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What is unacceptable comment on this blog and in the ground? Come to that, what is racism?

Untold Arsenal is now on twitter at UntoldArsenal

By Tony Attwood

It is being reported in the UK this morning that last night on a TV programme  an MP was speaking about a new 50 year defence treaty signed by France and the UK.  Defending the decision to sign the treaty the MP said that the treaty would not mean that British soldiers had to learn French, wear striped shirts or have onions round their necks.  A member of the audience apparently shouted out, “Racist!”

I wonder if such a childish remark was indeed racist, and it is something that interests me because I have been called racist off and on since starting this blog.   And of course as Arsenal’s programme regularly reminds us, racist chanting along with homophobic chanting and other forms of anti-social behaviour is not accepted in the ground.

In football, the attempts to stop homophobic chanting (follow just one of these issues) is not uniform as we saw at Portsmouth when they played Tottenham.  Reports and film showed a very significant number of Tottenham fans indulging in homophobic chanting, with no action taken there and then by police or stewards, and only about 1% of people involved punished in any way subsequently.  No action was taken against either club by the EPL, nor the civil authorities.

In such a climate of inaction, Arsenal’s stand is to be welcomed, but the attempts to stop racism and homophobia finding a home safe from prosecution in football, should not mean that we should push ourselves into a position in which we are afraid to make any comments.  Which brings me back to the MP.  Is it racist to make a stereotypical jibe against the French?

I am, self-evidently, a white citizen of the UK, born and bred in north London, and thus have limited experience of what it is to be the subject of torment, violence or hatred because of my looks.  I did however have some experience of this when living and working in Algiers for a year, where I was mistaken for a Frenchman on occasion, and it was of course singularly unpleasant.  Having stones thrown at you is never nice – even less so when it is done because of how you look.

But with my liberal middle-class leanings I try to do the right thing as I see it, and thus I was shocked in the early days of this blog when I found myself being called a racist.

The reason was that I had called Eboue a clown.  I meant the phrase in what I thought was a nice way – Eboue had come on the pitch as a sub in a match we were easily winning, and performed a series of extraordinary step-overs which utterly mesmerised the opposition defender.  Unfortunately Eboue then did one step over too many, and lost the ball and fell over and the defender who was still standing with the ball at his feet, gratefully took it up and cleared his lines.

My article meant to say, “Eboue was clowning about” – that is to say, messing about, having fun, or if you like, “taking the piss”.

This was long before the incident when Eboue was substituted as a substitute – so there was no highly charged issue about Eboue at the time.  But what then happened was that I got a load of abuse for being racist.  Now clearly had I called Paul Merson a clown (and if you never saw him play the 90 minutes you might not know that he had a great ability to behave in a self-mocking, clown-like manner on occasion) clearly I could not have been called racist because Merse and myself seemingly share the same genetic ancestry.

But if the player is black, the opportunity to call someone racist is there if he is criticised.  Worse, in this case, because I wasn’t being critical at all – I was actually celebrating the way in which one of our players could come on and have fun – even if it was ultimately at his own expense.   Yet even if I had been saying, “Eboue is one of the worst players I have watched at Arsenal” then that in itself is not and cannot be racist, unless you find evidence that I praise all the white players and criticise all the black players – which of course I don’t, so you can’t.

But this is just one part of the issue.  The other was highlighted recently with the issue of Man Arab.  A correspondent wrote and said that calling Manchester City “Man Arab” was racist.

This raises another part of the issue – which descriptions of people are racist, and which are descriptive?  Generally speaking the laws of the UK tend to see racist as related to “race” rather than nationality.  If I call someone a “fucking Argentinian” that may be highly unpleasant but it is not racist, because being an Argentinian is not generally considered as being of a particular race.  Likewise calling someone an “American”, or a “Yank” or a “Brit” is not racist either.

But what of  “Arab”?  Saudi Arabia is a nation, but there are many other Arab nations in the middle east and north Africa – and the general dictionary definition (see www.dictionary.com for example) is that an Arab is a term for a citizen of Saudi Arabia or a person who speaks Arabic.  Neither of these are racial definitions.

Of course problems can arise. I have heard Alan Greene on BBC Radio 5 call a player who has done something he doesn’t like, “a typical German”.  Now I know such stereotyping can also be positive, “A typical Brazilian goal with typical Brazilian flair”.  The same construction, but different intent from the negative: “played with typical German efficiency”.

That last quote has endless negative overtones for citizens of the UK over a certain age as it is reminiscent of the way in which Germany under the Nazis was portrayed in Britain – a soulless state run with ruthless efficiency.  And this stereotyping is where we started – with French men being onion sellers on push bikes.

