Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/471/2003
Big Brother racism storm
Viewers reject racist bullying
Press headlines in the last week have been dominated by TV programme Big Brother. Controversy has centred on housemate Jade Goody's racist bullying of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.
The comments made by Jade and the group of housemates around her, referring to Shetty as 'Shilpa Poppadum', 'the Indian', and telling her to 'go back home', are unacceptable. Working-class people across the country have shown this by booting Jade out of the Big Brother house with 82% of the vote and through the record number of complaints - over 40,000 - to TV regulator Offcom.
But Big Brother and other shows of its ilk see this sort of controversy as their lifeblood. Flagging ratings had Big Brother producers Endemol worried. Then the Goody/Shilpa story broke and they got an extra million viewers! One Endemol executive was quoted as saying: "We're on every bulletin, it's absolutely brilliant".
The selection of housemates has been based on what sorts of characters are most likely to get each other's backs up. This has resulted in undercurrents of racism and homophobia in the past; only this time, things have spiralled out of the producers' control and Carphone Warehouse has withdrawn its £3 million sponsorship. When it starts to hit executives in the pocket, something has to be done! There was a heavily staged eviction of Jade, with no live audience.
Much of the tabloid coverage of Big Brother stank of hypocrisy. That the Murdoch rag The Sun could lead with the headline 'Evict the face of hate' and then carry an article on page two scapegoating asylum seekers shows the vitriol that this anti-working class paper is happy to indulge in.
Like millions of other people, when I get in from work I can switch the TV on and turn my brain off. But despite the exploitative attitude shown by Big Brother's producers, viewers have shown that they are not willing to accept the racist and ignorant attitudes expressed on the show.
There has been a common trend amongst rent-a-quote media commentators to suggest that it is not surprising Jade is racist as she is working class. This is a huge insult to the millions of working-class people across the country who are opposed to racism and discrimination, including the thousands of PCS members and other workers who protested outside BNP leader Nick Griffin's court hearing last year.
But for a small minority in society, the poverty and dire social situation they face has led to the propaganda of groups like the BNP as well as the muck of the Murdoch press creeping into their outlook.
To effectively counter this, we need to oppose the politics of the bosses and offer a real, socialist alternative to the lack of jobs, housing and public services. A new mass party for workers would be able to unite all the struggles that workers are engaged in and act as a national platform to counter the lies and slander of the BNP and the gutter tabloid press.
In The Socialist 25 January 2007:
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