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Racism POV[edit]

Nowadays few people would defend the racial prejudice in these books (and others in the "Biggles canon") although they are typical of a genre of fiction for young people that was once common.

The Racism section works perfectly well without this piece of sermonizing bolted-on. It is not encyclopedic. Valetude (talk) 11:10, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Perhaps you're right but it's cited.Keith-264 (talk) 12:00, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
But it may have been cited from a source of which only some parts were encyclopedic. I don't think all citations are sacred. Valetude (talk) 12:47, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
VERY unfair to both Johns and his creation not to mention that these books - which actually dribble racism, and are if only for that reason long out of print, are not typical of either their author's output, nor of "Biggles" himself. If the racism section "works" it is due to a good deal of consensus building among people who have between them read many Biggles books with great pleasure, but been more or less disturbed by some of the nineteen thirties attitudes in them. What exactly does "non-encyclopedic" mean to you, in this context? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 13:30, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
I mean that it's POV, and that the message comes across perfectly clearly without it. Valetude (talk) 13:49, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Yes, you've said that. We don't agree apparently. Ball's in your court for a sensible reason or two. The cite, by the way, is a serious academic one. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 13:55, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
When I re-read the Biggles books I kept from childhood, I was pleasantly surprised to find only one racist and one classist remark. Not a scientific survey I know but where the excrescences are mentioned, I think that some context is necessary to put Johns in his racist/fascist/liberal context so that the reader has some idea of how racist his writing is.Keith-264 (talk) 14:04, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

Better to use (sic) than ". Keith-264 (talk) 23:54, 6 June 2016 (UTC)

Racism revisited[edit]

This section is important - what it has to say must be said - but in a fairly balanced way - which is not a simple matter. Weeding out, or discretely censoring Johns to eliminate the really "bad" books (we actually name most of the real shockers here) would none-the-less leave quite a lot of entertaining stuff that is really not racist. Well, not THAT racist anyway. The WW1 Biggles novels and stories - among the earliest, and the most "authentic" include very little racist muck - the one short story that springs to mind as a "nasty" exception is that one that runs down the Vietnamese labourers the French employed for pioneering work as "smelly". (Extremely gratuitous - since pretty-well everyone must have stunk like skunks after a day or two in the trenches!)

  • That was the example I found when I re-read them.Keith-264 (talk) 09:32, 7 June 2016 (UTC)

The plan of the section has always been - 1. State the basic problem 2. Point out the positive aspects of Biggles' attitude to race 3. Specify the negative things - including naming the "worst" books in this respect 4. Sum up 5. Point out that Johns himself was capable of rewriting a Biggles novel to make it less racist. This is a rather POV idea - but "hinting" by describing the differences between "Biggles in Borneo" and "Biggles delivers the goods" lets the reader draw their own conclusions (or not, if they disagree or can't see the point).

Anyway, I have had yet another go at getting this right! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:14, 7 June 2016 (UTC)

I thought that (sic) worked better than quote marks but wiki'd it in case it was unfamiliar to our dear reader. I wondered if you were the writer because the prose style seemed familiar. Regards ;o)) Keith-264 (talk) 09:32, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
By all means reinstate the wikilink on (the first instance of) "(sic)" if you think it's worth the bother - I think I "lost" it when I changed the link on "Native Americans". Of course I didn't compose the original form of this section by any means - but I HAVE repeatedly tweaked it (along with others) over the years, so it may well have some traces of my (brilliant) style :) . --Soundofmusicals (talk) 02:05, 8 June 2016 (UTC)

New "lead" paragraph[edit]

Sorry Keith - but I honestly think the old one was better! Although I can understand why you weren't happy with it. Will have a go at it myself. "Youth-oriented" strikes me as very awkward - and I don't think liking a book title to the article on a type of aircraft is either sound or useful, however you do it. Anyway - let's see what I come up with. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 22:29, 13 November 2016 (UTC)

OK I binandgornandunnit! "Youthful" I changed to "young" (I am no longer either, alas) - I have rearranged a couple of sentences - and also deleted a couple of wikilinks. A link to a book (or short story) title implies to the casual reader that we have an article about that book or story. Hope everyone is happy with this one. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:01, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
Not quite sure about The first collection of Biggles stories, The Camels Are Coming, was published that same year. because "that same year" is mentioned in the previous sentence.

