Yellow Peril (how to find offence in nothing)

This week, Jacob Rees-Mogg was forced to publicly apologise for using the term ‘yellow peril’ to describe the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons. By doing so he joined a long list of other well-known racists, such as…

The Guardian…

The New Statesman…

Jo Swinson’s former SpAd…

And err… ourselves…

What Jacob Rees-Mogg said is only racist if you take it completely out of context. We are not an East Asian party and it’s also not the late 19th century. Our party colours are yellow, that’s the reference. That’s it.

Labour MPs may have been the ones to make a fuss about this initially, but several of our own party members have since rushed to condemn Jacob Rees-Mogg on social media. My advice to all of those people – stop seeing offence around every corner and stop manufacturing outrage. It’s ridiculous, it’s embarrassing, and it’s off-putting to much of the voting public.

It’s not even very sincere.

This cartoon in The Times two weeks ago seemed to pass all of the same people by.

It’s a satirical cartoon making a point about the perception that Priti Patel has tried to silence the voices of black footballers by criticising them taking the knee, as well as her hypocrisy in later cheering them on because it looked like they might actually win the Euros. If somebody can look at that and see racism or violence against women then it says more about them than it does about the cartoon.

It didn’t stop some people on social media from claiming just that (though from what I can tell, none of them were the same people claiming offence at Jacob Rees-Mogg’s utterance of ‘yellow peril’). The point was made by many that if Marcus Rashford had been the subject of the cartoon there would have been uproar from all corners of the left. Now if Marcus Rashford had been the subject of the cartoon it wouldn’t have made any sense – but it wasn’t a completely unfair observation.

Too many people will quickly cry racism (or any sort of -ism or -phobia) when it’s the right sort of victim or the right (or wrong rather) sort of perpetrator, but when the victim is somebody they don’t like or the alleged perpetrator is somebody they do like, that’s when the cognitive dissonance tends to set in – I mean really, why is ‘yellow peril’ such an offensive term when used by Jacob Rees-Mogg, but not when used on the website of Jo Swinson’s local party?

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