Monday 12 January 2009

It's all in a name

Guest post by Nick Johnson

The thing that gets me about the latest Prince Harry furore is the way many have put the case for the defence.

Firstly, apparently it's all ok because the army has different standards and you behave differently in the military to ordinary people. So it's fine for the army to be racist then is it? At a time when the armed services are still struggling for recruits from ethnic minority communities and are in no way representative of British society in the twenty first century, this hardly seems the best recruiting technique.

It's bad enough to give the impression that its fine for minority recruits to be called ‘Paki’ or ‘raghead’, but that is then compounded by the feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Where do Prince Harry’s defenders propose to draw the line? Different treatment for different races? And if it's ok for the army to behave in this way, what about the police? Ten years on from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, I doubt whether any police officer would be able to keep their job if they were seen calling a colleague by one of these insults.

The armed services have as much responsibility as any other British institution to be fair, inclusive and promote equality. For that alone, they need to be take disciplinary action against anyone using abusive language. Far from being treated more harshly because of who he is, it seems to me as though Prince Harry might well get away with behaviour that would find a less famous colleague punished.

Also prominent in recent days is the ‘political-correctness gone mad’ brigade who say the insults are merely the equivalent of calling someone a ‘Yank’ or a ‘Brit’. What utter rubbish. When was the last time that either of these was used as an insult as rocks were thrown or a punch and kick landed? Both ‘Paki’ and ‘raghead’ are derogatory terms with a historical association of violence and intimidation. Civilised society has deemed them inappropriate. Are we really saying that this shouldn’t include either the Royal Family or the Army?


Dave Semple said...

Did you just delete a post about the NPF?

A Libertarian said...

When you say ‘civilised society has deemed them inappropriate’ what you really mean is that the left-wing establishment has done so, and woe betide anyone who disagrees.

I would agree that the term Paki or raghead is offensive in a way that Brit or Ozzy is not, merely because of the way the term has been used in the past.

However, you really ought to take into account the context in which such remarks are made. Clearly if someone shouts ‘paki’ at someone they have just bumped into in the street then the term is being used in order to be offensive and as such the person using it is probably racist and should be shunned.

However, to call a friend Paki in a private context is quite a different matter since it could be a mere joke among friends. I certainly know that among my friends we make comments to each other that in ordinary circumstances would be considered far more racist than paki. I, for example, often get made fun of for being Jewish and thus, apparently, big nosed and stingy. But I don’t get offended, instead I laugh because I know the comments are meant as a joke and its only a bit of fun, often such comments are made as a clever play on a stupid stereotype anyway.

Amusingly, the only reason any of my friends use such terms (being the largely libertarian group that we are) is to have a dig at you pain in the arse lefties who can’t help but concern themselves with things that are none of their business.

Sunder Katwala said...


I can't see anything to disagree with here. This is the reason why Harry should have apologised, as he did, and why he, the Royals and the army will want to make sure the apology is seen to be sincere.

But its also possible to think that and also that the media and political response risks going over the top, isn't it?

Of course, we could dispatch the young Prince on a Boris Johnson style educative apology tour of the sub-continent, but I am not sure this particular incident would necessarily be top of the list of misdemeanours!