International

Crushing dissent?

The top American blogger Instapundit says the BBC’s decision to suspend Robert Kilroy Silk is an example of the corporation “crushing dissent”. I wonder if this isn’t another example of the Pundit responding to an article he hasn’t actually read. Given the Sunday Express isn’t avaliable online I rather suspect that is the case.

Kilroy Silk’s defence was that he was talking about Arab regimes rather than Arabs in general. Having read the piece I’m not convinced. The section that appears to have caused most offence is this (which I have typed up from the clipping a friend sent me):

We’re told that the Arabs loathe us. Really? For liberating the Iraqis?

For subsidising the lifestyles of people in Egypt and Jordan, to name but two, for giving them vast amounts of aid? For providing them with science, medicine, technology and all the other benefits of the West? They should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States.

What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders?

That we admire them for the cold-blooded killings in Mombasa, Yemen and elsewhere? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors? I don’t think the Arab states should start a debate about what is really loathsome.

The article ends like this:

Why do they imagine that only they can feel anger, call people loathsome? It is the equivalent of all the European nations coming out in support of Hitler the moment he was attacked by the US, because he was European, despite the fact that he was attempting to exterminate the Jews – and Arabs.

Moreover, the people who claim we are loathsome are currently threatening our civilian populations with chemical and biological weapons. They are promising to let suicide bombers loose in Western and American cities. They are trying to terrorise us, disrupt our lives.

And then they expect us to be careful of their sensibilities?

We have thousands of asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries living happily in this country on social security.

This shows what their own people think of the Arab regimes, doesn’t it? There is not one single British asylum seeker in any Arab country.

That says it all about which country deserves the epithet loathsome.

And I think that should answer the question as to whether Kilroy-Silk is making a legitimate criticism of the record of Arab regimes or making wild generalisations about Arabs.

I have to say though I find the reaction of the Commission for Racial Equality in reporting Kilroy Silk to the police to be ridiculous but given the BBC is supposed to have stopped their staff from writing columns for newspapers the suspension of Kilroy’s lame television show is hardly surprising nor can it be a cause for regret.

If such generalisations were made about other races, if the social security slur was used for people of other nationalities, I doubt there would be much debate about the rights and wrongs of the BBC’s decision. But there can be no categories of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ racism.

Update: Lots on this in The Observer. There is a profile of Kilroy and also a piece on how this article came to be republished. It may tell us something about how newspapers work:

The chain of errors began on Friday 2 January, while Kilroy-Silk was on holiday in Spain, when (his secretary) Hunter did her weekly task of emailing his opinion column to the Sunday Express. Disastrously, amid a frantic schedule, she got the dates mixed up and sent a column the paper had published last April. Staff at the paper failed to notice.

In April, sub-editors had made small but judicious alterations to tone down the article, which gained little attention. But this time the tirade appeared in its full unsubtle glory.

I’m not sure the secretary is doing her boss any further favours with her comments:

Robert is very fair-minded; and on his show he just lets everybody have their say. He is not a racist at all – he employs a black driver.’

Asked what last week’s column should have been about, she added: ‘John Reid, the NHS and why should foreigners get free treatment?’

The Observer leader says Kilroy Silk is an ass but so is the BBC:

Given that the man has apologised and the circumstances of how the column was mistakenly reprinted are now understood, we wonder what there is to investigate, particularly since the original article was read by millions nine months ago without raising a murmur.

I’m not sure there is anything to investigate either but while there is always something uncomfortable about people having their programmes stopped for their views I can’t go along with the editorial when it says:

We are savvy enough to know that the BBC’s use of Kilroy-Silk doesn’t mean it endorses his views about Arabs, just as its employment of Jim Davidson on The Generation Game did not necessarily indicate approval for his off-colour jokes about people in wheelchairs. Mr Davies should stop policing his contributors’ opinions and credit the people who pay him to guard their democratic rights with common sense. At the moment, in a flurry of hasty, censorious and ultimately illogical decisions, the BBC risks suppressing the very liberty it stands for.

Yes there is a danger that the Hutton inquiry leads the BBC to run away from any kind of controversy or even opinion from their staff.

But is it not also the case that public faces of the corporation, especially those like Kilroy paid £600k to moderate heated discussions, should manage to avoid publishing offensive racial slurs in national newspapers?

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