John Terry, Anton Ferdinand and those sensitive souls in the press box

Each morning, or more accurately as many mornings as I can bear, I walk down the hill to buy my copy of Var-Matin and, when not observing my Max Hastings diet (as I understand it, no bread, potatoes, chocolate or beer but as much wine as you want), some tasty French goodies. Nothing wrong with the walk down; the 130 steps and great looping bends make it a tougher walk back.

And despite their great cost abroad, I occasionally buy an English paper, too. Mme Salut likes the Daily Mail, except when it makes her very cross as it does quite often, especially if one Samantha Brick has a column, and it’s an easy enough read for the uphill return if nothing in the French local paper takes my immediate fancy.

Today’s perusal of the sports pages left me so concerned for the well-being of my poor Mail confrères and consoeurs assigned to write about the John Terry racial abuse case that I forgot how awful those steps can be beneath the searing morning sunshine of the Mediterranean.

Read what Neil Ashton had to say:

It was difficult to find any sign of the beautiful game at Westminster Magistrates Court No 1 on Monday.

The romance of football, jumpers for goalposts, the honesty and integrity of legends from Sir Tom Finney to the club that rose from the runway of Munich. The magic of the FA Cup, the £3billion value of the forthcoming Barclays Premier League television contract. The national sport.

All of that was kicked into the long grass by an unedifying picture that emerged as the underbelly of football was laid bare.

Leaving aside the thought that magistrates sit in the Magistrates’ Court, not the Magistrates Court, I could not help wondering whether the Mail should abandon its long-held disdain for counselling and make it freely available to the unfortunate, possibly corrupted individuals who had to listen the cascade of c and f words under discussion by m’learned friends, witnesses and defendant.

Perish the thought that anyone has ever uttered a phrase or word more offensive than “drat” or “crikey” in the Mail newsroom or around the sports desk. Never mind that popular terms for profane language – industrial, agricultural, barrack room and the rest – suggest that footballers are hardly alone in their weakness for swearing. Shouldn’t we be worrying, too, about the moral health of industry, to the extent it still exists, farming and the military? Or is the romance of England’s dark satanic mills, lush pastures and garrisons somehow untarnished by the liberal use of expletives?

This has nothing much to do with the Mail; plenty of other reports reflect affected outrage or astonishment at the thought that men who play football for a living should utter oaths, and sometimes when on oath in a court of law. I am not a great admirer of people, in individuals or groups, who feel unable to express themselves without effing and blinding. And there is not a hope in hell that I would ever defend the use of racist insults.

All I suggest, as one who – like, I am sure, Neil or his colleagues – has been known to swear, is that we should try our hardest to adopt a sense of proportion when considering that part of John Terry’s use of English that is not, as it happens, what he is on trial for.

Monsieur Salut, by Matt

20 thoughts on “John Terry, Anton Ferdinand and those sensitive souls in the press box”

  1. What would have happened had Terry called Anton “a f****** white c***” I wonder. Is the alleged offence because he allegedly called him “black” or because he allegedly called him a “c***? I am confused Maybe it’s both and them it does become a complex issue worthy of highly paid counsel and senior judges time.

    I do find myself pondering all other permutations. Would “black arsehole” for example have caused such repurcussions I wonder, a simple “arse” even.

    • Had Terry referred to Anton Ferdinand as a Cockney **** or Joey Barton as a Scouse **** we would not be having this debate. I understand that there are many people who think that referring to a person’s skin colour is no different but to me the latter is much more pernicious than the former. Ifos and Bazza have commented very succinctly on this.

      People are entitled to their views but those who disagree may be interested in Gary Bennett’s opinion.

      As I said earlier I knew this would provoke the response that it is political correctness gone mad, but as a society we have come a long way in the past 40 years with regard to what is considered acceptable, civilised behaviour. To those who feel that the term Black should not be considered as an insult I ask why use it then? There are plenty of other adjectives to choose from. Would John Terry or any other caucasion player add the word white to an insult to a white opponent?

  2. I’m reminded of a row in France a few years ago when Sarkozy was interior minister, ie home secretary, before becoming president, and he was attacked for calling yobs and drug dealers on the immigrant-dominated high-rise estates ‘racaille’. At its worst, this means scum. Sarko’s comment had been about getting rid of this racaille from the estates. I tried to inject proportion by pointing out that racaille could also mean rabble or riffraff and was a term parents might use when trying to control their children. But it didn’t really matter what a white Englishman made of the semantics; it was how the term was perceived by those it was aimed at (on a separate occasion Sarko talked of clearing the estates of such people as if using a Karcher).
    His better defence would have been that he didn’t actually introduce the word racaille but adopted it when an Algerian woman challenged him on what he was doing to rid her neighbourhood of it. And is so over-the-top in any case to call anti-socila hoodlums scum? Problem is the racial dimension given who, in the main, inhabit these grim estates and their wider feelings of discrimination and exclusion.

    Thinking back to then, I can well understand that the combination of colour and c word used in anger on the pitch would seem mightily offensive to a black player. We all know Terry’s defence but if he used it as the prosecution says he did, he deserves punishment even if we accept he is not fundamentally a racist. Whether that needed a court case, as opposed to FA disciplinary procedures, is another issue.

  3. To link someone’s skin colour to an insult is to intrinsically make the skin colour an insult in itself, that’s how language works. It is the point of view of the historical oppressor that creates the belief that skin colour linked to an insult is no different to the insult itself, and that is because our skin colour has never seen us persecuted or oppressed and we can therefore perceive the link as irrelevant. In the instance of John Terry, while there is wide acceptance that he is not a racist, the specific use of language must be dealt with in order to stop the more fascistic elements of our society seeing it as an excuse to believe it is acceptable.

  4. Phil says :
    Every human being is capable of acting like a c*nt at some stage in their lives and to call someone a black c*nt is NOT the same as saying he is a c*nt because he is black.

    My sentiments exactly Phil – well put

  5. My simple take on the whole issue of name calling is that, as a child, it is a typical action to include, in the intended insult, a reference to something that stands out about that person.

    This could relate to the size of a person’s ears, their teeth, their weight, whatever.

    To me using the word “black” is only another example of that and (in the same way as other childish insults) is not intended as a criticism of all others with the same characteristic.

    Every human being is capable of acting like a c*nt at some stage in their lives and to call someone a black c*nt is NOT the same as saying he is a c*nt because he is black.

    This is not attempting to excuse the, constant, use of foul language but more a “pop” at those who will always find something, normally, that OTHERS should take offence at!

    • The prosecution have came from the angle that suggests Terry isn’t a racist but, in fact, made an offensive racist comment that was influenced by his aggressive and defensive state of mind; brought on to him by comments made from Anton about his extra marital activities.

      No amount of character witnesses will get him off with the charge if the jury believe he made the comment off his own back.

      It is for the comment alone, and not the fact he may be racist, that he has been brought to trial. Like i said, very grey area.

    • As Goldy says it is a grey area but there are things which years ago were commonplace that are now seen as unacceptable – or at least less acceptable.

      I am not particularly tall but in terms of the height range of the average British male I fall within the norm. So if someone calls me a shortarse it doesn’t bother me particularly but that does not mean that I would think it acceptable to call a person who was of restricted growth owing to some medical condition or genetic disorder the same thing.

      When I was at school in the 60s insulting terms referred to conditions now known as Downes Syndrom or cerebral palsy. Society now deems that these terms are humiliating and offensive. That is perfectly correct in my opinion.

      My original point to Keith is not that the term black is insulting as such but that when it is used as an adjective with an insulting noun it takes on a new dimension. Surely the only people who can deem how insulting a term is are those who are hurt by it.

      Calling me an old fashioned name for someone afflicted with cerebral palsy may not hurt me per se but if people with the condition say it is demeaning then I accept that and personally won’t use it.

      The many Afro Carribean and Asian people I have met, worked with and socialised with don’t object to the word black but they all agree that when used as part of an insult it is highly offensive. I’ll take their word for it.

  6. Malcolm – I think you are taking things a bit too literally – to call someone a black c*** , being disrespectful to an entire race !!!!!!!!!
    I’m sorry – I’m not racist but let’s be honest – things are getting totally out of proportion – and people are being a tad too sensitive – as far as I’m conmcerned if someone called me a white piece of s*** , it wouldn’t bother me any more than being called a piece of s***

    Just my opinion -there’s a whole host of more important things to be bothered about

    • We’ll agree to disagree Davey but my point was directed at Keith who lives in a country where white people are the minority. That in itself alters the emphasis on the use of the word white in an insult.

