Here’s what Giles Coren, house humorist (and restaurant critic) at The Times of London, wrote in a recent “Notebook” column in that paper about an important game of “football”—i.e., soccer—which was played last weekend in Kiev (or Kyiv, as I find it is now more often being transliterated), Ukraine:
I haven’t watched a football match in twenty years on the basis that it is a joyless game of interest only to children, played by rich foreign rapists for clubs that are no more than merchandising outlets. But on Saturday night we had guests staying so I had to let them watch the Champions League final. Some way into the second half, with the washing up done and the score 0-0 (yawn), I went in and perched on a sofa arm for ten minutes during which time: a goalkeeper made a howler causing a freak rebound goal, some monkey-faced Welshman scored the most extraordinary goal I’ve ever seen, the crap goalie dropped a sitter and then cried and then the monkey-faced guy asked for a transfer live on air. Is football always like this? Dang. Why did nobody tell me?
The monkey-faced Welshman, Gareth Bale, was playing for Real Madrid, and his two goals made the difference in his team’s defeat of Liverpool, the English club naturally favored by many if not all of his fellow Britons. I happened to see the extraordinary goal myself—it was what they call a bicycle-kick and is performed while the kicker is upside down in mid-air. You can understand Mr. Coren’s sense of chagrin against someone he must have seen as practically a traitor to his country, but the conjunction of “monkey-faced” and “Welshman” appears to have stirred no controversy in Britain—let alone cost the author his job, as a similar juxtaposition by Roseanne Barr this week cost her hers.
It may be objected that there is no comparable history of “racism” against the Welsh like that against African-Americans, into which Ms. Barr was supposed to have been tapping. But that is not quite true. In Decline and Fall (published 1928), Evelyn Waugh wrote that, “From the earliest times the Welsh have been looked upon as an unclean people. It is thus that they have preserved their racial integrity. Their sons and daughters rarely mate with human-kind except their own blood relations”—among many other disobliging things. True, Waugh was a humorist, like Mr. Coren. But isn’t that also true of Ms. Barr? I think you’d have to be at least somewhat paranoid to see shades of slavery or Jim Crow or the KKK in her words—as much as you would to see the shadow of the European ethnic cleansers in the Balkans in recent years in Mr. Coren’s.
In fact, I would argue that treating race-hate, like other kinds of hate, humorously, rather than repressing it, is the best way to defuse it qua hate, and render it harmless to mankind. But as I and others have observed over the years, the scandal-obsessed media (including social media) need to pretend that certain forms of hate retain all their occasional but increasingly rare potency whenever they pop up in the public square and are never, ever merely funny, even in the most trivial or unserious of contexts. This is because they also need to ruin selected haters, or alleged haters, when they have become, as Roseanne Barr had become, inconvenient to the media’s politically correct consensus. No one who has followed Ms. Barr’s career could suppose that she hates black people, whatever she may think of Valerie Jarrett. But because Ms. Jarrett is black, her words provided an excuse for the haters of Ms. Barr to deprive her of her top-rated TV show.
I had grown tired of the show myself and found it far from being, as is widely supposed, pro-Trump, as I wrote in the May issue of The New Criterion. In any case, Ms. Barr is far too erratic and paranoid herself to be anybody’s reliable ally. But for just that reason, it is absurd to regard her as a dangerous thought-criminal who must (at a minimum) be banished to the obscurity of private life. That she has been so is yet one more indication that our national sense of humor is going, going, gone—clearing the way for the real hatred of which comedy was the only real antithesis and effective remedy.