The fact is that quoting and using these stereotypes are not illegal in the UK and can be used positively or negatively.  I fully recognise that using a country or region to make a grand judgement is usually false, and it can on occasion be very annoying, but it is not racist.

So “Man Arab” cannot be racist because “Arab” is not a race – it is a desecription of a group of people spread across a number of nations, and just as statement about a person being of a particular country cannot be outlawed, so the use of the grouping of nations cannot be outlawed.

And there’s a very good reason for that.  If I can’t speak of a person from the Arabic nations being an Arab, then I cannot speak of a person from the European Union being a European.  I am, as it happens, proud to be a European.  If you call me a “filthy little European” then that’s abuse, but it is not racist.

What’s more if we were to start banning statements about a person’s country or region of origin, then we would have real trouble in running internationals and the Olympics (although maybe on second thoughts that would not be a bad thing).

But there’s a final point – the desire of a few people that I have now witnessed on various occasions, to leap in, and without any explanation, call a writer “racist”.   If as writers we start dancing around this issue, then we end up saying, “I can’t criticise that guy because he is black, and people will think of my criticism as racist.”  That we cannot have, and that is why I get annoyed about the attempts to charge this site with being racist.  Not so much because the accusations are wrong, but because they are an attempt to stop the proper and reasoned use of language to explore issues of mutual interest and concern.

If Shawcross had been black, I would have laid him as much as I have with him being white.  I would still have started to say of players who have suffered evil tackles “he was Shawcrossed”.   But if Shawcross had been black I would, I fear, have been called a racist, and the attempts to publicise the evil of the system that allows players to commit these fouls on a regular basis would have been sidetracked by the ludicrous notion that I was making the point just because Shawcross was black.

Why people throw out the racist allegations in the way they do, I am not sure.  But then I am not sure why people go around copying passages from other sites and putting on Untold (it still goes on every day but I manage to stop most of them before publication).  And I am not sure why people feel it is necessary to use multiple names and personalities to try and put an argument across on this site.  My feeling is, if you can’t set out the piece in a straightforward argument, it probably isn’t much of an argument.

But clearly there are people who behave in ways I can’t comprehend.  but as you may have guessed I do find the “racist” arguments annoying and they touch a nerve in me.

If you have battled through to the end of this piece, thanks for reading, and even if I have not convinced you, I hope you understand why I might on occasion delete comments from readers who call me a racist without any justification.   Just saying “racist” to a person for something they said or wrote can be quite an insult, if the allegation is not backed up by facts.

Untold Arsenal is now all a Twitter. @UntoldArsenal

and…

Now then about that Christmas present

What were Arsenal doing changing their name part way through the season?

I live outside the UK.  Help!

I wish to read everything Untold has ever produced.  I need a nurse and an  index

39 comments to What is unacceptable comment on this blog and in the ground? Come to that, what is racism?

  • Dark Prince

    lol…r u tryin to say that u r an ‘abuser’ but not a ‘racist’?? lol 🙂

    I think though u made legal arguments to defend urself, the fact is that ‘abusing’ sum1 on d basis of their country also counts as a ‘racist’ remark.

    Few weeks back, a host of a t.v show in new zealand made fun of a minister in india. The name of that minister was Shiela Dikshit, but the host of the show made fun of her by callin her Shiela ‘Deepshit’. Believe it or not, even that was identified as a racist remark by both countries. The t.v show host too apologised by sayin, “i kno it was a racist remark and i’m sorry to hurt the sentiments of the people”. He was immediately removed from the show.

    So in a way, abusin or making fun of any1 may not be legally a ‘racist’ remark, but it can have the same effect and hence can be clubbed in the same category.

  • Dark Prince

    But in honest ways, i can say that calling Man city as Man ‘Arab’ is not abusin the team in any way. If people start callin Arsenal as ‘Le Arsenal’, doesn’t mean they are abusin or makin a racist remark.

  • arsene's nose best?

    now this is getting ridiculous. Im a black guy. From (gasp) Nigeria. I can assure you that the only thing more annoyin than havin a racist remark thrown at you is having a group of people limit the range of conversation for fear of political incorectness. Why shouldnt a person be able to criticize or poke some seriously funny humor at another person because of his race? That kinda defeats the whole equality point.

  • It is something called “political correctness” to achieve that you are forbidden to use every word which in some combination could offend someone. So you are welcome to be racist as much as you want, as long as you do it in democratic way. Thats are surface solutions which intention is to makeup real picture rather than fix it in its roots.
    I am, my self, accused for being islamophobic for calling Man Citeh, Arabs. And still waiting them to explain me how can I (Muslim by birth and belief) be islamophobic.

