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March 09, 2007


Bishop Hill

I largely agree. I'm sure this was a complaint about the misuse of race relations law. You say he should have said "a few" rather than "lots".

Perhaps it was lots though.

He should have been pressed on that point, but to be driven from office for this is, frankly, barking mad. It just reinforces the message that any discussion of race is forbidden. This will be good for the BNP.

Bishop Hill

And another thing: doesn't freedom of speech require us to be able to speak, well, freely? And if we say "lots" when the truth is better represented by "a few", is it right that we are punished for it?

You seem to be arguing for regulated speech on matters of race - race to only be discussed by way of prepared speeches, backed up by statistics. This can't be right.


I'm not saying at all that such speech should be forbidden or regulated by law. The pressure for higher standards of thinking (not just on race of course) should come from the force of public opinion.


> What is the point of saying this? "I came across a lot of ethnic minority soldiers who were idle and useless."

To tell the truth?

Opinion crime is so left-wing.


For the record, he said in a subsequent interview on Radio 4 that the "lots" of ethnic minority soldiers who were useless, and used racism as cover, amounted to the grand total of.... two. He didn't say how many useless soldiers in total (ethnic minority or otherwise) he'd come across.


A strange way of framing the truth.

It is extremely likely obviously that he would have come across a larger number of white 'incompetents' ( due to 92% of UK population being white) yet strangely that doesn't appear to figure in his phrasing which draws specific attention to the ethnicity of a proportion of the total number of incompetents he would no doubt have encountered in the army. That's what is so wrong in these apparently 'throwaway' remarks. This is not a leftist conspiracy.
Also interesting that the phrase 'white bastard' doesn't figure in his list of insults to be expected in the army.

Bob B

What's new?

"Boswell tells us that Samuel Johnson made this famous pronouncement that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel on the evening of April 7, 1775. He doesn't provide any context for how the remark arose, so we don't really know for sure what was on Johnson's mind at the time."

However, a frequent speculation is that Johnson was referring to a recognised tendency at the time for wanted criminals and debtors to join the navy or army in order to avoid capture by the civilian authorities, a trial in due course with imprisonment or transportation or worse on conviction and sentencing.

A remark attributed to the Duke of Wellington as he inspected newly arrived replacements for his army in the Peninsula during the Napoleonic wars: "I don't know if these men will frighten the enemy, but by God they frighten me!"

But then as Napoleon is reputed to have said before Waterloo:

"I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad soldiers; we will settle the matter by lunchtime."

It didn't work out that way.

Bishop Hill


"And thus is kept up a state of things very satisfactory to some minds, because, without the unpleasant process of fining or imprisoning anybody, it maintains all prevailing opinions outwardly undisturbed, while it does not absolutely interdict the exercise of reason by dissentients afflicted with the malady of thought. A convenient plan for having peace in the intellectual world, and keeping all things going on therein very much as they do already. But the price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification, is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind. A state of things in which a large portion of the most active and inquiring intellects find it advisable to keep the genuine principles and grounds of their convictions within their own breasts, and attempt, in what they address to the public, to fit as much as they can of their own conclusions to premises which they have internally renounced, cannot send forth the open, fearless characters, and logical, consistent intellects who once adorned the thinking world. The sort of men who can be looked for under it, are either mere conformers to commonplace, or time-servers for truth whose arguments on all great subjects are meant for their hearers, and are not those which have convinced themselves."

Mill On Liberty



what do you think is so interesting about 'white bastard' not figuring as an insult? that black can be used as a term of abuse in a predominantly white society, while white is not? no shit sherlock. have a sociology degree.

so there is an inconsistency in the way Mercer talks about white and blacks, and if we assume it's not an innocent error of speech then this is indicative of how he thinks: he is racist.

But how bad is this? Racism is not a bad thing because it's a logical inconsistency that does not translate into prejudiced behaviour; racism is a bad thing because of how racists behave and the effects that has.
So can we infer from what Mercer said that he is racist in this more meaningful way?

Has Mercer unwittingly revealed that underneath his acceptable exterior, he's an "I don't mind blacks but I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one" type (or worse)? [I don't know either way - it wouldn't exactly surprise me if he was].

