Karen Carney, the Trolls and the Three Woke Billy Goats

Karen Carney has deleted her Twitter account. She became the target of trolls after Leeds fans took exception to her analysis of their team’s performance.  Their comments included “silly bitch”, “get back in the kitchen”, “put your mic down and get yourself home there’s dishes to wash and clothes to iron” and “women’s lives matter but come on, women and football? Get kettle on love!”[1]

No doubt the trolls’ desire to slap her down is driven by threatened masculinity and inherent sexism, but they can’t possibly think that a former England player, who appeared 144 times for her country, is more suited to housework than football analysis. Instead, they have made comments calculated to wound her, because they suspect she is vulnerable to them. They did this in defence of their team, which they felt had been insulted. These are not statements of sincere belief; they are weapons: you say what hurts. 

As I KEEP SAYING, the purpose of language isn’t the stating of scientific facts, it is how self communicates to self, and influences them, has an impact on them. 

The rise in Black activism online seems to have provoked a similar, racist reaction from some people. I don’t think it has revealed a widespread and sincerely held belief in the inferiority of BAME people. In fact, I think the British establishment has made quite a good attempt at making “Racist” a bad word. But they’ve obviously been less good at tackling the root causes of racism, or educating people as to what it really is. 

When black activists have pointed out what appear to be racial inequalities, therefore, and labelled these “racist” (as they are) some members of the majority group have been deeply insulted by what has become a highly charged word. They feel they are being attacked and so they reach for the weapons to hand: words. And the Activists have told them exactly which words will be most effective. In Lord of the Flies, when Piggy tells Ralph he doesn’t mind what people call him, “so long as they don’t call me what they used to call me at school”[2], he guarantees that he’ll be called “Piggy” for the rest of the book.

This mutual offended-ness has exacerbated and widened tribal, rather than purely racial, divisions. Perhaps these are the necessary birth-pangs of a new, fairer society, but I don’t think there is any guarantee that it will be better or permanently fairer if it grows out of antagonism and confrontation. 

[1] The Guardian, 02/01/21

[2] William Golding, 1954 (1996) Lord of The Flies, London: Faber and Faber, p16

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