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Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Simply because it's the right thing to do

I find myself pondering the vast contorted pile of twisted knickers that have been piled up all over my media consumption over the last two days about the behaviour of protestors outside the Conservative conference.  And I find myself with one overpowering thought:

Someone is going to get killed if this sort of thing carries on

I've never been a fan of demonstrations at all - sensitive feet, low boredom threshold.  But one of the things that makes me even less of a fan, is that you tend to meet the kind of person who thinks that shouting loud aggressive slogans at passers-by is a cool thing to do.  And of course it isn't.  It's belligerent macho bullshit, of exactly the sort that people like me like to pretend doesn't happen on the political left[1].  It's also, pretty clearly, a more or less direct consequence of the way that every single disagreement over benefit policy these days gets blown up into "THE TORIES ARE QUITE LITERALLY MURDERING BABIES".  Owen Jones was, on the Twitter, apparently surprised to have been cussed as "Tory scum" because he was walking into the conference with his press credentials, but really, what might he have expected - if you spend five years telling people that a political party is intentionally hounding the disabled to death, then wouldn't it be surprising if a few people didn't think that this justified violent behaviour?

On the other hand, the British political media, one of whom got gobbed on apparently (which is why we're having this moral panic), might also use the rather nasty and overheated atmosphere currently prevailing in Manchester as an occasion to ponder their own behaviour, and whether they themselves have been as grown-up as they could be.  One of the nastiest bullying games in any school playground is that of picking on the weird kid, winding him up with progressively nastier and nastier insults, then finally getting him to freak out and hit somebody then shouting "LOOK WHAT HE DID!".  And that's pretty much been the response of the commenteriat to the Corbyn boom.

Yeah, Corbyn supporters, it was very clear from as long ago as July, tend to have a large element in them which is young, not overly blessed with common sense, and very passionate and aggressive in defending their beliefs.  Not all that clever an idea to wind them up then was it?  After a pretty solid 90 days of amazingly aggressive, amazingly bad faith insults, the press can hardly claim that what has been happening to them in Manchester has fallen out of a clear blue sky.

What!  Can he really be saying that?  Is that bastard Davies blaming the victim?  I bet he doesn't even own a "Je Suis Charlie" t-shirt [2]!  How dare he!  Finally We See The Left In Its True Fascist Colours , etc etc.

I don't understand why people have such a hard time understanding this point.  Surely professional, literate people who are willing to take enough time and trouble to write a blog post themselves, are also able to stretch their minds around two independent concepts simultaneously.

1.  It is not OK to spit at or harass people, still less to harm them.  This is still not OK even if they wind you up.

2.  It is not OK to fill your news coverage with bad faith bullshit.  This is not retrospectively justified if some supporters of the person you're insulting behave badly.

That might be a little too compressed.  Let me expand and provide a few corollaries:

If the Corbyn fan club were to calm down, turn down the emotional temperature and self-police the idiots in their midst better, would this mean that they got better press coverage?  Maybe, but probably not.  The British political media establishment know one thing about Corbyn - they know that they didn't see him coming, they don't understand him and he appears to have made the last twenty years' investment in intellectual and social capital with New Labour obsolete.  So their attitude to him is always going to be that of a Nottinghamshire weaver to them new steam looms.  There is basically no hope of getting a fair shake, and behaving better won't help.  Nonetheless, it is the right thing to do.

If the press were to start covering the Labour Party in a remotely fair or objective way, and to stop proliferating stupid gotchas, does this mean that they would get less gobbing and insults from protestors?  Again, probably not.  It only takes a few morons, and morons are extremely resistant to self-policing.  In any case, as with the Cybernats, the Corbynites have a large element who are entirely new to politics, very passionate, very paranoid and (as with anyone who takes up a political cause for the first time), outraged that what appears obvious to them is not also obvious to anyone else.  The British political media have chosen their side - technocratic centrism - and they are not likely to be able to get rid of the enemies that this choice has made for them.  Changing the style and slant of their journalism probably won't help.  Nonetheless, it is the right thing to do.

As I say, if stuff keeps going in this direction, somebody is probably going to get killed, either in a protestor riot or a police riot, and it will not be much consolation to anyone that the person who gets killed will be at least partly the author of his or her own misfortunes.  I am now officially old enough to say "grow the fuck up" as my main tool of political argument, and since I am suffering the aches and pains of middle age along with the psychic torment of knowing I will never play for Wales, I'm damned if I'm going to give up on the few compensations.  GTFU, the lot of you.

[1] By the way, plenty of the "I am a man of the left, oh yes I am, despite having spent the last ten years writing in praise of the Conservative Party" tendency have been trying to claim that Conservatives are much more friendly and less inclined to this kind of behaviour.  Nuh uh.  If you think that Tories don't spit on their political opponents and call them "scum", ask your mum about what used to happen when CND was a thing.  Or try wearing a white poppy.

[2] I do
7 comments this item posted by the management 10/05/2015 08:03:00 AM

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