Why arguing logically with anti-Welsh language trolls is probably pointless

Troll. Picture by: Eirik Solheim (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Ifan Morgan Jones

Any Welsh speaker who has been on social media over the past few days will have probably been aware of the tide of vitriol towards the Welsh language.

It was all set off by the Welsh Government’s launch of a strategy to create 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.

The announcement clearly made a lot of people, from newspaper editorial writers, to random Twitter trolls, very unhappy indeed.

Many people’s first instinct was to engage in debate with these people and try to win them over with logical reasons why teaching kids the Welsh language is a good thing.

I love a good logical argument, and have taken the trouble of cataloging pretty much every objection to the Welsh language and replying to them.

And I’ve been told off for doing so. Jason Morgan, among others, has advised me that the best thing to do is tell them to ‘fuck off’.

I wouldn’t use such language personally, but sadly, they’re probably right that it’s futile.

Perhaps our need to argue logically and retain the moral high ground in these arguments is a sign of our post-colonial mindset.

We feel the need to prove to ourselves and others that we’re not barbarous and stupid – in fact we’re more moral and just as clever as them – and therefore deserve to exist.

But the sad reality is that logical argument doesn’t work against people who hate the Welsh language because ultimately the sentiment has nothing to do with the Welsh language.

It’s about nationalism.

Alignment

I try to avoid getting too ‘academic’ on this website, but bear with me.

Nationalist sentiment is the feeling aroused when people are either satisfied that the nation-state and its culture are in alignment, or dissatisfied that it’s not.

So, if you feel that your nation-state and the culture within it – your culture – are ‘at one’, so to speak, you’re satisfied.

But if you feel that there is an ‘alien’ element within your nation-state, the culture of your nation-state has changed to one you don’t recognise, or even that your nation-state has expanded to include alien cultures, your nationalist sentiment is aroused.

We saw this with Brexit. It ultimately happened because:

  • People felt that the culture of their own nation-state was becoming alien to them, because of immigration.
  • People felt that their nation-state was being replaced by another nation-state (the EU) which didn’t align with their own, British culture.

Hate towards the Welsh language is driven by the same factors. It reminds British nationalists that the nation state and its culture aren’t in alignment.

That the British nation-state is actually a complex thing with many different cultures within it.

The natural reaction to the feeling of displeasure aroused when one’s nation-state and culture aren’t in alignment is to attempt to bring them into alignment.

However, people are very bad at ‘seeing’ their own nationalism. British nationalists never call themselves nationalists.

They can’t explain why the Welsh language bothers them. It just does! Therefore, they try to concoct ‘rational’ arguments against the language as cover.

So ultimately, engaging in ‘logical’ arguments about Welsh language probably won’t do much good as the root cause behind the objections has nothing to do with them – it’s British nationalism.

It would be great if we could remove the language from its national context and weight up its pros and cons from a purely objective standpoint. But ultimately, we can’t.

So, is arguing logically completely pointless? Well, yes and no.

You’ll probably never convince the die-hard British nationalist that the Welsh language is a good thing.

But there are a lot of people in Wales whose identity is in flux, who see themselves as Welsh and British.

They’re not the people who get into arguments. But they do eavesdrop on these arguments.

And perhaps arguing logically and politely can shift the scales of opinion one way or another.

I’ll keep tellking myself that!

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Jac o' the North
Guest

Having admitted that rational arguments are wasted on BritNat bigots you still try to justify this approach with your imaginary ‘eavesdroppers’. Believe me, ‘Fuck off!’ remains the best response.

First, because it’s short and sweet, and avoids the time, trouble and angst of trying to win over the unwinnable over. Second, it might work just as well with uncommitted ‘eavesdroppers’, especially those looking for something more than left-liberal ‘Why don’t you like us?’ hand-wringing.

carey
Guest
carey

Well observed and said

Ben
Guest
Ben

Difficult to disagree. I’ve had hundreds of pointless conversations with these people. Yesterday I engaged with a GP who thought that the language was a nuisance and it would all be better if I were spoke the same language, then said we should teach more French and German. She then said she could speak German, but answered me in English. That’s right, a highly educated GP. This I think proves Ifan’s point. Logical argument doesn’t work. If it did I’d expect it to work with a medical doctor, but it didn’t because her arguments were a cover for her own… Read more »

flofflach
Guest
flofflach

There was also that article in the Guardian in the last couple of weeks, which probably set the scene for argument against the Welsh Government’s launch of a strategy to create 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.
From the reaction of one person, who apologised on Twitter after reading all the positive comments to his negative, I think there are some people in England who really believe that Cymraeg is dead and an academic exercise, so….logical, polite arguments can have an effect. polite

Jac o' the North
Guest

What happened to my comment?

mei
Admin
mei

The comments engine seems to think all your submissions are spam. I have to manually approve them, so it takes time for them to appear.

