Racism and the tabloids

The hypocrisy of Question Time outrage

If you thought tabloid outrage over Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time was hypocritical, you weren't alone. Anton Vowl at The Enemies of Reason blog has produced a very thorough picture essay on the subject, which we repost here in full.

NB: "Today" below refers to Friday 23 October, as that's when Anton made the original post.

Today's tabloids express mock outrage at the appearance of N*ck Gr*ff*n on the BBC Question Time programme. But they have short memories.

Here's today's Star:

1

Hang on, though. Isn't that the same newspaper that did this?

2

And this?

3

The Express, meanwhile, is also clutching its pearl necklace, claiming that the party is going to get taxpayer-funded broadcasts at the next election. Not a big lead on Griffin, because there's apparently another twist in the Diana saga (and as ever the stock image of her wearing a seat belt, which would have saved her life in the crash, nutjob neenaw whoop-whoop conspiracy or no conspiracy).

4

But it's got those because it's gained votes. I wonder why? I wonder which newspapers are read by BNP supporters? Maybe ones that say stuff like this

5

Or this?

6

Or even this?

7

And not forgetting the all-time classic:

8

Not some. Not five hundred. Not even a thousand. Not half. Not three-quarters. No. ALL. IN BIG RED LETTERS SO YOU'RE MADE CLEARLY AWARE THAT IT'S ALL.

Hey, and please let's not forget this:

9

I almost didn't include this!

10

Which is almost the same as this!

11

But no. The Express doesn't like the BNP. They just happen to share entirely the same views on immigration, but Griffin is bad, because . . . well. I haven't quite worked out why he's bad. Maybe he doesn't hate Muslims enough for their tastes?

The Mail have also had a bash, but as ever they're more concerned with attacking their nemesis the BBC than they are about hand-wringing over Griffin:

12

Having said which, I still think

13

it's worth making the point

14

that the Mail doesn't always steer so far away

15

from using content

16

which the BNP and "bigot" N*ck Gr*ff*n

17

might completely agree with

18

and it's not long

19

before you might start thinking to yourself

20

are they really protesting a bit too much? And what's the difference, really, between the BNP bigots and the supposedly mainstream newspaper which claims to distance itself from them so much?

21

And you have to start thinking: do these newspapers which select certain types of images of ethnic minorities and use them again and again

22

really have such different views or agendas from the likes of the BNP?

It's all very well people blaming Labour, or the BBC, or whoever, for the "rise" of the BNP. But if there has been a significant increase in BNP support -- and it hasn't translated into votes yet, despite a severe recession and growing unemployment -- perhaps that might have more to do with the legitimisation and absorption of their extreme views by newspapers creating scare story after scare story concerning race and immigration, often baseless stories created simply to scare? It's one thing going to a BNP meeting but it's quite another to hear exactly the same thing over the breakfast table from a publication which purports to report the facts.

But no. It's all the BBC's fault. Let's blame them.

 

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Prime Images
Show Hide image

The Sad Part Was: this story collection puts the real Bangkok on display

Thai author Prabda Yoon descends into the voices and minds of a small cast of characters.

In Bangkok’s budding literary scene, Prabda Yoon sits at the centre. Born in 1973, he’s the scion of a well-known family (his father Suthichai Sae-Yoon is the co-founder of the Nation newspaper) and is known in Thailand as not only an enfant terrible of letters but as an illustrator, screen-writer and director (his first film, Motel Mist, was shown at European festivals in 2016).

His reputation rests mainly on a collection of short stories published in 2000 entitled in Thai Kwam Na Ja Pen, roughly translated as Probability, and it is from this early collection that most of the stories now collected in The Sad Part Was are derived. Translated with cool elegance by Mui Poopoksakul, they are among the first modern Thai stories to be published in the UK.

As Poopoksakul points out in her afterword, she and Yoon are the products of similar backgrounds and epochs: upper-middle class children of Bangkok who came to consciousness in the late Eighties and Nineties. Often foreign-educated, fluent in English and conversant in global pop culture and media – Yoon did a stint at Parsons in New York after prep school at the Cambridge School of Weston – this new generation of Thai writers and artists were born into a society changing so fast that they had to virtually invent a new language to transcribe it.

In The Sad Part Was, the result is stories that one could glibly label as “post-modern” but which, in reality, perfectly match the qualities of the megacity where they are set. Bangkok is infamously mired in lurid contradiction, but it’s also a city of subtle and distorted moods that journalism and film have hitherto mostly failed to capture. The whimsical and playful surfaces of these stories have to be read against the high-octane anxieties and surreal dislocations of what was, until recently, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.

Yoon uses the short form of the ten-page story to descend into the voices and minds of a small cast of characters: a schoolgirl and a beautiful female teacher who form a platonic lesbian infatuation while riding a daily bus in “Miss Space”; a couple making love during a thunderstorm whose activities are interrupted by the dismantling of two giant letters, which fall onto their roof in “Something in the Air”; a young man who meets a mysterious older man in Lumpini Park called Ei Ploang, who forces him to consider the intertwined nature of good and evil. In “Snow for Mother”, a mother waits for her little boy to grow up so that she can take him to Alaska to experience the real snow, which he never knew as a little boy in the tropics.

In “The Sharp Sleeper”, a man named Natee obsesses over losing his shirt buttons and is led into a strange reverie on the nature of dreams and the competing qualities of red and yellow pyjama shirts (Thailand’s political culture is riven by two parties popularly known as Red and Yellow Shirts). The commentary slips into effortless sarcasm:

Natee has proudly worn the red pyjama shirt several times since then, and his dream personality hasn’t altered at all. On the contrary, the shirt has encouraged him to become a man of conviction in his waking life. As to what those convictions were supposed to be, Natee wasn’t quite sure. But it was safe to say that a night shirt so principled wouldn’t drop a button so easily.

Since these stories were written, Bangkok’s political schizophrenia has lost its former air of apathy and innocence, but Yoon’s tone is quietly prescient about the eruption of violent irrationality a few years later. It’s a reminder how precious the subtlety of fiction is when set against the shrill certitudes of activism and reportage.

My favorite story here is “Something in the Air”. Its dialogues are written with hilariously archaic, bureaucratic formality, while delving into the disorientation of sexual and romantic hopes in the present century. After the couple’s love-making is interrupted, the young man suggests insolently to the woman that they resume in the open air, exposed to the furious elements. She agrees. They then notice that a dead body is lying on the roof nearby, crushed by the giant letters.

While waiting for the police to arrive, the woman sits quietly and describes her future, a happily married future in which her current lover will play no part whatsoever. He listens in melancholy astonishment until the couple are called to give their testimonies about the dead man. The officers then suspect that the couple themselves have done something scandalous – and so, stung by shame, the woman considers breaking off the relationship and setting in motion her own prophesy.

The Sad Part Was is unique in the contemporary literature of Bangkok – it doesn’t feature bar girls, white men, gangsters or scenes redolent of The Hangover Part II. Instead it reveals, sotto voce, the Thai voices that are swept up in their own city’s wild confusion and energy, and it does so obliquely, by a technique of partial revelation always susceptible to tenderness.

Lawrence Osborne is a British novelist living in Bangkok. His next book, “Beautiful Animals”, will be published by Hogarth in August

The Sad Part Was
Prabda Yoon
Tilted Axis Press, 192pp, £8.99

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder