Rod Liddle, 'black savages', and Louise Mensch

When bile such as this is sent unchecked into the atmosphere, it poisons the air

Share
Related Topics

So I needed to write this quickly, for two reasons.

The first is that my blood is up, and the second is that I am swiftly moving beyond a deadline for an article that is currently lying open and sorrowfully untended elsewhere on my laptop. But back to the first reason. My blood is up.

My blood is up because of an article recently published by Louise Mensch, in which she stated that people should not rise to Rod Liddle’s Spectator comment, since redacted, about the “black savages” who killed Lee Rigby at Woolwich. Her thoughts were that we should not “feed the trolls”.

In her article Mensch recommends practical action to dismantle these structural prejudices that people face, as opposed to getting wound up by the deliberately provocative pronouncements – or “race-baiting”, as she correctly calls it – by columnists such as Rod Liddle. I see her point, but – with the greatest respect – I disagree. I am stating the staggeringly obvious here, but it is possible both to challenge phrases immediately such as “black savages” and to do the hard, long-term work of changing perceptions that she recommends in her article.

For what it’s worth, I used to believe, like Louise Mensch, that we should “not feed the trolls”. Thing is, though, that these trolls aren’t hiding under some digital bridge on Twitter with an egg avatar and only a handful of followers. They are being published regularly by some of our country’s most influential media outlets. That’s a pretty big megaphone.

When bile such as “black savages” is sent unchecked into the atmosphere, it poisons the air. In this context, after all, “black savages” suggests that beneath the thin veneer of the apparently civilised Western-born black male lurks an irredeemably violent thug, and that all it takes is the right triggers to unleash him. That is precisely the same thinking upon which imperial attitudes were, and indeed still are, proudly based.

Rod Liddle is absolutely entitled to such views. What I find more interesting, as I tweeted the other day, is the platforms from which he is continually commissioned to project them. He once edited BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He came close to editing The Independent. These are two of the most prestigious jobs in journalism. In my opinion, his success is evidence that it is possible to retain prejudice and still reach the peaks of his profession.

Now I’ve calmed down and I fear, for the second time in a few paragraphs, that I am stating the staggeringly obvious. So I’ll try to wrap this up soon. It’s like this: a young man gets hacked to death in Woolwich. Rod Liddle then uses this utterly horrific event to peddle appalling racial stereotypes. That’s not a good look in any shape or form. In fact, it actually makes the work of people like Louise Mensch harder, because it reinforces the same attitudes that, in her article, she is committed to challenge.

That’s it, really. I need to get back to this other article, which is sitting there in a neglected window and looking even more despondent than before. I don’t think that we are “feeding the trolls” by replying to them and making them acknowledge the wilful ignorance – and, in some cases, overt racism – of their critiques. After all, judging by the prestigious positions that they hold in the media, they are pretty well fed already.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine