Journalist's ‘Russian wife’ Twitter dig betrays last acceptable prejudice

Journalist's ‘Russian wife’ Twitter dig betrays last acceptable prejudice
A British journalist’s tweet, in which he makes an insinuation about a political donor’s wife for no other reason than the fact she is Russian, has left some asking whether he would be happy to treat other nationalities in the same way.

Tim Walker is a journalist who most, beyond London’s chattering classes, will not be aware of. On Twitter he’s keeping up his public profile by spouting a stream of opinions nobody asked for. It would be harsh to blame him for playing that game.

And it would also be insensitive to point out that a quick search on Google finds he was once described by British raconteur Stephen Fry as a “shiny faced, arse witted, human cockroach.” That was in response to a blog post he had written casting doubt on Fry’s activities on Twitter.

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But it doesn’t really matter who the former diarist for the Tory-bible Telegraph newspaper is. It’s more important to understand what he and his thoughtless ramblings represent. In an increasingly hostile environment, he feels more than happy to use the Russian bogeyman for his own means, which in this case means trying to stop Brexit.

Brexit bad. Russia bad. Put them together. REALLY BAD!

In the tweet above, you can see a breezily thrown dig at a Russian.

It follows a BBC Newsnight report into former UKIP-donor and Brexiteer Arron Banks and his business dealings. The BBC didn’t mention the ‘R’ word in its report. Didn’t even mention his wife. Why would it?

But Walker couldn’t help himself. He’s got 18,000 followers and he wants to look clever and informed and witty. So he’s done one of the few remaining things you can safely get away with and thrown in an unpleasant little insinuation about a Russian.

The insinuation is that a woman from Russia must be a little bit dodgy, and so everything else that surrounds her must be dodgy. Because she’s Russian.

People have called this kind of attitude McCarthyism, with shades of the Communist witch hunts of 1950s America. But that was about a political ideology. These kinds of little accusations do nothing short of smear a whole people. A bit like racism.

In response, Steve Clarke on Twitter makes the observation it wouldn’t be acceptable to talk about, for example, a Jewish wife with such easy disdain. He wonders whether Walker might want them to wear badges on their coats.

If it’s OK for people who are paid to spread information and opinion to regurgitate these little nuggets of prejudice on a public forum with barely a thought, where else could it lead?

Balalaika bonfires on the streets? Crates of vodka thrown into the Thames? Blond foreign secretaries accusing Russia of trying to influence elections and referendums, while at the same time admitting there is no actual evidence that it did?

No, don’t be silly. Things will never get that bad...