Liverpool fans backing Suarez, Lefties backing Abbott… When tribalism trumps reason

In the wake of the Luis Suarez and Diane Abbott race rows, Shamik Das looks at the tribal backing received from their supporters, despite being in the wrong.


Another day, another story about racism, another race row – with Diane Abbott in the spotlight today for her offensive remarks about how “white people love playing ‘divide and rule'”. She has since deleted the tweet and issued an apology, not for the comments themselves but “for any offence caused” – the classic non-apology.

Yet it is Labour’s slow response (though the party did at least, belatedly, issue a condemnation, albeit not as promptly or sternly as Nick Clegg), and moreover the response of Labour supporters and left-wingers, who have rallied to Abbott’s defence, that will bemuse, frustrate and raise as many questions about judgement. On Twitter, Facebook and in blogs, there has been a closing of ranks, an inability to see any wrong, and attacks on those criticising Abbott.

Remind you of anything? The tribal, unswerving allegiances and loyalty are straight out of the Liverpool “back ’em at all costs, it’s us v them” mentality that saw the club, manager and supporters back Luis Suarez to the hilt during the recent racism row following his clash with Patrice Evra, right up to Suarez’s eventual “if it offends anyone then I want to apologise for that” semi-contrition last night.

The Abbott and Suarez cases are of course not identical, and Ed Miliband’s response is better than that of Kenny Dalgliesh, but the reaction of many Labour supporters echoes that of the die-hard Liverpool fans.

As Times football editor Tony Evans wrote (£) of the blindly-loyal Liverpool fans:

“Luis Suárez, Liverpool Football Club and legions of their fans seem bewildered that the word negrito directed at a black man in the course of an argument would lead the individual concerned to assume that he had been racially abused…

“So this unedifying spat continues with Liverpool supporters – almost to a man – behind Suárez.

“It is embarrassing. Is it not possible for Liverpool fans to have some empathy with Evra? To see that he felt racially abused? Seemingly not in the pathetically tribal world of football, where basic decencies are thrown out the window and the “my club right or wrong” ethic prevails.”

The same sentiments of “embarrassing” and “pathetically tribal” could be applied to those unreservedly backing Abbott.

For the Liverpool and Labour/lefty loyalists, the next time one of their own is offended, or someone from an opposing team offends them, they will express outrage, of that you can be sure; their non-condemnatory response to the offence caused by Suarez and Abbott, however, lessens the impact, the authority, the effectiveness those future howls of outrage will have.

See also:

“Sorry if you were offended” does not cut it, DianeDaniel Elton, January 5th 2012

Stephen Lawrence: The legacy that lives on, the hope, the dreams of a better futureShamik Das, January 4th 2012

Clegg needs to turn anger at dugout discrimination into actionShamik Das, November 24th 2011

Has racism returned to football?Shamik Das, October 25th 2011

All eyes on Barcelona as racism rears its ugly head againShamik Das, May 3rd 2011

60 Responses to “Liverpool fans backing Suarez, Lefties backing Abbott… When tribalism trumps reason”

  1. Shamik Das

    Liverpool fans backing Luis Suarez, Lefties backing Diane Abbott… When tribalism trumps reason: by @ShamikDas

  2. Shamik Das

    My thoughts on those blindly backing Luis Suarez and Diane Abbott: When tribalism trumps reason: on @leftfootfwd

  3. Anonymous

    Well here’s another controversial comment: there are a lot of white people who are uncomfortable with how time after time only they are portrayed as being racist. Is this why so many people have jumped ‘feet first’ on Abbot ? Just maybe. Interesting then that you’ve compounded the error and decided to lump the lefties in with a ‘racist’.

    But you’re trying to make a point about tribalism. I have read a little about the Suarez case but cutting through the hysterically opinion-infected reporting it does seem a bit iffy. Well actually a lot iffy. Perhaps a better point to make is that we are not as media savvy as we would like to think, and minority tribes with vested interests have the peculiar ‘advantage’ of a prejudice that forces them to look more closely than the media lobotomised majority tribe.

    What really brings these cases together is the disturbing fact that in our desperation to be members of one big happy anti-racist tribe we have trampled over truth with a disturbingly ugly glee.

  4. Tom

    From @leftfootfwd Attempt to identify "tribalist" defence of Abbott with defence of Suarez. Fucking liberals.

  5. Ross

    Liverpool fans backing Luis Suarez, Lefties backing Diane Abbott… When tribalism trumps reason: by @ShamikDas

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