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January 17, 2007 || 2:01 pm
Big Brother is watching us

Every series of BB has impacted on the question of bullying, with claiming past bullying having been virtually a calling card of participants. Jade Goody even represented a bullying charity until they dropped her this week. But the real nature of bullying, discrimination and the group mentality that underlies them has never been examined in such detail as now, when white female contestants are accused of racist bullying of the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.

India's foreign ministry is probing the allegations and likely to make an official statement to the UK, while Gordon Brown is currently on an official visit to the country. There are reports of effigies being burnt on the streets and Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt is quoted by Reuters as saying "What is happening on Big Brother is just holding the mirror to the western society. This is the real, discriminating face of the West you can see on the streets of London or New York." The racism row has boosted flagging ratings by a million viewers. Motions have been called in Parliament and Tony Blair has been forced to comment.

As the Guardian points out, racism in the infamous House is nothing new. But this systematic, group bullying has certainly taken it to a new level, and by doing nothing, Channel 4 are perceived to condone it as part of the goldfish bowl concept. Perhaps this is right: let it go far enough that on exit, guilty housemates can be hauled up in court on the Race Relations act? Teddy Sheringham's beauty queen lover? (It seems that C4 have now given her a warning, so this is now unlikely to happen.) I would like to see West Ham fans react to that: and they will probably defend her.

Because unfortunately it is true that a mirror is put up to our society. We are all a little bit racist, as the satirical musical Avenue Q put it. We are herd animals, grouping together, finding patterns, genetically programmed to notice differences and nurtured in a culture that can never become colour-blind, or class-blind. But unlike that song, which sent up our differences, and therefore sensitized us to them, we haven't learnt to deal with this fact of humanity in a positive way: by pretending it doesn't exist we repress it, and react with outrage if someone dares to suggest that it still exists.

I just wish that instead of manifesting itself in violence, threats and riots, we could, for once, have an honest examination of our racist feelings. But that is hoping too much of a country which creates celebrities out of monsters like the Goody mother and daughter, and that creates those monsters in the first place, through our appalling approach to sink estates, victim to our class 'racism', no matter what the political rhetoric says.

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