Media hypocrisy is making the F1 racism issue worse

On Sunday when I wrote about the racist crowd members at the Barcelona test, I said that part of the problem was the media’s debased, distorted coverage of Formula 1. Sadly, their coverage of the racism issue itself does not make me confident that the situation will get any better. The News International stable in particular should be hanging its head in shame — although of course it won’t be.

The Sun has taken the opportunity to drive traffic to its website by buying Google Ads on Formula 1 websites — including this one. As I pointed out in the comments yesterday, the language used is rather inflammatory:

Lewis Hamilton in racism storm. Spanish yobs vile attack on F1 ace

Granted, subtlety has never been a strong suit of The Sun, being as it is a bastion of demagoguery. Read the article itself and things don’t get much better. There are some rather thinly-veiled racist comments in here as well including:

Spanish fans — notorious for racism at football matches…

Not a word of course about English football fans who have been notorious for their hooliganism, as peterg pointed out in the comments.

Too many people have been trying to make it out as though Spain in particular has a problem with racism. One person commenting on The Sun’s website called the racism incident “Typical Spanish attitude” without a hint of irony.

As Pink Peril said in the comments yesterday, wherever you go, sooner or later racism will rear its ugly head. The only reason this has become a “Spanish” problem is because Hamilton happens to have a rivalry with someone who happens to be Spanish.

If Hamilton had had a rivalry with a driver of a different nationality, he would still be at the receiving end of racist taunts. And even if a British driver had a rivalry with a non-British black driver, British racists would soon enough be out in force.

The Sun's tasteless racism Besides, the last place anyone should go to learn about issues surrounding race is The Sun. This is the paper that once ran a spoof Mr Men strip featuring such culturally-sensitive characters as “Mr Asylum Seeker” who wants everything for free, “Mr Albanian Gangster” who invites people to visit his friends’ sisters and “Mr Yardie”, a gun-wielding, joint-smoking Rastafarian.

When did The Sun run this insightful story? The 1970s? The 1980s? No, it was 2003.

We all know that the only reason The Sun is even paying attention to this story is because Lewis Hamilton is British. They wouldn’t give two hoots if the racism was directed at somebody else.

And this is the thing. The Sun’s nationalism is a symptom of the same problem that the racists in the Barcelona grandstands have. The media here bases its entire Formula 1 coverage on the notion that you should support Lewis Hamilton because he is British and vilify Fernando Alonso because he isn’t British.

The Sun says you should support drivers on the basis of where they come from. Racists taunt drivers on the basis of where they come from. They are both the same thing.

Meanwhile, The Sun’s sister paper, The Times, has written a story today blasting, “Spanish media chose to overlook latest incident” (via F1Fanatic). This is despite the fact that we probably wouldn’t even be aware of many of the incidents were it not for the reporting of Spanish newspapers such as Marca. In addition, El País, El Mundo and ABC have all reported on the issue (via Samuel at F1Fanatic).

The distorted perspectives from gutter newspapers like The Sun and The Times will do nothing to prevent racism. In fact, I am convinced that these newspapers are using the opportunity to tap into the racist attitudes of their readers by making yet more anti-Spanish comments and telling yet more lies about the situation.


  1. Just before I arrived here I noticed a Sun AdSense ad on another site and immediately loaded my site and have started a quick auto-refresh test to see if it’s appearing on my site. If it is I’ll be adding the Sun’s URL to my list of unwanted sites in the competitive ad filter. The language and mentality of the advert only invites racism and it is things like this that make me sorry to be British; our media can’t even report properly. It really is quite shameful.

    Yep. Added to my AdSense unwanted list.

  2. I think this has gone too far. Also politicians are now involved, trying to make a diplomatic issue between countries from it. It´s not amuzing?

    There is a lot of biass above this matter. The famous picture shown in the newspapers is just rubbish. It was a major day during the Barna Carnival and also those people were interviewed on TV, the were wearing a fancy dresses (quite poor have to say under my point of view) trying to be LH´s family saying we are sorry Lewis, we love you but… (on the back of the T-shirts there was a legend) FA Nº1. I particularly did not find it funny, but neither insulting in that context. What it was bad was the insults to hamilton and McLaren by other not easy to identify people in front of the box, that obliged the authorities to withdraw them from there.