Biggles made his first appearance in 1932 in the story The White Fokker, published in the first issue of Popular Flying magazine and again in the first collection of Biggles stories, The Camels Are Coming, published in that year.

Any better? Keith-264 (talk) 23:15, 13 November 2016 (UTC)

Yes, that looks as if it would be a little neater. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:29, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
But we may be able to do even better? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:34, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
May I compliment Sir on such a stylish revision? ;O))Keith-264 (talk) 23:49, 13 November 2016 (UTC)


The 1/1st Norfolk were dismounted and fought as infantry at Gallipoli.Keith-264 (talk) 22:06, 14 November 2016 (UTC)

Technically (VERY technically) Johns went to war as a trooper - the yeomanry were reserve/militia units, theoretically cavalry (or mounted infantry). In practice, as Keith notes above, they served and fought as ordinary infantry by this time, especially at Gallipoli (where even the Australian Light Horse were dismounted). We went though all this some years ago, the compromise wording was hammered out that he "fought with the infantry", which was always both vague and verbose. I honestly think that just ignoring the very tenuous "cavalry" connection is fine in this context - where what we want is a very succinct little note about Johns rather than a detailed biography. He has his own article, after all. If we want to reinstate "fought with the infantry" - which was at least an old consensus then so be it, I suppose - but "soldier" is far too vague. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 00:21, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
The Yeomanry were the cavalry arm of the Territorials. (The militia reference is a red herring). Johns was a pre-war yeomanry trooper and was mounted. The yeomanry certainly considered themselves a cut above a mere territorial infantryman. Yes at Gallipoli the NY fought in a dismounted role but on the Western Front, Lancers, for example, fought in the trenches but clearly remained cavalry. I hold out for "soldier". Nedrutland (talk) 08:46, 15 November 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────...fought as infantry...?Keith-264 (talk) 10:17, 15 November 2016 (UTC

No - fought in a dismounted role. Nedrutland (talk) 13:36, 15 November 2016 (UTC)

As I wrote, infantry, unless they were in Monty Python and the Hoy Grail. Keith-264 (talk) 18:52, 15 November 2016 (UTC).
The British "Territorials" were in fact the successors to the pre-1908 militia units. Like all such units they were part-time volunteers, although effectively integrated with regular units in time of war. "Militia" remains the generic term - and its in this sense that I used it in my remarks above. In any case - I agree with Keith's implication that this is a cranky sort of quibble for us to make in THIS article - for instance Johns transferred to the machine gun corps (for a while a separate corps of the British army) at one stage - which isn't worth going into either (not HERE anyway). This is after all the Biggles article - Johns has his own. The original wording was "fought with the infantry" - which as I said was OK if a bit long winded. "Soldier" is so vague as to be practically redundant - we'd get as much information from a bare statement that he served at Gallipoli, since we know he was never in the navy! Such a very minor point I really can't be bothered arguing it aby further mind you. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 05:27, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

Racism better tolerated?[edit]

Or simply not even regarded as "racism", in the modern sense, at all? If the existing "times have changed" wording is indeed sophistry then it may need to be changed - but the suggested replacement text really is anachronistic - the fact is that attitudes to ethnicity and race HAVE changed (not far enough, in fact - in the sense that too many people still hold views typical of the 1930s). How to say this neatly and in a matter relevant to the case in point? Another question, of course. Certainly one we can discuss here. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 06:20, 30 November 2016 (UTC)

