Scots for a long time – until Scots started a campaign on the nationality basis. What goes around, comes around.

      Misogyny is I believe still a much worse problem than racism or nationalism. Especially because it’s easier to hide.

    2. cirsium

      “the SNP are not above stirring the waters either, if it suits their purposes. ”

      That’s bunkum, pal. You clearly are not aware that the SNP has many English members including members of the Scottish Parliament and that the SNP is a social democratic party. Did you know that there was a very active English for Independence group working in the Scottish referendum? The goal of the YES movement was to make Scotland’s wealth and resources work much better for EVERYONE living and working in Scotland.

      Sassenach means a non-Gaelic speaking Saxon so it applies to English people and Lowland Scots.

      1. windsock

        Right… thank you firstly for clarifying the meaning of Sassenach.

        My statement is not “bunkum”. Nationalists have been very abusive (putting it kindly) to English people opposed to independence. additionally, I wonder why Scots living outside Scotland were not allowed to vote in the referendum? Maybe, especially those living in England, would have preferred Scotland not to be so inward looking? Of course some English people favour Scots independence – in some ways it may give the English more of a say in their own land when you come to the “West Lothian Question”.

        Personally, I think Scots and English should join together and kick out the ruling class who currently form our government(s) together – and then negotiate for a reformed United Kingdom on a more democratic and federalist basis.

        As for being anti-Tory, the SNP relied on Tory support in their administration of devolved powers between 2007 and 2011, so they are completely disingenuous about being the only opposition to Tories, which is largely the basis for their current success, Labour standing accused of being “Red Tories” because they joined with them in fighting for a “No” vote.

    3. cirsium

      “the SNP are not above stirring the waters either, if it suits their purposes. ”

      And what purpose would that be given the number of English people who are members of the SNP? You do know that there was an English for Independence group in last year’s YES campaign?

  9. John Jones

    Great article. Thanks for posting. But I didn’t understand this:

    once-respected magazine

    When and why? Isn’t this just another no-liberal rag?

    I remember reading an article in it once that wanted Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide just so they could get the nuisance to go away. Completely missing the point why people would want a country to recognize something like that.

    That is just one example of something disgusting and something they get wrong just from one region of the world. I could and can only imagine what other wrong and disgusting things they say about other topics.

    1. Mel

      I don’t know way back, Walter Bagehot or whatever, but there was a time when the word on The Economist was something like “ignore their economics, but their political reporting is pretty good.” I think that ended in 2006 when they treated the Democratic wins after Howard Dean’s 5-state strategy as the beginning of Armageddon. Now I feel I can ignore the whole lot. I couldn’t even agree with Prof. Black. He holds them to an impossibly high standard, for what they are.

  10. Tom

    I had the dubious pleasure organizing a trip for 12 upper class Brits. I can honestly say that I have never seen such a homogenous group. Whereas Australians, US Americans and even French of the same categories tended to come from quite varied backgrounds the Brits all had attended expensive “public” schools like Eton and a few others whcih I forgot and then had graduated from either Cambridge or Oxford. The terrible thing about them was their aloofness and that you never knew where you stood. They evidently considered themselves to be a superior sort of people and seemed right out of a novel about the British upper classs written a hundred years ago. What was different though was that evidently standards since then have seemed to have slipped quite a bit. The priviledge has remained but from their talks I concluded that the old harshness of a traditional upper class education has been replaced by quite a bit of pampering. If that was a fair sample of the ruling elite of the UK I think their days are numbered. At least in the old days a rigorous, and merciless upbringing and the resutling superrior knowledge had to some extent justified their
    position in society. In my eyes no more.

  11. PlutoniumKun

    Well put. I’ve always found it curious that in England – and even in left-of-centre and quite progressive circles, there is a refusal to accept that the ‘other’ in English society is not (as is traditional) the Jews, but is in reality Celts – and specifically catholic Celts. Even in the liberal pages of the Guardian its quite common to read insults aimed at Scottish and Irish catholics which if you shifted the terms used to identify the target of distain as catholics to jews would be immediately recognisable as anti-semitism. The fact that there the Acts of Settlement are still on the statute book (these, among other things make it illegal for catholics to marry into the succession and implicitly make it very difficult for a PM to be a catholic) says everything.

