I really don’t understand why so many bloggers seem to be leaping to the defence of Inigo Wilson.

Wilson wrote an absolutely rubbish and mostly banal post called ‘The Lefty Lexicon’. Not a very original idea, this this one certainly isn’t among the funniest. Indeed, parts of it are downright puerile. His ‘lefty’ definition of ‘Islamophobic’ is “anyone who objects to having their transport blown up on the way to work.”

Now, that’s not very nice, you might say, but he should have the right to say that if he wants. I would agree with that.

But by the same token, Orange — as a private company — have the right to sack him for expressing such views. Especially seeing as he was Orange’s “community affairs manager”. Not only this, but he boasted about this fact at the top of his post! Having this man in charge of community affairs is like having a luddite in charge of IT. It simply would not be wise for Orange to continue to employ him for this simple reason.

I guess we bloggers are all a little bit jumpy because we don’t like the idea that we could be sacked for what we write on our blog. Indeed, sometimes people get sacked because of their blog for no good reason — Petite Anglaise for instance. But bloggers shouldn’t be able to expect to be able to say any old shit on a blog and get away with it.

Inigo Wilson was a person who was in charge of community affairs for Orange, and he expressed borderline racist views. Frankly, I’m not surprised that Orange felt the need to sack him. And I’m somewhat disappointed that so many people in the blogosphere seem to be jumping to Wilson’s defence, seemingly for the simple reason that he spouted his bile on a blog.

Inigo Wilson has freedom of speech. But in his position he also had great responsibility, and in my view his blog post was highly irresponsible.

Chris Applegate is absolutely right:

The whole affair really is a miserable storm in a teacup – as far as I know, Wilson hasn’t had his site taken down, nor has he been arrested, thrown in jail and/or had his testicles electrocuted for what he has said; nor has he been forced to go into hiding, or flee the country altogether, as those who truly have been persecuted for their words have. A distinction has to be made between genuine repression of free thought and speech by states, and companies worrying about an employee’s ability to perform his job relating to customers.

Update: Via Nosemonkey, this from Stuart Bruce:

A community affairs manager is also usually responsible for community consultation regarding the new mobile phone masts sites. It is therefore alarming that Inigo Wilson says “Consultation – a formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time.” Even if you are charitable enough to ignore his racist comments, then this one alone highlights his unsuitability for doing the job he is employed to.

It’s his unsuitability for public relations or community affairs which is the reason why Orange had to act as it did and it’s nothing to do with curtailing free speech or bowing down to pressure from MPAC.

Update: As Garry says:

Own goals all round really.

7 comments

  1. Islamophobia is fear of Islam. Wilson said it was fear of being blown up on public transport on the way to work. Ergo, Islam is blowing people up on public transport on the way to work.

    Consequently, I can’t see that his position is at all tenable.

  2. Well, Orange have rather done as Petite Anglais’ employers have done – drawn unnecessary attention to themselves.

    So, it was unfunny, but touched a nerve or two, it seems. Let’s get one thing clear here, none of the comments were racist. Making facetious or satirical comments about Islam is not racist; not even close, nor borderline racist. Islam is a religion, not a racial group. Criticising it is criticising an ideology, not a racial group. Poking fun at it even in a crass manner is still not racist. Saying as he did (clearly tongue in cheek) that Muslims blow people up is still not racist as Muslims do not come from a single racial group. It was tasteless, not racist. Indeed, calling him a racist will simply confirm one of the comments he made – his definition of “racist”.

    His comment on consultation is, as with some of the others, rather close to the truth… :| and certainly a massive own goal.

    The problem here, is that if it was intended as satire, it missed a crucial element in that it just isn’t funny. Good satire should have the reader chuckling at the underlying truisms.

    Okay, that said, should Orange have sacked him? I think Chris is right in that they probably have a case for disrepute in that he openly identified himself and in doing so; his employer who clearly does not wish to be associated with his comments. Given that they are, I believe, within their rights to do so, should they? Probably not. It does tend to cast them in a bad light as they will appear to be over reacting to something that if ignored would have quietly gone away – and, frankly, that would have been the best thing to do. Look what has happened; a rather silly attempt at satire is the centre of a row and now being discussed all over the place.

  3. You make some good points about that Longrider, but I’m not sure you can say that this wasn’t even close to borderline racism. Yes, Islam is a religion / ideology — but Inigo Wilson made no reference to it.

    He described Islam as being about the blowing up of transport, and as far as I know there is nothing in the ideology of Islam about blowing up transport. As such, he was attacking Muslims as a group of people, not as followers of a religion.

    If he put that definition under the heading of ‘al-Qaeda’ or ‘terrorism’ it would be a different matter, but then Wilson would have missed out on his big chance to take a pot shot at a minority group.

  4. “Muslims as a group of people” and “followers of a religion” are one and the same here. Muslims follow Islam. Islam is a religious belief system that covers a significant proportion of the globe and its followers come from a variety of racial groups.

    There may not be anything specifically about blowing up transport in the ideology, but killing Infidels is in the Q’ran… All depends on how radically you want to interpret it, isn’t it? That’s why there is so much of a thing about moderate Muslims not condemning attacks – if they don’t, they are damned for not speaking out. If they do, they are not “real Muslims” and are going against the Q’ran. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. :|

    Wilson’s comments were distasteful, yes. Racist, no. There is a clear difference between attacking people who follow a religion (however closely they follow its ideology) and those who are of a particular racial group. Conflating the two rather makes Wilson’s point for him.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but I do like words to be used correctly ;) Call him an intolerant bigot, by all means, but there was nothing racist in his comments.

  5. [...] There’s been a positive storm brewing recently in the land of blog regarding Inigo Wilson’s “Lefty Lexicon” over at  Conservative Home and plenty have commented. Much has touched on freedom of speech and others have pointed out – rightly – that such freedom brings consequences. Still, I thought I’d bring my comment to the discussion. [...]

  6. Oh hell, you’re all wrong here. ‘Islamophobia’ is not a ‘fear of Islam’, it’s a bullshit neologism. It’s just used to mean ‘nasty people’ but idiots who never heard of Godwin’s Law. Wilson does not explictly equate Islam with blowing things up; rather the opposite, he says people who object to blowing things up may be called Islamophobic. (Which is probably a hysterical reaction, but he works in community relations, a field stuffed with buzzword zombies, so who knows what crap they come out with.)

    Second, I fail to see how he brought Orange into disrepute. He didn’t name them. He said he worked for a telecoms company and gave his name. If you thought John Band was treated poorly by stalkers who complained to his (also unnamed) employers, you’ve got to come out for Wilson. Many people didn’t find John Band funny either. I did, and I always liked his style. It’s almost too tempting to do the Harry’s Place thing here — JB slagged off the Jews, and Inigo Wilson said nasty things about Muslims.

  7. Dave, I understand exactly what “Islamophobia” means ;)

    http://www.longrider.co.uk/blog/2006/08/20/islamphobia-the-new-racism/