  • walter

    I think that I am part of the reason why this article was written. Because in a maybe failed attempt to be a bit funny I was the one using the name Man Arab for Man City.
    I must admit that I am not that much impressed when someone calls me a racist. Maybe because being a ref, I’m a bit used to abuse and (false) accusations and they slide of my back (as we say in Dutch) and do not touch me.

    But I agree that some people might use it in an attempt to stop writers to express themselves freely. And in that way it could affect me as a writer and this would be a bad thing. I think. Maybe those who don’t like me that much would like it. 😉

    But I would certainly call on all readers to keep in mind that on this blog we sometimes try to be funny at times and name calling is a small part of that. And it could be childish but as long as that little bit of child in myself is still alive I will feel young.

  • Good blog but i bet to disagree. Its all very easy to hide racism or racist remarks under the guise of positive criticism. Am not saying u are racist. But why now do american security officials frisk people with ‘arabic features’ at airports and embassies? Then perhaps we need to change the dictionary meaning of the noun arab.

  • walter

    Would Man Sheikhy be less racist? As this is a name I also give them at times.

  • FinnGun

    Arsenal fans calling Wenger names is unacceptable. As is political correctness taken to surreal lengths.

  • nicolas

    Hi tony, now i think that you wrote more about yourself and some misunderstundings rather than the real matter in hand – racism in football.
    But as a reader I don’t feel that you are racist in anyway, but the thing that do annoy me is the way you label things with unnessacery nicknames (for example for players and teams and so on). While makeing some genuine observations your “labeling”, makes me feel that you are overdoing it. And in general every now and then you make me feel that this blog is too bias and not the right forum to start constructive and critical discussions.
    But in all fairness this is your blog and your writing is your take on things while for me your “support the lord Wenger in all that he does” is maybe a bit extensive.

    But still I appreciate your view and the fact that your blog is really setting the standarts in many ways and for me it is the one blog that I really do follow even that I’m not allways in agreement with you.

  • It is somehow hard to put line there, and separate what is and what is not racism/abusive in football. As football supporting is not rational thing, and hardly have anything with someones real opinion, or belief about general picture. Than rather one small micro-universe independent from real world. In that our micro-universe we are glorifying what is ours, and try to minimize what is theirs. It is just how the “supporter” is programed.
    Every game we play with Manure, seeing Evra I say “f..king frog”, and than Nasri pass ball to Diaby and I am delighted, explaining everyone around that Le Boss knows best, and how France is true source of football “science”.
    Than you see Ferdinand ruthless tackle on Walcott and you screaming “bloody English bullock”.

  • miles

    I also think people should learn to distinguish between descriptive and racist. Arabs dont mind being called arab, its what they are and they are proud of it. they do ming being called “ragheads” or “towelheads”. Black people don’t mind being called black or african. its descriptive.

  • Nick

    It’s a difficult one, Tony. It’s a little disingenuous to state that because the word Arab describes an area not a race, it can not be used as a term of racist abuse. One thing a lot of people tend to ignore in these sorts of arguments is context, and the context in this case is that in many western minds, the word Arab is being associated in a negative manner. It is used in newspapers and (less so) on TV to be a semi-short-hand for Muslim extremist. No, not everyone makes this association, but it is there. The absence of context could similarly be used to justify calling someone a Paki because its a contraction of Pakistani similar to Brit being a shortened version of British.
    I’m not saying this case is the same, and in this case I don’t actually find Man Arab offensive or racist. I actually think football (and football blogs) are pretty good when it comes to racist language, and are probably a pretty positive influence on UK society from that point of view.
    I hate the knee-jerk ‘racist’ argument when it’s used lazily, and I hate mindless politically correct censorship. The important thing to recognise is that words have power, you need to be aware of that when using them!

  • Lanz

    I enjoyed the article. However, I think it is because Tony is English that he took such an effort to explain himself. The very people who complain about the so-called racist remarks would never do what Tony has done! They just don’t care what you think or how you feel about the remarks they make. Poor Westerners! I’m glad I’m not one of them; the rest of the world blames them for everything. Finally, is it racist calling Chelsea Chelski?

  • Lanz

    This is off point but I wonder if Tony could get us one of those professors to address the issue of the temperamnets of the individual players as they aggregate together to characterise or affect the team mentality. I have this feeling that compared to the Chelsea players for example, most of our first team are “nice guys”, if you know what I mean. They are not the equivalent of “sharks” or “shylocks” in the business world. In the team, I can talk about Niklas, Alex Song and Wilshere as people that could be termed “sharks” (according to my definition). Hardly anyone else. Diaby, Denilson, Eboue, Tomas R, Nasri, Sagna, etc are “complete gentlemen”. Fabregas and Koz, in-between. Can this affect us?

