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Welsh-speaking or Not - Why We Should All Take on the Trolls

11/08/2016 16:41 | Updated 11 August 2016
Matthew Horwood via Getty Images

It's August. The political silly season. A Tory politician in has attempted to get into the headlines by claiming he has found a record breaking weed. We've also witnessed the annual attack on the Eisteddfod and the Welsh language - the annual baiting, trolling, the throwing of the metaphorical hand-grenade to send "the Welshies" off on their usual spin of anger and being hurt and offended. Such a laugh. Great entertainment when nothing else is going on.

Two episodes stand out this year. The first was created when a journalist suddenly asked someone with little media experience why the Welsh football team weren't being honoured in the Gorsedd. More savvy media operators would have given a less fall-straight-into-the-trap answer than the Archdruid did. The facts are that nominations for the Gorsedd of the Bards takes place in February. Regardless of whether the Gorsedd is the right way to honour the team, the deadline had passed before the European championships. There was no snub, only a media generated one. But it has left many with a bitter taste in their mouth, believing that the Eisteddfod as a whole has failed or refused to honour the team because they don't speak Welsh. It's not true and the whole episode has been made up to generate "debate" and headlines.

Labour AM Alun Davies was right to call it out on a BBC Radio programme (Sunday Supplement, 7.8.26). Whilst my party is often most associated with the Welsh language - rightly, because of our members' long and unstinting work protecting, defending and promoting it over decades- the Welsh language belongs to everyone in Wales. All political parties in the Senedd claim to have commitments to safeguard and extend the use of Welsh.

All politicians in Wales should be prepared to follow Alun Davies's example in calling out these "attacks on Welsh for fun". In the same way as progressives would call out racism or sexism or homophobia even if we are not black or a woman or gay, we should all be prepared to reject attacks on the Welsh language, whether we are speakers of Welsh or not.

An attack on the Welsh language is an attack on all Welsh people, and we should not put up with it. People from overseas often cannot understand why we Welsh do. I've come across countless people who have been utterly gobsmacked when those attacks come from within the country, especially when espoused in our national media.

The Welsh language is in a precarious state. Media outlets that bait or troll on the Welsh language in this way are treading dangerous ground. Why would they do it? And no, it's not against freedom of speech to argue that they they should handle the question in a more sensitive and respectful manner.

That is one of the reasons I questioned BBC Radio 5 live on Twitter when I saw a series of tweets from one of their researchers asking for people who would go on air to say that the Welsh language should die. It's worse coming from the state broadcaster, in my view, especially when all of us, Welsh speakers included, are paying for it. I tweeted the station to ask on what planet did they think that was ok? I received a sort-of apology, carefully worded, but not giving me confidence that something like this wouldn't be repeated in the future.

Using the Welsh language as a way to get a reaction out of people can be deeply upsetting to those on the receiving end. Whilst it may have become perfectly acceptable in these Brexit times in some quarters to be openly racist, the reason so called "political correct" language was invented in the first place was to help to protect people on the receiving end of hurtful, undermining and bullying statements. In that sense, "political correctness gone mad" is one of the most damaging political mantras around because it gives permission to people to hurt and to hate, all in the name of freedom of speech. Now more than ever in my lifetime, I see the use of the language we choose to use, and the way in which we debate the most difficult and divisive political topics needing more care than ever. It's time now for less anger, more care and kindness from all of us on social media and in the real word and an end to media "trolling", please.

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