Freedom of Speech?

February 5, 2009 at 9:03 am 29 comments


So, Carol Thatcher, daughter of “She Who Should Not Be Named” and Queen of the Jungle (and therefore half witch/half failure) has been kicked off the BBC’s One Show (Christine Bleakley…….sigh) for an off-camera remark in which she referred to a tennis player as a “golliwog” – read about it here.

This prompted a lot of media coverage which ranged from “the English are fundamentally racist” to “political correctness gone wrong” to “it’s only a soft toy” to “I’m black and I’m not offended” to “whatever happened to freedom of speech”………  The furore has been akin to that which followed the revelation of Prince Harry’s reference to a fellow officer as a “Paki”.

Well, this at least goes to show one thing – being high born doesn’t make for brains or common sense!

People throughout the ages have used “colourful” terms to describe those who are different to them – read here – be it as simple as our use of “Froggies” to describe the French or their use of  “Rost Beouf” to describe us – presumably in the days before ecstasy…….

This reminded me of an instance shortly after I had joined my first company as part of their graduate recruitment many, many, many moons ago. The graduate intake had been dominated by Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) students. There was one particular Cambridge gentleman that I didn’t warm to. I was caught referring to him as a “Tab” and a colleague asked me to explain. I explained that “Tab” was short for “Taberdar”, describing the short academic gown worn by Oxford students known as “Commoners” , differentiating them from the long gowns worn by the superior “Scholars”. Referring to Cambridge students as “Tabs” was, therefore, derogatory, suggesting that they were in some way / every way inferior to students from Oxford. My colleague turned to the Cambridge gentleman and asked if Cambridge had a similar term to describe Oxford students. “Yes, ” he explained, “we call them wankers”. That put me in my place and we got on much better afterwards.

Now I will not go into the rights and the wrongs of Carol’s use of the word “golliwog” and her unwillingness to concede that it might have racial overtones. I will not defend her argument that as she had not seen it as racist or intended it to be racist then it wasn’t racist. Let’s just put it down to the stupidity of the upper classes and remember the wisdom of my gran, who I am sure would have commented “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, say nothing!”



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29 Comments Add your own

  • 1. steveshark  |  February 5, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Nice article!
    It seems that stupidity at least is class-free…


  • 2. freethinkeruk  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

    The point is though, that this remark was not broadcast but made in a private environment albeit in the BBC’s hospitality suite. Whoever was offended by it should have made their objection clear at the time and directly to Carol Thatcher and not make political or professional capital out of it.


  • 3. Middle Man  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Dear Freethinker,

    Thanks for popping by. Jo Brand apparently did object at the time but Thatcherspawn refused to apologise. The BBC officials repeatedly discussed the issue and tried to get her to understand that the term was potentially offensive but Thatcherspawn refused to accept this.

    If she hadn’t said it she wouldn’t have been in trouble for it. Should have listened to my gran!


  • 4. freethinkeruk  |  February 5, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I can see your point but let us examine for a moment why ‘Thatcherspawn’ should apologise.

    A Golliwog is a bright and cheerful black faced childs soft toy that every child anywhere took to their hearts and loved, so where can that be objectionable? Is it perhaps the ‘wog’ part of the name? Wog in fact is an acronym for Western Oriental Gentleman i.e. the Indian sub continent. I see no problem there either.

    By the way I had similar advice from my father to your Gran’s, although slightly more strongly put. “If you haven’t anything useful to say, keep your bloody mouth shut.” It’s advice that I have tried to follow but sadly slip up at times!


  • 5. David Davis  |  February 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Interetsing analysis. But…

    …what’s the evidence for Carol Thatcher being “upper class”?

    I seem to remember the Left in the 1980s being ever-so-scathing about her mum, making much of her apparently lowly lower-bourgeois origins as the daughter of a grocer in Grantham.

    Like she came from a family “in trade”, for goodness’ sake…she wouldn’t be let into the Fabian Society at all, not that she’d have wanted to join such a bunch of w*****s.

    Baroness Warnock (a Tab I think? Certainly in later life!) referred to her publicly once as “…just low…” .

    It’s not likely that many of the scathers had, a quarter-century ago, heard of Grantham, let alone be able to pin it on a map.

    Regarding Cambridge Commoners being called “Tabs” … I honestly state I’ve never heard the term before this little exchange. I never felt discrimination against me, at the Other Place, from anyone, for being a Commoner as opposed to having any other status, or indeed it mattering at all.

    But it’s useful and will get wider airing from now on.


  • 6. Middle Man  |  February 5, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Dear Freethinker,

    Oh sure “a bright and cheerful black faced childs soft toy” which has never been given any racist or ethnic conortations!

    Get real.

    The problem is that the Golliwog has always been portrayed as, at best, lazy and malingering or, at worst, distrustful, criminal and something to be afraid of.

    See the pictures I have just added to the bottom of the post.


  • 7. David Davis  |  February 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    And, what I ought to have said too but the phone went….

