The BBC must stop giving anti-Welsh bigots a platform

Picture by Tim Loudon (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Benjiman L. Angwin

If I were to use an offensive ethnic slur about a minority group on the BBC’s Have Your Say forum, such as the ‘n-word’ to describe a black person, my comment would quite rightly be binned.

However, if I were to write the words ‘the Welshman sleeping with his sheep again, aye?’, this would not be removed by the BBC.

These are both slurs that have the same intention and effect. Their purpose is to instil a sense of inferiority within the mind of the minority group being attacked.

This goes far beyond the stale ‘sheepshagger’ jokes (something which Welsh people need to stand as firmly against as black people do against the ‘n-word’).

During articles about the controversy over introducing bilingual education in Llangennech, as well as the government’s plan to reach 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, the BBC invited readers to ‘have their say’.

The tide of bile that filled the comments was sadly predictable – but the BBC did nothing to stop it.

One after another, posts that contained racism towards the Welsh and hatred towards the Welsh language were given a home on one of the world’s most visited news site.

Reading these comments, you would quickly have come to the conclusion that Welsh is both:

  1. a dying, barbaric language spoken by baboons.
  2. the secret language of a mysterious, Welsh-speaking elite that secretly run the country and want to brainwash our children.

Despite the clearly contradictory nature of these claims, if you’re black, Muslim or Jewish you’re going to recognise some very familiar tropes here.

Just look at a few of the comments OK’d by the BBC’s moderators:

“What’s happening in Wales today is a blatant form of Social Engineering on par with the dark periods of European history!”

I.e. those arguing for bilingual education are Nazis. On the BBC news website, the Welsh Government is being compared to those who planned the Holocaust.

“Where is the mandate to effectively destroy our children including their future for the sake of a language and its culture irrelevant to most?”

“So many of my old welsh school childhood friends cant read or write English & there entire life has been destroyed because the government is trying to keep a dead language alive for some stupid reason!”

I.e. the Welsh-language is so backwards and barbaric that learning it will quite literally give students some kind of brain damage which makes them illiterate.

Beauty

The truth is, of course, the exact opposite. And when they’re not providing a platform for those that traduce the Welsh-language, the BBC and Guardian regularly publish articles about the benefits of bilingualism.

One of the more moderate attacks found on BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ was that the language ‘has no use outside of Wales and we should be concentrating on other subjects’.

‘Welsh should be last on the list,’ this commentator said. ‘I would rather my children spoke Spanish, French or Manderin’.

I believe she meant Mandarin. But I agree that children in Wales should be taught these languages. Trilingualism is better than bilingualism.

But it also ignores the fact that in Wales the Welsh language is a living language, and an individual can immerse him or herself in it in a way that would be difficult with Mandarin.

But her point of view represents a particularly British, ‘liberal’ view of languages: That they’re just means of communication and, as such, we’d all be better off speaking the same one.

Roger Scruton, the conservative English philosopher, said: ‘We appreciate beautiful things not for their utility only, but also for what they are in themselves’.

He explains that beauty is a form of knowledge. Traditional architecture finds use century after century because its beauty attracts people to find a use for it.

The Pantheon remains standing while the utilitarian concrete of Cold War era buildings is already being demolished.

Attacks upon Welsh culture are attacks upon a form of knowledge entirely unique to our nation, one whose value (like every culture) is not only in its use but its beauty.

Non-utilitarian beauty enriches our lives. We find a use for beautiful buildings in infinitely varying forms whilst the utilitarian concrete of Cold War era buildings is already crumbling away.

As Kenneth Hale said: “When you lose a language, you lose a culture, intellectual wealth, a work of art. It’s like dropping a bomb on a museum, the Louvre.”

Extremism

Anti-Welsh bigotry will not go away as the Welsh government enacts plans to increase the number of Welsh speakers.

But it must be seen for what it is: An extreme minority making a lot of noise through a number of different online accounts.

The vast majority of people in Wales agree that the Welsh language is a good thing and should be preserved.

By publishing reams of anti-Welsh hate the BBC is effectively allowing itself to be hijacked by a few noisy individuals.

The BBC has a responsibility not to amplify such hatred beyond its actual limited scope.

