Home » Agony Uncle » That PS: the sub-editor speaks

That PS: the sub-editor speaks


A BBC local radio DJ has been forced to quit his job after playing the 1935 recording of Ambrose singing The Sun Has Got His Hat On. (Why he did it, God knows. That’s BBC local radio for you. He’d probably run out of needletime for anything still in copyright.)

The lyrics include the lines (in reference to the sun): “He’s been turning negroes out in Timbuktoo, and now he’s coming over here to do the same to you.”

It was supposed to be a joke. Historically, people of colour tend to come from countries of sun. That is, of course, not intrinsically funny. Nor is the idea of people of pallor sunbathing to achieve darker skin. We mustn’t laugh.

The Sun Has Got His Hat On is a culturally mildly offensive witticism fairly typical of its dimwitted time and deserving at best of a shrug and getting on with the ironing. It is hardly the same as calling someone a ‘black bastard’ to their face, is it? Or refusing a black couple a bed for the night in your B&B?

But it is the use of the word ‘negroes’ in the modern-day context of cultural fascism (I can no longer write the words ‘political correctness’) that appears to have worried the station manager, in the wake of the Clarkson row. (BBC local radio station managers tend to think that what happens today in Dulverton, with its 243 elderly listeners, happens tomorrow in the world.)

Not only that, but in reporting the story on the news, the Radio 4 newsreader was abjectly forced to explain that the song contained ‘the n-word’, So it could not even be spoken in the context of a supposedly objective report on the incident, by the world’s most objective news service.

What was this terrible word, that we were not being allowed to hear? Nitrogen? Nephritis? Neologism? Newcastle?


This is self-censorship carried to the extreme. What other words are we not being allowed to hear? Words saying that we are secretly deporting all the Moslems on trains to Poland? That farmworkers are starving in Lincolnshire? That Chancellor Osborne has run off with the money?

What are these culturally sensitive apparatchiks (whose own common language we no longer fully understand) really afraid of?

Now we know, it is of speaking Truth unto nations. Next, we shall all be wearing armbands of various kinds and spitting on strangers in the street.

– Uncle Bogler


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