  • WengersGuideDog

    Good blog, interesting and i can say hand on heart, that anyone who called you a racist for calling Eboue a clown is a twat.

    Also, you shouldnt be affraid of critising black players, aslong as it is critism without the racist undertones. I’ll quite happilly tell anyone Karly Henry is a dirty bastard, Drogba is diving tart and Cashley is just a wanker.

    With regards to your comments regarding a persons nationality and calling them an abreviated form, such as Brit, Yank, etc, i tend to agree with you, but im always interested to know where that leaves us with the term ‘Paki’. Racist or not??

  • nicolas just to clarify one thing – Untold does not attempt to be or ever pretend to be unbiased. That’s why although I have regularly changed what’s on the mast head of the site, the phrase about “Supporting Lord Wenger” has always been there.

    My reason for starting Untold was that the blog world, and the world of journalism, are both packed with people who are anti-arsenal (and this includes some of the Arsenal blogs). So I wanted to put the other side.

    If all these other sites and newspapers were unbiased, there’d be no need for Untold.

  • Uj31

    Its so easy now to call anyone a racist for something he says. People dont know the difference between racism and abuse. You cant call black a black for the fear of being called a racist. Its not just football. It happens everywhere.
    I live in Finland and once the Finnish PM was told that Finland cant take anymore immigrants, he called them (reporters) racists and said that he will be the PM until 2015 and that Finland will keep on taking Immigrants. I dont know how he got the idea that by saying Finland cant afford to take immigrants has anything to do with racism but more to do with the financials.
    The things eboue does on the pitch sometimes, there could be worse names for him than a clown.
    And i was called a racist for calling Shawcross as “Mr. Crowcross”. Had he been black im sure i would have been called a racist too. But it has nothing to do with the color of his skin. I just hate the guy and thats the best abusive term i could come up with for that English c*nt.
    Also i sometimes wonder why is it ok that a black person calls another black person “N*****” but its racism when some other ethnicity person calls a black person “N*****”?
    Sometimes things in this world just dont makes any sense.
    Also Tony, sometimes, just let them say what they want. As a writer you shouldnt be worried about criticism. You cant make and keep everyone happy.

  • Waleed

    I am muslim, I spent my childhood in Saudi Arabia, and I’ve taken some abuse from Saudi boys for being, well, un-arab.

    I don’t think Man Arab is racist. I think it’s funny. I think people need to stop being so uptight. There’s a difference between abuse and poking fun. Abusing someone based on their race or nationality is wrong, especially since those are things no one has control over. But just poking fun at someone’s race or background or whatever, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Maybe it can be taken too far at times but I don’t think you are guilty of it, Tony.

  • Harry

    Calling Eboue a clown is not racist. If you were to call Eboue a c***, that would not be racist. If you were to call Eboue a black c***, then that would be racist because the word black is part of the abuse.

    I regularly shout at Eboue for being a diving c***. The difference between you and me is that I am brown so the mainly caucausian folk around me wouldn’t dream of calling me racist, and I am clearly not being.

    I have to admit to once calling Bendtner a Viking bastard – he was being exceptionally bad and I was exceptionally hacked off – but fiortunately I wasn’t picked up on this and I haven’t done it since!

  • Flashman71

    First of all I would like to praise Tony for being brave enough to address the racism issue with this article. As I am sure the majority of readers and followers will agree this is not an easy thing to do especially in the light of personal attacks on him and the ludicrous allegations that certain Untold articles contain racist overtones etc. As we are all aware it is primarily the case that when important sensitive issues such as this are raised it is often the case that they are “brushed under the carpet” or embarrassingly placed to one side particularly in the public sphere/arena. So in my view Tony should certainly be applauded for tackling in a clear and rational manner an emotional and complex matter

    Untold Arsenal is the most perceptive and intelligently written of all the current Arsenal Blogs in the blogosphere (in my opinion). The very fact that Untold is an Arsenal Blog signifies to me straight away what it represents and what it stands for, namely, the same ethos and principles that our great football club has, does, and hopefully always will stand for “Victory Through Harmony”. Despite the fact that we are now a global football club with supporters based in every corner of the planet, lets us not forget the fact that as the biggest football club in one of the largest and most famous cities in the world, Arsenal Football Club’s supporter base has always reflected the cultural diversity of its geographical area and community (including ironically enough one of the largest North African/Arab communities in the country based in and around Blackstock Road). One only has to attend both home and away games to see this clearly. In fact according to those yearly surveys that measure fan base demographics etc Arsenal has by far the highest number of “ethnic minorities” (I use this term loosely here because as a Londoner I am fully aware and conscious of the notion of cultural and national heritage going back generations for many of us, for example I am led to believe by certain older members of my family that I myself have Huguenot, Romany, Jewish and Irish roots, I kid you not!) attending games. As an Arsenal fan I am extremely proud of this fact and scoff at those other clubs who claim to be “people’s clubs”. We are the real people’s club in terms of the wide variety of our fan base (measured in any category you like to choose: race, class, nationality, gender etc), and all those who identify themselves with The Arsenal all over the planet.

