The Dull Media Stereotypes of ‘Englishness’

Any blog entry on this site covering lazy snipes and irritating presumptions about what constitutes ‘Englishness’ could easily have been a continuation of my four-part ‘Endless Assault on English Culture‘ series. Perhaps, however, there is more to this particularly pervasive phenomenon than just an attack on Englishness. On reflection, it instead manifests itself as an attempt to diminish the national identity and culture of the largest home nation by turning it into a series of vacuous stereotypes. A recent article in the Independent, with the predictably reductive title of ‘What is it to be English, today?‘ (complete with questionable grammar) acts in its own bigoted, narrow-minded manner, as a neat microcosm of a wider ill.

It doesn’t take long for the author of piece to express concern over the ‘danger’ of Englishness:

A “crisis of Britishness” is prompting growing numbers of people to redefine themselves as “English”, raising troubling questions about national identity and the extremes of home-grown Islamic radicals and the far right.

This is almost too unfathomably muddle-headed to make logical sense of. Why is a national identity that has existed for a thousand years and given the world its Parliamentary system, massive technological innovation and birthed and shaped hundreds of figures of literary, musical and cultural genius suddenly inherently ‘troubling’? In what precise sense is it ‘troubling’? Is there a concern that English people will do what came naturally to their ancestors and think for themselves (thus presumably ending the Marxist zeitgeist under which we labour)?

Put simply: the left fear Englishness and the expression of English identity, in practically any of its various incarnations or mediums of expression. That is partly why they (and this includes Social Conservatives like our Prime Minister) fear the break-up of the United Kingdom.

However, on top of this, what precisely has Englishness got to do with Islamic radicalism? Isn’t that an invention all of Britain‘s making? Isn’t the political construct of the present quasi-national identity of Britishness to blame for the flourishing of that particular evil?

Inevitably, the stupidity continues.

If flying the flag is a an important symbol of national identity for our neighbours, the St George’s cross has come to be associated with football hooliganism and fascism.

See one of my previous blogs on that insidious little invention of the left.

The article is almost salvaged by thoughtful insights from Professor Jeffrey Richards of Lancaster University and Professor Robert Colls of Leicester University. Unfortunately, it is promptly dragged back into the mire by this ludicrous comment:

The poet Ian McMillan said: “You can either take the John Major view of Englishness, that it is about warm beer; or the idea of radical Englishness – that we’ve been invaded so many times Englishness is a construct, and can comprise a multiplicity of languages and cultures.”

An absolute fallacy. This ridiculous, historically inaccurate notion is one that is either the leftist’s desperate attempt to lay claim to the concept of the nation-state, to crowbar into their own twisted political schema, or it is actually believed. I pity those of the latter. What is actually being attempted here is a very typical leftist revision of history. The terms used are a combination of a deliberately misrepresented exaggeration of foreign invasion (a situation totally absent from 900 years of English history) and a reworded and deliberately reworked notion that prior to the unprecedentedly vast migrations of the mid to late 20th century, England had a racially homogeneous diversity of dialect and customs relative to different geographical areas. The idea has been proposed to attempt to set a historical precedent for multiculturalism where there simply is not one.

And besides, precisely anyone can argue that any nationality is a ‘construct’- but unfortunately for them, it does not make it so.

It is perhaps telling that the most insightful comment about Englishess is from a gentleman called Shoaib Rahman, of Bradford. After giving a very thorough account of what his English reality is, he finishes by answering the question of the tea-besotted author:

“We do drink tea, but I’m not sure being English is about stuff like that.”

Indeed. It is not.

The debate raged on in the comments section, with opinions ranging from those of far-right loons to self-loathing apologists, both armed with the weapons of blinkered ignorance.

My comment? Englishness is like true Toryism. It is instinctive. It is unthinking. Any efforts of mine to analyse it would nullify it. I shall instead leave you with a most articulate and succinct insight from my good friend Julius Whacket:

“… to consider your own identity from the outside is to look through the wrong end of the microscope. The possession of identity is obviously an important condition of existence; to state the obvious, if your English identity dies on the dissection table, you cease to be English.”


About Byrnsweord

I am an Englishman. Constantly striving for the truth and to conserve what is good about England. You can find my on flickr at my blog over at and my Twitter account at Byrnsweord is min nama.
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3 Responses to The Dull Media Stereotypes of ‘Englishness’

  1. Spot on. Even Whacket looks vaguely right. But I think Englishness is sick and that the vultures are circling.

  2. Tim says:

    I would, respectfully, argue that Englishness and being English have been around far longer than one thousand years. Even the Scots are relative newcomers compared to us.

  3. David says:

    “Englishness is like true Toryism. It is instinctive. It is unthinking”.

    Not “unthinking”, in your case, though, surely. Don’t you think it’s a bit reductive (à la the ‘dissection’ analogy) to say Englishness is instinctive and unthinking? Even ‘conservative’ with a small or large ‘c’? That would make us vulnerable to the Anglophobes’ slur that Englishness involves brutishness (as opposed to Britishness) and philistinism; plus that ‘Englishness’ is opposed to ‘progressive-ness’.

    For each proposition, you could bring forward its opposite: Englishness is about ‘pragmatism’, common sense, ‘radicalism’, etc. The ‘truth’ is not, perhaps, in the middle (i.e. in some muddling, mediocre Middle England, as our critics would have it), but in some complex, deep-rooted place where our making sense of the world, and shaping it (which is what our culture is), is also what makes sense of us. I like the telescope analogy, taken to its logical extension: we’re defined by how we see the world (looking outwards through the telescope), including how we see ourselves.

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