Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter has expressed his relief at Fabrice Muamba's recovery. REUTERS

Sepp Blatter, the absurd head of FIFA has apologised for making remarks which, as far as one can see, where not in fact racist.

Mr Blatter somewhat optimistically stated that "there is no racism" in football and that players who do get rude words shouted at them should be able to shrug it off and clear things up with a handshake.

If only Johann Hari had been on hand during the interview to present Mr Blatter's views in a more favourable light. Had this been so we might be hearing instead how Mr Blatter (as he said after the interview) is "committed to the fight against racism".

How sad and depressing it is that Mr Blatter can be the head of an international organisation that is alleged to be awash with corruption and bribery and not be forced to resign and yet when he makes a non-racist, but dozy, remark about racism all of a sudden his position is, as they say, untenable.

One almost hopes he survives such a ridiculous onslaught from thoughtless people saying how outraged they are about a non-story while all the while remaining quiet about some of the more worrying stories about FIFA.

It only goes to show that race is, to put it mildly, a touchy issue. This has led professional racism hunters to see elements of racism even in such seemingly innocent works of fiction like, Tintin and the Lord of the Rings.

Now in the case of Tintin such hunters do not have to look very hard for evidence of racial prejudice. Tintin in the Congo is perhaps the most well known example of blatant racism by Herge although what is less well remembered is that some of the Jewish characters in Tintin look like they could have come straight out of the pages of Der Sturmer.

This combined with Herge's not completely unfriendly attitude towards the Germans occupying his native Belgium does not present a pretty picture and is a stain on Herge's reputation.

Despite this, Herge later expressed public regret about Tintin in the Congo and wrote stories that emphasised inter-racial friendship and ridiculed racial stereotyping, notably Tintin and the Blue Lotus and Tintin in Tibet.

Herge, then, might best be described as a reformed character, who once held what might be called racist views but later came to reject them.

Scouring the works of J.R.R. Tolkien for racist material is somewhat more difficult although this has not stopped people from trying.

It has been noted that some of the more villainous people and races of Middle Earth were described as being slightly darker than the average Elf or Hobbit.

In addition some have taken issue with the fact that the Dwarves, who have an extensive Diaspora, no real homeland, are highly skilled, don't care what the outside world thinks of them and are very keen on (and good at) making money, are clearly based on Jews.

Quite why this is such an insult is a mystery given that, apart from their slight obsession with gold, the Dwarves are considered to be a noble and good people. Indeed when asked by a Nazi publisher whether he was of Jewish descent, Tolkien replied to the effect that he was not but that he would be proud to be so.

Clearly then Tolkien was not an anti-Semite.

There is also the question of genocide surrounding Tolkien. There is little doubt reading the Lord of the Rings that the extermination of the Orcs, who are certainly not white, would not be a bad thing.

However when it comes to Orcs it is clear that Tolkien does not have blacks, Asians or any other race in mind, rather there is a spiritual element at work. The original conception of the Orcs seems to be not that they are sub-humans, but that they are demonic creatures. The desire to destroy the Orcs is therefore not a call to ethnic cleansing but to rid the world of evil.

By contrast the "evil men" mentioned in Tolkien's works, whatever colour they are, are never mentioned as targets for extermination. They can be, and are, brought into the world of civilised nations regardless of their race.

If Herge can be forgiven for his apparent racial prejudice and Tolkien cleared despite the concerns of a few, it seems reasonable that Mr Blatter can be absolved of his ridiculous but obviously non-racist remark.