Dealing with sectarian stereotypes…

WHILE problems with sectarian posts are not something Slugger can claim to have avoided, the BBC’s Talk Back messageboard was forced into a U-turn yesterday after a commenter complained about a thread entitled ‘Breeding like rabbits’. Initially, the complainant was told the title “did not contravene house rules”, but the Beeb later changed its mind and the thread was removed. Is it ever possible to discuss sectarian stereotypes on the internet in an acceptable-to-all manner? Or is it a topic to just avoid? How do we do on Slugger – too slack or cracking down too hard?From the Irish News:

THE BBC was forced to apologise yesterday for the use of an ‘offensive term’ about Catholics posted on one of its websites.

The corporation also deleted the offending title of the thread – ‘Breeding like rabbits’ – from the messageboard for Radio Ulster’s Talk Back programme.

The thread was a discussion about the size of Catholic families.

One contributor to the site, who uses the alias ‘Quiteciaran’, said the term was “clearly objectionable” and promoted contempt for Catholics by projecting an image of them as “feckless and irresponsible” animals.

“The heading would, rightly, not be tolerated for five seconds if posted about Jews, black people, or Muslims. Why should Catholics be any different?” he said.

“I found this to be very offensive to me, my parents, and the rest of my family.”

After posting a complaint, ‘Quiteciaran’ was emailed by the BBC and told that the title did not contravene house rules and that it would be left on the site.

“House rules stated that messages which caused offence, or were deemed to be racist would be removed but this wasn’t,” said Quiteciaran last night.

“The BBC should follow their own guidelines.”

When contacted by The Irish News, a BBC spokesman said: “Message boards depend on user-generated content which means comments are published immediately.

“The BBC takes these comments very seriously, however, so we have now taken this thread off the site.”

  • sportsman

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/images/maps/2001religionwardsni2.jpg Breeding like rabbits? Heres the picture. Make your own mind up.How many of these areas would have been green in 1921?

  • sportsman

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/images/maps/map10.htm This one is older and not as detailed.

  • Ulster’s my homeland

    There’s actually truth in the statement, ‘Breeding like rabbits’, but it was probably the tone of the post that was offensive and therefore removed. There’s millage in such a topic, especially when Roman Catholics try to abide by Vatican rules of not using condoms or abortion, even if the mother was raped. Now-a-days it would probably be the more religious RC familes that are large.

  • I’m sure the quote above was orignally
    “I found this to be very offensive to me, my parents, and the rest of my [b]rediculously large[/b] family.” After which he went on to list his 37 brothers and sisters, but it was shortened in the interests of brevity.

  • Rubicon

    The title to the thread is without doubt offensive. I’m not sure whether being offensive is sufficient reason to warrant censorship, nor do I believe Irish Catholics a “race”. It certainly smacks of a sneering British sense of superiority that has sought to dehumanise the Irish through making animal associations. Those in doubt should take a look at “Apes & Angels” and the Punch cartoons of the late 19th century.

    Historically, Irish Catholic families in the 19th century and early part of the 20th century were smaller than protestant families. I can’t remember reading of animal associations being made about protestants – but its fair game to make them about Catholics.

    While I may not think Irish Catholics a race – the mindset most certainly that seeks to dehumanise is most certainly racist. Catholic birth rates have collapsed in Ireland and are really no different from protestant birth rates. Once immigrant communities emerge as having high birth rates (as they have in Britain) the same mindset will identify them as animals and animal associations will deservedly be decried as xenophobic racism.

    Personally, I’d prefer no censorship. It helps to know the mindset of your opponents and delivering them a sense of shame is a worthwhile objective made more realisable when state agencies don’t seek to hide their ugly underbelly.

    Apart from anything else – what’s wrong with having a large family? In aging Europe those having children will be the ones paying the pensions and health care of the economically idle. If these people are the “rabbits” – are the idle “lemmings”?

  • slug

    Its a bit 1980s that expression.

  • Rubicon

    Slug – you’re right – working as a demographer in the 1980’s I often heard this kind of comment. It wasn’t justified by the higher Catholic birth rate then and isn’t excused by the change in that birth rate since.

    The aim is to dehumanise. It was present in the 1980’s and it is still there.

  • slug

    Rubicon

    I didn’t like the phrase, but it did make being a rabbit sound appealing 🙂

  • Dawkins

    I was always led to believe the term was “Breeding like fucking rabbits.

  • slug

    Dawkins perhaps you were not as well bred…

  • Dawkins

    LOL @ Slug!

  • Belfast Gonzo

    By some weird coincidence, Baby Gonzo leapt towards the keyboard during the reading of this thread…

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Irish families ARE bigger now, both ‘here’ and in the REST of Ireland because we can now afford bigger families.

  • Dawkins

    Pancho’s Horse,

    “we can now afford bigger families.”

    That’s what you think. Peeps who believe they can easily afford children have never actually done the sums. If you were to sit down and work out the approximate cost of a child from 0 to 18 you’d be shocked, and probably reach for the gentleman’s jerkins :0)

  • Pancho’s Horse

    If you were to boil it down to £sd, how many of us could even afford to get married? It’s rumoured to take up to £60,000 to get from 0 – 18 but, sure, think of the benefits. You get to choose your own suite in the Home.

  • sammaguire

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/images/maps/2001religionwardsni2.jpg Breeding like rabbits? Heres the picture. Make your own mind up.How many of these areas would have been green in 1921?

    Posted by sportsman on Sep 29, 2007 @ 02:06 PM

    As a southerner I had absolutely no idea so much of north Antrim was 90% Catholic.

    Anyway I would be more than happy to breed like a rabbit than be a narrow minded bigot.

  • Sean

    Pancho
    Its a well known fact that the more kids you can afford the less you have

    Here in North America 2 or 3 kid families are normal and infact 4 kids is considered a large family while from my personal observance 3,4 or 5 kids are seen as the norm in Ireland and great Britain. And thats across all religous divides

  • snakebrain

    I don’t really think it’s any more offensive than doens of other casual expressions that get bandied around all over the place. It’s really only offensive if you try quite hard to occupy a mental position of combined paranoia and hypersensitivity. Too much effort, I’m off for a shag…

  • Dread Cthulhu

    snakebrain: “I don’t really think it’s any more offensive than doens of other casual expressions that get bandied around all over the place. It’s really only offensive if you try quite hard to occupy a mental position of combined paranoia and hypersensitivity.”

    That reminds me, SB… the “Black and Tan” ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s would appear to be on the shelves at the local supermarket…

  • snakebrain

    I’d boycott them if I wasn’t so sure it’ll be absolutely delicious Dread.

  • M3

    Who are those blue feckers anyways?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    SB: “I’d boycott them if I wasn’t so sure it’ll be absolutely delicious Dread. ”

    Oh, it is… I’m just recalling the kerfluffle that reared it head previously.

  • snakebrain

    I must have missed that one…

  • iPict

    Depicts Picti?