When bigotry becomes a byword for common sense

A professor is blaming ‘bigots’ for forcing him to abandon plans to launch a degree course in surfing.

It has to be admitted that in this big sad world of ours the bigot gets a bad press. Not for him the devoted attention of silky-limbed PR girls with cut-glass accents and tinkling laughter who dispense warm Chardonnay in scented Mayfair salons.

Not for him invitations to screen premieres and glittering parties, there to exchange salty epithets with such effulgent ornaments as Elton John and Liam Gallagher.

Not for him the crunching step of the postman on the gravelled drive heralding a sackful of fan mail.

Not for him the honour of his company requested on quiz shows, panel games or celebrity reality extravaganzas. No, when he gags on his mealy-bugs he does so alone, with no squealing, silicone-enhanced starlet to mug her collagen-bloated disgust at the lens.

Good to see, then, that, just for once, the bigot has enjoyed his spot in the limelight, exulting in wild applause before slipping back into the shadows, leaving the audience pleading for the darkened stage to be lit again just one more time.

Before telling you more about the bigot’s triumph perhaps I should, like every good pedant, define my terms. A bigot is generally understood to be one who is prejudiced and has a mind closed to reason or argument. But, of course, bigotry is not a solitary vice: to qualify as a bigot it is necessary to be declared as such by someone else, someone who believes himself or herself to be wholly free of bigotry.

Thus bigotry may take many shapes, according to the beholder. It is, in short, a protean form of abuse used to denigrate the views of one with whom the accuser disagrees. Sometimes charges of bigotry are relatively specific: racist, sexist, fascist, Marxist, xenophobe, misogynist are common examples of insults used to discredit opponents and thereby avoid tiresome debate. Such terms are used as full-stops to close arguments and avoid the necessity of discussion. Who wants to talk to a sexist?

The origin of the term bigot is obscure. Some lexicographers believe it is French, but, since Francophobia is itself a form of bigotry, lexicographers instantly fall under suspicion. Others believe the word is derived from the Spanish “bigote”, meaning moustache. Again, we find ourselves on uncertain ground: are mustachioed men more inclined to irrational prejudice than those who are bare-faced?

At any rate, we all know a bigot when we see one, or rather hear his or her views. (Interestingly, though in the interests of avoiding the charge of sexism, I use both the male and female pronoun, it is extremely rare to hear of a woman being described as a bigot. Is bigotry male, and, if so, is it bigoted to say so?)

Now let me reveal the bigot who basked in unaccustomed but deserving praise, though that was of course not the intention of his accuser.

His name is Professor David Warner and he is the principal of the Swansea Institute. He announced that he had abandoned plans to launch (though in this context a different verb might be less risible) a degree course for surfers.

It had, he explained, been laughed out of existence, cruelly torn from the womb before being give a chance to enter this breathing world and be burped into existence.

“After three months of attempting to explain that this was a management course it was impossible to stop people poking fun at it,” laments the professor. “This is extremely sad. This is an example of a very good vocational course within a dynamic industry which will now not be run simply because of the bigots.”

Well, hooray for the bigots. If Professor Warner cannot see that a Bachelor of Arts degree in surf and beach management is essentially ridiculous, he is blessed with powers of self-delusion beyond the ordinary.

What, for Heaven’s sake, did he expect? It is thoroughly heartening that even in our politically correct, egalitarian, culturally and morally relativist age, credulity is not without bounds.

The professor was laughed at because of his folly de grandeur, always good for a giggle. Had he chosen to offer a diploma in surf management or a certificate in beachwear maintenance, no one would have taken any notice. But to offer a Bachelor of Arts course with the possibility of honours was to misunderstand the limits of marketing and to revive memories of the Goon Show.

He should have remembered that the first person to attempt surf management was King Canute, who knew he would fail and in so doing hoped to convince the sillier among his courtiers that he was not endowed with divine powers.

But, unlike Canute, Professor Warner refuses to take the blame for the dashing of foolish hopes. Instead he rounds on those beastly, ever-present and hateful nihilists, the bigots.

But the professor’s bleating notwithstanding, the abandonment of the course was, to coin a phrase, a small step for common sense but a giant leap for unreasoned prejudice. If the forces of bigotry spotted massing on the horizon can draw strength from this victory, let us hope that armed with the trusty sword of laughter, they will march on to greater victories still.

If this is bigotry, sign me on and pipe me aboard. I shall be the first to grow a moustache and enlist in its ranks.

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