    “Golliwog” only has “racist overtones” these days because the architects of PC have decided that it does. they, in their eyes, write the terms of discourse and set the fences. that’s why they invented the dialectic in the first place.

    So that they could prevent proscribed thoughts from being expressed. Then Paradise would reign.

    As we say over at The Libertarian Alliance, we should _never, never_ say “political correctness gone mad”, for this immplies that it is a sane, elightened and rational position to hold a priori. it is not. it is the enemy of thought, and freedom of language use, and therefore of the rational umpiring in the battle of ideas.


  • 8. Middle Man  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Dear David Davis,

    I take your point about the Grantham shop-keeper’s granddaughter but I think you are wrong to suggest that viewing “golliwog” as racist is a new phenomenon, resulting from PC architects.

    I think it has always been racist but it is only now that the “victims” have a strong enough voice in society to say so and the rest of us have become more enlightened.


  • 9. freethinkeruk  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Hi again Middle Man

    Fairly obviously I’m with ‘David Davis’ on this one.

    As for “The problem is that the Golliwog has always been portrayed as, at best, lazy and malingering or, at worst, distrustful, criminal and something to be afraid of.”
    all I can say is remember it’s a bloody TOY for crying out load and if it’s something to be afraid of how come millions were sold for adoring kids?

    Golliwogs portrayed as lazy, criminals etc if my memory serves me correctly arose from Enid Blyton books which of course are now banned by the pc brigade.


  • 10. writechicpress  |  February 5, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Wow. Instructive.

    Thatch, Jr. just shows that those who cannot rise to a level of civility that understands the tragedy of racism will be cut off. Good on the BBC. Her voice is no longer needed…until she schleps on over to a trashier news operation.


  • 11. Middle Man  |  February 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Dear Writechicpress,

    Good to have you back. Indeed the acorn rarely falls far from the oak and like-minded fellows tend not to be able to see the wood for the trees……..


  • 12. David Davis  |  February 5, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    To writechicpress:-

    There is no such thing as “racism” because there are actually no “races”. The genetic diversity among human beings is astonishingly tiny. it derives from the indonesian Toba eruption of about 74,000 years ago, when the Human Population was probably reduced to under 500 breeding pairs.

    Much much less diversity for example than among, say lions, or cod, or even fruit flies, let alone ants or trees. Therefore there cannot be any “races” – except in the eyes of Stalinists who try to portray English White People, who are commonly Christians too, but not always (Christians are currently unpopular, just like Jews), as having invented the idea of “racism”.

    A gollywog is a toy, for f***’s sake. What sort of people want to criminalise and exclude those who use the term endearlingly and colloquially? What is language for? Are there people who want to attenuate language and proscribe words, and if so, then what for, and to what objective?

    I only ask because I want to know.



  • 13. Middle Man  |  February 5, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Oh DD,

    Shame on you. Would it be OK to play with Hitler dolls on the basis that it was “just a toy”? And, to claim there are no racism is just plain stupid and immature play with semantics.

    I tried to post a comment on The Sun website using the two pictures at the end of my post. They declined to publish my comment on the basis that the pictures were “offensive” and “racist”. When a comic such as that can see the writing on the wall, doesn’t it make you question your own, crazy, view of the world?


  • 14. writechicpress  |  February 6, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Davis, if you want to play like you don’t have to use English like everybody else, fine. Schizofrenics do that, too. Compulsively even.

    Just know how increasingly irrelevant you are, and know how happy I am that I’ve lived to see such a day.


  • 15. freethinkeruk  |  February 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Interesting! If I hover my cursor over both ‘middleman’ & ‘writechicpress’ they both offer the same link to middleman.

    Now voices in one’s head I can understand, that’s schizophrenia but linking yourself to yourself, that’s a new one on me.


  • 16. Middle Man  |  February 6, 2009 at 2:59 pm


    Do we need to add paranoia or conspiracy theorist to your label as well? I can assure you that Writechicpress and I are not one and the same!


  • 17. freethinkeruk  |  February 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean the’re not out to get me!

    Writechicpress still has a link back to you though, now I wonder why? What could be going on? Who benefits and how? I’d like to believe Middleman……. but…….he could be lying. Or perhaps he doesn’t know himself, perhaps someone, some organisation has done it hmmmm……….


  • 18. writechicpress  |  February 6, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Beats me. But you can tell mm and I apart easily enough though. I’ll tell you to fuck right off, if you want to soft peddle bigotry. He’s all Englishy and polite.

    And M-Man, I didn’t do that intentionally. I have no idea why your site is appearing. Maybe we’re conjoined wordpress twins. 😉


  • 19. lovenipples  |  February 6, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    If ever you find me peddling bigotry softly or not you are very welcome to tell me to ‘fuck right off’ but I admit that I much prefer ‘Englishy & polite.


  • 20. Peter the Pedant  |  February 8, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Just to comment back on the article itself.