    What I find hard is that the British press taking the tolerance´s flag (?) has made with the issue, putting the entire Spanish Society as racists saying like The Times, The Sun…. that Spanish people used to “enjoy” emigration to Southamerica up to 30 years ago and now find difficult to welcome latinos from Southamerica. Also fights between latin-bands against spanish-bands, not counting and isolated incident provoqued by a drunk-troublemaker in an underground wagon who had plenty of publicity on TV, and so on.

    As I said. This has gone too far, and is giving ammunition to those stupid racists for going on, they now will be on the screen all over the world and that is important for those brainless.

  3. Unfortunately newspapers like The Sun (and I use the term newspaper in its loosest possible sense) sell papers by pandering to the lowest common denominator.

  4. I’m still astonished after reading the lasts articles published at The Times.

    It’s really incredible to see that kind of manoeuvres to mobilize the reader’s opinion, and they succeeded by far!!!!

    There are much more xenophobic, racist and nationalist abuses in the reader’s comments, than in the facts occurred at Montmeló last weekend.

    With this policy (and lies), The Times is creating xenophobic feelings to their readers.

    I thought that The Times was a serious newspaper, but lately, I cannot distinguish between them and the typical tabloid of any nationality.

  5. Surprisingly enough, The Times posted an article by a british journalist living in Barcelona criticizing (spelling?) the treatment that british press had given to the nonetheless shameful events in Montmeló.

    On my behalf i can only say that though disgusting and in bad taste, the photo of the fans with blackened faces had nothing to do with the actual harassment, insults (racists and other) and projectile launchment towards McLaren and Hamilton in particular. I mean, i don’t have any proof of that, but as a spanish fellow myself, i can so clearly see those people were just dressed up for carnival and wanting to scornfully impersonate Hamilton’s entourage. These are not the type of raving racist people that do the real harm. Yet they used the picture as if those people had been the ones at the very front of the mindless fanatists. To my mind comes the image of the oil-covered bird and the Exxon-Valdez…

  6. And here we have another example of stereotypes and media trying to sell their own story.
    As a Spanish F1 fan, I am well aware of my compatriots’ behaviour on Montmeló, and as a football fan, I have seen almost everything in a sports event.
    First and foremost, F1 has taken a tremendous boost since the appearance of Alonso, and has attracted a lot of people more interested in defending “our Paladin” against everyone and everything than enjoying a sports competition. Needless to say, old fans like me, really appreciate Hamilton’s driving. However, I have to say that Hamiltons (both) behaviour last season is hard to forgive, and they will never be well regarded here. This does not justify racist insults.
    Yes, there were racist insults in Montmeló, and I regret that. Just think that is the easy way of insulting another man, referring to its origins, race or religion. Sad, but true. However, I doubt that they were more than a hundred of retarded there. Did something strange happen in Jerez? No. Was Hamilton there? Yes. How many people watched the tests? About 20000 each day. Were racist insults reported? No. Is Jerez in Spain? Yes.
    What I do not tolerate is being put by some british press in the same bucket as those morons. Spain as a whole is not a racist country. I know that some stupid people can make monkey sounds when they see a black player, I remember a match agaisnt England in the Bernabeú. But, do you really think that was the whole stadium? No, it is impossible that 100000 people would do that. We are a country who adored Romario, Ronaldo, Mazinho, Magic Johnson, Jordan… Guess what? They are black.
    The problem here is more about sport newspapers looking for great stories to tell about how mean is Hamilton and how pure and brave is Alonso. Those stories easily catch the poor of mind eager to find someone to project his rage on. Those newspapers are Marca and As. As an example of their manners, the day before the match against France in the World Cup, a huge photo of Zidane (the Great, a Real Madrid player) and a sentence: “We are going to give your retirement”.
    Another thing that annoys me is receive lessons from Britain about racism and behaviour in a pitch. If you know that Hooliganism is a part and not the whole. Don’t you think we deserve the same treatment?.
    I really appreciate your post Doc, I felt really ashamed when I saw the harassment on McLaren. I think you analysed the situation perfectly and with your unbiased point of view, as usual.