Balotelli: Reaction is both stupid and dangerous

November 24, 2016 23:21

Another week, another "football antisemite" exposed.

And another series of outraged comments from our communal leaders.

Last week it was Dave Whelan, the Wigan chairman, who informed a reporter that "Jewish people chase money more than everybody else", prompting demands that he be ritually defenestrated.

This week, it's Mario Balotelli's turn in the football Hall of Shame after retweeting a picture of "Super Mario" that included the information that he "grabs coins like a Jew".

Cue mass jumping up and down in outrage. Ban him! Ban him!

All the outrage has done is devalue the currency of outrage

But before screaming blue murder and going at full pelt after every supposed miscreant, might it not, for once, be an idea to think first?

Tell me that Dave Whelan, Mario Balotelli and Malky Mackay - the manager who texted that there's "Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers" - are all the same side of the same coin, and all equally deserving of the full weight of our collective outrage, and I'll tell you a name in response: Nicolas Anelka.

Last year, we saw what real and serious antisemitism looks like in football.

We saw a player coolly, calmly and deliberately make the antisemitic quenelle salute, in tribute to the convicted antisemite Dieudonné. And we saw - initially - a pathetic, tardy and weak response from the FA, from his club, and from our own communal bodies.

Eventually, after a campaign by this newspaper, the incident was treated properly and Anelka was dealt with.

If you really think Dave Whelan's stupid remarks are comparable with that then I suggest you develop a sense of proportion.

Whelan's words are the product of an ignorant mind, from a generation that laughed at the word, "Nig Nog" and thought racist sitcoms like Mind Your Language were funny.

But they are no more than that. They are certainly not the words of a man inciting race hate.

As a football club owner, he is rightly subject to the FA's rules about appropriate behaviour. And he should be punished accordingly. But when we weigh in with our own tuppenny's worth, and appear unable to draw a distinction between the antisemitism of Anelka and that of Whelan, then we look - to be blunt - ridiculous.

Bad as that is, however, it is the wisdom of Solomon compared with the reaction to Balotelli's tweet.

Remind yourself what he actually posted. Above the picture of Super Mario are these words: "Be like Mario, he's an Italian plumber, created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican".

How can that be interpreted as anything other than an anti-racist invocation?

It's obvious, surely, that Balotelli is being honest when he says in his apology: "The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour".

It's only with the final words that the tweet collapses into outright racism: "He jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".

I don't know what went through his mind when he posted it. But my guess is that he read just the first part, thought it funny, then pressed send.

That's carelessly stupid, and irresponsible, given his status. But it's no more than that.

That explanation, however - or any other - isn't good enough for the brigade that screams "antisemite, ban him" at the first opportunity.

The truth is that none of us knows what makes Mario Balotelli tick. It's certainly been beyond most of his managers to fathom it.

It must surely, though, count for something that the woman he refers to as his mother - actually his foster mother - is Jewish, and he has spoken of his love of the rituals of Judaism.

But for the "ban him!" brigade, any context can go hang.

The fact his tweet contains an antisemitic phrase is itself enough for them to label him as an antisemitic reprobate who should be jumped on from a great height.

On this logic, of course, even though Balotelli is black he is also an anti-black racist - because the tweet is also racist towards blacks.

What a depressing episode. The lesson the community seems to have learned from the initial Anelka debacle is that the correct response to any inappropriate mention of Jews is rent-a-quote outrage.

All that does is devalue the currency of outrage. If we are incapable of making a distinction between a foolish old man spouting drivel, an unthinking retweet and a premeditated act of race hate, then one day we will find out, when something really bad happens, that no one is listening.

November 24, 2016 23:21

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