    Of course, in Scotland its complicated by sectarianism, with, as in parts of Ireland, a non-catholic ruling class reflecting the discrimination downwards, while nominating for themselves a ‘special’ form of Britishness – just see how few Scottish catholics succeed in the British establishment compared to protestants. Even within England, its easy to see the special nastiness aimed at the city of Liverpool as having its origin in the very ‘celtic’ (Irish and Welsh) make-up of that city. The Tory press are particularly fast to focus on the supposed ’emotionalism’ of the people of that great and proud city.

    1. cyclist

      A lot of what is being said here is coming from what appears to be an upper-middle class perspective typically found in one who mixes a lot with Home Counties Oxbridge types. England itself is at least two nations, the North and the South. I appreciate that some of the name calling, like the Jockistan headline, suggests some real underlying fear or bias, but it is a bit strong to call it racism. Piss-taking is a mainstay of British social relations, and many view us Yanks as over-sensitive and clueless. There not only bias against the Scots, but the hubcap stealing Scouser, the drunk Geordie, the Brummie with that horrible accent and the Somerset sheep shaggers. Not to mention soft Southern bastards.

      1. windsock

        Almost right!

        It’s the Welsh who are sheep-shaggers and those in Cornwall only marry within their own families… and by all accounts of most blogs I read, those of us who live in London are either foreign, muslim, or rich. I wish. (If I was foreign I could bugger off somewhere else to live and if I was rich I could go ANYWHERE – but I have no desire to follow any religion.)

        1. cyclist

          We had a Somerset lad where I worked who was the butt of much sheep shagging piss-taking. Maybe it just reflected something in his personal life (entirely possible). I was going to write the Welsh, but I didn’t want to drag in a legitimate separate nation.

  12. Mister Bunny

    Not to minimize their vile racism, but I wonder if some old hand at the Economist might have been invoking one of their truly inventive headlines from the 1980s, when Reagan was diagnosed with intestinal polyps. Done in the graphic style of the movie poster, it was “Apolypcase Now.”

  13. reason

    “(The English have historically treated the Celts as separate “races.”)”

    Actually, most scots are not Celts, and most English actually have a majority of Celtic genes. So whatever the cultural differences, the prejudice makes no literal sense at all.

    1. James Levy

      Thank you! The English as Anglo-Saxons is largely a myth. Genetically, they are predominantly Celts. No more than 70,000 Germanic and Nordic settlers came to England from the fall of Rome to the Viking invasions. They intermixed with the population at a rate greater, but not hugely greater, than Spaniards did in Latin America. The “racial” hatred running both ways over there is largely based on myth.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I suspect everyone there is an Anglo-Saxon the same way everyone in some parts of Central Asia is a descendant of Genghis Khan.

  14. reason

    Actually, most Scots are not Celts, and most English have a majority of Celtic genes. So in literal scientific terms (whatever the cultural differences), the prejudice makes no sense at all.

  15. reason

    “(The English have historically treated the Celts as separate “races.”)”
    Actually, most Scots are not Celts, and most English have a majority of Celtic genes. So in literal scientific terms (whatever the cultural differences), the prejudice makes no sense at all.

    1. John Zelnicker

      reason – if your post doesn’t show up right away, wait ten seconds and reload the page. That always works for me.

  16. craazyman

    How can it be racism when they all look the same? You look at a crowd of them and you can’t tell one from the other! Except the English are sitting down with a tea cup in one hand with legs crossed wearing Gaziano & Girling shoes and Anderson & Sheppard suits talking about the architecture of British cathedrals and Chinese porcelain from the 14 th century. The Scots have a bottle of whiskey in their fist wearing either a kilt or work overalls with muddy boots from standing in the sheep pasture in the sleet of a highland winter drunkenly screaming about soccer matches. If somebody wants to feel superior over that, well, that’s almost embarrasing. Consider the first interstellar starship had James T. Kirk as captain (a Scott by background), Mr. Scott at Cheif Engineer (he even had a Scottish accent) and McCoy as Cheif Medical officer (I think he was Scottish by background too). There was nobody on the entire Enterprise who even thought about England. Maybe there were a few clerks on board who performed rote bureaucratic tasks or looked after some minor technological facet of the ships operations. Even Shakespeare and Isaac Newton were Scottish. It must be embarrasing when all you have is nice shoes and a Savlile Row suit. It makes you feel inferior, I guess. So you look for minor petty differences and you magnify them to suit your purpose. Will Scotland be the first national trailer park if they take over the place? It could be. I’m just being honest, but it’s not racism!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      All I know is the Holy Grail may be in Scotland.