Suppose Sargeant Lewis (see 'non-racist' links above) who strongly defends Patrick Mercer, is quite correct - then we would be wrong to infer any sort of racist behaviour from this racist speech. Or is the inference from speech is so strong, that Lewis must be wrong?

gringo, I am assuming you think what Mercer said is bad because you infer from it that he is a racist (not just that he's made a minor implicit logical error) but correct me if I'm wrong.

I don't mean that we can never infer someone is racist from what they say - obviously - but even when you almost have to be an amateur post-modernist to "decode the text"?*

How do we know when to infer racism from speech and when not to? I don't know the answer to that one**, but I think the question is too rarely asked. I also agree with Bishop that being too eager to convict plays into the hands of the BNP & Co who can paint anti-racism as politically correct nonsense.

* this is one thing that really bugs me about arts graduates (of which I am one). The more subtle your reading of the text (i.e. the more tenuous you conclusions) and the more you 'uncover' a hidden meaning, the cleverer you are judged to be. But what applies to Eng Lit essays does not apply to real life. Give me scientists any day - consider alternative hypothsis and look for evidence.

** but I think I'd probably convict Ron Atkinson***

*** that said, I think people under rate the Ron Atkinson defence ("some of my best friends are black"). I mean surely part of the reason why people who are sure they are not racists think that, is that they have friends of other races - otherwise, assuming you live in a sufficiently mixed society, if you have no friends of other races, how can you be sure that's not because you are a bit racist? If somebody were to accuse me of racism, my first thought would probably be: don't be absurd, some of my dearest friends are [insert race here].


"hint at racial differences between people must at least follow basic rules of statistical thinking": there's a turn-up for the book. Over the decades I've noticed the left routinely trying to deny people the right to even attempt statistical thinking about racial differences.




I have no idea if Mercer is racist or not for the simple reason that I don't know him personally. It is weird that you have to attach a label to someone ( racist) before you're allowed to criticise stupid thinking and/or words uttered by someone on the issue of race.
Most people railing against the "PC tendency " that saw mercer sacked tend to be those who have never experienced the sharp end of insidious suspicion and discrimination or living with a sense of a history of being subjugated. Consequently they find it easy to define the issue in terms of purely logical constructs based on the literal use of words without historical context etc.


A soldier's weapon is his rifle and a politician's weapon is his or her words.

Mercer may well have come across a number of useless and lazy recruits, some of whom may have been from ethnic minorities, but his words conflated the two facts to associate uselessness and laziness with ethnic minorities. This is unacceptable from a politician and it is right he resigned.

It is to his credit that a number of black ex-soldies have spoken out in his defence, but it seems to me he needs to realise that as a politician he has to be as careful with his words as he was with his bullets when he was a soldier.


Dearieme: one of the objections to statistical anlysis of race is that in a society based on equality and individual freedom we all have a right to be judged as individuals and not as part of some group with which others wish to lump us?

Bob B

Fortunately, they didn't sack Wellington for his response to a question about the quality of the British army: "Ours is composed of the scum of the Earth — the mere scum of the Earth."

Nowadays, we are very properly concerned about about the scale and care of battlefield casualties among our troops but I suspect we incline to under-rate the slaughter in those historic battles of the Napoleonic wars two centuries ago and that is a mistake. The combined casualty rate on both sides at Waterloo in 1815 exceeded 6,000 an hour:

Wellington also said: "Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained."

For all Wellington's genuine empathy - there are several eye-witness accounts of him weeping on reading casualty lists after battles - he was notably unsuccessful in a subsequent career in politics. An insight as to the reasons may be gathered from this, probably ironic remark about his first cabinet meeting as prime minister: "An extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them."

Unlike some other western countries - for example: the US, France and Israel - in Britain, men with successful military careers tend to have problems adjusting if they try to follow on with a subsequent career in politics. The rest of us seem to have drawn certain conclusions after the experience with Cromwell and Wellington and respond accordingly.

"Neil Kinnock . . told a TV documentary this week that 'Tony [Blair] is impressed by wealth, uniforms, intelligence officers and religious people'."


