Benjiman L. Angwin
If I were to use an offensive ethnic slur about a minority group on the BBC’s Have Your Say forum, such as the ‘n-word’ to describe a black person, my comment would quite rightly be binned.
However, if I were to write the words ‘the Welshman sleeping with his sheep again, aye?’, this would not be removed by the BBC.
These are both slurs that have the same intention and effect. Their purpose is to instil a sense of inferiority within the mind of the minority group being attacked.
This goes far beyond the stale ‘sheepshagger’ jokes (something which Welsh people need to stand as firmly against as black people do against the ‘n-word’).
During articles about the controversy over introducing bilingual education in Llangennech, as well as the government’s plan to reach 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, the BBC invited readers to ‘have their say’.
The tide of bile that filled the comments was sadly predictable – but the BBC did nothing to stop it.
One after another, posts that contained racism towards the Welsh and hatred towards the Welsh language were given a home on one of the world’s most visited news site.
Reading these comments, you would quickly have come to the conclusion that Welsh is both:
- a dying, barbaric language spoken by baboons.
- the secret language of a mysterious, Welsh-speaking elite that secretly run the country and want to brainwash our children.
Despite the clearly contradictory nature of these claims, if you’re black, Muslim or Jewish you’re going to recognise some very familiar tropes here.
Just look at a few of the comments OK’d by the BBC’s moderators:
“What’s happening in Wales today is a blatant form of Social Engineering on par with the dark periods of European history!”
I.e. those arguing for bilingual education are Nazis. On the BBC news website, the Welsh Government is being compared to those who planned the Holocaust.
“Where is the mandate to effectively destroy our children including their future for the sake of a language and its culture irrelevant to most?”
“So many of my old welsh school childhood friends cant read or write English & there entire life has been destroyed because the government is trying to keep a dead language alive for some stupid reason!”
I.e. the Welsh-language is so backwards and barbaric that learning it will quite literally give students some kind of brain damage which makes them illiterate.
The truth is, of course, the exact opposite. And when they’re not providing a platform for those that traduce the Welsh-language, the BBC and Guardian regularly publish articles about the benefits of bilingualism.
One of the more moderate attacks found on BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ was that the language ‘has no use outside of Wales and we should be concentrating on other subjects’.
‘Welsh should be last on the list,’ this commentator said. ‘I would rather my children spoke Spanish, French or Manderin’.
I believe she meant Mandarin. But I agree that children in Wales should be taught these languages. Trilingualism is better than bilingualism.
But it also ignores the fact that in Wales the Welsh language is a living language, and an individual can immerse him or herself in it in a way that would be difficult with Mandarin.
But her point of view represents a particularly British, ‘liberal’ view of languages: That they’re just means of communication and, as such, we’d all be better off speaking the same one.
Roger Scruton, the conservative English philosopher, said: ‘We appreciate beautiful things not for their utility only, but also for what they are in themselves’.
He explains that beauty is a form of knowledge. Traditional architecture finds use century after century because its beauty attracts people to find a use for it.
The Pantheon remains standing while the utilitarian concrete of Cold War era buildings is already being demolished.
Attacks upon Welsh culture are attacks upon a form of knowledge entirely unique to our nation, one whose value (like every culture) is not only in its use but its beauty.
Non-utilitarian beauty enriches our lives. We find a use for beautiful buildings in infinitely varying forms whilst the utilitarian concrete of Cold War era buildings is already crumbling away.
As Kenneth Hale said: “When you lose a language, you lose a culture, intellectual wealth, a work of art. It’s like dropping a bomb on a museum, the Louvre.”
Anti-Welsh bigotry will not go away as the Welsh government enacts plans to increase the number of Welsh speakers.
But it must be seen for what it is: An extreme minority making a lot of noise through a number of different online accounts.
The vast majority of people in Wales agree that the Welsh language is a good thing and should be preserved.
By publishing reams of anti-Welsh hate the BBC is effectively allowing itself to be hijacked by a few noisy individuals.
The BBC has a responsibility not to amplify such hatred beyond its actual limited scope.
It would not allow itself to be used in such a way for antisemitic comments, or hate targeted at any other minority ethnic group.
I grew up in the American South before I learned Cymraeg, and saw first hand the aftermath of what happens when you allow hatred a forum to attack an entire cultural group.
The anti-desegregation movement coalesced around rockabilly music in the 50s and 60s, with songs such as ‘move them n*****s north’, inspiring violence and murder of innocent people when such songs were broadcast on popular radio stations.
Giving platforms to hatred has left scars upon southeast Texas and Louisiana, from which we have yet to recover.
Wales has a chance to avoid creating scars as deep, as we rejuvenate Cymraeg and the Welsh culture.
And the BBC has a responsibility to cease condoning hatred and hostility towards the promotion of Welsh in its HYS commentary feeds.