    I have been attending Arsenal games home and away since 1977, and the number of times I have observed or heard racist incidents involving Arsenal fans I can count on one hand. In contrast, the number of times I have experienced or observed racism from other clubs supporters (Chelsea and Leeds fans openly selling BNP literature outside their grounds in the early eighties) is countless.

    Now a number of you may well be thinking what has all this to do with those complaints regarding Untold’s supposed use of racist language and offending certain readers. Well I will tell you. As mentioned before Untold is an Arsenal Blog Site dedicated to following and discussing/debating our football club and all things related to it. By its very nature it is an extremely moral, conscientious, liberal platform that enables all like-minded Arsenal supporters to express their opinions about our club. Untold has no hidden agenda, there is no underlying ideological dogma pervading it. Its articles are informative, interesting and humourous. Please take note of this last word especially, and please let us keep this whole debate in context. Calling Man City Man Arab (and they are as we all know actually owned by Arabs) is a term that a number of Arsenal fans use to describe and ridicule a football club that are the plaything for a zillionaire sheik (as a football fan I actually find this offensive), nothing more nothing less. Racism is travelling back on a train packed with Chelsea fans (two seasons ago after our FA cup semi-final loss) with a close friend and fellow gooner ( a Derry man who growing up experienced and lived through enough bigotry and hatred to last him a lifeline), and observing and hearing the abuse that an older African woman (obviously just out and about doing her Saturday shopping), received from a whole carriage of fat, white, bald, thuggish middle aged men, who actually thought it was funny humourous and obviously very brave (until me and said mate forcibly expressed our contempt and disgust). Well I suppose that’s why they’re Chelsea and we are Arsenal. Enough said!

  • Fem Dee

    Tony:

    Whatever you do or say, you will have your loads of critics to your left as well as to your right. It is good to hear you out and gauge your sincerity or motivation. It is also good to get a sense of what you are about in general.

    This post must be due to your acute British sensitivity. I lived in the US for a few years and it occurred to me that it wouldn’t have occurred to an American to write as you’ve done here. There, the sense of “freedom of speech” is well development and everyone seek to protect their right to call it as they see it. If, for that reason you label them one way or the other, they would reply: “it’s a free country; take it and it you can’t go jump into the nearest lake…”

    I have been reading this blog for quite a while now and I pretty came to the conclusion that you are the sort of fellow you’ve just described yourself to be and love your points of view as well as the opinions of most others I read here most of the time; if I didn’t I would have moved on a long time ago.

    To me, it takes certain types of people and persistent myopia to qualify as a racist. If you are not that type you will not exhibit the consistent myopia that would justify labeling you as one.

    In which case, whoever calls you “racist” owe it to you to explain how he/she came to the conclusion. Otherwise, the person may be guilty of being overemotional hyper-sensitive. You really don’t want to sit over a beer before, during or after a soccer game with such a person discussing any topic whatsoever.

    The American attitude, which I like is that it is not a crime to be labeled or mislabeled as one stereotype or the other; be it is a crime against yourself to allow anybody to blackmail you with any label.

  • Fem Dee – very many thanks for your kind comments and thoughtful perspective. Very much appreciated.

  • Flashman – very many thanks for such a detailed analysis, and indeed also for your most kind assessment of the site. I am really at a loss for words.

  • Paul C.

    Tony,

    Just to add a humorous end to this tale of woe….

    In the 80’s I stood on the corner of the North Bank, by the old East Stand. My father and I had our own spot there. The first time we stood there we were horrified by shouts from behind us directed towards Gus Ceaser, David Rocastle, Paul Davis and Micky Thomas. Every time they made a mistake a huge “YOU BLACK C**T” or something like that was bellowed out by a group of individuals. My father and I were terrified to turn around and confront the racist pigs, for fear of beaten to a pulp. Cowardly of course, but I digress. At one point one of us had an excuse to turn around and look at the offenders. There, in all their glory, was a big group of rastafarian characters in all their dreadlocked glory. They took particular pleasure in bollocking the black players, maybe they expected more of them. I dont know. Over the next few years we came to cherish their inputs to the game, and on many occasions were brought to tears of laughter by their crude and direct comments.

