I know I was away and wasn’t really paying attention, but wasn’t it announced recently that Boris Johnson was going to lovebomb Scotland this week? Which means, if his previous relationships are anything to go by, he’ll come up here to spill red wine on the sofa and hog the laptop, our neighbours in Ireland will call the police because they’re concerned about the shouting, he’ll deny responsibility for a pregnancy, and then he’ll break up with us by text. That will at least save us the hassle of another independence referendum.
Perhaps he’s too busy to bother with Scotland this week, on account of having to ignore questions about whether he’s a racist. Hint: he is a racist. His nyaffesque advisor Dom has employed certain Andrew Sabisky who espouses the racist view that people of African origin have lower IQs and who believes in enforced contraception in order to “prevent the creation of a permanent underclass”. Johnson’s spokesracist’s, sorry spokesperson’s, inability to rotundly deny the comments made by Andrew Sabisky apparently endorses the racist idea that white people are more intelligent than black people and the eugenicist notion that the reproduction of poor people needs to be controlled by the state.
It is suspected by many that similar views are also espoused by a certain Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. This racist trope about intelligence was elaborated in a book called The Bell Curve back in the 1990s, which has formed the basis of right wing racist fanboyery about intelligence and eugenics ever since, even though the book’s argument was thoroughly debunked by people who actually understand a) statistics, b) genetics, and c) the dodgy concept of IQ testing.
The late evolutionary biologist Stephen J Gould pointed out that racist assertions about IQ testing generally rest upon four untested assumptions. Firstly that the nebulous concept of intelligence, which comprises a number of distinct modalities, can be reduced to a single number. Secondly that people can be ranked in a linear order of intelligence, which means that you must make a decision about whether a person with, say, good memory but poor mathematics skills is more or less intelligent than a person with good maths skills but poor memory. Thirdly there’s the assumption that intelligence must be primarily genetically based, taking little or no account of childhood environment and nutrition and factors such as systemic societal discrimination or poverty. And fourthly there’s the assumption that intelligence must be essentially immutable. Which is obviously not the case as Boris Johnson was regarded as one of the more able pupils while he was at school, but these days he’s clearly an idiot.
The real question here is why Boris Johnson thinks that a person who holds long debunked racist views about intelligence and eugenics is a suitable person to be employed as a government advisor. Given Johnson’s long history of racist and homophobic comments and misogynistic behaviour and his sense of entitlement that’s the size of a planet, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that he himself holds such views. All the more so because back in 2008, when Johnson was editor of the Spectator magazine, he allowed the publication of an article by the columnist Taki which asserted that intelligence was racially based and which characterised African Americans in grossly racist terms.
It’s well known that Johnson has referred to children in Africa by the racist term “picanniny” and described them as having “watermelon smiles”. He has also written about the effects of colonialism on Africa saying, “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.” When he was Foreign Secretary he had to be prevented from reciting Rudyard Kipling’s poem (On the Road to) Mandalay while on an official visit to Myanmar, a paean to British colonialism in a country which fought long and hard to resist British attempts to conquer it. Racism very often goes hand in glove with homophobia, and it’s also well recorded that Boris Johnson opposed equal marriage and referred to gay men as “tank topped bum boys”.
Also while editor of the Spectator, in 2004 Johnson allowed the publication of a disgustingly racist poem which called for the extermination of the “verminous Scotch race”. The poem was an overt call for the cultural and physical genocide of Scottish people. Apparently it was satire. Who knew? Johnson has never apologised for this, because when English people are racist about the Scots it’s just a bit of banter, and the real offensiveness is when a dour Jock with no sense of humour and a chip on their shoulder has the temerity to complain about it. But can you imagine the outrage if an SNP politician had allowed the publication of a ditty calling for the extermination of the English? There would be a special show on BBC Scotland devoted to the evil cancer that lurks at the very heart of Scottish nationalism. Newspapers would constantly drag up the incident every time someone expressed support for Scottish independence. We’d never hear the end of it.
Even now, as the press in England berate Johnson for his refusal to condemn the racist views of his advisor, none of them have cited this anti-Scottish poem as more evidence of Johnson’s racism. Double standards aren’t enough for British nationalists.
Double standards is really what this is all about. During the general election campaign Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried for anti-semitism, but Boris Johnson got off verminous-scotch free despite having uttered, published, or tacitly approved sentiments which are far worse than anything Jeremy Corbyn has ever said or done. Yet here we are, in the UK in the 21st century, where we have a Prime Minister with a long history of either espousing or publishing racist or homophobic views, who has appointed an advisor who openly advocates eugenics and who believes that IQ is determined by race and who refuses to distance himself from those reprehensible and offensive sentiments. You don’t have to believe that black people have lower IQs than white people in order to get a job in Number 10, but it helps. Meanwhile government ministers are refusing to comment and claiming that they haven’t seen the reports or that they don’t know the individual concerned. In the UK there’s only accountability if you’re poor, if you’re black, or if you’re a supporter of Scottish independence.
We got to this sorry place because the British media not only tolerates double standards, it actively pursues and encourages them. It suits the likes of Boris Johnson to hold these views, because it reinforces the belief that the rich deserve their wealth and the poor deserve their poverty, and helps to ensure that within the UK, no one will ever be in any position to do anything about it. We live in a state which has the greatest gap between rich and poor in Europe. With Boris Johnson in charge it’s only going to get worse.
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