The Manchester Evening News has taken up a campaign. Not about the chronic shortage of social housing in Manchester. Not on behalf of the many many workers in the city who are paid below the living wage. Don’t be stupid. The MEN has its priorities. It’s been fighting for the right of binmen to display England flags from their wagons.
It appears that the council contracts out its bin collection to a firm that won’t let its workers fly the flag for health and safety reasons. But the super soaraway MEN has scored a victory: ‘But after the Manchester Evening News contacted the Town Hall, the council persuaded the company to change its policy.’ Hurrah!
You’d think the MEN would stay out of political disputes, having got every political call wrong over the last decade – it backed the smoking ban, backed ID cards, backed the Manchester c-charge and predicted a Lib Dem Manchester landslide in the general election. But the issue goes beyond the MEN’s brand of regional dog-whistle journalism, for every World Cup is followed by stories about how the politically correct elite are banning England flags, as sure as night follows day.
It’s said that Ophelia Benson has the worst job in the blogosphere. I think that Anton Vowl has to be a contender for that title. He spends his free time reading and arguing with the British Tory press, which in recent months has become completely unhinged. Naturally the flag ban folk myth is all over the place at the moment.
Anton makes many good points. (Why do people only want to fly the flag when there’s an international tournament on?) Many pub landlords do ban flags and football colours, all year round, World Cup or no World Cup. This is not because they are multicultural ideologues who are terrified of offending Muslims. It is because they are businessmen who want to keep paying the mortgage.
The fact is that flags attract arseholes who like to intimidate and hurt other people. They attract morons who cannot get through a night without ruining someone else’s. And a pub full of arseholes and morons is not going to attract many customers.
This is why upper middle class journalists who write flag ban columns would never in a million years go into a pub with guys in football colours drinking in the beer garden.
We liberal-left types aren’t meant to call morons morons when they’re being moronic; we’re meant to imagine that if people are wilfully ignorant, or don’t want to find out about things, or lack the curiosity to challenge what they’ve been told, that it’s somehow our fault, and we should reach out to them, even though they won’t believe us, for fear of alienating them. Do you know what? I try to bend over backwards as much as I can bear to, but fuck that.
I am a patriot and I love my country. Although football’s not my thing, I hope we win this tournament and I will probably watch a few of the games. That said, flags attract arseholes. It’s not fair – but it’s the way the world works.
Naturally, we can’t say that, so the whole thing has accumulated into yet another facet of the rich mythology of the white Briton with a chip on his shoulder. Go on Facebook, read the comments of any newspaper website and it’s a seething cauldron of entitlement and grievance.
I would be happy to see the St George’s flag everywhere I go. But I also wonder how English identity came to be defined by victimhood, self-pity, riskless defiance and synthetic outrage. Come on, people. Is that all we’ve got?