    Once, during a derby match against Spurs, a group of Spurs fans infiltrated our area and, after a goalmouth incident, amidst much confusion, we suddenly heard screams and shouts of “Knife” in front of us. Before we knew what was happening, the rastas were past us in a flash and had the perpetrators in headlocks, defusing the situation until the police arrived. Once the police got there, they grabbed the rastas and started dragging them out of the ground forcefully, seemingly ignoring the actual criminals (I wont even call them Spurs fans, because they likely were just hooligans) and focusing their ire on those of dark skin. As the police passed many in the crowd yelled at the police to let them go, trying to point out who was at fault. They didnt listen and dragged the rastas away.

    I never saw them again in the ground. Maybe they moved to a different area, maybe they said “screw it” and just never went to another match.

  • Marc

    In today’s world the term racist is a great way to bully someone whose opinion you disagree with. Rather than put up a coherent, intelligent argument you just shout down someone else and make accusations about them.

    Possibly the greatest example of the ignorance of racism is the classic piece from Fawlty Towers where the Major reminisces about chastising someone for getting an insult wrong.

  • Gooner Gal

    Tony, I watched the TV show yesterday too and actually laughed because it was a Lib Dem MP getting heckled for racism. I also commend you for this article’s topic. .
    As a young child I was taken to quite a few Liverpool games and remember a guy handing out banana’s. Which were to be thrown at star player John Barnes, not by the opposition, but by Liverpool fans. When I innocently enquired why, I was told it was only for a laugh. I never found it funny.
    .
    There is still racism in football and the blogshere will reflect this sad reality. This site isn’t one of them and I totally agree with Flashman71 and Fem Dee’s points as they cover what I was going to say. So will I will just echo Tony by saying if you are offended by the tongue in cheek banter of this blog, you probably just need to click away.

  • OC Gooner

    Tony,

    In the interest of full disclosure and revealing what might be potential biases in my own opinions, I am an American living in Southern California. I attended UC berkeley, which is a liberal bastion in this country. That said, I am also a fan of off-color, politically incorrect humor and pretty hard to offend. Oh, and I am a white male.

    That said, I do wince a little when I hear you refer to the billionaires next door as “Man Arab”. When you said you would post about racism a couple of weeks ago, I was looking forward to it, because in the interim, I’ve gathered my thoughts on the issue. As first, I wasn’t sure why I felt that the nickname was potentially racist, but I think that I figured it out.

    When you refer to other teams by some sort of nicknmae, the nickname invariably has a negative connotation is is normally pretty clever (e.g. Tiny Totts, Man IOU). Therefore, I expect that any nickname assigned to one of our rivals carries a negative tone, and rightfully so, since we all want them to kneel before the Lord Wenger. In that light, calling Manchester Shitty “Man Arab” seemingly impliens that the “Arab” part of the name carries a negative connotation. And that is what could be construed as offensive. It’s not something overt like calling them “the Camel Jockeys of Manchester” or “Manchester Jihad” but I think it could carry a note, however unintentional, of racism.

    That brings us to a similar nicknmae that I do not seem to find offensive and that is “The KGB of Fulham”. Not being up on my London geography, I assume that Stamford Bridge is located in Fulham, and we all know what the KGB is. I guess that O don’t find this nicknmae potentially racist because:

    1. I guess I don’t consider Russian a race
    2. The KGB is more related to the Soviet regime than the Russian culture and it points to Abramovich’s ill-gotten gains since the power brokers during the collapse of the Soviet Union who allowed for oligarchs like Roman to come into billions were previously part of the Soviet power struture
    3. It’s clever
    4. It could just be “white guilt”. That said, when you write “Sheikh Yerbooty”, it makes me smile.

    Here the other thing. I LOVE this blog. I became a serious Arsenal fan at the beginning of last season and have really caught the bug. A huge part of the that is the incredible on-line community that supports the club and the internal factions within the community that ensure a lively debate (to the extent that discourse with 90% of the AAA can even be generously termed “debate”). And as much as I enjoy the on-line Arsenal community, this is my very favorite Arsenal site. It’s brilliantly written, the ideas are good, and the point of view is positive. Maybe that’s why I’m a bit disappointed by he use of “Man Arab”. It’s not particularly clever, and seems a bit lazy compared with the high standard of your content. You are a victim of expectation in my book. Maybe “Manchester of Arabia” is more in line with the rest of your team nicknames. It’s more clever from where I’m sitting, and references a geographic region rther than a category of people.

    Well, I’ve made a short story long, and probably made more of this than I should have, but I think that what I described above is the reason that some find the “Man Arab” name racist. Then again, I could just be a fucking American retard.

  • DC Gooner – a much deeper analysis than I could have done, but spot on. Man Arab isn’t funny in the way Man IOU is, and should be abolished. So out it goes, not because it is racist, but because it simply isn’t very good.

