A Guardian editorial today offers advice to Tottenham football club: calling (see final paragraph) for the use of the word 'Yids' by Spurs fans to be dropped from their chants. I have two thoughts about this.
A. I think the issue is less clear-cut than it has been in other recent debates, such as that over Steve Bell's Netanyahu cartoon. While it is just as true in this instance that what matters are the public meanings of words and symbols - and not just people's intentions - the meaning of 'Yid'-related chanting is itself in dispute. On the one hand, Spurs fans see the use of 'Yid' as a positive one: an insulting term is being reclaimed by those who were its targets and used to affirm their identity with confidence and pride. This is a well-known phenomenon and not confined to the case of the word 'Yid'. On the other hand, and as I've noted on a previous occasion, quoting David Baddiel, the practice povides opposing supporters with an excuse to use 'Yid'-type chants in a malign way. In the Guardian's view, 'The use of the Y-word is helping to feed a new wave of racist taunting.' On balance, I would say that this consideration overrides the self-affirming meaning of the Spurs fans' chants. There is a wider context here, in which racism among football supporters is a problem and there are efforts to eliminate it from the culture of the game. It is better that nobody should chant about Yids if not chanting about Yids in a benign way makes it harder for others to do so in an odious way. That would surely be a gain.
B. What someone says is more important than who it is that says it. All the same, some are better placed and some worse placed to say certain things with moral authority. The Guardian today - it is a matter of great regret - is not well placed to lecture anyone about the propagation and use of anti-Semitic tropes.