Indy journos send coded messages to Rod Liddle


9:58 am - January 25th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Independent today has a wonderfully nice article on the Victoria era nurse Mary Seacole. It reports that the memorial to Crimea’s black nurse is in danger.

There’s no particular news hook to the story other than…

Now, five years down the line, the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal is still struggling for money. The fundraising total is £50,000, a long way short of the estimated £400,000 it will cost to complete the project.

The article adds:

Beloved by the soldiers, who called her “Mother Seacole”, her reputation soon rivalled that of Florence Nightingale, who worked in a hospital several miles behind the front line. After the war ended, she Seacole was awarded four medals including the Crimean Medal and the Légion d’Honneur, in recognition of her courage.

When she returned to London bankrupt and ill, a charity gala was held for her over four nights attended by more than 80,000 people. In 1857, she published her memoirs, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, an instant bestseller. She died in 1881 at 76, and was buried in Kensal Green in north-west London.

Over the years, her memory faded from public view, and her grave was neglected until 1973; it is now restored. The Crimean War Memorial, erected in central London in 1915, included a statue of Florence Nightingale but not one of Seacole. To this day, there is not a single statue dedicated to a named black woman anywhere in the UK.

You might think, ‘well that’s a nice story‘….

But those fond of reading between the lines may also know that Mary Seacole is a particular obsession of Rod Liddle, and not in a good way either.

When he started blogging at the Spectator Rod Liddle was infuriated that she was given so much attention, saying:

For the educationalists, Mary Seacole was one of the two most important figures of the century, solely and utterly because she was black.

Political correctness gone mad innit? What did Mary Seacole actually do??!??!?

He kept coming back to the topic of Mary Seacole, later writing a whole blog posts titled:

Changing your name to Seacole will eradicate your inner racist.

And there have been numerous other times too.

In light of his candidacy for editorship of the Independent, one cannot help thinking his own journalists are trying to send him a message.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Is it a good idea to piss off your soon-to-be-boss? Sounds like a career-limiting move if ever I heard one.

I hope the Indie’s last roll of the dice pays off, because it does not deserve to survive as it is *right now*.

Spot on Martin, defend a vile racist idiot who trots out sub-Daily Mail PC gone mad horse shit.

3. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO and Bar, Buffet, Dancing 'til late

He’s just doing his job, which is to live under a bridge and eat billy goats gruff.

As such, it matters not that he’s a tedious one-note contrarian. Hey! That must be why he likes Liddle so much!

http://instantrimshot.com/

Thank you, and goodnight!

It’s this stuff, not just the moronic monkey Millwall posts, that show this idiot has been promoted way past his abilities. When you make Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Desmond look good, it is time to hang up your keyboard.

All I am saying is, Liddle will soon have control of the UK’s most moribund leftie rag.

Surely these journalists need to be a little cleverer in managing their career trajectories?

All I am saying is, Liddle will soon have control of the UK’s most moribund leftie rag.

No, he won’t. You’re just saying that in the hope that a LibCon contributor’s head will explode.

BenSix,

Can that happen if we say outrageous enough things. If so, is there a targetting method or is it random contributors?

Otherwise, might this not reflect the interests of Independent journalists (who could support the statue or be personally agrieved about the lack of named black women on pedastals). Either way, this is hardly coded if you think Mr Liddle would actually care about this in an editorial function – it is clearly out in the open.

Daniel,

Is there any chance of debating issues today, or are we on a troll hunt? If so, can I suggest Hammersmith Bridge. I can imagine finding a band of paid Tory trollers in a secret bunker under there.

Although imagine how surprised I would be if you did…

Blah troll, blah troll blah! Come on boys and girls lets get back to the topic.

This was one of Sunny’s better ‘Liddlewatch’ threads spotting the possible implications in the timing of the article.

I’ve seen Rod Liddle’s stuff in the Spectator about Mary Seacole and whilst they are rude it would be wrong to think they are racist. Liddle doesn’t detract from Mary Seacole’s achievements, he makes a fuss over the ‘rediscovery’ of Mary Seacole and her recent elevation in the nationional curriculum above Florence Nightingale. I think this could be likened to commenting on the teaching of WWII British history in schools if kids were to be taught that it was Clement Attlee who led Britain to victory not Winston Churchill.

