We are told over and over again that Islam is a religion of peace. Nobody feels the need to say this about Buddhism. Why would that be?
Similarly, we do not hear people protesting that the English can indeed laugh at themselves, or that the French can cook after all. We take it as read.
The latest stereotype to be shot at dawn is that of the Germans. From The Telegraph:
Germany's ambassador to Britain will use the World Cup to promote his country as a modern, party-loving nation, and banish images of Nazism and the Second World War once and for all.
Wolfgang Ischinger said that this summer's tournament provided "the perfect opportunity" to present Germany as "a vibrant country of the 21st century" and change the perception of his compatriots as humourless, hard-working disciplinarians.
Those perceptions, eh?
Sitting beneath an imposing portrait of Otto von Bismarck, the 19th-century "Iron Chancellor", Mr Ischinger said that, far from being disciplined, hard-working robots, Germans were, in fact, people who liked to have a good time.
"Germans like to have parties and they have parties more than most other people," he said. "There are beer festivals and wine festivals all over the country, and they are celebrated with vigour and also with quite a bit of alcoholic beverage, which is not much different from the British."
I can’t speak for my fellow countrymen, but I’m not sure that “vigour” is quite what you want at a party. Then again, perhaps we English don’t take our fun seriously enough. A portrait of Bismarck might help us maintain the appropriate standard of vigorous enjoyment. 7.30 for 8. Bring a bottle and an Iron Chancellor.
So how to dispel these misconceptions?
In an attempt to break down anti-German prejudice and demonstrate a willingness to laugh at themselves, the embassy has engaged John Cleese, the creator of the goose-stepping Basil Fawlty, to promote an essay-writing competition, entitled But Don't Mention the War, for British students to discuss their impressions of contemporary Germany.
Yes, that will do the trick. Not once, in writing their essays, will British students be tempted to think of this:
Cleese, who seems to have turned terribly earnest since he went live in America and started writing about psychotherapy, denounces his goose-stepping incarnation with the zeal of a convert.
Cleese puts the jackboot firmly into his most celebrated character. "I'm delighted to help with trying to break down the ridiculous anti-German prejudices of the tabloids and clowns like Basil Fawlty, who are pathetically stuck in a world view that's more than half a century out of date," he says.
Well, John, in your own words, you started it.