Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Learn Are Language

I like to think I can wander into any pub, buy a pint and not be subjected to abuse or harassment, and generally that's how it's been. Although I've had no adverse reactions - I'm less likely to as I'm white and British - it would be naïve to assume that every individual who goes to a pub is tolerant; I can only assume that most people with illiberal views tend to abide by the unwritten code of pub behaviour because, I expect, they want a good night out, not an argument. However, some bigots feel entitled to abuse pub hospitality.

In May, Paul Grange was thrown out of the Brewers Arms in Worcester for wearing a tee shirt which stated "Hillsborough Gods way of helping Rentokill" [sic]. He had also been seen wearing another even more offensive one that suggested that Liverpool people routinely committed incest with their own children, although less delicately phrased. Judging by the photos, Grange was very pleased with his little 'joke', until he ended up in court and was fined £600. He also lost his job as a consequence of his stupidity.

The week before last, Ted Marshall, licensee of the Cap 'n' Gown in Worcester, overheard a customer approach two of his friends who were having a drink and chatting in Polish, their native language. He said: "You should be talking English; you're in England" before swearing at them (we British are of course noted for our facility with languages all over the world). Ted Marshall gave the man his money back and barred him permanently. He said: "It was blatantly racist. I'm calling on all landlords across the city to do the same; if we all did that it would make a difference." Very true.

Such zero tolerance is not, as is sometimes claimed, a restriction on freedom of speech: if you believe in freedom of speech, you must also believe that people are free to speak in their own language. Furthermore, freedom of speech does not entitle anyone to mock the dead for some twisted 'humorous' purpose. Our rights and freedoms entail responsibilities.

I welcome the actions of these two licensees. While tolerating such acts of bigotry would not be good for business (I'd certainly go elsewhere), I'm sure the primary motive for throwing out the culprits was common decency. In the wake of the EU vote, I fear we are going to hear of many more such incidents. While most people who voted 'out' are definitely not racist, there's no doubt the result has emboldened the bigots.

Other examples of recent racist stupidity:
  • A placard on a racist demo stated: "Respect are language learn English".
  • Since the EU vote, a Gloucestershire pub has displayed a sign saying: "If your not British, your not welcome". Yet again, racists disrespecting our language.
  • On a bus in South Wales, a young woman wearing a niqab was chatting to her son, but not in English. A white male told her: "When you're in the UK, you should really be speaking English." An old lady sitting in front of him commented: "She's in Wales. And she's speaking Welsh."


  1. There can be no freedom of speech without the freedom to offend. In the words of Germaine Greer, "Freedom of speech cannot be maintained in a society where nobody ever says anything subversive or inflammatory."

    1. I wonder how strong ones's commitment to unrestrained "freedom to offend" would be if posters went up in ones's hometown accusing one of some noxious crime?

    2. Jon K (out of Stringers)21 July 2016 at 11:33

      "ones's"? You know what I mean.

    3. Law of libel - complete different issue.

    4. Well, yes, free speech is limited by a whole slew of law, Public Order Act as amended by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act as well as the stuff that falls under the defamation act. So no, not really a completely different issue. Possibly a different bit of legislation. Same principle.

  2. Okay, but that doesn't mean that offending doesn't have consequences, as happened in both the instances I cited. For example:

    In work, we all have the right to call the boss a certifiable idiot to his face. He in turn has the right to sack us.

    We then have the right to challenge that dismissal in a tribunal. If we win, he has the right not to re-employ us.

    Rights entail responsibilities, and exercising them can have consequences. Like it or not, that's how it is.

    I'm not suggesting that we ban subversive or inflammatory speech, but let's not confuse the kind of thing Ms Greer was referring to with the prejudiced rantings of unpleasant and unintelligent bigots.

  3. Fortunately I rarely come across this sort of behaviour, either in pubs or anywhere else for that matter. I am also fortunate to be employed in a workplace with a good mix of people from different and diverse cultures.

    I am therefore pleased that the two licensees you mention gave these unpleasant characters their marching orders, as these sorts of incidents make me angry and ashamed to be British.

    Sometimes though the behaviour of “Brits abroad” is even worse than that of Brits at home. A few years ago, whilst waiting for a connecting flight at Amsterdam airport, en route back from a business trip to Japan, I witnessed the embarrassing behaviour of a group of very “over-refreshed” English holidaymakers. I turned to my French colleague, whom I was travelling with, and said how ashamed I was to be English.

    Fortunately they were on a different flight to us, but what is it which makes people from these islands in particular, act in such an obnoxious way?

  4. Here's some Scouser jokes that I'm sure you'll find side-splitting, Nev ;-)


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