  7. Keith – you are opening up a whole can of worms here and one that will get the anti PC brigade up in arms about oversensitivity.

    In many societies, where the majority have been repressed by the minority, it is quite common to take terms of abuse relating to ethnicity, religious identification, gender or sexual orientation and turn them into positive statements of empowerment.

    The use of a particular word in itself is not necessarily racist but the context in which it is used can make it so. In the UK the use of the word black to describe someone’s achievements is not in itself racist in my opinion but often unneccesary. However, when it is added to some other term of abuse it takes on a different significance and is obviously meant as a direct insult based on skin colour or nationality.

    If someone were to refer to you as a white piece of s*** that is not the same as saying you are a piece of s***.

    Personally, whilst swearing as such doesn’t make me blush. to use M. Salut’s words ” I am not a great admirer of people, in individuals or groups, who feel unable to express themselves without effing and blinding.”

    It is sad that so many people these days feel they have to use profanities every second word and the fact that the f and c words are frequently heard on TV is a reflection of the changing morality that exists around swearing. Personally I feel that it shows a lack of respect and disregard for others’ sensitivities but to come back to your original point – to call some a c*** may be insulting to that individual but to call someone a black c*** is disrepectful to an entire race of fellow human beings.

    • Of course I should also have made the point that not all societies are at the same point in their thinking about the issue and what may apply in one situation may have more or less significance in another.

      Suarez’s defence of his comments to Evra were that it was a commonplace expression in his homeland but that didn’t make it acceptable in the eyes of the F.A. or Evra for that matter.

      Within societies people are at different stages of education regarding what is acceptable or not. I would suggest that people who live in areas where there is a wide range of cultural experiences are more sensitive to terms which are seen as racist than those who live in more monocultural communities.

      There are still people in the former mining communities of County Durham who I hear using words which they believe are inoffensive but which long ago were deemed inappropriate in other parts of the country or even amongst other people within their community. Often they are trying hard not to be racist and sometimes others need to be aware of that intent and not over-react.

  8. I live in Africa and am in the minority, to call someone Black is an every day occurance, Africans consider themselves black and are proud to be called black. Now to call a person a c**t is horrific and would be considered most offensive. Now maybe I am missing the point but in this case Ferdinand is offended by the word black and not the other word, he called Terry the other word and that it appears is not abusive but only when it used in the context of a colour. Are we all to be classified by colour for the rest of our lives? If so that is racist. To me black is not an offensive remark but there are many derogative comments which allude to the ethnic background of a person. I have spoken to many of my African friends who do not see the comments as racist but only offensive. Is to call a person a black genius or a successful black businessman offensive? The colour black is not offensive and could not possibly have been hurtful to Anton Ferdinand

    • Stan Collymore has spoke of these matters before. Said the N word should abolished but knows people who call people ‘white c**ts’ and thinks context is important.

      Its a very, very grey area.

    • Anyone with a brain cell can see that the context Terry used it in was derogatory. It cannot be seen as anything else other than offensive AND racist, and if you can’t understand that, I don’t know what else to add….
      Maybe the “N” word would be more offensive than “black”, but the context is the same.
      It is similar to comments mentioned on another thread about what some NI football fans would use to describe their southern brethren. To many the terms they use would not be seen as offensive or racists, but as “banter”. However the context in which they are used could be classed as casual racism.
      “Mick” isn’t an offensive word, but I would be offended if someone from England called me a “Mick”.

  9. Malcolm, do you think when a “mystery shopper” is identified that it could be a case of buy one, get one free?

  10. The Northern League are appointing “mystery shoppers” to moniter the amount of swearing by players and coaching staff at their games. I thought about applying for one of the posts but decided that a full report on even the quietest of games would involve a minimum of 800 instances of profanity and frankly I can think of better ways of spending my Saturday nights!

  11. Can’t always contain yourself from swearing in a high intense game of football. Doesn’t necessarily mean that you include it into your everyday language if you fall into this bracket.

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