    Another reader (my apologies I can’t recall who, but I did note the comments) said that a number of the nicknames were looking rather old and sad, and maybe it is time to redouble the efforts and find something new.

    And just by way of explanation – Chelsea are next door to Fulham (if you bought my book “Making the Arsenal” you’d see exactly what the origin of their problem with each other is!!!! – http://www.emiratesstadium.info) and they were reported as re-writing a fan’s forum set of minutes, to take out bits of the report they didn’t like. Very KGB, it seemed to me.

    Strangely, I started the nickname idea to get away from racist and religiously intolerant nicknames, such as those applied by Arsenal fans to Tottenham. Interesting how it all goes around.

    So new nicknames on the way, when I can think of one.

  • Clerkenwell Gooner

    Agree with DC Gooner’s point re: tendency to negative connotation being part of the whole nickname thing.

    I used to work for a boss who was brilliant at giving all our clients nicknames that reflected both their own idiosyncracies and the jobs we had to do for them. He was brilliant at it, but there was always something cruel in it, and I came to realize it was a survival mechanism he’d acquired during his time banged up in a ghastly boarding school as a child while his parents toured the world as diplomats.

    Nicknames are about power, an attempt at a rewrite of someone else’s self-description.

    Unfortunately, in the game we love, all the power has moved away from us as fans, a situation I believe we can all feel legitimately aggrieved about.

    Having fly-by-night, often shady billionaire owners manifesting themselves in our clubs’ board rooms is no fun, especially when we have ample evidence that they are not there for our benefit, or that of the clubs, they just want a quick buck, and we feel powerless as a result.

    The retreat into a little Englander, nationalist mentality (eg “Thank$ but no Yank$” – hey, how’s that John W Henry thing working out for ya?) doesn’t solve anything. This thing has got to be approached on a class basis, fundamental to which is economics.

    We don’t like the City boys because they are yet another set of billionaire dipshits who know nothing about the game, but see something shiny (“Ooohh, look! Tevez!”), and have to have it.

    And anyone who says Arsenal is in a better position, well, have you looked at the boardroom lately? Are we really saying our billionaires (Mr Wal-Mart union buster vs someone who makes the KGB in Fulham look TAME) are better than theirs?

    Are PH-W and Lady Nina (in there because of respectively inheritance and marriage) the rightful stewards, but who’ve just been overtaken by events?

    What about the us, the fans? Where do we come in? We pay through the nose for seats, and the players all get handsomely rewarded as a result, but what about us? Yes, Arsenal directors do not take a dividend right now, but do you really think Kroenke and Usmanov got involved not to get paid?

    What nicknames for them, Tony?

  • Micheal

    Sir Tony, you have no case to answer to anyone for anything… Certain people say anything unrelated or ridiculous because its their point of THOUGHT not the point of SENSE… Hypocrisy is a new, very contagious disease… For years, English media openly say Arsenal FC is not English enough or mocking them as the French Foreign Legion… Opponent players and managers bravely declare their physical and brute approach in order to stop Arsenal play football… The football administration and authorities shamefully try to destabilize Arsene Wenger vision of future football… The only discrimination I think Untold do is “club discrimination” and I think thats legal… Untold criticize clubs, players, managers and football organizations with valid judgements based on faults and merits… I have personally learn about football management entirely on Untold…
    Sir Tony, just to let you know, ignorance is the greatest insult… Dont waste your energy and time to defend yourself… You bow to no one…

  • Micheal you are too kind. I would assure you I don’t take many of the negative comments seriously, but I do like to ensure that there is somewhere within my own view a certain logic. So I use these opportunities to explore the issues as best I can.

  • Clerkenwell I am having a hard enough time of it thinking up new nicknames for the clubs, I can ‘t do the boardroom too.

    But, just in case you are interested, I believe Mr Kronke is there to gain a maximum return on his investment in the next line in technology- the interactive stuff at your seat in the stadium, the HD broadband and all that. That’s where he sees the profit, and since that is hived off as a separate company, that’s what he will get. Mr Usmanov I believe would like to own more, but he has been distracted by other events in the world, and I suspect he is happy to sit there.

    Remember the value of Arsenal shares rises all the time, and so they are all making a paper profit which will be real when they sell. Indeed I have subscribed to Fanshare, and am doing my bit too.