Apologies for this, I’m looking into a fix.

desdelguinardo
Guest
desdelguinardo

The comments engine may be on to something tbf

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

I struggle to disagree with most of what you said, but (and this is a big but) yesterday you wrote a very inaccurate and misleading (all be it emotive) piece on this site where you said that The Times wanted the Welsh language ‘dead.’

Were your actions yesterday not ‘toll’ like in any way?

This is a genuine question for debate, rather than a poke in the eye btw.

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

Bearing in mind, that often a lot of noise is often created from a small number of people, many of whom love to hook someone into trying to debate with them and probably laughing their way off their chairs, while they read the responses. The key must be in creating the volume of positive noises about the things that matter, really positive noises where and whenever and not focus on the responses to the trolls. Don’t just counter their nonsense or try to disprove their assertions, but post something completely different to whatever they happen to post and by ignoring… Read more »

David
Guest
David

My family moved to wales during the 80’s I was just at the age to start school, hence I have never experienced the English education system. Wales in the 80’s was quite different, in a primary school of around 80 children I and my older sister were the only English ones. It wasn’t until later life that I discovered, teachers referring to a child as Saes and Bloody Saes was a disgraceful way to refer to a human being let alone a vulnerable child. This, it became clear was just the tip of the iceberg on wales petty hatred of… Read more »

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

Yeah right. I don’t believe a word of what you’ve just written. I’ve heard too many such sob stories from ‘white settler’ types, accusations of anti English activities on the part of local councils, preferential treatment for Welsh speakers etc. All the stock comments of the colonial Sais domiciled in Wales. I regard such claims as about as reliable as claims from English people who complain about people in pubs and shops changing from speaking English to speaking Welsh when some English tourist, or white settler enters – but they usually mess up by claiming that this behaviour was witnessed… Read more »

David
Guest
David

I wish it were untrue but unfortunately I’m not that creative. As a Welsh speaker I’m aware that the old tales of changing to Welsh and talking behind people’s backs are not true. But to be honest I’ve never heard anyone say that, there is actually very little in what I wrote that I can’t prove, in fact if I ran this buy I few people I could probably triple the length of that list. It’s in the past now so all you’ve done is confirmed my belief that it’s not intentional, it’s just part of daily life. People just… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

Ridiculous comment David. Shame on you.

Jakki Hurst
Guest
Jakki Hurst

People’s personal experiences ought to be listened to carefully, if we are to improve life for everyone. David’s comments were not ridiculous.

Garry
Guest
Garry

I left my Welsh home at 16 to join the Royal Air Force, oblivious to any of this and I certainly had friends who’d moved from England as a boy. We never poked any fun at them that was any different in nature to me being called ‘four-eyes’. Things changed when I joined the RAF. I received endless ridicule from the English, especially those from the big cities, for the first five or so years until I was thick skinned enough to not even notice it. I made some close friends from Scotland and Cornwall who are still good friends… Read more »

Tal Mac
Guest
Tal Mac

There are some strange instances in your post, but if some of what you say is true, then clearly it’s wrong. I suggest you read up on some psychology of colonised people’s to even start to comprehend the affect it’s had on Welsh speakers in particular. Start with Ireland. I felt sorry for you, until you implied that Welsh speakers do not travel the world and have amazing jobs. I think, as a Welsh speaker, Thomas Jefferson might have disagreed with you. I’ve travelled the world, and my language has only enhanced people’s interest – in fact, detached from anglo… Read more »

Martha Farquahar
Guest

The description of the rugby supporters is disingenuous and presumptuous. The antipathy towards the English teams in rugby and/or football* is brought about by the vast pro-English bias in the sporting media of the UK. There have been instances (even when England has been knocked out of a tournament altogether and Wales are still in it) when the half-time interlude of a Wales match has been used to discuss England’s performance. There have been TV adverts which just plain presume we will support England- we are Wales, we will support who we like. If we choose not to support England… Read more »

