So the reaction to the hilarious pig-in-a-poke stings on Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind has been fun and rather revealing, I'd say. To go over the same ground covered in the last post, let's note that e.g. a middling Ministry of Transport official caught selling, say, an opportunity to hobnob with the Minister, would probably see the inside of a jail cell sooner rather than later.
Straw and Rifkind, able to extract far higher fees in positions of far greater responsibility, will face no such inconvenience and if anything, much of the press response has been eerily... sympathetic, I'd say.
A strange state of affairs, we might think. After all, council corruption scams don't usually end with opinion hacks calling for hikes in council pay-packets. Folk who claim forty quid a week excess benefits to those they're entitled to are generally unburdened by the weight of public sympathy.
And yet, there's plenty of understanding around, for grasping political figures. I detect in it an unconcealed fear that if rich people can't make a bajillion quid in politics, rich people will stop going into politics, and then where will we be? At the mercy of a bunch of folk who, unlike Mr Rifkind, can somehow overcome the massive disadvantage that is a £67,000 annual salary.
Anyway, I introduced this here piece with an example from the #AskGalloway social media phenomenon, a running gag that I've partaken in myself. It involves numerous political types, both the well-known and the obscure, pinging comedy Tweets at the infamous hairy bawsack of a Bradford MP, George Galloway.
George's... well, idiosyncratic persona is doubtless familiar enough to you all, so let's not retread the Saddam-praising and feline-impersonation and Ahmadinejad=interviewing too exhaustively. Nonetheless, I will make this point:
You didn't see too many notable political hacks openly calling e.g. Jack Straw a twat on the internet this week, did you?
This does strike me as odd. Straw, for example, was all over TV giving it hee-haw about his ability to deliver influence for cold, hard cash, and the hacks somehow kept most of their hilarity in check.
And you can say what you like about George but to my knowledge, he's never sent anyone to a Libyan dungeon for a fucking good thumb-screwing, nor aided and abetted in the execution of any massive, murderous wars*.
Unlike Rifkind he hasn't, as far as I can tell, been caught flashing a bit of political thigh at lobbying Johns from his parliamentary office, nor sold any spiked nutsack-shockers and tit-zappers to the Sauds for use on imprisoned dissidents.
It strikes me, in fact, that all of the crimes George is mercilessly taunted for amount to talking some awful idiotic shit rather than, say, generally facilitating the cause of ultraviolence and mayhem through the direct application of expensive weaponry and force.
Now, there are probably arguments to be made here about the extremity and nastiness of George's politics, as compared to the entirely sensible centrist habit of flooding the planet with weapons of mayhem and destruction, but if you take these incidents in conjunction with this week's pants-down flagellation of Green Party chuckler Natalie Bennett, a trend starts to emerge.
Much as bribed councillors or bent coppers can expect incarceration while MPs and other wealthy professionals caught with their fingers in the till can expect a really firm ticking off, the full weight of public derision seems ever to fall only upon relatively powerless dafties and nasty little no-marks. Were this not the case, perhaps we'd have heard more calls to slap the cuffs on grandees of Westminster, and rather fewer in favour of further lining their pockets.
Given the disparity in power and influence in these contrasting cases, I now feel a little ashamed of joining in the last big Galloway pile-on. Flatulent and nutty and stuffed to his bulging eyeballs with godawful politics he may be, but when you take the lad in context, it feels like walking into HSBC headquarters and verbally abusing the tea lady.
And perhaps this is just one of the great imponderables of power, that everyone has the courage to shoot the wounded, but few have the gumption to take on those who are still capable of lashing out**.
Which suggests that the old Kiss-Up, Kick-Down culture of yesteryear is as ingrained as it ever was, and that doesn't really say good things about us as a culture, I suspect***.
*There's probably a reasonable argument here that goes - maybe he would, given the power to do so. To which the obvious rejoinder is Well, maybe so, but he doesn't, so he hasn't.
**It'd be remiss not to note that the Galloway Twitter stuff is largely inspired by George's habit of threatening to sue people who make grand, sweeping claims about his villainy in public forums. George is highly litigious, and that's a character trait that I broadly dislike.
That said, it's worth noting that there's a measureable overlap between the three categories of "People who are very worried that libel laws are far too stringent" and "People who think they should be able to level very serious allegations at highly litigious public figures without ever facing any unpleasant consequences at all" and "People who Tweet insults at e.g. George Galloway".
Which should probably give us pause for reflection, before we accept that for some people, advocacy for lighter libel laws is primarily inspired by the desire to make us a fairer, better society.
(Non-coincidentally, I also note such persons also seem to have a fair bit of enthusiasm for the proposition "Journalists should be able to suborn public servants unimpeded by the constabulary and nobody should ever go to jail for that particular form of bribery", but I'm now indulging in the hated habit of discussing alleged comments made by unnamed people, so will leave it at that).
***And this is the umpteenth post I've written about, like, stuff that folk say on Twitter innit, which doesn't suggest that I'm exactly indulging in rigorous research here.
On the other hand, pretty much every one of you will have arrived at this social media site from a link on other social media, so I'll just try to style it out.