Trump, freedom of speech, and why we might not be welcome in the Farmers Arms pub

We took down the ‘joke of the week’ in the mens’ toilets of the Farmers Arms, and put it in the bin. Two nights running. And the landlord made it clear he was not amused. So we don’t know if we’re officially barred, but we imagine we may not be particularly welcome.

Which is a shame. Because on the face of it, the Farmers Arms is everything we want in a pub. It’s a proper local, with well-priced tasty food, locally sourced ingredients, and welcoming staff (except for the ‘joke’ incident, of course).

For the record, the ‘joke’ in question was: “Obama played the race card. Clinton played the gender card. And America played the Trump card”.

The landlord was annoyed that we interfered with his right to express whatever political opinions he chooses, in his own pub. And he’s certain that his customers are amused by his ‘joke of the week’. Well, he knows his regulars and we don’t, so we can’t comment in that regard. But we wonder if we’re not the only tourists to be perturbed by his ‘joke of the week’.

What does it mean to ‘play’ a ‘race card’, or a ‘gender card’ anyway? Is the underlying premise of the ‘joke’ that a woman, or a black man, might somehow be more partisan than a white male? Less able to represent a diverse nation? We’re not sure. (Perhaps we should have asked the landlord?).

Maybe we’re a bit oversensitive right now to anything relating to Donald Trump’s recent election victory. But we both find admiration of his invidiously anti-democratic and selfish behaviours confusing and distressing.

  • Does it really seem right for the President of a country with extremes of wealth and poverty to boast that it’s ‘smart’ not to pay income taxes? If the most wealthy don’t pay tax, then either the rest of us have to pay more, or we accept that we are moving closer to becoming a society focused purely on self-interest and everyone else be damned.
  • Does it really seem right for the President of a democratic nation to encourage crowds to chant “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton; given how many non-democratic countries really do imprison, or even ‘disappear’, political opponents? Shouldn’t we be more proud and protective of legal protections?
  • Does it really seem right that so little reliance can be placed on statements made by the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world? According to The Guardian’s Trump fact-check column at any rate.
  • And, even just from the point of view of simple manners and common decency, do we really want leaders who happily mock a reporter with arthrogryposis (a disabling condition)?

I could say more. But you probably get my point already.

In all honesty, with hindsight we wish we’d dealt with the situation better. We wish we’d managed to have a less confrontational conversation with the landlord, and found out more about his point of view. Nonetheless, we’re relieved to get back back home to our own local.

And, yes, we’d agree we might have over-reacted to the ‘joke’. We could have simply ignored it. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But, still . . . . . Numerous commentators have suggested we’re entering an era of ‘post-truth’ politics where wordplay and aggressive rhetoric carry far more weight than informed opinion and fact. And we think this matters. Not least because it’s not at all clear how Trump-style politics will contribute to genuinely addressing all-too-real inequalities within and outside both the US and the UK.



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Sue Written by:

I'm a finance professional who's interested in whether we're accounting for the right things in the right ways.


  1. Jake Blampied
    November 22, 2016

    Great article, Sue. Though, perhaps unexpectantly, I disagree…

    Whilst I support your critique of the new President-elect, I believe the path to progress – in this instance, reconciling the ever-growing divide between left and right (or global and anti-global) – is not through ignoring or condemning the plight of the Trump/Brexit (some) voters, but through engagement and legitimising their concerns. The challenge for liberals, such as you and I, is not to appear condescending in our consideration of their issues. We must build bridges; not walls.

    Just my two cents

    • Sue
      November 23, 2016

      Thanks, Jake, for taking the time to read and comment. I agree it’s not helpful to build walls not bridges. And I thought twice about posting this piece also because I liked the landlord a lot; the focus in the pub is on community, conversation, sustainability, locally sourced ingredients, and all the things I care about. But the joke was put on display in a public space where it would provoke a reaction, so I think it’s legitimate to respond. I can’t imagine the landlord will feel condescended to; I wouldn’t have written the post in this way if I didn’t think he could more than hold his own in any debate on the subject . . . !

  2. Rob Donaldson
    December 13, 2016

    Isn’t this exactly the kind of sneering, humorlessness that convinced so many people in the north to vote against their interests and in favor of Brexit? Don’t get me wrong, the joke sounds like it was in bad taste but I’m curious to how you thought this wasn’t just going wind people up and further exaggerate the North/South Remain/Brexit tensions?

    • Sue
      December 14, 2016

      Thanks for your comment, Rob Donaldson. Yes, I hoped the article would generate some debate. But it’s not about north/south. The pub happened to be in Yorkshire, but I would have written the same article if it had been in Kent, or Cornwall or London or anywhere else in the UK. And I happen to live in London now but I lived for many years in Yorkshire, albeit not in Swaledale. It’s also not about Brexit; Brexit/Leave/Remain weren’t mentioned once. It’s about Trump and the specific behaviours and values he represents and actively promotes. I’m interested in why people in the UK would go out of their way to express support for a politician on the other side of the world who has expressed such contempt towards women, people with disabilities, the democratic process, and so on. Is the article humourless? Maybe. But I’m not trying to write comedy. There’s a world of difference between writing a joke, and writing about a joke. I am interested in why people would vote against their own interests (though I also think most people have extremely limited options when it comes to voting for their own interests in many countries including the UK and US). And I can’t apologise for exploring in my blog how I should personally respond to what feels like a hugely significant shift in values in both countries. Does that wind people up? Apparently. Shouldn’t we all (north and south, Remainers and Leavers) be more worried about the implications of Trump’s popularity? I think so and, in this article, I’ve tried to explain why.

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