Observational comedians used to love the phrase ‘political correctness gone mad’. It was a shorthand for saying something slightly nostalgic about when people were racist and sexist. (There is a good Stewart Lee routine bit about how the phrase is appropriated to describe all kind of things that have nothing to do with political correctness.)
There was an overwhelming vacuum of people saying it was political correctness gone mad around the news story that the England football manager had used the word monkey in an analogy that included a black footballer. There was no racist overture to what was meant at all. However because there has been racism in the past that has used the word monkey it became quite the little media story.
[This is a small interruption to point out that most of my smug posturing about how idiotic the idea of the concept of Hodgson being read as a racist ignores the fact that I will later admit that I had to google what the whole ‘space monkey’ joke was sourced from and that I would immediately think that it was racist if I saw a middle-aged man refer to a young black man analogously as a monkey; but I am aware of the context and have looked it up so I’ll carry on being smug.]
It had certainly grabbed hold of the nation’s attention. There were journalists writing columns about it, journalists blogging about it, journalists tweeting about it, journalists talking on television about it and journalists talking on the radio about it. Every facet of British society covered there.
Stewart Lee’s routine pointed out the phrase political correctness has gone mad is used ridiculously inaccurately by most. And the media magnification of something that meant nothing offensive whatsoever was the main reason there was any link between Hodgson talking about a monkey and people thinking it was racist.
Much like the Coronation Street storyline earlier in the year where someone was asked to ‘play the white man’ the main by-product of this for me was finding out was some phrase from the olden days meant. I was raised in a time where jokes about astronauts were somewhat limited as the space programme ground to a halt as mankind gave up on getting anywhere further than a small rock orbiting our planet.
Not all the journalists were looking to vilify Hodgson, most were defending him – which is a bit like the angry mob turning on itself and drowning itself for being a witch. Other journalists were looking at the different angles – who had gone to the papers with the story? England had been qualified for the World Cup finals for about a day before people were already looking for a story to get the manager sacked/create rifts in the squad.
You have to worry for Hodgson, one can almost see him becoming a caricature of inoffensiveness in the coming months. Never saying anything about light or dark, certainly not white or black, best not to be involved in national pride – this is easier than you think as the manager of the England football team (boom boom!) , he can’t go near anything that could be suggestive of racism to anyone. Which presents quite a problem as people were/are pretty fucking racist and most words are in danger of being linked to some horrible person being racist.
He’s best just not saying anything really.