jeudi 10 septembre 2009

Racism in context

Everyone's heard of the argumentative technique of 'not taking things out of context', 'understand this in its context' and 'no context no understanding' etc. but in the end how much context do you need to understand something, and isn't there, sometimes, an extraordinary amount of context a priori in a situation that the rolling out of the context argument looks like you're apologizing and covering up for the deed in question?

Take Brice Hortefeux, the French Home Secretary, (please do he's a cadaverous creepy bastard you could use as a prop in some amateur dramatic thing) who has sparked off a huge row in France about some racist comments he made at the ruling party' (the UMP's) summer university festival.

The video is quite clear - he says of the gentleman of North African origin, as if the chap isn't there at all, 'This one's ok, it's when there's a lot of them that there's trouble.'
It's as blatant as that. Any form of racism is a punishable offence in France and Hortefeux's job is under threat from this revelation. I say revelation and not 'lapse', because this remark illustrates the crude racial thinking at the centre of the French ruling party. Hortefeux himself is a close friend of Sarkozy (there is no way he could have got so far politically without extensive support) and so far is being backed up by the little posionous bastard. Thus we can legitmately deduce that this 'thinking' is quietly shared, and often overtly applied, by the party itself.

Yet in the media, the context excuse is relied on to support the Interior minister. Usually, one uses this argument to understand an apparently crptic or ambiguous comment by a philosopher say. "What is known is not seen, what is seen is not known." is a strange sounding quote out of its context. If one says , "It's from The Republic." the phrase becomes less 'alien' and one can begin to say things about it. This Hortefeux remark - well, it's happening right now on screen - there is no context fromo which it is being taken and the remark itself is clear - he definitely meant 'Africans' or 'blacks' or some other rancid term that drifts about in the arid stink of his tiny mind.

Sometimes, you have to understand a little less and condemn a lot more with these people. The UMP types, obviously.