Since science news is thin on the ground today, I want to talk about something else.
“More than 1,200 housing association staff banned from flying England flags on their OWN cars” screams today’s Mail. Now, if you’ve read any tabloid paper recently, or even just visited Facebook, you’ll have seen the ridiculous myth that England shirts and flags have been banned by the police. The myth has been debunked by better bloggers than I, so I’m instead just going to talk about this one article.
You see, the housing association (Bolton At Home) hasn’t banned staff from flying flags on their own cars at all. They’ve banned them from flying them from officially branded cars and vehicles used while on official duty. Which is fair enough really; while I might not be offended should an official public body send round a car with England flags flapping from the bonnet, it’s hardly professional either – not to mention that flags cause a fair bit of drag, which of course reduces the vehicle’s fuel consumption by enough that public funds would be wasted having to fill up more often (the figures given in the article aren’t especially useful to do any meaningful maths with – they don’t say what the fuel consumption was to begin with – but still; half a litre per kilometre, their upper limit, is 4.7 mpg. By comparison, a Hummer H2 gets 8-12 mpg.)
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
The Daily Mail says that the regulation is in place because “decking out their personal vehicles with the St George’s flags could ‘discriminate’ against those who don’t support England during the World Cup” which, besides being a lovely example of scarequotes on the word discriminate, is quite obviously wrong. For one thing, all flags are banned, not just England ones – the article specifically mentions a case involving a complaint against a Bolton At Home worker flying the Irish flag as the reason for the regulation. In addition, it’s not about discrimination against people who aren’t England supporters, it’s about protecting people against whom nationalist symbols have been co-opted by the far-right as a weapon.
But that’s not what I want to talk about either.
No, I’m most interested in this quote:
Mark Perryman, head of the official England supporters club, said: ‘Banning the use of any flag is wrong and simply suppresses multiculturalism.
‘The idea that you can suppress something like this by diktat is ludicrous and incredibly badly thought out.
‘South Africa is a country with an appalling history – apartheid, famine, Aids, being badly treated by the empire – but everybody is flying the flag of the rainbow nation. People in England should be doing the same.’
Do you hear that, world? Refusing to fly a flag? Well, that’s worse than starvation, apartheid, AIDS and colonialism put together.