Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Meet the PC oligarchy that now rules Britain
The Tory conference confirmed that politics has been colonised by experts, hacks and snobs who are utterly insulated from the madding crowd
You couldn’t have asked for a better snapshot of the unbridgeable chasm that now separates politicians from the public than the Tory Party conference. This weird, media-oriented, stage-managed display of pragmatism and bluster confirmed that politics has become completely disassociated from ordinary people’s lives and concerns. The conference showed that the political class and the only other section of society that has any interest in what it thinks and says – the media – are now so insulated from the madding crowd that they not only think in a different way and have different outlooks on life, but seem to speak in a different language entirely. The rarefication of British politics is complete.
The most striking thing about the Conservative Party conference was the extent to which its agenda was determined by what is not happening in the real world rather than what is. Surreally, this was a supposedly political gathering at which the big issues of the day – from the economy to the future of Europe – were either skirted around or given the deeply unconvincing Cameron-as-plucky-bulldog treatment, while issues that have no traction whatsoever amongst the public – from sexist language to gay marriage – were put centre stage by both Tory spokespeople and political reporters. (See Rob Lyons on Cameron’s economics here.) The conference revealed that political issues are very rarely generated from below these days, but rather are the creations of tiny cliques of think-tankers and professional advisers who are paid to come up with eye-grabbing ‘talking points’.
The power of small numbers of professionals to set the political agenda has reached an extraordinary level. So as the conference kicked off, and as the world economy continued to shake and the Euro continued to go down the pan, the key issue was Tory leader David Cameron’s use of sexist language. Cameron made a grovelling apology for having said ‘calm down, dear’ to a female Labour MP in parliament earlier this year and for having referred to his fellow Tory Nadine Dorries as ‘extremely frustrated’. In effect, he was bowing to pressure from minuscule numbers of influential women – primarily highly paid newspaper columnists and expert pollsters – who have been warning him to speak in a way they consider to be ‘appropriate’. That such a dinner-party spat can take centre stage at a party conference in an era of recession is a searing indictment of the hermetically sealed nature of modern British politics. This unedifying clash between professionals over how the fairer sex should be addressed brings to mind the old court system, in which mannerisms of speech and the depth of one’s curtseying were also treated as the be-all and end-all, elbowing aside burning political issues. The return of speech ritualism is further evidence of the isolation of the political class.
Two other issues that got the media class excited – as those who are paid by the Tories to fabricate Big Political Issues no doubt knew they would – were gay marriage and the possibility of introducing a fat tax to wean people off their alleged addiction to junk food. Again, neither of these issues is a grassroots one; neither exercises the hearts and minds of everyday people. Rather they’re artificially created problems, the products of either elite agitation or think-tankers’ brainstorming, which are then latched on to by politicians in the hope that talking about them will help to garner some positive coverage from the media class at least. Cameron’s comments about a fat tax – which would target those great scourges of our age: ‘milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food’ – were particularly striking, because they gave an insight into what this oligarchical political class thinks of those who live outside its bubble. We are not political subjects to be engaged with, apparently, but rather bovine objects to be physically tampered with, punished for our gluttony, pressured to ditch those gastro-pleasures which the political and media elites, as they discuss the horrors of sexist language over wine and vol-au-vents, have decreed to be ‘fattening’.
The Conservative conference brought to a head a trend that has been evident at all the mainstream party conferences over the past five to 10 years: a sense that these people are only talking to and amongst themselves; a powerful feeling that the political scene consists of tiny clubs of people perfectly insulated from the masses. Indeed, it’s wrong even to refer to the various things discussed at the Tory conference as ‘political issues’, since most of them were not really political at all, but rather were shallow moralistic obsessions foisted on to the agenda by inside agitators, and most of them were not issues either, in the sense that if you stopped the average man or woman in the street and asked them what they thought about the scourge of sexist language they would wonder if you were mad. These are entirely fake issues, designed to give the cut-off political and media classes something to tussle over.
The otherworldly nature of party conferences is a consequence of some huge political shifts in recent years. It is the hollowing-out of the mainstream parties, their speedy and profound jettisoning of members and grassroots supporters and their subsequent disconnection from the public, which creates today’s strange and alien political culture. The absence of pressure-from-below on the political parties leads to a situation where small groups of influential people can set the party political agendas, from academics obsessed with inequality to the illiberal theoreticians of the nudge industry to newspaper hacks who felt personally offended when Cameron used the word ‘dear’. It is the slow-motion withdrawal of everyday people from a political scene that no longer has anything to say to them that nurtures today’s courtly atmosphere, the rise of speech codes and apologetics and issues that matter little to the masses.
