Listening to radio phone-ins can be quite scary. The BBC's Question Time can be especially scary because you not only see what idiots so many members of the public are, but you also see what a bunch of scary imbeciles we have in Parliament. But QT's for another time.
Last week I heard a phone-in about Sepp Blatter's remarks that footballers who make racist comments to each other in the heat of a game should make up by shaking hands at the end of a game. The shouts for his resignation came over much louder and more vehemently than if he had been found guilty of beating his wife.
The debate was split with those defending him arguing that calling somebody a black bastard was on a par with calling somebody a fat bastard, bald bastard, southern bastard or Yorkshire bastard. You insult somebody in the heat of battle by pointing out something about your 'enemy' that is different. Those attacking Blatter argued that calling somebody a black bastard is nigh on being a member of the BNP. The shouter is evil and wicked and has no place in our civilised society.
The debate took a very strange turn when a man came on and argued that the descrimination laws should be repealed and people should be strong enough to take a bit of 'gobbing off'. Name calling is harmless, so his argument went, and there were laws that had been in place for decades to deal with this kind of thing if it led to assault for example. Of course the presenter coughed and spluttered that if discrimination laws were abolished we were all just sat here waiting to go queer bashing and racially assaulting people. "How do you think gay people, for example, would feel if you had your way?" Asked the presenter. The answer was brilliant: "I'm a gay man and believe the anti-discrimination laws are counter-productive". Priceless.
Another caller then commented that she had been called "a piece of white trash" by a black woman but had just shrugged it off as the words of an ignoramous and asked why a black footballer, for example, couldn't do the same. This led to a very irate, very posh (is that an ism?) woman coming on the phone screaming that it was fine for black people to talk to white people like that because we (white people) hadn't been strung up by mobs in the southern United States and hadn't been sold as slaves by black people.
Well that, to me anyway, took the whole debate onto quite another, very surreal level. By the posh white woman's logic we should still be bombing the crap out of Germany for the last war and Ethiopia should think about bombing the crap out of Italy for invading Abyssinia in 1935. If that clown had her way there would be a constant cycle of retribution that would never end. Is that the sign of a civilised nation?
Personally I stopped calling people fat, bald, ugly or whatever bastards years and years ago. I suppose I grew out of it. I can still insult with the best of them, but I try to be a little more subtle. Having said that I confess to calling a driver an ugly bastard this week, but that was in the privacy of my van, he had just cut me up but could neither hear nor lip read my words. He was ugly too. Does that count? I'm not sure. But by and large I do agree with the old saying that "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me".
While I find a footballer, or anybody else calling somebody a black bastard deeply offensive, I think the best way of dealing with it would be for the other players and the team manager to point out that it is offensive and that he should behave in a more civilised way. Peer pressure is amazingly effective. To react as if that person were about to embark upon a spree of ethnic cleansing, slaughtering millions of ethnic minority people with weapons of mass destruction shows the sad loss of a sense of proportion.