It isn’t just celebrities we should be wary of idolising and placing on pedestals. Those individuals lionised by the popular press as ‘heroes’ in the wake of some disaster or terror attack are equally suspect. Just he other week, I was reading how that homeless guy hailed as a hero for supposedly helping victims in the immediate aftermath the Manchester Arena bombing plead guilty to having actually robbed several of them. Taking advantage of the seriously injured following a terror attack is about as far from heroic as you can get. In another newspaper report, I read that a Millwall supporter, also hailed by the press as a hero for apparently taking on some of the knifemen during the London Bridge terror attack, had just been given a suspended sentence for two racist attacks, one before his ‘heroic’ actions, one later. In the former, he racially abused and spat at a black photographer involved with an anti-globalisation protest, in the latter, he started hurling anti-Islamic abuse around at his local MP’s offices. Frankly, he comes across as a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Well, let’s face it, he’s a Millwall supporter (he supposedly shouted ‘Fuck off, I’m Millwall’ at the London Bridge attackers). Which means that he probably didn’t realise there was a terror attack going on – he just saw some ‘darkies’ and attacked them.
The problem is that the popular press is always so desperate to find some kind of supposedly ‘positive’ side to things like terror attacks and immediately latch on to anyone who seems to have done anything ‘heroic’. These two reprehensible characters fitted the profile for the right wing press: white and apparently selfless. Ironically, under normal circumstances, they are exactly the sort of individuals the tabloid press likes to vilify: a homeless beggar on one hand and an unemployed benefits claiming Millwall supporter on the other. But, in the end, the tabloids’ eagerness to create ‘heroes’ in the face of Islamic extremists has backfired on them. If they’d showed some restraint, they might have avoided such embarrassment. When military personnel are awarded medals for valour, the military actually goes to great lengths to investigate the incident they were involved in so as to verify that the would be recipient is actually deserving of the accolade. Which makes perfect sense – it avoids potential embarrassments of the kind we’ve seen here. The most depressing aspect of this whole business were the comments under the story about the Millwall guy, all supporting his ‘right’ to express his ‘opinions’ – ‘just like the Muslims do when they say they hate gays and women’. For fuck’s sake, where do you even start in the face of such ignorance and bigotry?
I mean, what is wrong with people? Why is it that some people feel the necessity to take every possible opportunity to spout hate and bile, regardless of how inappropriate that might be? To give an example, te other day I was watching a video on You Tube – it was pretty innocuous, the original opening titles for seventies sitcom Man About the House, in fact, which includes a lot of footage of seventies London. I then made the mistake of glancing at the comments beneath the video. Whilst the majority were relevant to the subject matter, discussing the show and its stars, one stood out glaringly: ‘London in the days before it was full of foreigners and a multicultural shit hole’. I mean, really? Who would think that an appropriate thing to post anywhere, let alone under a video about an innocuous seventies sitcom? I remember a time not so very long ago when being a racist was something to be ashamed of, something that bigots knew to keep to themselves. But now it seems to be a badge of honour.
But, like all bigots, this idiot is ignorant, on several counts. The most obvious being that the Man About the House titles do depict a multi-cultural London, most notably in the form a prominently feature bus conductor, who is clearly British Asian. Which, obviously, brings us to the principle area of this guy’s ignorance: the London of the seventies was clearly multi cultural, with people from a wide variety of ethnic origins living there, many brought there by the former British Empire. Moreover, it had been a multicultural city since anyone can remember – as capital cities, particularly those which are also major ports and commerce hubs, usually are. You’d think that by now this sort of thing would have stopped appalling me. But, thankfully, it doesn’t. I say ‘thankfully’ because this level of casual race hate should always shock us. The day it doesn’t is the day the racist bastards have won, by normalising this shit.
Of course, there are those who say that this sort of thing is simply a result of the anonymity the web allows people – they are able to express opinions which they would never normally be able to publicly express, for fear of opprobrium. Except that it isn’t just online we come across these things: it seems like a growing trend, endorsed by some sections of the media, to see racism and hatred as somehow acceptable forms of public expression. It would help, of course, if comments sections and forums online were more closely moderated and such comments removed, (and no, suppressing racism isn’t the same thing as repressing free speech). Just recently, my local paper ran an article about how the local Mosque was holding an open day – the sort of comments that appeared under the online version of the story were depressingly predictable with the usual references to terrorism, ISIS and grooming, not to mention ignorant. Yet it took the newspaper an age to take down the most offensive and those left are still pretty offensive. They really need to police these things better – or just disable the comments: I can’t remember the last time I saw one, on any story, that wasn’t idiotic, ill informed, prejudiced and full of hate.