It would not allow itself to be used in such a way for antisemitic comments, or hate targeted at any other minority ethnic group.

I grew up in the American South before I learned Cymraeg, and saw first hand the aftermath of what happens when you allow hatred a forum to attack an entire cultural group.

The anti-desegregation movement coalesced around rockabilly music in the 50s and 60s, with songs such as ‘move them n*****s north’, inspiring violence and murder of innocent people when such songs were broadcast on popular radio stations.

Giving platforms to hatred has left scars upon southeast Texas and Louisiana, from which we have yet to recover.

Wales has a chance to avoid creating scars as deep, as we rejuvenate Cymraeg and the Welsh culture.

And the BBC has a responsibility to cease condoning hatred and hostility towards the promotion of Welsh in its HYS commentary feeds.


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marmaduke
Guest
marmaduke

Shall we just say that it’s deliberate BBC policy to allow anti-Welsh bigotry in its website comments?

Mr Fake
Guest
Mr Fake

That survey you added…. Number of respondents = 3,272. I agree nasty and personal attack comments should be removed. But this is a free world (hopefully) and we are all intitled to have our own views and express them.

Russell Todd
Guest
Russell Todd

The writer is correct to point out the traditional British, ‘liberal’ view of languages reduces them to mere means of communication.

Simialrly, it incresingly reduces the value and purpose of school education to whatever the economy deems useful. How tragically short-sighted and unimaginative

Tal
Guest
Tal

The BBC’s new charter under the Tories main raison d’etre is to keep the union together. Having a population who have an independence of mind and independence of language roaming in their backdoor is seen as a obstacle to total homogeneity and uniformity. That’s why I just don’t watch bbc wales, it just too obvious and transparent. BBC Cymru are also constrained by the charter, less obvious, but also transparent.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

This is the hypocritical nature of the British media. The Guardian is no better. I remember once making a comment on some article to do with colonialism – feeling you know… being Welsh I had a clue. I got utterly slammed for being a white privileged male who apparently knew nothing. Because there’s always some one who thinks their cause is greater. But I’ll share a nugget of wise words… no struggle is greater, nor lesser than any other. I don’t pretend to be able to relate to Slavery, nor women’s rights issues – and the way some people go… Read more »

Tellyesin
Guest
Tellyesin

Name and Shame …..

GOGLEDDmerthyrmarkfjaques
Guest
GOGLEDDmerthyrmarkfjaques

Ignore me and my aliases, I am just a crazyman

“being sarcastic”

Bryn Daf
Guest

I agree with the article although when I hear people speaking Welsh in the council estates of South and East Wales we will know we have won as a non-establishment movement

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

I completely agree with you Bryn Daf, but how would this be achieved? The present system of teaching Welsh in schools would have to be vastly improved, and some pretty revolutionary teaching methods developed, all the while keeping the Urdd at bay to achieve such an ambitious outcome. It’s not that it couldn’t be achieved, after all, something similar has been achieved in Israel and they started with a language that was properly dead, at least our language is on life support, and isn’t comatose, so there is hope. It would be an uphill struggle to achieve this aim, but… Read more »

glasiad
Guest
glasiad

My gut reaction to your article is – ‘Grow a backbone Benjiman!’ Anti-Welsh bigotry embedded in the British establishment is as old as the hills. The BBC, as the official broadcaster for that establishment, is the fitting platform where such narrow-minded prejudices should be aired. It also reminds me of the saying, sometimes ascribed to Gandhi, – First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. Post-devolution Wales is clearly past the first stage and is now hovering between stage 2 and 3. Stage 4, victory, is approaching. No need for despair or recriminations.… Read more »

kim erswell
Guest
kim erswell

Find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with, Glasiad. One of my great loves of my Welsh friends is their not nanny staters like the woosies here in, Kent. BBC and Gaurdian…Ych a fi!

