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Wednesday, January 17, 2007



The most unedifying aspect of this whole saga has been the way the producers and broadcasters of CBB and its spin-off shows have tried to deny that the comments directed at Shilpa Shetty were racially motivated. I think we will find that it is this refusal to acknowledge the bullying as racist which has prompted so many complaints – more than 13,000 to Ofcom and over 2,000 to Channel 4 directly. The sponsors, Carphone Warehouse, have not said how many complaints they have received.

In the British media generally, a combination of ratings-envy and intellectual snobbery has prevented any real debate or analysis.

I'm quite happy to watch Big Brother - especially the Celebrity version. Until the racist bullying started, this year's has provided some extremely funny moments.

For example: Donny Tourette on the first night: "It's Dirk Fucking Benedict!" Benedict: "I seldom use my middle name". And I defy anyone here to not to laugh while they watch the diminutive Leo Sayer, having complained he had no clean underwear, fighting with two burly security guards on his way out of the house.

But it's disturbing to read media commentators lamely opine "yes Jade, Jackiey, Jack, Danielle and Jo are bullies/bitches, but are they racist? Ooooooh I dunno..."

What? Come off it. Aside from the issues raised above, Jackiey (Jade's mum) called Shilpa "The Indian" as in "Oi! Indian...!" and refused to pronounce her name properly. Shilpa's voice, laugh and mannerisms are criticised and denigrated - constantly.

Unlike Shilpa laughing at Jade's pronunciation of "whale" as "wow", which made her genuinely impossible to understand, Jade etc take the piss relentlessly out of Shilpa although they can understand every word she says - her pronunciation being far clearer than theirs.

I work in the field of employment rights and have done plenty of casework in my time. If I had a pound for every time a person accused of racism said to me "Yeah I said that, but I'm not a racist..." blimey, I'd be almost as rich as Shilpa.

The spin-off programmes Big Brother's Little Brother/Big Mouth until last night refused to acknowledge even the possibility that the bullying might be racially motivated. At her eviction interview, Jade's mum was not even gently challenged about her behaviour by the spineless Davina McCall.

On Big Mouth two nights ago, even John McCririck (John McCririck for heaven's sake!) accused Jade & Co of racism, but the presenter said those were his views and not the views of E4 and hastily moved things on - it just wasn't allowed to be discussed.

On Big Brain the emphasis was on Shilpa's formidable character and the implication was she had brought this all on herself. Now that's nasty - as nasty as the racism itself. Anyone who has suffered bullying or harassment at work - whether racist or not - will have come up against that defence strategy.

At last the number of complaints has forced Channel 4/E4 to at least acknowledge the possibility of racial abuse, but they have so far refused to give us any proper analysis. This is a missed opportunity to take a scalpel to the covert and overt racism and bigotry which comes so easily to some people - and is experienced by so many of Britain's ethnic minorities, particularly at work.

Does ignorance excuse racist abuse? Well maybe it does if you're a media tart with one eye on the ratings - but it's no excuse in law.

swatantra nandanwar

I agree with the last comment.
When its all over, those 3 girls will have alot of explaining to do.
Jade obviously takes after her mum and both need to be challenged about their prejudices. Shilpa is bravely taking the abuse because she is too polite to complain.

el tom

I could not agree with this article more. I think that the behaviour of these people, while not necessarily malicious, has been deplorably ignorant.

I hate BB anyway, as I think that the format only encourages this type of thing; but now I ahve a contender to support. Channel 4, by abandoning morality and civic duty, have played a blinder.

Now I'm off to watch my new Brass Eye DVD.


Is Racism the same as Cultural Ignorance?

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