Friday, September 23, 2016

In My World Of Liberal Journalism

One of the most tiresome trends in opinion journalism goes like this:

I have found some people with wacky opinions, therefore

Everyone must support my utterly deranged policy proposal.

As regular readers will know, one of the serial offenders for this rhetorical style is the Spectator's Nick Cohen, who is very fond of announcing that because Person (x) is bad and wrong, we must immediately do something tremendously stupid and counter-productive.  Previous examples include: 

George Galloway is a bad man who proposes bad ideas, so 
Let's invade and occupy other countries.

Islamism is a horrible, vicious political movement with totalitarian aims, and thus
We must drop lots of high explosives on heavily-populated urban areas.

Lots of people now hold views that many people think are racist, but
I have decided those views aren't racist, so let's espouse these totally-not-racist views and win votes.

Given our mutual interests, I'm fond of using Nick as a weathervane for the trends of UK politics, so the following line from his latest column on the Labour Party poked out rudely, like a turd in a teacup: 

"...The sleaziness of (Jeremy Corbyn's) behaviour has allowed his opponents to avoid a question that the rise of the SNP should have made unavoidable: Can they create a progressive English patriotism?"

Now, the main thrust of Nick's piece is that the Labour leader and his supporters are bad and evil and wrong but again, it's worth noting that Nick is saying:

Corbyn and his fans are bad and evil and wrong, and so 
We must create a progressive English patriotism.

This idea - imitating the SNP's progressive nationalism - is exactly the kind of thing that strongly appeals to English people who are utterly clueless about Scotland, England and nationalism, and quite possibly about politics as well.  

Here's why: 

1)  Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose 

Which is French for, "Every few years some fucking berk wanders in and announces that we need to create, like, 'a progressive English patriotism', as if he's the first person ever to think of it".

Perhaps there is a way to harness this theoretical progressive patriotism - it has certainly been tried, by smarter people than Nick.  On the other hand, it's worth noting that whenever you haul English patriotism to the polling station, it tends to vote for the meanest, ugliest, nastiest right-wing lunatic on the ballot.

Does this mean that English patriotism will forever be a weapon wielded only by angry Tories and country-dwelling, wannabe Mussolinis?  Well, maybe not!  It is, however, a strong indicator of the general flow of patriotic politics in that country.

This is before we address the likely ability of the available candidates to achieve success.  Do Yvette or Hilary have the mettle to forge this new progressive alliance?  Is Chukka going to win over the north with his fiery rhetoric?  

Christ, no. 

2)  The SNP will absolutely love it.

The SNP in its modern form is basically the Labour Party's rhetoric and policies, delivered with barely-restrained anti-Westminster hysteria, to the extent that the only major difference between the two parties' manifestos in 2015 was over Trident, IIRC.

The SNP exists and thrives not because it has a big smiley, happy-happy attitude to patriotism, but because it has something clearly defined to push back against.  All it says, week in and week out, is that we could have awesome hospitals and more jobs and better education, if it weren't for the BASTARD SWINE at Westminster.

It's only a small exaggeration to reduce the entire movement to "English people are all like, Rah-Rah, Faw-Faw-Faw, Let's smash the oiks, but Scottish people are just like, Aye, whatever pal, nae bother".

Consider - is it likely that the solution for this is to create an equal and opposite form of the same thing?  Can anyone see why this might create more problems than it solves?

This makes as much sense as trying to eradicate lions by feeding them steaks and steroids.

3)   Nationalism = Nationalism.

One of the SNP's celebrity supporters asked recently why the First Minister was on TV talking about holding another independence referendum, when a survey had just illustrated the terrible extent of poverty in Scotland.  

This is a bit like asking why The Cookie Monster is on TV talking about how he wants to eat lots of cookies, while ignoring Scottish poverty.  

Scottish nationalism is all about securing independence, by fair means or foul.  Whatever your damnable progressive agenda is, there's little point in trying to bolt it onto the SNP.  Anything that you try to stick to the side of the nationalist program will be immediately consumed by the single priority of independence, either now or further down the line. 

And that's our happy-clappy, God-we-hate-the-English-but-welcome, foreign-friends! version of the phenomenon.  You can probably imagine the types of thing that this theoretical English progressive patriotism would consume.  

4)  It's so nakedly disingenuous. 

Nick has spent much of the last few years chiding us all for failing to heed the Very Real Concerns of the electorate about immigration.  The EU Referendum has just taught us a very real lesson about the very high levels of racism in the Very Real Concerns of the electorate.  The Labour right are still, this week, demanding that we all heed the Very Real Concerns of the electorate and act upon their wishes, despite knowing full-well what that entails, and which instincts they are fluffing.

Exactly how do you intend to square your "progressive English patriotism" with your simultaneous desire to win the votes of people who are willing to immiserate the country, economically and personally, because they don't like all the foreigners? 

The answer, of course, is that this "progressive English patriotism" will not be very "progressive" at all, particularly not in relation to immigrants and immigration.  Unless there's something I'm missing, an anti-immigration left-wing party would be little more than a touchier-and-feelier Ukip.  

And finally, it should go without saying that the idea of a touchy-feely, left-wing Ukip is 

5)  Utter electoral insanity.

It's basically saying: "We have lost much of rural Britain, so what we need to do now is to tell all of our city-dwelling supporters to fuck off as well, and then we will win".

Why, in the name of sanity, would anyone who wants to see a political party succeed demand that it force such an obviously destructive policy down the necks of its few remaining supporters? 

Well, perhaps this is the final answer to that question. 

Bonus silliness:  I like how Nick berates "commentators" who "throw around the 'far left' label without stopping to ask what it means", before Nick throws around the far-left label without informing us of what it means.  

I also like "Utopias are always banal", which is a cracking point to hear from one of the country's most enthusiastic supporters of extreme transformative violence as a means to creating democracy and stability.

And I imagine everyone chuckled at Nick's pronouncements upon what is and isn't good writing.  

And that line, "In my world of liberal journalism".  Polemicist, damn thyself.