D Humphreys
Guest
D Humphreys

It is interesting. It was not laizzes-faire that created this problem, but a statist force that wiped Welsh out, allowing English immigrants complaints to result in a law in the 1870s to wipe out Welsh by deleting it from the education system. Since then, as the generations were forced to learn English as monoglots the generational attitudes looked down on Welsh. To this day it is those reinforced Victorian attitudes towardsWelsh passed down the generations that keeps this mentality preserved. You form opinions based on your experience and peer / parental pressure. So those today who are English/Welsh, but have… Read more »

Sharon Reichter
Guest
Sharon Reichter

I don’t think anyone objects to the language itself – it’s the amount of money that is spent on it. All over Wales public toilets are being closed, our local beach has a ramp which has broken up over the winter and is dangerous. It has not been removed and should be replaced, but ‘there is no money’. It is a very necessary ramp because the pebble bank is almost impossible to get down to reach the sand for children or the elderly. Parts of Wales such as this draw many people from other places, particularly from the Midlands and… Read more »

Tal Mac
Guest
Tal Mac

Mother of belluah – tourism seems to be the only strategy the welsh gov have.
There are thousands of things I think are a waste of money, but still contribute. Billions to the DUP, wars, millionaire bankers ruining lives, hs2, and yes the one that grates the most – english ballet. It’s called reparations – past actions have repercussions.

Mairead Kerwin
Guest
Mairead Kerwin

Perhaps treating Wales as the Country that it is rather than an English County might help. A country taken over because of bitter battles will never win the hearts of the victims so peace will never be long lasting. And treating Cornwall the same rather than diluting the culture by changing the borders and encouraging English retired people to move there thus taking up all the lucrative and scenic properties to live in so making it more expensive for the Cornish children to grow up and provide homes for their families. Forced emigration is never easy. There are good and… Read more »

GeorgeM
Guest
GeorgeM

Perhaps you had no luck with “try to win them over with logical reasons why teaching kids the Welsh language is a good thing” because you are wrong rather than these people just hating the Welsh language. I don’t hate the Welsh language and I think you’re wrong.

Dai Ap Edwards
Guest
Dai Ap Edwards

The issue that most English speaking Welsh people have is the amount of money being spent promoting the language and the fact it is seemingly forced on those that don’t speak it. There are public sector jobs that obviously don’t need a fluent Welsh speaker that have it listed as essential. Also, in regards to our education system that’s a laughing stock in Europe, sorry, Britain, let’s get our house in order before ploughing money into Welsh Medium Schools. They already receive sometimes double the amount per child compared to struggling English Medium schools. The language is already compulsory so… Read more »

Tal Mac
Guest
Tal Mac

You might have had something interesting to say if you weren’t trying to caricature us with your cynical name

Jakki Hurst
Guest
Jakki Hurst

One way of promoting Cymraeg to English people that I never see is to start with English people who love English for reasons other than the utilitarian. People who love English poetry and literature for the pleasure of the experience are more likely to understand love of another language including Cymraeg. Surely that approach would help to reach at least some influential writers, even at The Times.

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

This week on the BBC there was a HYS on the language and WG employees. I watched this one and didn’t join in the fun, but in the end there were 377 comments. 90% seemed to be from abiut six or seven pseudonyms. How many of those were Jaques Protic I have no idea. The anti Welsh language brigade convinced themselves, by the end that the whole of Wales was on their side, because they had all thr up arrows. Its a small group of people, who are devoting a lot of time on an obsession. They seem to livd… Read more »

'ö-Dzin Tridral
Guest

I don’t hold out much hope of convincing the most bigoted, but some people can change their opinion – in one direction or the other. . If all anyone ever sees is unopposed bigotry they can come to think it is true, so the occasional response might be useful. One thing I would like to know (but I doubt I ever will) is what motivates someone to present their ignorance? What’s their motivation? Do they believe what they say, or is pure trollspeak?

McEnglish
Guest
McEnglish

The Welsh language is being rammed down our throats. You have a compiled a list countering every arguement against the Welsh language but the reason for my personal dislike is because of people like yourself. Compiling such a list seems a little desperate and the pro Welsh speaking minority of our country seems to want to shove it in the faces of those who couldn’t care less at every opportunity. I was born in Wales, was taught Welsh in school but have no interest at all in learning the language beyond the basics. There is no need to do so,… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

Trollspeak.