      That should make one feel superior.

      1. craazyman

        It’s probably at the bottom of Loch Ness. You gotta get past the monster to get at it.

        I think Jesus was Scottish. If you look at the paintings anyway. A highland Scott, not a lowland office clerk type Scott who rides the bus home to the wife and cat and lives a meaningless life of drudgery.

        Everybody thinks about Macbeth being Scottish and as a result they think Scottish people are violent and crazy, but few people realize Macbeth didn’t exist. He was just a movie character.

  17. DJG

    This sort of blatant racism also infects the negotiations by Enlightened Northern Europe with “Club Med.” Even as Greece and Spain head into the realm of basket cases, the Italians keep trying to engage the august Northern Europeans. I’m not sure why the Italians bother.

    A larger point is just how poisonous the US-UK “special relationship” is. Yes, of course, the USA is Rome to the UK Greece, or some such bilge. This election is sign #152 that the USA truly has to dump the poodle. Historically, Portugal has had a special relationship with England (staging ground for invasions of Spain). I wonder how that is working out these days.

    I’ve been following the Scots and the referendum, because I knew so little. And now this. I can’t see how the English elite expects to hold the country together. The Scots are running for the door.

  18. cebepe

    Many of the comments to Bill Black’s article are themselves whiny in tone and racist in substance, while Black’s article is whiny and petulant. The Economist is not a racist publication, even if its headline writers could not resist the feeble pun. Nor do the Scots consider the English racist, at least, no more so than the Scots are themselves towards the English; this is a rivalry among people who know themselves as equals. For example, at the start of WW I, the commanders of both the Army and the Navy were Scots, and the Scots are very well aware of their large contribution to British history. It makes no sense to interpose the American idea of racism (associated with the long history of slavery and continuing story of institutionalized racism) with the way the Scots and English think about each other.

    1. windsock

      I agree. We need each other. It makes no sense to have unfriendly competition on such a small island, when both nationalities have benefitted from co-operation and friendly rivalry.

      1. craazyman

        what if you’re a highland Scott and you feel a winnowingly unctuous and hubristic sense of superiority over lowland Scotts?

        They’re mere clerks to the English business machine while you, a highland Scott, have the roaring blood of the wilderness running in your veins, with no man as your master, and an unpretentious but manly virtue as your calling card to a transcendent celestial nobility that mere earthly titles and pretentions do nothing but pathetically mimic. How can that compare to a card-punching effette Englishlike office clerk who goes home to the wife and cat each night?

        Does that make you bad? I hope not. If there weren’t giants among men then plain and average men would have nothing to aspire to.

        1. windsock

          I suppose they would the have to sub-divide Scotland…. But even caber-tossing Highlanders may like the affection of a wife (and cats) too.

  19. MaroonBulldog

    When I think of all the things the English have accomplished, it makes me proud to be Scandinavian.

  20. Richard

    I am of Scots-Irish ancestry. If the English wish to refer to me as Jock or Paddy, I’m fine with that as long as I can continue to refer to them as Limeys

  21. Huckleberry

    Situation Normal: I am Confused.

    Does the term not verge on racism when used by a Scot?