As someone who has actually served in the army, I think that Patrick Mercer has chosen his words incorrectly (or had them distorted by journos - surprise, surprise). If he did say that 'lots' of soldiers from ethnic minorities make false claims of racist abuse then he is open to criticism. 'Lots' is a stupid and imprecise phrase to use, and it does belittle genuine cases where a soldier has been victimised (such as the one who says that white soldiers were wearing KKK hoods).

However, his basic point (that some claims of racist abuse are spurious) is basically right. I have seen three instances where soldiers from an ethnic minority made false claims of racism against NCOs who had disciplined them because of the gulf between the conduct expected of them as soldiers, and their actual performance. Whether that was as a result of a genuine misunderstanding on the part of the complainants, or a malicious desire to turn equal rights legislation (EO) against their superiors (and I suspect the latter in these specific cases), the fact is that the scenario that Mercer described does happen.

This is not to condone any genuine prejudice - racial or otherwise - in the army. The EO legislation is there for a purpose, as there are a handful of c***s in the military who will be bigots, and who will persecute servicemen and women if they think they can get away with it. I saw one NCO get disciplined for verbally abusing female soldiers (he called one a 'slut' and a 'whore' on the paradeground), and another get done for bullying recruits (although this wasn't a racial issue, just a plain power trip on the part of the sh*thead of a sergeant who was involved).

Racism in the military is corrosive, and should be stamped out not only on the grounds that it is morally wrong, but that it hampers military discipline and morale. In the army (and I can only speak of the army from first-hand knowledge) you rely on team work and mutual support amongst your mates. On tour in Iraq, my team medic was Bangladeshi, and my oppo was Ghanaian. They were my buddies - on patrol I watched out for them, and they watched out for me. We could banter with each other, and we did (I got called a sheepshagging bastard on several occasions because I'm Welsh), but genuine hate-fuelled abuse was out of the question. After all, how the hell can any military unit fight a war if its members spend all their time fighting themselves?

Nonetheless, a minority of soldiers have taken the piss. They have used EO legislation as a shield for their own inadequacies and their own uselessness as warriors. This is not to say that their behaviour is characteristic of their ethnicity. The liberal critics who have jumped on the bandwagon in implying this have themselves shown themselves to be racists, in implying that all 'black' soldiers are alike. This is bulls**t. You can see the differences not only between African, Caribbean and Fijian soldiers, for example, but even within these groups (Jamaicans, St Lucians and Grenadans, for instance). Collectively and individually, they have their strengths and weaknesses, but the vast majority of them are brave and good men and women who have volunteered to do a hard and thankless job. But the fact is that a few of them are useless and cannot be counted upon, and these guys are unscruplous enough to play the 'race card' to suit their purposes.

I should also add that I have also seen inadequate, lazy and cowardly white soldiers too. The issue is not the skin colour of soldiers, but their attitude to their job and to their comrades. One of the biggest sins a soldier can commit is to be 'jack' - in other words, to look out for yourself at the expense of your mates in your section, platoon, Company etc. Of the three false racial abuse cases I cite above, the soldiers who made the complaints didn't have the balls to serve with their comrades on Op Telic. Ultimately, some soldiers are selfish and look out for number one. They are bad for unit morale, and should be either disciplined or discharged, whatever their ethnicity.

For anyone who wants a flavour of how the army works on the ground, at its best, then I recommend reading Richard Holmes' book 'Dusty Warriors', which covers the 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment (1PWRR). 1PWRR had one hell of a tour, and while their most famous soldier was the VC winner Johnson Beharry (a Grenadan), the book makes it clear what all soldiers know, which is that when the sh*t hits the fan all the members of a unit will pull together and will fight for each other - and that includes the English (Cockneys, Brummies, Scousers etc), the Jocks, the Taffs, the Irish (of both persuasions), the Southies, the Aussies, the Kiwis, the Fijians, the African Commonwealth guys, the West Indians, the whole shooting match. For the people that count, there is no colour. And ultimately, the people that count are the ones that go to war with you, not the minority of arseholes that do the abusing - and the minority of arseholes that will make false claims of 'racism' to disguise their own flaws.

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