29 June, 2011


EastEnders for speakers of other languages

(I hadn't realized that the official spelling of the soap is as a bicapitalized single word. Gordelpus, is there nothing sacred?)

Former Guardian editor and self-righteous veteran media pundit Peter Preston has a short article in last weekend's Sunday Guardian about hostility towards immigrants in the traditional British media. The piece has the feel of being hastily dashed off in a bad temper, as if the duty editor had annoyingly rung Preston up and said, "Sorry Peter, me old mucker, but we're one piece shy of our quota of pro-immigration stories for this week's issue. You couldn't knock out a quick 600 words for me, could you, sweetie?"

Preston begins,

I am paying my paper bill when the efficient young man filing the cheque says a sudden goodbye. "I am going back to my country," he says solemnly. No more early mornings organising rounds. No more unsold copies to be shipped back whence they came. And no more true-blue tabloids intrinsically – and often explicitly – telling immigrants to push off. ("One in four primary school children now of ethnic origin," wails the Mail. "One million pupils don't speak English as a first language," moans the Express).

It's one of the extreme curiosities of British newspaper life. Without tens of thousands of corner stores owned by shopkeepers from the subcontinent, there would be no viable newspaper distribution system, and thus many fewer papers. Tesco, WH Smith and the other big boys are only links in a chain that your local newsagent makes whole. Yet to read what Fleet Street writes, and then to ponder who it thinks it's writing for, raises the weirdest dislocations.

There's nothing curious, extreme, ironic or even particularly relevant about it, Peter. Mr Patel (for it is undoubtedly he) is not remotely interested in taking offence at the content of the newspapers he sells. He is interested in running a successful business. He will cheerfully stock the Daily Express and, on his top shelf, Wanker's Weekly because his customers demand them. Even if he does personally take serious issue with the political stance of the likes of the Mail, Express, Star and the Currant Bun, he is not going to run a successful business by dropping them and selling only the Guardian and the Independent, is he? Not to mention the incidental loss of ciggie and sweet sales when the fascist chavscum bounders who had the infernal gall to ask for copies of Mr Desmond's rampant organ take their unclean business elsewhere. And in the unlikely event that Patel shared your precious sensibilities and didn't want the job then Khan would do it, or Kowalski or even, whisper it, Smith. As it happens, my local news-tob-con outlet, yes even here in the Occupied Territories of Greater Woolwich, is owned and operated by White British people.

Anyway, did you ask Sanjay why he was returning to his homeland? I'll wager it wasn't because he was upset by something he read in the Mail.

Actually in my limited and, for reasons I shall probably develop in a later post, rather out-of-date experience of Gujarati newsagents, they tend, especially those who arrived here 30 or 40 years ago, to be even more opposed to immigration, or more precisely to further immigration, than the indigenous population. Patel is no fool; he realizes that the way things are going there will be a backlash — a backlash which is likely to catch established but visible immigrant communities along with the recent arrivals who are causing all the bother. Patel is not encumbered with your White liberal sensibilities and utopian internationalist fantasies; he deals with practical realities. Frankly, Patel doesn't much care for Pakis or Nignogs or those bloody drunken Polaks at the best of times, but their sheer numbers are making the natives restless. And restless natives can get jolly nasty. What was that poem again that that troublesome blighter Kipling wrote? Yes, restless natives are rarely a Good Thing.

After his rather contrived opening hook, Preston gets down to the meat of his thesis, which is that not only are the MSM objectionably anti-immigrant, they are missing out on the growing (!) market represented by those immigrant communities, a market being snapped up by small specialized community publications. He then offers us this,

Does Eastern Eye's brisk tabloid style feature the convoluted puns and obscure references to old soap operas that are standard issue from the Sun to the Star – coded signals that say foreigners can't fit in?

This is actually offensive, nay racist. The "obscure references to soap operas" are not shibboleths designed to snub Johnny Foreigner, they are widely understood references to our own shared British culture. Even nouveau middle-class intellectual snobs like me understand them well enough, and I haven't watched a TV soap opera in 30 years. (Mind you, I quite like the opening titles of EastEnders, with Simon May's jaunty theme tune as we pan slowly along a satellite view of the river, but I always turn off before the show proper starts.)

Even the vulgar indigenous culture represented by the gutter press is not something to be casually cast aside and replaced with some neutral international cultural pidgin redolent in its blandness of a UNESCO document written in Esperanto, simply in order to accommodate these uninvited and largely unwelcome new arrivals. Sod 'em. Let 'em adapt to us, not the other way round.

But then I forget. We Brits don't have a culture, do we? We don't really exist as a people, do we? We're just an anonymous dull grey substrate into which to implant the seeds of vibrant immigrant vigour to nurture the mongrel nation. We've always been a mongrel nation of course, a nation of immigrants, a society of distinct and vibrantly diverse communities and tribes. Why, e'en nowadays a gentleman can stroll down to Spitalfields of a weekend and watch the Huguenots, dressed in their quaint costumes, performing their traditional weaver's dance as they circle a burning effigy of Louis XIV.

Of course if I, as a non-existent Englishman, wanted to get the best out of Dziennik Polski and our exciting new vibrant multiculture, then I guess I would need to improve my knowledge of the Polish language a smidgeon beyond its present level of cześć, jedno piwo Lech proszę, dziękuję and na zdrowie. And if a newly arrived Polak wanted to get the best out of the Sun or the Star, perhaps he needs to watch a selection of episodes of EastEnders, Corrie or Hollyoaks, or maybe the local council could facilitate his integration by laying on a taxpayer-funded course, "British TV Soap Operas, a Brief Introduction for New Citizens". If Marek can cope with all those bloody diacritics, the incestuous intricacies of Albert Square should be a doddle.

So sod off Preston, you patronizing racist White liberal get!

Good post. If you want a good example of immigrants being anti other immigrants ask Hindus what they think about Muslim immigrants

It's racist for us to have a culture. Nice to know. Congratulations on catching a Grauniad grandee with the goods on him.

This newsagent may well be pissed off for the same reason most of the rest of us are. He works, he pays taxes and yet he sees squadrons of non-tax-paying-state-needies arriving. He joined this society of ours to make a contribution, which is more than can be said of a good number of others.

Oh it's a vibrant society alright, which is more than can be said for the sodding Guardian.

Stay well clear of EastEnders, PC propaganda of the silliest kind. My wife is addicted to it but my nickname for the programme is BlackEnders.

But the absolute worst for PC multi-cultism (from my limited viewing) has to 'Waterloo Road'...

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