Friday, February 27, 2009

A question for the Daily Mail: second generation Englishman or fourth generation Nazi appeaser, which should you celebrate?

I'll be honest, when it comes to the Daily Vile, I yield to no one in my revulsion for a newspaper whose core readership is people who think that they're smart enough to have an opinion of their own yet believe everything they read in it. And so, when they announce that, if one of your parents is a immigrant, you aren't really British, it really is time to put the boot in.

Unlike the 1st Viscount Harmsworth, there is no record of my great-grandfather flirting with support for the Nazis, championing the British Union of Fascists or calling for alliance with Germany. Indeed, my great-grandfather was almost certainly less judgemental, more truthful and more measured in his language and tone than the average Daily Mail leader article is.

And these idiots would like to imply that I am somehow less than English? I am deeply proud of my status as an Englishman, proud enough to feel that I am privileged to be one. This does not mean that I am any less proud of my heritage, and given the behaviour of some of the people that qualify under the criteria of the Daily Mail's 'Britishness test', I thank my lucky stars that I have the diverse background that I have.

The day on which a Prime Minister tells the editor of the Daily Mail to go boil his head cannot come too soon...


Matthew Huntbach said...

As I have said elsewhere, the article is on the impact of immigration on population numbers, and not on "Britishness". Nowhere in the article did I see any words which imply what you state the article says. In fact there was nothing at all in the article on what it means culturally to be "British".

I read the article carefully before making this point, as I knew I would not be popular in making it, and that it would be assumed I am defending other attitudes the Daily Mail may take, or that I am sympathetic to the conclusions of this article, or to implied conclusions.

But I am sorry, part of my being a liberal is that I question lazy and sloppy assumptions, and that means suggesting that people look at the facts rather than jump to conclusions which fit their own prejudice.

It seems to me quite clear that when this article writes "they record their children as British rather than second or third generation immigrants" it means that, correctly such people are legally British and should be recorded as such, and that therefore the figures do not tell us the extent to which the current population numbers are larger than they would be had that immigration a generation or two not taken place.

Pointing out that this is what the words mean does not necessarily mean one has any view on whether this past immigration was a good or bad thing. It is sometimes very hard to get people to realise that when one notes a fact it does not necessarily mean one has any particular feeling as to whether one is happy or sad that that fact is a fact.

However, it seems to me an essential part of liberalism is that we agree to free argument. Free argument is curtailed if when certain things are said a mob will jump on the speaker and accuse the speaker of saying things that aren't actually there or of holding to views which aren't necessarily implied by what was said. Once we allow facts to be freely stated, even ones we find uncomfortable, then we can go on to arguing about the conclusions from these facts.

Mark Valladares said...


Sorry, but as the eldest son of an immigrant to this country, I do not consider myself to be a second class Englishman. The implication is that my existence is, in the eyes of the Daily Mail, a problem to be 'addressed'. They have the right to express a view. I have the right to believe that such a view is vile...

Matthew Huntbach said...


Why do you write "sorry"? Nothing in what I wrote suggested I believed you to be a "second class Englishman". I am only sorry that you appear not to have read what I wrote at all.

Your use of "English" rather than "British" is an indication of that misunderstanding. The word "British" is a legal term and the word "English" is a cultural term. Does that help?

My point is that you and others in commenting on this article are jumping to a conclusion which is simply not there. Saying that does not mean I agree with the tone of the article.

Mark Valladares said...


The apology was a courtesy, intended to presage the fact that I was intending to disagree with you.

However, I agree that, in isolation, the phrase used is mostly harmless. On the other hand, given the unremitting stream of articles and opinion pieces in the Daily Vile, implying that there are too many foreigners here, and that we should make it difficult for them to stay, I feel pretty justified in concluding that the phrase is merely an attempt to encourage some of their readers to reach the conclusion that people like me are a problem to be addressed.

As the financial institutions so often tell us, past performance is not an indicator of future outcomes. However, most of us will use it in order to make our investment decisions... It's not a bad rule of thumb to apply to our media either...

The Burbler said...

It is a pretty tangential assumed implication that your post is based on. I would wait until the Mail actually write something indisputably vile. Probably tomorrow.

Matthew Huntbach said...


Your line is the equivalent of "OK, we've no real proof he dun it this time, but he's a bad'un, so let's fit him up anyway".

The danger is that if we look for racism when it is not there, and draw conclusions and condemn a person for what we suppose are implicit in what s/he has said even when there's no evidence that person did mean those conclusion, we curtail debate.

We may draw an analogy with the current financial crisis. Until recently there were certain things that could not be said because to say them would get you condemned as some sort of evil socialist who was opposed to "wealth creation" and wanted everyone to be living on cabbage soup doled out by state soup kitchens or the like. Things like "is it good that people working in financial services should be so handsomely rewarded?", "is it good that we should leave home ownership as the only form of living available to most people even though that means taking in very large mortgages?", "where actually is the money coming from that these 'wealth creators' say they are creating?", "is it good that this country's economy is quite so reliant on financial services?", "can we really all live by treating houses as a sort of crop out of which money can be regularly picked?".

Effectively banning people from saying them because to say them turned them into a political pariah did not stop people from thinking them. But perhaps we kept quieter than we ought to.

So too I am concerned that effectively banning any talk on race, culture, immigration etc on the lines that if you don't fit in with some narrow bands set by the liberal elite you're by implication some sort of racist, closes down necessary discussion. Or leaves it only in the hands of those who really are racists. It is for that reason that I say judge people by what they say, and not by what you want them to have said in order to condemn them because they are people you don't like.