Ban­ter: just an­other weasel word

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Grant Feller

IT was sim­ply “ban­ter” and the more my two friends re­mon­strated with me, the more I won­dered whether I had got it wrong. Now it seems “ban­ter” has be­come the catch-all ex­cuse for peo­ple who are un­able to tell the dif­fer­ence between be­ing a racist and speak­ing like one. If some­thing abu­sive is ex­plained away in terms of “knock­about hu­mour” or lads us­ing po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect words be­cause they’re let­ting off steam, well, that’s OK then.

So when I re­lated how a col­league had re­ferred to a par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful Jewish busi­ness­man, with the words: “Why are Jews so good at hold­ing on to their money, Grant?” I thought they’d both agree that that was an­ti­semitic.

“Come on, that’s just ban­ter,” one of them said, “of course he’s not be­ing an­ti­semitic, it’s a joke.”

If it was, it was a pretty poor one, and even if it wasn’t, they were the words of a bigot who was us­ing reli­gion to ex­plain some­one’s suc­cess.

I still con­sider what he said to me an­ti­semitic. Just as Malky Mackay, the ex-man­ager of Cardiff City foot­ball club, was in my view be­ing an­ti­semitic when he ex­changed this text with a col­league: “There’s noth­ing like a Jew see­ing money slip between his fingers.”

In texts he re­ceived, call­ing some­one “a gay snake… who can’t be trusted” is ho­mo­pho­bic, and jok­ing about “bounc­ing” on a fe­male col­league’s breasts is un­doubt­edly sex­ist.

Yet all of th­ese things can be ex­cused with a sim­ple word. Ban­ter. And in the furore since th­ese vile texts were re­vealed last week, that’s the one word we’ve heard over and over again. Mackay’s used it, the id­iots at the League Man­agers’ As­so­ci­a­tion used it as they pleaded for us to for­give poor old Malky, and even some of the big­gest names in foot­ball have per­pet­u­ated the myth that just be­cause some­one says some­thing racist, it doesn’t mean that they are.

Yet ex­cus­ing racism is as bad as ex­press­ing it, it is tan­ta­mount to turn­ing a blind eye. The for­mer fu­els the lat­ter, al­most as if it’s a sub­tle — though of­ten com­pletely un­in­ten­tional — form of en­dorse­ment.

Malky, so ev­ery­one tells us, is a good lad at heart and the texts, ac­cord­ing to his rep­re­sen­ta­tives, can be ex­cused by the fact that they “were, with the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, very re­gret­table and dis­re­spect­ful of other cul­tures”.

Yet the lack of out­rage from the wider foot­balling world — aside from Lord Tries­man call­ing for Mackay to be banned from foot­ball for a year — is just as much of a scan­dal.

Per­son­ally, I think there’s a fur­ther dy­namic to this pa­thetic tale of try­ing to ex­cuse or ig­nore yet

He hasn’t mur­dered any­one, says Redknapp

more foot­balling mis­be­haviour. Malky is Bri­tish. Re­mem­ber the storm when that nasty for­eigner Luis Suarez al­legedly used racist lan­guage on the pitch? In­flu­en­tial pun­dits led swift calls for se­vere pun­ish­ment. That kind of lan­guage might be OK in Mon­te­v­ideo, but not here, they cried.

So I was sur­prised not to read more from high pro­file play­ers this time round. This is, af­ter all, an even more clear-cut ex­am­ple of racism.

But this is a “good lad” we’re talk­ing about (a Brit, not a for­eigner), a friend. And so their dis­gust is lev­elled at the suits of the LMA, whose cack­handed “ban­ter” re­sponse makes them look like di­nosaurs.

In an even more as­ton­ish­ing and in­sult­ing state­ment, QPR’s Harry Redknapp said: “He’s not mur­dered any­one, he’s not a rapist or a pae­dophile. He’s made a big mis­take. It hap­pens. He’s a fam­ily man, a foot­ball man. Ob­vi­ously, some­one is af­ter him, ain’t they?’’

And there we have it. A mate is re­vealed to have ex­pressed racist sen­ti­ments and we should ex­cuse and for­give it.

The deaf­en­ing si­lence from fel­low foot­ball pro­fes­sion­als, cou­pled with the ab­surd com­ments from the LMA, Redknapp and oth­ers are only mak­ing a prob­lem deeply en­trenched in so­ci­ety worse.

See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil of friends who re­veal their true selves. It’s why an­ti­semitism is on the rise in Bri­tain and why foot­ball is as far re­moved from re­al­ity as ever. Grant Feller is a me­dia con­sul­tant and direc­tor of GF-Me­dia

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