Xenophobia – What Xenophobia?

Sharing Xenophobia a Collection of Resources

The Little Englander series continues. Following episode 2, ‘Little Englander’: Diane Ashby to the Rescue, we take up the story as Diane Ashby’s Rescue Mission Continues. Her latest email receives a rapid riposte.

Dear Professor Marks

In response to your email of 24 July, I can reassure you that high standards are indeed expected of both staff and members. The purpose of Jon’s tweets around Euro 2020 – including referencing Wales and Scotland when they were in the tournament – was to share a collection of resources on Psychology and football. I believe that, and the spirit in which they were intended, will be apparent to the vast majority of people.

Similarly, I think that an ordinary reasonable person is likely to interpret your ‘Little Englander’ tweet as implying that Jon holds xenophobic attitudes. As noted by Wikipedia, this is a common interpretation of the ‘derogatory’ term. Therefore I must repeat my request that you delete the tweet, by10 August 2021 or we will need to consider further action.

I also kindly request that you refrain from copying Jon in to any reply, as I am aware he has already appealed to you regarding the impact of this. To continue regardless could be interpreted as harassment.

Kind regards

Diane Ashby

Deputy Chief Executive

Dear Diane Ashby,

I acknowledge receipt of today’s email.

Your claim that the purpose of Jon Sutton’s tweets around Euro 2020 “was to share a collection of resources on Psychology and football” appears naive, highly implausible and beside the point. Even if it were true, the impression given by Jon Sutton’s tweet  is of an entirely different nature. 

I refer you to the BPS Guidance on the use of social media where it states: 

■ “Keep your professional and personal life as separate as possible. This may be best achieved by having separate accounts, for example Facebook could be used for personal use and LinkedIn or Twitter used for professional purposes.”

Jon Sutton’s views on ‘football coming home’ etc were personal and should never have been published on the BPS Psychologist Twitter account. Quite clearly, Jon Sutton has broken the rules specified in the social media guidance. By defending Jon Sutton, you are complicit is an unethical, xenophobic and antisocial act against the BPS Code of Ethics and Conduct.

If, as you say, an “ordinary reasonable person is likely to interpret [my] ‘Little Englander’ tweet as implying that Jon holds xenophobic attitudes”, that’s exactly my point. Please note Code of Ethics and Conduct paragraph 3.4 which states: “Integrity Acting with integrity includes being honest, truthful, accurate and consistent in one’s actions, words, decisions, methods and outcomes. It requires setting self-interest to one side and being objective and open to challenge in one’s behaviour in a professional context.”  Also please note paragraph 3.1 which states: “3.1 Respect Respect for the dignity of persons and peoples is one of the most fundamental and universal ethical principles across geographical and cultural boundaries, and across professional disciplines. It provides the philosophical foundation for many of the other ethical Principles. Respect for dignity recognises the inherent worth of all human beings, regardless of perceived or real differences in social status, ethnic origin, gender, capacities, or any other such group-based characteristics. This inherent worth means that all human beings are worthy of equal moral consideration.” Neither Jon Sutton nor you are showing integrity or respect. 

According to the principles of Integrity and Respect, Jon Sutton’s public expression of xenophobia is open to challenge as is your defence of his conduct. I defend my right as a Fellow of the BPS and Chartered Psychologist working within the Code to criticise Jon Sutton for what I perceive to be his xenophobia. There have been multiple occasions where xenophobia and racism, codified or overt, have been evident in BPS publications. I am discussing these issues in a book edited by Professor David Pilgrim and will not go into them here. However I am willing to elaborate if called to do so by any investigating organisation such as the Charity Commission.

Xenophobia about England and English football is widely recognised. It is associated with yobbism, violence, nationalism, racism and right wing politics.  Xenophobia is not an attitude that is becoming of an Editor of The Psychologist. It is my considered opinion that Jon Sutton should delete his tweet and apologise, and that you and other BPS officers should distance yourselves from it and other forms of xenophobic behaviour, not defend it with unsubstantiated and implausible speculations. Hence you are as culpable as Jon Sutton for xenophobia which is out of keeping with the Code of Conduct. 

As stated above I will be willing to clarify in more detail why I consider Jon’s conduct and your support of it detrimental to the public standing and reputation of the Society. To give an example, one of the phrases Jon used: “It’s coming home” may not be as innocent as it sounds. I refer you to the paper: “‘Football’s coming home’ but whose home? And do we want it? Nation, football and the politics of exclusion” by Ben Carrington (2002) in A. Brown (Ed.) Fanatics (pp. 121-143). Routledge available at: http://ndl.ethernet.edu.et/bitstream/123456789/34991/1/Adam_Brown.pdf#page=122

The following quotation from Ben Carrington’s paper seems especially apposite:

“Racism manifests itself in plural and complex forms. In this situation the logic of racism needs to be appraised in what we shall call metonymic elaborations. This means that racisms may be expressed through a variety of coded signifiers…. Contemporary racisms have evolved and adapted to new circumstances. The crucial property of these elaborations is that they can produce a racist effect while denying that this effect is the result of racism.” (Solomos and Back 1996:27). 

As a xenophobic, codified signifier of racism, Jon Sutton’s tweet should be removed without further delay and Jon Sutton should be reprimanded and warned not to use the Society’s Psychologist Twiiter account to make personal, xenophobic remarks. For this reason, I am making a formal complaint to the Society Ethics Committee about Jon Sutton’s conduct and your conduct by being complicit with it.

As requested, I have not copied Jon Sutton into this email to avoid what you describe as ‘harassment’. Equally, any further emails from you to me about this matter will also constitute ‘harassment’, by your definition, and I request that you do not write any further emails to me about this matter.

Herewith I am lodging a formal complaint to the Ethics Committee about your and Jon Sutton’s conduct. Any further communication about this matter should be through the offices of the Chair of the BPS Ethics Committee, to whom I am copying this email.

Kind regards,

David F Marks PhD FBPsS  CPsychol

Published by David F Marks

Author, editor, psychologist.

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