  • insideright

    Stereotyping by skin colour, hair colour, sex, race or anything else is both a human trait and a human failing. It’s lazy and often downright immoral. It’s also cruel. Unfortunately the way many people ‘support’ a football club often falls into the same trap. How often have we heard the chant of ‘same old Arsenal, always cheating’ coming from opposition fans? As regular winners of the Fair Play league we know this barb to be less accurately thrown at us than, possibly, any other club and it’s one of the reasons why many of us get genuinely annoyed with our players when they do dive or cheat in any other way. If it happens to be Eboue then we should be free to express our distaste. But previous comments about Arsenals outstanding record on fighting racism are both welcome and correct. Ironically we have always had at least as many Jewish supporters as have Spurs – and, in recent years, probably more. Certainly we’ve always had Jews on the Board and, at one time I believe, when the only club in England to have a minister of the Church of England there too.
    Back at Highbury when terrace violence was at its height Arsenals largely white support was lead by a black man. There was no room for racism there either.
    Giving other clubs nicknames is actually largely based on fact (debt etc.) rather than anything remotely describable as racist.
    Even The Guardian, via its Fiver column, describes clubs in such ways. ‘Blackeye Rovers’ are rightly pilloried on a regular basis.
    I try to be biased against only one group of people and that is the wilfully ignorant. Untold (together with the majority of its contributors) are most certainly not amongst that group.

  • Steve Palmer

    In a country where we have fought many wars and conflicts, so that we can be a free speaking people, and say it as it is, obviously we cannot,being just a working class Englishman that can only speak one language,i wouldnt want to upset anybody, unless i have a greivance towards them, what they say to me in their language is not offensive,but and yes there is allways a but,and in my view when you look at The English Premier League and you see a club feild a team of all foreign players that anoys me, my National team cannot field a winning team that anoys me, all so when i go to the Doctors or dentist or hospital and i have to wait behind foreigners that anoys me,when i see foreign familys get housed and benefits in front of my own countrymen that also grates, i read a lot of comments on these blogs, from Arsenal fans all over the world and welcome your support but i dont think you would like me to come to your country and take over, i dont consider myself a racist, just a proud Englishman that wants whats right for my country and countrymen and my club.
    PS Eboue and Bentner are crap i know there foreign but they are bad

  • Limestonegunner

    This thread seems dead but this is an important topic, especially since this site had an article attacking another site for tolerating racism.

    OC Gooner put his finger on what is distasteful about the ManArab designation, and it is not only that it isn’t really funny, as you try to suggest, Tony. OC is right that there is a latent, even if unintentional element of bigotry about the term.

    But,Tony, your research is a bit poor. Dictionary definitions for such a complex topic? Arab is an ethno-linguistic category. It has a history in Western thought as a racialized grouping since at least the late 18th and early 19th centuries and currently is associated negatively in popular culture and discourse in your country. Trying to pass the issue off as unrelated to race and, therefore, racism isn’t very rigorous. That’s a disputable conclusion to begin with and in some ways besides the point. There is bigotry or discrimination involved, just what type? Is it classic racism, ethnic bigotry, or something like anti-semitism directed at Jews? Either way, as OC pointed out, it is at least unsavory.

    I am glad you are banishing it and will come up with something more clever, but also more appropriate. It is worth acknowledging that it isn’t very appropriate.

  • Melburnian Guner

    I can say from all the Arsenal blogs out there this blog is the one I feel represent what our Arsenal is all about and I can’t help but be drawn to the style of writting and the wit presented by the writers of this blog.

    We want you to keep writting the way you do, unleash your imagination and have fun with the words as you do – God knows not many out there can do that.

    On the light sight, i think you should take the Race IAT (Implicit Association Test) from Harvard… https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/

    Cheers

  • swikrath

    @Steve Palmer : Its very sad that you think so. What you are doing is selectively chalking out things that don’t suit you and fussing about them. You talk quite stone age to me.Really!You dont consider yourself “racist” but you are one ..face it!You don’t get annoyed when Chamakh scores for arsenl do you?Obvioulsy you don’t. Whilst you would want to take all the good things and not even mention it ,you get annoyed when its that way?RACIST

  • swikrath

    @ Tony : If you read what steve palmer has posted that is typically racist. Not calling the arabs arabs:) But tony being a non english, i must say i am quite offended and/or expected the guys who comment here to be little more sensical

  • Ay Caramba

    To me you are throwing in the word Arab to describe something we hate (Man City) and even if it is not racist, it pushes the thinking and misconceptions that Nick so eloquently stated above. Thats why I am not really supportive of it. Would we mind if Arsenal was referred to as the “French National Team” from now on? Perhaps it is not racist, but is there any doubt that the comment, especially in England, is based on some misconceptions and associating “Evil” with the “unknown other”? Would it not affect the thinking of anyone new to the sport and trying to develop opinions about each team in the premiership? Just my thoughts. Im not in any way offended and I definitely dont think Tony is being racist, but I just not big on the support of this terminology.