    When I first heard about this I thought it outrageous that Carol Thatcher had used the word ‘Golliwog’ to describe a black tennis player.

    I then heard she had supposedly prefixed it with ‘She reminds me of a … ‘

    This gave it a more interesting slant for me, if she was in fact referring to the toy rather than the metaphor for a black person. Probably still not really excusable but slightly alters the perspective.

    Also thought it interesting to hear that while Robinsons jams bowed to PC pressure to remove the golliwog from their products in the Western World, they retained them on their African exports as the public there ‘liked them’


  • 21. Peter the Pedant  |  February 9, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Read a bit more about it all in the Sunday papers and swung back to the view that the comment was little more than casual racism.

    I would contend it is of her generation rather than her class.


  • 22. Middle Man  |  February 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Dear Pedant,

    I am not sure what “casual racism” is but I still don’t like it.

    I have also got seriously frustrated with the comparison, over the last few dats, with the Jonathon Ross and Jeremy Clarkson gaffes. At least they apologised!


  • 23. Peter the Pedant  |  February 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Don’t like it either.

    Casual racism I believe belongs in a bye-gone age where it seemed to be acceptable to use words, phrases and behaviours that are completely out of place in our modern and multi-cultural world.

    Hence my comment that it was more about age and generation than class.

    Some examples from the 70’s and 80’s of ‘casual’ racism :

    the ‘blacking-up’ of characters in song and dance routines (the black and white Minstrels),

    a supposed comedy of racial bigotry using terms such as ‘nig-nog’ in Love Thy Neighbour

    a casual and accepted term for the local corner shop as the ‘Paki’ shop

    I even recall my (much-loved) grandad referring to a colour as n******-brown

    I believe much of this inherent or casual racism has been removed from society, certainly here in the UK. The young, bye and large, treat each other regardless of colour. The habits and behaviours of 20-30 years ago age are much harder to eradicate, hence the Carol Thatcher comment and indeed the Ron Atkinson gaffe of several years ago.

    I believe though that these are typically related to age and generation, though clearly environement plays a facotr. Nevertheless I do feel that as we move on and continue to experience multi-culture so tolerance and acceptance will increase (or maybe I am just dillusional ?)


  • 24. Lonely hearts  |  February 14, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Whatever Carol Tatcher said, all the while it remained an overheard conversation by one or two people it had no impact. Unfortunately the likes of Jo Brand cannot resist the opportunity to show their politically correct, left wing credentials at every opportunity and in doing so has done the cause she claims to believe in more harm than good whilst giving free publicity to those who use the argument of free speech to justify social and political views that most people think of as being consigned to the waste basket of history. Given that such extreme groups tend to see their support increase during economic downturns one has to ask what she thought she was doing, (Opp sorry I forgot, like most of her ilke she generally engages her mouth several days ahead of her brain). Congratulation Jo. Its the cheapest publicity these people will ever get.

    With regards one of the previous comments refering to the word wog as being from the indian sub continent and standing for western oriental gentleman. I believe that this is possibly incorrect. My understanding of the origins of this term refer back to the British empire. Indiginous populations were employed by the government to build roads, infrastructure etc, or work in government offices and were rfered to as WOGS which I believe stood for workers on government service. ( I stand to be corrected if this is un true)


  • 25. akinsankofa  |  February 17, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    To middle man etal,
    Golliwogs were and still are objects of ridicule, born in cruelty and ignorance. To refer to a person as a “wog” or a “golliwog” is to dehumanise that person to that of a caricature – I myself as a child had read many Enid Blyton books and the “Golly” stories were hideously reprehensible when looked at from an adult perspective. In modern times of equality, diversity and President Obama, there is no place for that type of language in public life or in public institutions. Hence the sacking of Ms. Thatcher from said programme – but not from the BBC altogether!


  • 26. A Bigoted Awesome Twofer « WriteChic Press  |  February 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    […] Middle Man lamented Thatch, Jr.’s Golliwog.   By God, America has a nearly a party and a newspaper […]


  • […] Middle Man lamented Thatch, Jr.’s Golliwog.   By God, America has a nearly a party and a newspaper […]


  • 28. Mike  |  January 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    It seems that many here will tear their hair our over racism and golliwogs, yet seem to have no objection to the English being described as ‘fundamentally racist’, as mentioned earlier – and I’ve read no objections here.

    And such hypocrites have the cheek to take the moral high ground and bang on about the evils of racism. Grow a backbone and confront the likes of Islam4UK and try telling them that. Surely you’ve heard of them? I’m sure the news has reached even the left wing cloud-cuckoo land that most of you seem to inhabit.

    One day the scales may drop from your eyes. Then again, probably not.


    • 29. Middle Man  |  January 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Dear Mike,

      One wrong does not right another! Also, stop judging people by your own standards. “Left wing cloud-cuckoo” indeed. You have clearly not read many of my blogs. As for Islam4UK I am glad that they are being declared illegal. But, in no sense can an anti-racist be deemed a pro-fundamentalist or bigot.



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