He is commenting on how the teaching of multiculturalism has progressed in recent years. It’s about as racist as watching BBC’s Robin Hood and saying “Are you having a laugh? Friar Tuck wasn’t black!”.

Daniel,

It would appear, that for you, all roads lead to Rome. “They are all wrong (+racist) whereas I am correct and fully justified in insulting them”.

If it hadn’t become obvious to you by now I have been saying that it is so much easier to shout racist than to actually prove it. The people I have commented about here on LibCon, Rod Liddle and Rush Limbaugh, come in for a lot of flack for things they say and for talking about the attitudes they dislike; but to call them racists as you do is nothing other than the lazy response of a person too frightened to consider what they are talking about. And so is the “I won’t validate their position by engaging with it” stance.

#9 I don’t quite get your point about Friar Tuck. Are you saying that only white actors should play historical (or semi-historical) figures who were white?

If so, do you object to the standard Western portrayal of Jesus as white, on the same basis? Would you argue with all the great painters of the past who have depicted Jesus that way?

tim F,

Look at it the other way, might it not appear a bit inconsistant if a white actor was cast to play Othello? Might it look a bit strange if Henry VIII were to be played by Chau Yun Fat? If plays are set within a particular period draw upon the type of people who could bear a resemblance to the physical attributes of the character. It’s about making a more credible portrayal of a character.

One could also ask would Dawn French be best suited to play Queen Elizabeth I (a thin pasty faced ginger woman), Woody Allen playing Spartacus (muscular athletic type), Matt Lucas to play James Bond?

As far as the portrayal of Jesus is concerned you highlight the history of artists creating their works in the image of their benefactor in order to flatter not to be realistic. Something one would have to do when the benefactor was all powerful.

Conversely one could make an argument that Michaelangello’s David would have been better endowed had the male benefactor’s vanity not been at stake.

As the majority of dramas are contemporary the issue of race within casting is not an issue whereas the credibility of a performance is.

#13

I suppose it all depends on how important you think skin colour is. There are always going to be some physical differences between actors and the historical characters they play. (Although where, in Robin Hood, the characters are semi-legendary, it’s perhaps less of an issue.) Like you say, the credibility of the performance is the important thing. I’m just not as sure as you that skin colour necessarily affects the credibility of the performance.

The BBC’s adaption of Robin Hood (as with other programmes like Merlin which have come in for stick amongst “PC Gone Mad” types) makes no attempt whatsoever to be historically accurate, yet whilst such people do not bat an eyelid when they see the characters running around in hoodies or using ridiculous pieces of modern technology (or, as in Merlin’s case, fighting all manner of mythical creatures), as soon as a non-white face appears on screen they become apoplectic. Ridiculous. Also this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colour-blind_casting

Baphomet,

You overstate your point by using the word apoplectic – used to imply an irrational or unpleasant reaction to seeing non-white actors playing traditionally white roles.

The issue is that for a character to be credible it is important for the viewer not to notice whether there is something that doesn’t quite match up. A black person in a drama set in the middle ages is such a case.

The fact that most black and asian people came to Britain within the last 60 years means that their arrival is within living history, it is certainly easy to contrast multi cultural now with footage of white Britain which is trotted out on the TV in all sorts of history programmes.

For me it is a bit like thinking that a Robin Hood cast by the BBC sounds the part – more so than the American accent of Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.

Look at it the other way, might it not appear a bit inconsistant if a white actor was cast to play Othello?

With or without make-up?

Seriously, although Othello is the titular Moor of Venice in Shakespeare’s play, the presumption that the character is black is a matter of mere convention. Historically, the Moors of North Africa and Southern Spain were just as likely to be Arabs. Moor was just a generic term for the Muslim population of the region, so an olive-skinned Othello would be entirely consistent with the historical milieu of the play.

