Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Soundbites make Hate

Normally by this point after a General Election, we'd be seeing the Internet returning to normal sanity levels, with the return of the usual banalities and cat videos. Obviously this one's been slightly different with three Leader resignations so far* (plus Harriet Harman) and the speculation about the next Labour Leader, whether we'll have New New Labour or New Old Labour etc etc...

And yet it hasn't calmed down. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In the short span of hours since the Prime Minister went to the Palace, we've had outraged screams that the Election result wasn't proportional AND ITS'NOT FAIR!!! (conveniently ignoring that Tony Blair won the 2005 General Election on a lower vote share of a lower turnout). We've seen excrement smeared on the constituency office of a Conservative MP, the scrawling of 'Fuck Tory Scum' on war memorial, and so much outrage from the Left that some have insulted their own customers and even (apparently) respected University professors have spoken of their refusal to associate with friends who voted Conservative or UKIP.

Hatred. For having a different opinion as to how the issues of the day might be dealt with.


Think about that for a second.

It would be easy to take that hatred to its illogical conclusion - and I will, in another post. But for now I want to look at one of the things I believe is responsible for this swelling of hatred in politics, and explore it a little. And it's soundbites.

More than ever before, the 2015 Election campaign was fought on social media, on Facebook and Twitter, and in the hyperspeed world of the Internet and 24-hour news cycles. This led to ever-shortening windows to get a message across, and a reduced attention span - ten words of a headline, 140 characters of a Tweet, to hammer a message home. And the soundbites the Left chose were those of hatred, division and class war - all the while knowing that their message was false.

A few of the choicest:

"24 Hours to Save the NHS"/"Tories Privatising the NHS"/"NHS Sold to Dave's Rich Chums"/"Can't run the NHS on an IOU"
All repeated constantly, all utter bollocks. NHS under threat from the Tories? Did that one yesterday. Privatisation of the NHS? Deliberately misleading, conflating outsourcing with privatisation, and debunked by the King's Trust. Sold to Dave's chums? Class-war bullshit and not only untrue, but there are plenty of well-connected Labour peers doing quite nicely from outsourcing too.

"Posh Tories"/"Out of Touch Toffs"/"Tory Tax Dodgers"
David Cameron went to Eton. John Major came up from a Brixton estate. Ed Miliband went to the same primary school as Boris Johnson, Harriet Harman to St Paul's. Chuka Umuna has property in London and Ibiza, Margaret Hodge is part of the Oppenheimer clan (and they're both tax avoiders). Laurie Penny went to a private school (on a scholarship, the same way Boris Johnson went to Eton), Owen Jones to Oxford, Polly Toynbee owns a villa in Tuscany and works for a media group that is exceptionally skilled at minimising its tax liability.

"Tax cuts for Millionaires"/"Tories the Party of Millionaires"/"More for the rich, less for the poor"
Labour were in power for 156 months 5 days. The 50% rate of tax on salaries over £150k was implemented on April 6 2010 - 155 months 5 days after Labour took office. Yet when it was cut to 45% Labour claimed that was a cut for Dave's chums - which was not true. It increased the tax take from that income group. The 'rich' now pay 30% more than they did before. The increased personal allowance and other changes have reduced tax on the lowest earners and increased the take from the highest. Ed Miliband, Margaret Hodge, Tony Blair, Shaun Woodward, Harriet Harman, Michael Meacher and Hilary Benn are all asset millionaires.

Why is this bad? Because too many people only read the headlines, only hear the soundbite. They don't check, especially if the soundbite in question gels with their political leanings or what they would like to believe. So the soundbite builds the belief, and depersonalises the opposition, and then you've Labour hashtag campaigns like #neverkissedatory and before you know it you've people on Twitter calling for Conservatives to be shot.

The reality is out there. I'm on the right, you may be on the left, the truth may be somewhere in the middle. But it won't be found by believing only the headline or the Twitter timeline of people in your own political echo chamber. While we seem to be losing trust in politicians, at the same time we seem to have lost the ability to think for ourselves, and to go and search for the truth behind the spin. It's something that allows politicians to play on division, foster hate - and it makes us all just a little more stupid.

Right or Left, we all actually want the best for the UK. We have different ways of getting there, different ideologies that influence that thinking, different personal circumstances. We must argue, we must debate - but we must also be open to the ideas of other ideologies and basing our thinking on the soundbites, rather than the facts themselves, leads to what we've seen now - division, hatred and the refusal to accept that anything other than your own groupthink is correct.

The end result of that is not pleasant - to take it to its illogical extremes, you end up with the English Civil War or the Soviet Union. I'm sure that none of us really want either of those options** or the terrible outcomes that would result.

Stop hating each other for thinking differently, start reading more than the headlines.

*And Jim Murphy, if Unite get their way...
** Except Owen Jones, who thinks Venezuela and Cuba are way cool.

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