  22. Rolando

    What a useless twit. First Black complains that some of the English incorrectly refer to Celts as a separate race, but then he proceeds to commit the same error by referring to the headline in question as constituting “true racism against the Scots.” Well, bucko, if the Scots are not a separate race, then snarkey comments about them cannot be racism. If Black wishes to find real racism, he should start with Kansas City, and after he’s got Missouri’s problems worked out only then should he complain about the conduct of people living in other countries and cultures. And Yves is no better, claiming that Americans cannot “appreciate the intensity of racial and class bias in the UK.” It’s a different country, Yves. They have no obligation to live according to your “special snowflake” view of the world.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, I see. You make it clear you think bigotry is just dandy, as long as you can justify it as part of national character. Glad to have that clear. Are you trying to imply that the Brits have race relations on a better footing than their dealings with the Irish and Scots?

      And in case you missed it, Black has written regularly against discrimination, mainly in the US (see his recent series on a thinly-veiled anti-gay law in the US), including this example in 2001: So you can hardly insinuate, as you do, that he’s singling out the UK while ignoring the US.

    2. Jack

      There is fundamentally no such thing as race, period. We’re all the same species. But humans perceive people who look or act differently as being somehow alien and belonging to a different group, and frequently are bigoted against those people based merely on their being members of that group. That is ultimately the definition of racism, is it not? This whole affair rather tells the lie to the Neo-Nazi idea of a coherent ‘white race’. People who an outsider would say more or less look identical, in this case English and Scottish, can nonetheless despise one another with a passion. The Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants to America had plenty of experience with white-on-white racism.

  23. Rosario

    Just to clear a few things up on race and racism because some people on this thread don’t seem to understand them. It is not just related to a skin color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. Race can be based on many potential identifiers or few (maybe just one) but what is most important to understand is the complete social construction of race. Race has absolutely nothing to do with a scientific process. Race is a useful categorization for those in power and racism is acting upon the construct of race. British imperialists invented racism (as we understand it today) as a political weapon. See “The Invention of the White Race” by Theodore W. Allen (I reference it many times on this site but it is the best historically referenced description of race and racism that I know of). For those in the thread implying Britain does not have a race problem I strongly disagree. I would argue British society struggles with racism as much as the United States. The difference in the past was other “races” were token objects in British culture (as in exotic but low enough in population to not be threatening to the established political and social order). Look at Western Europe post USSR collapse and War on Terror. The ancient bigotries of Western Europe manifesting as political racism came in with all of the emigrants and refugees. Go figure. The British could practice racism from afar when their politics were built on the colonization of far off lands. If you want the closest example of USA style racism in British culture look at British colonized India.

    I’m not trying to attack people from Britain here. I am just disturbed at the level of denial coming from all Western Europeans. Globally, we are all racist. It just so happens that by magnitude of power Westerners are the most egregious offenders. Engaging in politics and culture always involves racism and most broadly accepted policies have racist foundations (War on Terror-> racist constructs of Muslims/Arabs, Pivot to Asia -> menace of Godless Chinese hoard). It is best to accept the fault, constantly recognize and engage it, and be honest about its influences in politics and society.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Hmm. As late as “British Imperialism”? Too lazy to find the link, but I have a vivid recollection of American, possibly Virginian, slave-owners or -traders making the purchase first (ka-ching) and only later rationalizing it all on racist grounds, as documented in a letter or diary. It was fascinating to be there at ground zero (as it were). I’d also urge the possibility that racism is and has been invented in parallel (rather like Tim Berners-Lee’s “test of independent invention”).

      1. Rosario

        Agreed on the progression of political racism more or less. From what I know, I tend to think the British got the ball rolling with the Irish, vis-a-vis, racism (as we understand it), and the American colonists, later Americans, perfected it. Racism lubricated house policy in London finding new land claims in Ireland for Britain’s blossoming bureaucrat/aristocrat class in the 17th century (Union of Crowns) and legitimized a profitable economic order in America’s cash crop southern economy, which horribly mutated into something beyond even the perversions of economic gain. I imagine most racist terms for the Scottish or Welsh were simply rehabilitated post Irish colonization. With elbows bumping elbows reminding them of their heavy handed subordination via the British crown. All laughing over a pint I presume yet completely without context or regret. That is what is so insidious about racism. It is coupled with the nation-state, and policy (both economic and social). Since the advent of nation-states its effects are seen everywhere. Sometimes affecting entire nations other times distinct cultures, or to fit the discussion, “races” within nation-states. Though the more distant in the past the less obvious. Thus why there is less outrage over the treatment of the Irish in the 17th century. Yet the effects are clear to see to this day by way of the austerity and debt load in Ireland and its “swarthy” southern neighbors versus the hugely speculative economy of Britain. The current behavior of the ECBs finest is an example of kicking someone who is down and who has been kicked a dozen times before, no context, no history, a blank slate everyday. Sorry, rambling…I could spend a great deal of time discussing the roles of power in politics and economics.