Okay, so the old practice white actors blacking-up to play the role has pretty much gone by the wayside, but then a big part of what made Shakespeare such a great playwright is the universality of many of his stories, which can easily be shifted to different locations, cultures and historical periods without losing any impact.

The scope for creative adaptations is the Bard’s work is enormous. For example, when Patrick Stewart last played Othello, he bypassed the race issue entirely by working as the only white actor/character in an otherwise all black cast.

There is marked difference in dealing with some historical figures as opposed to fictional characters. Chow Yun Fat as Henry VIII sounds odd because, in the main, of the powerful image of Henry that we have from Holbein’s portrait.

Transposing King Lear to Japanese Shogunate, on the other hand, works perfectly well and Ran is one Kurosawa’s greatest films.

Even some of Shakespeare’s histories can be played with – try Ian McKellen’s 1995 film adaptation of Richard Eyre’s production of Richard III, which moves the story to a fictional 1930’s England in which Richard is played out as fascist dictator. It works…

The issue is that for a character to be credible it is important for the viewer not to notice whether there is something that doesn’t quite match up. A black person in a drama set in the middle ages is such a case.

Is it?

The historical evidence indicates that Britain had a small black population as early as the 12th century, although the cosmopolitan nature of the Roman empire means that its likely that black people would have been seen in Britain as early as the 1st and 2nd century AD.

The black population of London was also large enough, during the 17th and 18th century, that its been estimated that anyone who can trace their family back to London and that particular period may have as much as a 1 in 4 chance of finding that they have a black ancestor.

Oh, and on the Robin Hood thing, even if you take the idea of a black Friar Tuck as being a bit incongruous, the fact remains that David Harewood’s ass-kicking take on Tuck is probably a lot closer to the reality of the times than the supposedly traditional indolent comedy fat boy of popular myth.

Many clerics of the period would have joined the crusades and learned to fight either as matter of survival or by association with a martial order such as the Templars or Hospitaliers.

This blog is more obsessed with rod liddle than he is with Mary seacole.

the cosmopolitan nature of the Roman empire means that its likely that black people would have been seen in Britain as early as the 1st and 2nd century AD.

Including, probably/possibly/maybe Emperor Septimius Severus, who definitely died in York, and, being born in Libya, may well have been black too. His statues seem to suggest it.

With the Robin Hood thing, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s thoroughly, impossibly unhistorical. Sub Saharan Africans in the 12th century were a) not Christians, b) not in Europe and c) not experts in Brazilian martial arts. The ‘black’ populations that historians do dwell on would have tended to be North African (and Muslim…) – even the Portuguese weren’t sailing down the West Coast of Africa until the 15th century. Add to that the fact that friars (and monks) were overwhelmingly from the educated upper and middle classes and you’re getting close to a perfect storm of historical wrongness.

But then, the people who complain about this are rather selective in their historical niceties. Because the character of Friar Tuck is itself basically an anachronism. Not only is he always depicted in brown robes when, as any fule kno, the only existing order of Friars in 1199 (the death of Richard that everyone seems to use as their ‘Robin Hood era’) were the Carmelites – who not only were a contemplative order (and thus not prone to bashing people on the head with sticks) but were also known as the ‘White Friars’ because they wore a white surplice. But also: there is no evidence that there were any Friars at all in England before about 1220. Incidentally, Dominicans were known as Blackfriars (as in station), and Franciscans were known as Greyfriars (as in Bobby…).

God, I haven’t thought about any of that since finals.

Unity,

Wow, Ran is one of my favorite films.

Although there may have been black people in Britain since the Romans the chances of finding a David Harewood lookalike wandering around Sherwood Forest is unlikely in the extreme.

A drama about the Crusades really would be an appropriate place for the casting of black actors to depict the truly multi-cultural period of our history where armies from europe, africa and asia fought in the conflicts and settled abroad.

Yes, the ‘roly-poly’ Fruck we grew up on was daft and unlikely as well.


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  11. Liberal Conspiracy » Help us raise money for an ad against Rod Liddle!

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