"Since the Biggles books were first published, attitudes to race and ethnicity have changed."
This is not true, toleration of racism has diminished in some respects as the institutional support of racism by the British state has changed. It is sophistry to treat racists of the past as less culpable than racists of the present. The passage has been reverted to an apologetic form which diminished the quality of the article.Keith-264 (talk) 09:23, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
It not "sophistry" to observe that attitudes change over time. They do, and since the 18th century the pace of such change has been very real and quite fast, in spite of the efforts of opponents to social change, some of whom still get very hot under the collar. For instance, it is (in historical terms) only yesterday that very few people indeed were against slavery in principle - the question was whether slaves were human beings! Not that such progress has been uniform, or that there have not been retrograde moments - colour prejudice (only one aspect of racism as such, but basically what we are talking about here) reached a real peak in the 1930s - to deny the inferiority of non-whites was considered very eccentric indeed - to the extent that "of course" no "decent" New York hotel could accommodate an Olympic medalist because he wasn't their very own special favourite colour. But then I really can't believe that you don't know all about this as least as well as I do - this is surely not what you are trying to say.
Nor is the text concerned "apologetic" - it is far from suggesting that a thirties attitude to race is appropriate to the early twenty-first century. Just that it is different. Much more "important" writers than Johns can be faulted on this topic. Sorry, but there it is. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:56, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
Sorry if I'm hammering away at this one, but in any case, what relevance to this part of this article is "treating racists of the past as less culpable than racists of the present"? Was Johns really a racist in the sense that the new president seems to be? If not, then what has this to do with this article? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 10:12, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
You need to attach your opinion to RS not merely assert it; your apologetics for slavery are equally spurious. It was opposition to slavery by decent people that ended it, not a sudden conversion to the Judaeo-Christian tradition by the slavers. If you look at the history of modern racism in the northern hemisphere, you can see that it was as cynically manufactured as the mediaeval witch craze and as opposed by the decent majority as antisemitism was in nazi Germany. Like the witch persecutions, antisemitic persecutions and modern persecution of Muslims/unemployed people/human beings under 24 weeks/non-white people/people with Downs Syndrome etc, ad infinitum, the structural consequences of state policy are far more evident than individual sentiment. I'm just as bound as you to describe the writing of RS and I suggest that the passage needs more than the citation provided. Keith-264 (talk) 10:23, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
MY "apologetics for slavery"? That remark borders on the improper - in any case it is quite clear I mentioned the slavery issue as an example of changing social attitudes, in response to your apparent belief that these don't happen. Government (and Church) policy often follows public sentiment rather than the other way round - although I grant they're often interrelated. I also agree that change can be cyclic as much as linear, as I already hinted above. Discussion here, however, needs to concentrate on the suitability of the sentence concerned as an introduction to the section on racism in the Biggles books - we've both got away from that a bit. Do you really want a citation for the fact that attitudes on race in the 1930s were very different from those of the 1960s and later? Note that this is all the sentence in question actually says!! An important catalyst for this change was perhaps the civil rights movement (cause or effect?) - but it would be carping to feel we have to mention that here. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:00, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
Slavery has always been anathema, you're using sophistry to pretend otherwise. As for state and church, they have never been democratic institutions so they have never been the slaves (geddit) of public sentiment. I'm just as bound as you to describe the writing of RS and I wrote I suggest that the passage needs more than the citation provided, is this difficult to understand? Keith-264 (talk) 23:30, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
Slavery has always been anathema? To whom? Presumably the slaves themselves of course - but leave them out of the question for the moment. Really, even in the Northern states of mid-nineteenth century America, people (other than slaves) who wanted to abolish slavery were a tiny minority - incidentally they were considered dangerous extremists ("abolitionist" was a worse insult than "racist is now) even when they didn't resort to terrorism to make their point, as they did on a number of occasions. Lincoln himself had to disavow the "abolitionist label because it would have been political suicide. And what about the ancient Greeks and Romans? I'd like to believe that all "decent" people have always thought the same way on really basic social questions like slavery (and, hopefully, always will) - but this really and truly isn't the case. Slavery is totally repugnant to you and me - but at once upon a time it was often favourably compared with "wage slavery" (paying workers pitiably inadequate wages) and even today - how many people (again, not counting the working poor themselves) are really passionate about wage justice. Are "all decent people" concerned as I am (hope you are too) about the catastrophic decline in the value of real wages, while the rich get richer? Something has to be done sooner or later (other than electing a president who among other things is one of the worst offenders) - but imagine how popular any effective measures would be in some quarters? Institutions (religious or state) certainly don't have to be "democratic" to be moved by public opinion, and vice versa for that matter, of course - although this, as well as democracy itself, is very much relative. Yes, afraid your call for additional cites is very hard to understand HERE, although there are plenty of places elsewhere where such a request would make a lot of sense. If I am wrong (wouldn't be the first time) - describe the kind of citation you would like to see here. Is THAT too difficult to understand?.
Attitudes change. They do. Your statement that they don't is unsustainable. Whether such change be cyclic or linear, or whether they are driven by, influenced by, or unconnected with government or church policy is beside the point. (Very different if our primary subject was public opinion rather than Biggles books). The word "racist" has become highly pejorative - we have all heard "I am not racist but I hate ______" (fill in your own hated group). It was not ever thus - and it may well (frighteningly) one day cease to be so. A majority once regarded racism as nothing less that "plain good sense". I doubt they were on the whole less basically "decent" - in some ways their opinions may even have been more enlightened than yours or mine. This is the central paradox of Huckleberry Finn, for instance. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 08:18, 1 December 2016 (UTC)
Attitudes don't change, only the expedience of the fascist state. I wrote "I suggest that the passage needs more than the citation provided, is this difficult to understand?" You still appear to miss the point. There is a general cite from a 1975 authority. I suggest that it is insufficient for a teleological view of racism, which is a myth. Everything you have written since is assertion and bluster. To be constructive I will obtain some other citations. Keith-264 (talk) 08:43, 1 December 2016 (UTC)
Sorry, but anyone who can state that "attitudes don't change, only the expedience of the fascist state" - at least with a straight face, has no right whatever to accuse anyone of bluster, or empty assertion. By all means find a citation that would justify your assertion (or even the much milder edit you originally suggested) - but it looks a lot to me like unacceptable minority view ideological rubbish that needs to be firmly rejected from the outset. I find it hard to believe anyone would seriously subscribe to views like this, especially the sensible editor who has been associated with this account in the past. -Soundofmusicals (talk) 11:45, 1 December 2016 (UTC)
No human being is naturally racist and no human being is ignorant of fair play but some resort to slogans when they are contradicted by reality. Your a priori assertions are more revealing of you than you realise and your appeal to authority is naive. I will do what I wrote and you may form your own conclusions as I do mine. Regards Keith-264 (talk) 11:53, 1 December 2016 (UTC)
No way am I biting on this one again. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 12:19, 1 December 2016 (UTC)

