Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I See Bigoted People

I was at a social gathering a little while ago which turned into a bigot-fest. The target of the bigotry was Americans. It started with the screening of a DVD made up of "Bushisms" - sound-bites extracted from the many thousands of hours extant of George W Bush speeches and press-conferences. The DVD was based on a one-joke premise - that audiences would laugh at examples of fractured syntax and other inadvertent non-fluencies if they hated George W Bush. It certainly worked - some members of the audience whooped and hollered like howler monkeys, some brayed like donkeys, and some even laughed normally.

I also sniggered, but not at George Bush - I was very amused by the antics of the audience. Particularly at the unintended irony in the audience comments about George Dubbya's verbal fluency. Most comments on the nonfluencies and mangled syntax were in fact non-fluent, and employed poor syntax, neologisms and malapropisms. The audience produced more woeful examples of English expression in their 30 minutes of viewing the mockumentary than George W Bush has produced during six years of relentless public scrutiny.

So far so good - it's a simple-minded but fairly understandable human vice to mock hated politicians by proxy. However other parts of the evening were more disturbing. George W Bush was incidental to the main target of hatred - the generic American. It seems that if you want to express fundamental bigotry, then it is, and has always been, open season on America and Americans.

Some sample comments made on the night: "Americans want to control the world and exploit everyone else for their own profit... I hate American accents... Americans brought 9/11 on themselves... Americans can't be trusted, lying is second nature to them".

These sorts of sentiments are so widely expressed and endorsed by supposedly unbigoted people that a simple thought experiment is sometimes needed to highlight the simple-minded bigotry which is at the core of such sentiments. Simply substitute "Americans" with "Jews", "Blacks" or "Asians" and see how the phrase sounds. Let's try "Jews" in the examples above: "Jews want to control the world and exploit everyone else for their own profit... I hate Jewish accents... Jews brought the holocaust on themselves... Jews can't be trusted, lying is second nature to them".

If I had known how the evening was to unfold before I attended, I would have worn my "I see bigoted people" t-shirt.