Thursday, April 22, 2004

Big Ron blows his media career

Hot in the news this week is Ron Atkinson, football pundit extraordinaire. One day he's on £150,000 a year for talking all the way through football matches, the next he's finished, resigning rapidly before he has to suffer the ignominy of both ITV and The Guardian firing him. The reason? At the end of a disastrous match for Chelsea against Monaco, Big Ron didn't realise the mike was still on and he unleashed his verbal frustration with the players and the manager's decisions. In no uncertain terms. In fact, in unequivocally racist terms that are considered highly taboo.

Big Ron is all over the media like a rash, apologising and citing in his defence all the good work he has done with the campaign to kick racism out of football and his support of black players. He claims a moment of madness. He says anyone will tell you he is not racist.

It goes without saying on this blog that racism and its expression in racist language are completely unacceptable. But what is interesting is the way in which the popular media has reacted. Twenty years ago, the social movement known as 'political correctness', which sought to challenge all forms of offensive language, was lambasted in the tabloids as an example of the madness of 'Loony Left' Labour politicians, and as an infringement of our notional right to freedom of speech. Check out the link to The Sun below and you will see how far society has come. In a nice pun on his nickname, 'Big Ron' becomes 'Bigot Ron', and the writer's position is made entirely clear. It goes even further than that: as a mark of respect for the sensitivity of its readers, the racist words are not printed in full but asterisked. It's a beautiful day when one man's language use shows so clearly how society has changed for the better.

Bigot Ron Atkinson

Political correctness explained


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