Saturday, November 04, 2017

Genuinely Astonishing

I see why Hadley is shocked that Nigel Farage's comments have largely been met with indifference.  After all, the hacks have reported almost every belch, fart and whistle that the malignant Ukip nutsack has emitted over the last few years, so why the weary response now?

Farage may no longer be the leader of his party but he still has a radio show; he still tours the world meeting with senior political figures in Europe and the US; he still speaks at rallies for Nazi sympathisers and most importantly, he's the living avatar of Brexit, the worst political crisis in recent British political history. It should be astonishing that there hasn't been a public outcry.

Being an enormous smartarse however, I wasn't surprised at all that nobody much cares about Farage's wacky racist view on "Jewish influence", and I certainly wasn't "genuinely astonished".  If you'd asked me at the time what would happen, I'd have said "It'll be reported; there will be some snotty tweets, and then nothing will happen", and not only because that's precisely what's happened in the past.

That Hadley is astonished and I'm not, suggests to me that she's holding on to some incorrect presumptions.  That doesn't necessarily mean that my views are correct, but in the interest of us all growing as people and learning about the world around us, I thought I'd talk a bit about how I was able to call this one right.

There are a variety of reasons and I might look at others later but for now, let's consider the people whose job it is to report on matter of public interest - the press.  It'd be discourteous and dickish to put words into Hadley's mouth, so I'll consider here what I take to be the views of the Average British Opinion Writer.

I think the Average British Opinion Writer believes that the men and women of the British press are mostly decent, rational humans who would object to overtly foul behaviour, including the dissemination of openly racist conspiracy theories.

Conversely, I think the British press is mainly peopled by half-bright hacks who can usually be relied upon to noisily dislike such behaviour only when it's politically and personally expedient to do so.  I think many of them blithely accept certain unpleasant realities, including public racism and the ongoing career of Nigel Farage, as Just The Way Things Are, immovable and unconquerable.

If that's true, it'd go a long way to explaining why Farage can express views that would see almost any other politician either immediately drummed out of public life, or at very least besieged by a squad of reporters everywhere he or she went.

Further, I think the Average British Opinion Writer would say that most of their colleagues are dedicated and reasonably honest people, giving their flawed but often brave views on complex issues and mainly just calling it as they see it.

But what if instead - with only a few exceptions - most of the nation's political commentators are incurious, easily-led shitehawks?  What if the majority of opinion writers mistake received wisdom for deep thought and deeply-held conviction? What if they need to see others lead by example before they'll reevaluate their views, and if they regularly exhibit the herd instinct of pissed lemmings?

What if these personality traits are the main reason why they're employed as opinion writers in the first place?

That would certainly explain a lot, and not just about Farage, but about how the ongoing disaster that he and people like him created came to pass.

So that's one facet - we take different views of the press's role in public life.  Again, it's possible and perhaps even likely that I'm wrong, but you'll note that I'm not the one having brain explosions over events that aren't even unprecedented in the last few weeks, let alone years.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

How Dare You

Given the sheer quantity of "How dare you call me racist, sir" that there is flying about just now - clogging the airwaves, filling the papers, determining the outcome of elections and the very future of entire countries - I think it might help to ask the Not-A-Racist-Bone-In-My-Whole-Body types the following question:

If you decided tomorrow to be an out-and-out, self-declared white supremacist, then what would you do differently?

If you already spend your time e.g. writing articles about how touchy-feely liberalism puts everyone at risk of being beheaded by crazed Jihadists, or discovering who The Real Racists are by sharing dodgy comments made by black teenagers, or continually retweeting news stories about Muslims being convicted of crimes, or angrily focusing on Mo Farah's alleged steroid use while wholly ignoring similar stories about non-religious athletes, or calculating the percentage chance of a random male being a sex offender by controlling for country of origin....

Well, my point should be fairly clear.  From this baseline, it's difficult to see how you can take it up a notch to actual declared white supremacism. 

 If you're already carrying on like this, and quite gleefully too, then the difference between your behaviour and what you'd consider to be provably bigoted activities is pretty academic.  You could maybe be a bit more conspiratorial or wave suspect flags or use racial epithets but ultimately, these are differences of tone rather than content.

So I suppose the question is: If the only way that you could be more openly prejudiced would be to do exactly what you're doing but slightly more so, then why the hell would you bother getting pissy when people tell you that you're racist?  The line you're attempting to draw is so impossibly fine that it may as well not exist.

And this is before we get onto one of the iron rules of public conduct, which is: You don't have to be racist to be an arsehole, nor do you need to be a strident bigot to be a really unpleasant person to spend time with.