The fallout from the Premier Cancellation continues –
I wrote to Peter Kerridge, the director of Premier, asking for an apology and received a somewhat disappointing reply.
“When the article was removed, care was taken with the wording not to mention you at all. Only those who had seen the original article would have known who wrote it. You have used your own blog to draw attention to the matter, as you are entitled to do. We have not damaged your reputation in any way. ”
This is at best disingenuous – my name was on the article. Premier had asked me to write it and had approved it, without any thought of it being racist. 24 hours later not only did they pull the whole article for being racist, but the editor tweeted out an apology with my name tagged on to it. But Peter says ‘care was taken with the wording not to mention me at all’ and then in effect goes on to hint that I should have kept quiet and it would all go away. He ‘regrets any distress caused’ to me. These are all weasel words and show a level of dishonesty which I find disturbing in any Christian organisation.
Why does this matter and why do I think it has caused damage? Because todays world (including the Christian world) is filled with prejudice and feeling, fuelled by gossip. Reputation and ‘name’ is so important. That’s why we are not to take the Lord’s Name in vain, nor are we to cause damage to others by lying about them or misrepresenting them. Premier did that to me and it has consequences (consequences that are not overcome by disingenuous weasel words and apologies that are not apologies).
For example one church I was due to speak at got in touch because some of their leadership had concerns that I had had an article pulled by Premier for racism. I explained the situation and it’s sorted. But I wonder how many others that will affect whom I will never hear from. Then I found myself having to defend what I said in this lengthy interview with a podcast called ‘Critical Witness’. The part that deals with this is from 55 minutes.
I had no objection to my hosts discussing this or disagreeing – in fact they were excellent and I would recommend their podcast. What was disheartening to me was to hear that it had been discussed with others who were unhappy etc – and again I knew that my instinct that my reputation had been trashed by this, was correct. Perhaps the simplest way to explain it is this. Have you ever listened to one of those comedy routines about misheard lyrics? The comedian takes a well know song and tells you what he ‘misheard’. The trouble is that when you hear the song that is now what you hear. Likewise when you are told that a phrase or an article is ‘racist’ then that is invariably what you hear. In todays world it doesn’t matter what the author wrote or intended – it just matters what the reader hears.
Leaving aside the personal what strikes me is how much of the Church is prepared to change language and accomodate some sections of society – ie. what is the current ethos of the elites and the media, must be adhered to.
The phrase ‘played the race card’ was apparently the only offensive thing in the article – although even after that it was removed, pressure was still put on to have the whole thing removed. The reason for objecting to the term ‘played the race card’ is not whether it was true or not. Meghan did play the race card – she claimed that she was a victim of racism within the royal family and offered no substantive evidence. The question is not one of truth but of perception. Because ‘play the race card’ is a phrase used as a ‘dog whistle’ by Far Right groups, then if you use it you must be Far Right. But that is as logical as saying that because Far Right groups use phrases against abortion and for Christianity, that we should not use them.
I just refuse to let the devil determine either our language or our agenda. Because Hitler was a vegetarian, liked dogs and built motorways does not mean you should not be a vegetarian, like dogs or build motorways! When people use ‘dog whistles’ or are dishonest with language then we should use the truth to call it out, not ban them or keep silent or grant them control of the language. Speaking of dog whistles there is no question that Premier blew the ‘he’s a racist’ whistle and many heard it! But, as is typical of this world, some people matter more than others. (ie.It is beyond belief to me that so many Christians, instead of speaking up for the poor, are defending a priviliged millionaire as some kind of victim). That’s not the Christian way.
When we allow others to determine what we say by accusing us of ‘dog whistles’ it becomes a form of bullying which leads to self censorship. So take for example my most recent article on paedophilia – Premier would never carry that because someone would complain that it was a dog whistle to homophobes who want to equate homosexuality with paedophilia – so we have to be silent. In other words people use the threat of being offended in order to silence. And we far too often go along with that – because its the easier road.
Premier have chosen to go down a particular road. Just because its a well trod one with lots of people on it, does not make it right. They will never challenge the predominate culture, they will just be a baptised expression of it. I think that they will continue to manipulate the Church by having token conservatives on (because apart from the corporates that is largely where the money comes from), but what they are permitted to say will be confined to the agenda set by the culture. Or they will be cancelled. That’s not the Christian way. That to be honest is a form of bullying – the pressure to confirm is phenomenal.
If this was the world, then I would sue. But that’s also not the Christian way. I have explained what I said and what happened. There is nothing more that I can do. I leave it with the Lord. My card is marked back home. I think I will claim political asylum and live in exile in Australia until I get to my real home!