Why we should give Rod Liddle and the Sunday Times both barrels
Ifan Morgan Jones
Since Rod Liddle’s anti-Welsh diatribe was published yesterday I’ve been advised by many fellow Welshmen and women that the best strategy would be to ignore the whole thing.
Giving a professional troll the oxygen of publicity by publicising his rant is just to give him what he wants, they say.
I usually agree that this is the best strategy when dealing with anti-Welsh trolls. Far too often we draw attention to comments that would otherwise have been seen by about five people.
In this case, however, it’s different. The Sunday Times is one of Britain’s best-selling newspapers and the editor has decided to print Rod Liddle’s words.
They need to understand that this isn’t acceptable. As many have pointed out, if the Welsh were replaced by any other minority group Rod Liddle’s column would have been spiked.
The reason for that is when something like this is written about any other minority group, they make the media’s life uncomfortable to the point where they think twice before doing it again.
Rod Liddle has righty published a number of recent articles attacking antisemitism in the Labour party.
I am not, of course, comparing the historic persecution of Jews with the Welsh – at all. But it shows that if a minority group will make its voice heard it can change attitudes. Even professional provocateurs can see things from their point of view.
The Sunday Times is behind a paywall and so ‘clickbait’ isn’t of much use to them. They won’t have gained financially from all the negative press around Rod Liddle’s comments.
It also gives us an easy way to show them that such articles aren’t acceptable. The way forward is for anyone with a personal Sunday Times subscription to cancel and send the editor a message explaining why.
This isn’t an ‘attack on free speech’. Rod Liddle is free to say what he wants, and the Sunday Times, as a private company, is free not to give him a platform to say it.
And we are also free as citizens to condemn and as customers to withdraw our money.
Some people will respond that these kinds of attacks aren’t important, and that we should just grow thicker skin and laugh them off. That responding to them at all is a sign that we have ‘a chip on our shoulder’.
But Rod Liddle’s column ticks all the boxes of an attack by a majority culture on a minority culture with the intention of belittling it, and that has definite psychological effects.
The problem for majority groups is that there are no logical, practical reason why they dominate over minority groups.
Therefore, to keep the minority in their place, these reasons must be magicked out of thin air.
According to Henri Tajfel, the reasons commonly espoused by the majority culture is that the minority group’s culture is inferior, and not conducive to the modern world.
Having studied anti-Welsh media from the 19th century onwards the one constant is, as Michael Chapman says, “how often the Celt is located in some kind of opposition to the modern world”.
Of course, with his attack on the Welsh language and suggestion that Wales sits outside the ‘First World’, this is exactly what Rod Liddle is attempting to suggest.
It’s a sign of weakness rather than strength. The majority culture feels threatened and therefore feels the need to be the minority group ‘back in its box’.
Unfortunately, as a strategy, it’s very successful. Psychologists have shown that minority groups tend to internalise criticism from majority groups, and start to believe them.
In other words, they blame themselves for their political and economic problems rather than those who dominate them politically, culturally and linguistically.
‘We’re too wee, too poor, too stupid,’ as the Scottish have it.
One just has to look at the effect of the famous ‘Blue Books’ of the 1840s on how the Welsh thought about themselves for a century and more.
It’s an act of deliberate violence against the Welsh psyche which is intended, and largely succeeds in, holding us back as a nation.
This wouldn’t be a problem if we had our own, thriving media that could counteract the claims of Liddle & Co.
But with so many people in Wales dependent on media based mostly in London for their understanding of the world, it’s difficult to withstand the drip drip of anti-Welsh comment.
This is why it’s so important to stamp out articles like Rod Liddle’s. Doing so would give us a new confidence in ourselves as a nation and help us reach our political, cultural and economic potential.