  24. Blurtman

    “….and recent immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were unskilled, ignorant, predominantly Catholic or Jewish and not easily assimilated into American culture.”

    “…the threat of “inferior stock” from eastern and southern Europe, playing a critical role as Congress debated the Immigration Act of 1924. The act attempted to control the number of “unfit” individuals entering the country by lowering the number of immigrants allowed in to fifteen percent of what it had been previously. Existing laws prohibiting race mixing were strengthened as well. The adoption of incest laws and many anti-miscegenation laws were also influenced by the premises of eugenics.”

    No affirmative action for these folks unless they emigrated to Latin America before arriving in the USA.

  25. Mattski

    As long as you’re willing to call out the racist suppositions that inform Economist developmentalism article-to-article, issue-to-issue–the Eurocentrism, the preening assumption that Western modernism is what the rest of the world needs, the veiled and not-so-veiled calls for discipline and hard work among the browner brethren in Southern Europe–I’m willing to take up the cause of the Scots, as well. But–that said–there were probably 500 more offensive such takes between the covers of that very issue.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Might help if you familiarize yourself with a site before going off half baked with swashbucking generalizations. Your remark is a textbook example of the sort of prejudice you claim to deplore.

      This site has been critical of European austerity and in particular, the German demonization of “lazy Greeks.” We have been critical for the inept way its handled the negotiations, but that is separate and apart from the destructive policies that Germany and the northern bloc countries (and now, the countries that have inflicted austerity on their populations and have to justify the sacrifices like Latvia, Portugal, and Spain).

      1. Mattski

        No, I read the liberal takes here pretty regularly. Not sure why you take umbrage for the site as a whole to my response to Black, but. . . I think everything I said holds up. Have spent time in Ireland and Scotland, btw, as well as England, and “jock,” like “paddy,” is a much easier term–of endearment etc.–than say “nigger” employed by Black people. No way the Economist EVER recants something like this. I’d be pretty surprised if anyone in Scotland is even mildly offended. (And I am a supporter of Scotish, as Catalan, independence, the relative wealth of those two semi-autonomies notwithstanding.) Particularist, identitarian stuff like this is–for me–exemplary of a general failure to ever point to the system as a problem; instead this site tends to wallow in moral outrage and appeals to wealthy people’s better natures–a confused kind of thinking that Marx and others have been pointing out the problems with for yonks. (What you would expect from former Wall Streeters, but.) Reform. . . probably not going to save us at this stage.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          As I said, you clearly don’t read this site carefully or regularly. Your mischaracterization of our stance and what we’ve written confirms that.

          And Scots seem to disagree with you on your charitable view of the “jock” slur, and so do the English courts. I asked a part-Scot reader for his view of your defense of the Economist, and he sent a link to this story in reply:

          Postman who called Andy Murray ‘useless jock’ is convicted of racism

          1. Mattski

            I “characterized” the Economist at length in my first post. And I dare say it’s the “useless” preceding “jock” there that cinched the deal for the complainant. If you had sent me a link confirming the wide outrage over the Economist cover, that might have been more convincing–personally, I can’t even find another REFERENCE to it. And btw, I appreciate what you do; but it’s also quite possible to appreciate it and say that it errs profoundly in its general take on needed change.