Tellyesin
Guest
Tellyesin

Iawn Glasiad. You have a good point. But that doesn’t mean we have to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t happen or not blame those who are doing it or stop making those who are happy to publish it uncomfortable. Often it is amusing and then we see the #ANUSOFTHENORTH and are asked to pay the bill. They’re part of a spectrum and if some are happy to nip at the heels of twats and wankers as part of the campaign we should celbrate that as well. More seriously, we have seen the rise in racial attacks at people of… Read more »

Leia
Guest

The trivially casually nasty remarks are a foundation which results in tips like #anusofthenorth and the virulent Llangennech nonense – it normalises and diminishes that nasty streak and should be challenged at all levels – the trivial included. Long term you ONLY change attitudes by changing the trival. I made this same point on the thread about rape jokes by prominent radio personalities, I make the same point every other week ont he subject of women in tech/stem/whatever . Yes there’s not a straight line between the trivial and the major issues – but prevailing culture matters and the trivial… Read more »

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

Anyone who remembers the 1970s will also remember the plethora of Irish jokes where the Irish were portrayed as gullible fools, or just plain stupid. There were so many that were in essence feeble, that my youngest brother came out with what I consider to be the best ‘Irish’ joke I’ve ever heard: ‘Why are Irish jokes so stupid? So the English can understand them!’. At about this time, the BBC ran a series of open access programmes under the banner of Open Door, that were made by various groups up and down the country. For one a group of… Read more »

leigh richards
Guest
leigh richards

Great post Benjamin – the welsh are no less deserving of protection under the law from abuse and discrimination than anyone else. And it’s very sad to read that two decades on since AA Gill wrote in the Times that ‘ the welsh are immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls’ that we are still fair game for abuse and ridicule in the british media. I must respectfully disagree with glasiasd’s seeming ‘anything goes’ approach to such matters. If we followed that viewpoint right wing tory MPs would be able to get away with using disgusting phrases https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/10/tories-urgently-investigating-after-mp-uses-n-word-at-public-event… Read more »

Alun Williams
Guest
Alun Williams

They who direct derision at other cultures merely demean themselves. That’s all we need to be aware of. Just remember how the once-august Sunday Times reduced itself to the level of a Friday-evening post-pub rag, when its editor allowed column space for the late A.A. Gill’s anti-Welsh diatribe (I won’t dignify it with the term, ‘polemic’).

Emrys
Guest
Emrys

There is a bias within the ranks of the BBC and both the left and right wing press who are often more than ready to launch attacks in the media on the Welsh nation and the Welsh language yet appear to be very reluctant to criticise a minority of the Muslim community – mostly men – who are unwilling to adopt Western values re: respect for women, genital mutilation, child brides, sharia law and their attitudes towards the rights of the LBGT community – in case they appear to be racist. But its ok to publish biased and very badly… Read more »

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

The sooner we are shot of the British the better and please no more excuses for them!

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

Completely off-topic, but the bit that really gets me on the BBC Wales news, is when they do street interviews and the like, the interviewees are never a cross section of the sorts of people that I would ever hear or meet in the street. Yes we have a lot of people with accents from across the border, but not everyone – there are plenty of people with recognisable welsh accents living here – most of the people I ever meet to be honest, but you wouldn’t know that listening to the BBC here in Wales. I think someone has… Read more »

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

The same can be said about the presenters – but I think that is something that has been highlighted for years. I don’t see why we can’t have presenters with strong Valleys accents, even using dialect.

But, maybe, the BBC don’t want to alienate the roughly 25% of the population in Wales that are English immigrants by having presenters doing vox pops exclusively in Wenglish! The BBC would rather alientate the majority of us who’d love to have TV in one of our native languages.

Electively Welsh
Guest
Electively Welsh

Great article. I long ago stopped bothering with the comments sections of BBC Wales because whatever the issue and whatever the topic, it always ends up being a sewer of anti-Welsh bigotry, often totally off-topic too. Most of the stuff the BBC et al allows to be said is racist, and is also (ironically) written in appalling English. But the main point is that it’s not difficult to tell the difference between an off-topic minority bashing and often racist rant and a comment that one might not like to hear but is at least coherent and polemical. The state broadcaster… Read more »

Jean Carmichael
Guest

Cymru am Byth.

Glywys
Guest
Glywys

It’s funny. It’s been half a century since the Race Relations Act, and the political machine today is always looking for the next thing to ban, yet nobody ever got around to addressing cambrophobia. How many western countries tolerate hate speech against their natives? Part of me suspects that the powers that be don’t like being reminded that there are natives living on this island and are looking forward to the day when they no longer do.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Well said Glywys, the British are very good at denial.