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.
- a Scottish soldier or a soldier in a Scottish regiment.
- Usually Offensive. a term used to refer to or address a Scot.
The Oxford Dictionary agrees.
informal , chiefly derogatory
The Oxford Dictionary confirms that “Paddy” is used by the English in a similar derogatory fashion to demean the Irish.
informal , chiefly derogatory
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.”