Years pass!![edit]

Any real first world war fighter pilot on Sopwith Camels you can think of who was still doing exactly the same job more than twenty years later, only on Spitfires? Often in basically the same words, as stories were "adapted" to get them out quickly! Is it really OR to state that a fictional character who does this (and, what's more, is STILL an active pilot and doing other "young man" things after another twenty years again) is part of a somewhat irregular chronology? This is not "judgement" or POV - the fellow is fictional, after all, and can do anything his author writes him as doing - on the other hand one can surely make the observation, and it is worth making. Anyone who wants to "improve" this section by adding stupid "cn" tags would be SO much better employed finding the odd "book example" - such as "in (such-an-such a book) and (such another one) Biggles (does whatever) whereas he is still doing the same thing, by now grossly inappropriate for his age in (yet another book) set forty years later". Personally I think this is not really necessary (at least I can't be bothered) but if people feel strongly enough about so-called OR to stick in "cn" tags then I wouldn't sneeze at some specific "book" examples. -Soundofmusicals (talk) 22:39, 20 December 2016 (UTC)

Well meant "character" edits.[edit]

The arch-villain Erich Stalhein holds various ranks and positions (civilian/criminal as well as military) - this seems to be why we never specified one in particular. "Major Raymond" first appears with that rank - he is not really "Biggles' commanding officer" at squadron, wing, or group level - although Biggles is from time to time involved with operations he organises (including post WWII (civilian?) police work. Not sure about the Christian name - although I'll take your word for it for the moment. Incidentally - we currently duplicate material between the plot description and discussion of characters - this could probably be improved but integrating the two? Not going to attack this at the moment, but it might be worth doing. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 02:16, 12 June 2017 (UTC)