Tuesday, 10 July 2012

John Terry hurts someone's feelings and ends up in court

So this is really stupid.

John Terry, who I believe is a footballer renowned for his questionable conduct, is currently on trial for being mean to another footballer. It is alleged that Terry called his fellow footballer a "black *expletive*".

It's absurd for this to be a crime. Why should the insult employed effect its legality? Who's in charge of deciding which insults should be banned? If he had hurled abuse at someone based on height, weight, intelligence, hair colour or anything else, there would have been no problem. Of course, this is still unpleasant behaviour, but does something being unpleasant now warrant a ban? For some reason if race, and to a lesser extent religion and possibly sexual orientation or disability, are involved it becomes worse in the eyes of the law. If John Terry had called Anton Ferdinand a "stupid *expletive*" this would surely have been more insulting as "stupid" is actually a word people can take offence at. But even if it's not, the idea that whichever is the more offensive should be banned is ridiculous.

People are mean to each other. It happens. But we can't possibly regulate every instance, or even a fraction of a percent of instances of this happening. If you did you'd have to arrest David Cameron and Ed Miliband every Wednesday. If I "racially abuse" a friend in a heated argument, I might be an idiot, but no more of an idiot than if I insulted her based on any other characteristic, and is a court case really going to solve anything?

In this particular case, Terry faces a fine of up to £2500. He earns sixty times that in a week. Also, it's transpired that Ferdinand wasn't even aware of what Terry had said. He didn't believe Terry had "racially abused" him until he rewatched the footage. He wasn't even offended by the actual incident. Ferdinand told the court he would have been ""very hurt" if he had heard John Terry racially abuse him." So now it's a court case based on the possibility of someone being offended, had they heard what someone else said. Is there really so much free court time that they can be used to settle disputes between footballers who have hurted each other's feelings?

I lose patience with people invoking Orwell, but when someone can be in court because someone else may have been offended if they had heard something someone may have said, we're beyond parody. And if the problem really is offence, re-watching the footage and making it famous through a high profile court case is surely going to offend more people who wouldn't have originally seen it. But all this is irrelevant, as being mean to someone because of their race shouldn't be a crime.

One of the top rated tweets on the issue was:
"John Terry who earns £150k a week could be fined up to £2,500 if found guilty of racism. Feels a bit like putting Hitler on a naughty step"
Not really. It's like someone who hasn't committed a crime being fined £2,500, not like someone who committed genocide having a slap on the wrist. What a complete failure of common sense and logic.

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