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Rod Liddle

Tread carefully! Your garden is saturated with racial meaning – and so is Ikea

A sociologist who makes Malcolm Bradbury’s History Man look balanced

9 August 2014

9:00 AM

9 August 2014

9:00 AM

Is your life saturated with racial meaning? The most common answer to this question, when I ask friends and acquaintances, and sometimes people in the street going about their business, is: ‘Your inquiry makes no sense whatsoever. It sounds like the sort of pretentious and thoroughly bogus question dreamed up by some idiotic sociology lecturer in a third-rate polytechnic. Now go away, I have lost my place in the queue at Burger King and will have to wait ages for a bacon double cheeseburger.’

The correct answer, however, is ‘yes’. Our lives are saturated with racial meaning — I have it on good authority. I don’t know what it means, but nonetheless we are all soaking wet with racial meaning, all of us. You especially, probably. This is the view of a man called Dr Ben Pitcher who is — as coincidence would have it — an idiotic sociology lecturer at a third-rate polytechnic. The ‘University’ of Westminster, to be precise, an institution ranked 106th out of the 121 universities in the Sunday Times University Guide, and for sociology ranked 81st out of 89 in the Guardian (which knows a sociologist when it sees one).

Dr Ben has been unpicking the racial subtexts and tropes and memes which infect our lives and, um, saturate us — and of course he has concentrated his attention, as is only right, on the racist excrescence which is Gardeners’ Question Time on BBC Radio 4. This long-running temple of filth must be seen ‘in the context of the rise of racist and fascist parties in Europe’ and indeed ‘the crisis in white identity’. That’s why, you see, those supposedly cosy and genteel old coves on GQT are always telling people to root out invasive alien species from their gardens and fling them on the compost heap or burn them or poison them or something.

That’s what we want to do with immigrants, you see. Every time you rid the borders of your pond of an infestation of Japanese knotweed, you are subconsciously kicking a Roma in the testicles. He really does say this, Dr Ben. I haven’t made it up. His comments about GQT were reported in the Daily Mail and, thinking it was a spoof, I did the unheard of — researched. I looked him up. And he is very clear that when the fogeys on Gardeners’ Question Time are all worrying about invasive species, and urging listeners to prepare good, pure soil for their native plants, they are actually morphing, quite perceptibly, into Adolf Hitler.


I don’t know if Dr Ben has a garden. I saw a picture of him and he doesn’t look like the gardening type, frankly. He looks a bit like Trenton Oldfield, that charming if misguided Australian who disrupted the boat race a couple of years back, in protest at the vile elitism of universities which actually require their undergraduates to possess a qualification or two before they’re let inside. But if he did have a garden, what would he do with the Japanese knotweed? Welcome it? Make it a cup of coffee, insisting upon its right to live here, with no reduction in benefits, as a free and consensual member of the British weed community?

But I delved further. And it seems that Gardeners’ Question Time is by no means the only focus of Dr Ben’s laser-sharp mind, with its irrepressible commitment to show you racism in a handful of dust. Because Dr Ben is worried about something else we all do, something to which we’re partial.

Yes — Nordic furniture.

We are not wandering around Ikea because the stuff is quite cheap plus they also do those meatballs when you’re bored of looking at flatpack tables, but because we are imbued with a fascistic desire to get back in touch with our mythical Aryan roots — part of that crisis in white identity once again. So that’s why we like Danish and Norwegian and Swedish furniture: if we were less saturated with racial meaning, we’d instead be spending our Saturdays browsing around the many Rwandan or Somalian furniture hyperstores which throng the outskirts of our towns and cities. And we would thus furnish our homes in a congenially non-racist manner instead of all those didactic straight lines, their bland surfaces betraying a certain dialectic.

Dr Ben talks about all this in a short video he made. He’s standing in front of a bookcase, natch, in which the two standout names are Hegel, natch, and Derrida, natch squared, maybe even natch cubed. Dr Ben makes Howard Kirk — the late Malcolm Bradbury’s hilarious charlatan of a sociology lecturer — sort of rational and sane, and much less funny. Given a choice between the two of them, surely Kirk would be the first to get tenure? Even as a comic creation he out-thinks Dr Ben.

I suppose this story does not amount to much in the great scheme of things. Within a few days our collective hilarity will subside and our memory of Dr Ben will dwindle to nothing. And he will resume, come September, teaching a selection of the nation’s dimbos a lexicon of unadulterated, specious, intellectually incoherent balls. The only question which remains is — wouldn’t those dimbos be much, much, better off doing something else instead, like they used to? What on earth is the point of the poor kids getting themselves into £27,000 worth of debt, simply for the benefit of having a degree from an institution which very few employers would take seriously?

Its chancellor, incidentally, is Lord Paul — the Labour peer forced to resign as Deputy Speaker after getting caught up in the expenses scandal. Not that this fact matters terribly. But the level of teaching, the depth of thought — faux intellectual, faux academic, a sort of pretend form of learning, handed down by supposed academics who would themselves be better off doing some purifying form of manual labour. Just, y’know, sayin’.


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