  26. Emma

    I agree with Mr Black, that The Economist, quite clearly, should never have used this deplorable term as a front-cover headliner, even if solely for the purpose of grabbing a ‘5-minute fame’ PR freebie. However, if we based our assumptions of The Economist entirely upon this act, this one indicator of how low we presume they would appear prepared to stand, we’d be making an ass out of u & me, yeah?!
    How’s The Economist doing these days with circulation numbers anyway? I only ask because society today seems so overwhelmed with ‘noise’, rapid sound-bites, easy catch-phrases, simple labels, and quick-fixes, that it’s so hard to get the appropriate attention on anything, isn’t it? It’s as if we’ve all forgotten that the only real way to get to know anything anywhere, is to properly cover it by foot, with our own two feet so-to-speak, and keep one’s eyes and ears open.
    The ‘racism’ Mr Black labels these Oxbridge graduates with is an overgeneralization. I also try to remain wary of any ‘them-v-us’ scenario with regards to any groups anywhere. Thankfully, I’ve been exposed to a fair few male Oxbridge graduates who quite clearly support every ‘Tom, Dick & Harry’….or indeed ‘Mary’, in the pursuit of higher values and excellence all-round. They’re real leaders and genuinely represent positive values. However, we’re all more intent on spending less and less time these days identifying such types and promoting them over others, aren’t we?

  27. Emma

    What Yves alludes to, based on her own professional observations working with male Oxbridge graduates, is troubling, as it concerns both the issue of racism and sexism. I too have unfortunately been exposed to this. It was all manner of things like constantly being called a ‘Sheila’, having both my personal and professional address books hacked/raided, only proposing male individuals from Oxbridge for hiring, and even deferring payments to a female consultant, Madeleine, a consultant I’d pulled in to successfully complete a lucrative project for the men. At that time, she was struggling with breast cancer, bringing up a kid alone, and divorcing a (French) husband playing around with another woman.
    As Yves points out, it’s not just the ‘racism’ Mr Black highlights, but sexism too. BUT you don’t get it with all male Oxbridge graduates, you do get it with non-Oxbridge Englishmen too, and non-Englishmen as well. Madeleine (English), is sadly no longer alive. I’d previously worked with her, saw her outstanding work, shabby behavior by Frenchmen towards her, and their abuse of power to manipulate her output (to the detriment of her own pipeline) to line their own pockets, her consistent vocal support of the poorly-treated, and her unrelenting generosity and good-humor. Yet, she ultimately became too annoying for the men who rallied round and dumped her. She had stood up for everyone, so it was more than easy to reciprocate…many (including women) didn’t though.
    In professional dealings with American men (Ivy/Non-Ivy/Self-made/Whateve, etc. etc.) in either Europe or Asia, it’s been a breath of fresh non-judgmental air. On the other hand, the US is the only country where men have pointed out the bleedingly obvious fact to me that I have nano-sized cupcakes for tits or should show more skin. I’ll make a distinction here. It never happened on the East Coast, nor in the Mid-West. In any case, you would need a search party to find my tits! You’d have to climb up and down mountain-sized mole hills and contend with crater scars, the result of the harmful effects of sun! I do exaggerate, but some guys have tried, and are…..still MIA!
    In any case, a lack of thought in a fleeting moment without conscious intent to harm, happens. I was at a barbecue only the other night when a woman no less referred to strippers as whores. Her South African friend either didn’t hear, didn’t care, or concurred, so it was left to me to speak up and speak out. What’s way worse, and as Mr Black points out, are those instances where certain well-educated (or not…), well-connected, affluent people/institutions/entities/journals in media etc. etc. with many resources and means at their disposal, deprive themselves of their potential to properly lead the rest of us, and to set an example of raising one and all.
    It’s the undernourishment of society, corrupts positive development efforts, and keeps us all in a form of ‘poverty’. To our detriment, thanks in no part to social media, it flourishes, and is only exacerbated by an ever-increasing polarization of both social and economic groups too. Mr Black is alluding to something troubling within society today. Little effort is required to focus on the denouncing of others (as we see here in some of the comments), deliberately or otherwise, but it makes it all the easier for us all to be manipulated by poor leadership, doesn’t it? In this regard, the media, along with social media, are a perfect breeding ground to express and leverage all our latent fears and suspicions. It’s almost as if we do need a ‘revolution’! One representing positive values, to regain trust within a society which has clearly been damaged by the abrogation of social ideals which emphasize a genuine practice of consideration, a little sensitivity and common sense.

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