UNLIKE the Middle Ages, we are now officially against sexism,
racism, and homophobia. So why do we still slavishly follow that
era's passion for witch-hunts?
The Premier League chief, Richard Scudamore, is on the ropes. By
the time you read this, he may have fallen from the punches. If he
is still standing, he will certainly be battered and bruised. And
why? Because he forwarded a sexist joke, and replied to two others.
Suddenly, all he's done counts for nothing - and he has done a
Under his stewardship, England's Premier League has become the
most commercially successful football league in the world. But the
sky has been falling in on his head since a former employee exposed
his emails to public view. And football now has a new competition:
"Who can take the most offence?"
"Right now," Martin Samuel writes in the Mail, "a cabal
of the useless, the over-promoted, and professionally outraged
appear to be in league against him, egged on by the people who
could not beat him in a fair fight so now see the chance to defeat
him with his hands tied.
"Every mediocre administrator, politician and professional
committee clock-puncher is piling in on this one: Rabbatts, Horne,
Dyke, Helen Grant, Lord Triesman, and a gentleman called Edward
Lord whose CV reads like a brief history of time-serving. They're
all jostling for position, competing to be the most offended
It is not just the jokes that have caused offence, but the
dissonance between his public and private face. Publicly, Mr
Scudamore is promoting more gender-inclusive sport. Privately, he
appears as a small-time office misogynist. So what are we to do?
What a lot of people are doing is gleefully laying faggots around
the stake in preparation for a public burning. He's a witch, he's a
Proportion and honesty seem important here. Drawing from our
internal front room, nicely furnished for public scrutiny, we say
and do the "right" things; but aware that we also possess a
basement, a different room - with gloomier light, and not the place
for guests - where the less beautiful aspects of our lives are
played out and acknowledged.
So we learn to be proportionate, to allow both front room and
basement, to allow light and shadow; for, if we ever forget our
basement, we are liable to become absurd and judgemental when faced
with the basements of others.
So we pause for thought. Joan of Arc was made a saint in 1920,
570 years after being burnt at the stake as a witch. Mr Scudamore
will never be made a saint, but should he be made a witch? History
suggests that witch-hunters threaten the truth much more than those
whom they burn.