17 thoughts on ““the chavs […] have become black”

  1. There are surely a lot of people who agree with him. Let’s hope for a national discussion of what’s so destructive in his way of thinking. We might indeed try to participate in it.

  2. I think that there are reasons to find Starkey’s comments problematic but I’m not sure that that’s because what he said should be construed as racist. See here for something of defence:


    What is it about Starkey’s comments which people find ‘awful’? I grant that he was a bit sloppy but there does seem to be something to what he’s saying… maybe…

  3. FR, after reading the piece you linked I’m inclined to agree with it regarding Starkey. I also am wondering about the questions you asked. I sometimes find on this blog that some news item, or what have you, is offered up with an allusion to its presumed outrageousness, but without any specific critiques. Then you’re stuck scratching your head trying to guess the specifics of the implied critique to determine whether it really holds water.

  4. Anonymous – that’s partly a function of the fact that sometimes we’re just drawing attention to a news article that feminist (and other) philosophers may find useful, and we’re assuming that at least some segments of that particular audience will know why we think it’s problematic. We don’t have time to always provide a detailed critique of everything we post. Sometimes we’re simply drawing attention to things, rather than providing in-depth criticism of them. We blog in our spare time. Unfortunately, there’s not so much of it.

  5. It’s late, and that real life stuff I alluded to in my last comment is demanding my attention, but really briefly, for the record, the issue is not necessarily the implicit racism in Starkey’s comments (and despite the Telegraph article linked to above, I think his comments were implcitly racist, although I don’t have the time or the inclination to defend that claim now). It’s also his use of the word ‘chav’. The word has been used to ridicule and express contempt towards a sub-culture that is almost exclusively identified with working-class Brits, to separate Them from Us. This separation is rightly seen by many as one the many ingredients in the heady mix of social inequalities that played some role in the riots. This word is highly problematic. Its use betrays attitudes we should challenge.

  6. Here is an interesting Language Log posting about Starkey’s remarks. Geoff Pullum discusses the odd idea that “Jamaican patois” has something to do with the violence. Or as Geoff so characteristically puts it,

    “So it wasn’t not mindless, ignorant, immoral lust for consumer goods that was behind the copycat violence of the August riots across England; it’s language what done it! That damned Jamaican patois is responsible! What a moron.”

    (But it isn’t just a rant — you could learn something about the Jamaican language, which Geoff appears to speak rather well.)

  7. Monkey: I don’t have sound on my computer at the moment, but I thought that Starkey used ‘chav’ in the context of the discussion that he was having with Owen Jones, auhor of ‘Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class’?

    Also, regarding the language thing, again Starkey was very sloppy (and his direct linking of Jamaican patois to violence just plain ****) but I think that it’s clear that he doesn’t think that the cause of the violence in England is reducible to language.

    Moreover, I think that language is crucial to identity (as can be seen in Quebec, Basques in Spain, the French and Italian minorities in Switzerland etc.) not just in terms of our own undertsnding of who we are, but in how people percieve us. The way we speak, the language we use, sends out a message about our social status and cultural/group affiliations (sometimes we may be ashamed of this, sometimes we may be proud, sometimes it will go against us, at others it will stand in our favour). I think that one can see the adoption of a particular dialect among many (though by no means all or even most) inner-city poor English (mostly young) people.I suppose the question then is whether this particular dialect is associated with a culture which revels in social disruption and violence…

  8. Anonymous #10 makes a good point. Leaving aside arguments over whether “chav” is objectionable in general, Starkey’s use of “chav” made sense in the context of conversation with Owen Jones. (I thought the way Starkey turned and addressed Jones when he [Starkey] used the term had a whiff of “your word, not mine” about it.)

    The blowhard linguist Geoff Pullum seems to have overshot the mark in his article. As Anonymous #10 also suggests, it’s pretty obvious that Pullum’s denigrating an exaggerated strawman. Moreover, if you read Starkey’s use of “patois” in the colloquial sense, rather than referring to what linguists call Jamaican Creole (JC), Pullum’s argument that Starkey is “pig-ignorant” on the subject basically dries up. Nothing suggests to me that Starkey doesn’t understand that there is a difference between JC and “Jafaican”, the latter of which could still be defensibly described in a less-than-hypertechnical sense as a Jamaican[-influenced] patois. And Pullum oddly overlooks a number of things in Starkey’s description, such as the fact that Starkey refers to this patois as “wholly false”, that support an interpretation that Starkey wasn’t referring to JC after all.

  9. No. However, I was anonymous #5 (I thought I was logged in when I posted that one, but apparently not). Fair answer to #5 btw. But saying you think I was #10 equates to calling me a sock-puppet-using ****bag. Thanks so much, may I have another?

  10. Nemo,

    Yes, of course Pullum is a blowhard — that’s his blogger character. Blustery, cantankerous, hyperbolic, etc.

    It’s possible that Starkey does understand the difference between Jamaican patois and Jafaican, and just used the wrong terminology. But I suspect he doesn’t know. Jafaican, after all, wasn’t “intruded” into England; it was born there.

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