Even Tory-bashers play the same game as the party they claim to loathe. One criticism that has been made again and again of Cameron and Co. is that they are ‘re-toxifying the Tory brand’. Apparently Cameron has failed to ‘decontaminate’ his brand – what Theresa May once referred to as a general view that the Tories are ‘the nasty party’ – as evidenced in the fact that at this week’s conference some of his people dared to criticise the Human Rights Act and talk about immigration. Not only do these kinds of criticisms contain a powerfully censorious component, where all discussion of human rights or immigrants is instantly judged to be ‘toxic’ and ‘contaminated’ – they are also firmly rooted in the same narrow brand-obsession and image-obsession that passes for Tory politics these days and for politics in general.
So where a Tory party desperately trying to discover some purpose rebrands itself as ‘nice’ rather than ‘nasty’, its critics simply shout back ‘Your brand is being recontaminated!’, like executives at an advertising firm. The myopic concern with party branding is also a product of the disassociation of politics from the public: parties that have no real connection with a significant section of the masses also have no real raison d’être, and thus must try to magic one up courtesy of an army of brand-minded experts. Politics has been colonised by experts, hacks and snobs who are utterly cut off from normal people.
The Tories’ conference, like Labour’s and the Lib Dems’ before it, was a weirdly stultified affair. There was no real debate, no attempt at policy formation, not even any real policy proposals. It all rather confirmed that parties with no base of support, with no roots in society, quickly become ideas-free zones, since there is no pressure on them to embody certain ideals and to argue the toss for those ideals on a public platform. It’s not even accurate to refer to the public as mere spectators to politics these days, since most of us didn’t spectate – we had far better things to do than watch these self-serving PR exercises disguised as party conferences. Rather, today there is simply the oligarchy and its friends on one side of the metaphorical canyon, having noisy but substanceless discussions about matters of etiquette and branding, and the masses on the other side, who are looked upon as a bovine blob whose temperature must occasionally be taken through opinion polls or stage-managed focus groups. By ignoring the party conferences, we committed a small but important act of rebellion against the oligarchy. More and better acts of rebellion will be required.
By Frank Furedi. Frank seems to be back in Australia at the moment
LAST month Julia Gillard insisted the final test of public life was not whether you were "on the right side of the politics" but whether you were on "on the right side of history. And in my experience, the judgment of history has a way of speaking sooner than we expect."
US President Barack Obama confidently declared this year: "History will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt, that we were on the right side of history."
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the countries that stood up to the old regimes during the Arab spring are "on the right side of history" while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thinks countries trading with Syria are on the wrong side and should "get on the right side".
Suddenly history not yet written has emerged as a source of legitimacy for a bewildering variety of claims and causes.
Invoking the blessing of history is an implicit claim on a higher form of providential validation.
It is a way of saying: "You are not only opposing me but also the almighty figure of history, a sacred transcendental being who must be appeased." It represents a half-hearted, ineffective stab at a moral judgment.
When Gillard advises people to keep in step with the march of history on climate change, her words convey an implicit warning.
Those who get on the wrong side will face not only the judgment of the electorate but risk being trampled under history's jackboot.
Recycling history as a cautionary tale is simply a tried and tested form of guilt-tripping. The prophecy is unlikely to be proven wrong, at least not in the short run, but the fear is raised that if we are not careful we could find ourselves in history's dustbin.
History, however, does not work according to divine laws that can be second-guessed by soothsayers and oracles.
While it was understandable for the ancient Greeks to personify history through the muse Clio, it is a little disturbing to encounter 21st-century public figures assuming her mantle.
One of the most important achievements of the Western Enlightenment was to go beyond the superstitious notion that history works to a preordained plan or that it is a purposeful movement towards destiny.
The idea of history as Fate has been challenged since the 16th century by humanist thinkers who argued that the world changed in accordance with human action rather than a host of demi-gods that needed to be appeased, and contained no inner meaning that only the prophets could interpret.
It does not reward or punish those who disregard its message. History is what we make it.
Of course not everyone is comfortable with the idea that history is open-ended and its direction is uncertain. That is why some have opted to seek refuge in philosophies that seek to endow history with inner meaning and purpose.
Such views of history are often expressed through the ideology of historicism. The Oxford English Dictionary defines historicism as the "belief that historical change occurs in accordance with laws, so that the course of history may be predicted but cannot be altered by human will".
Those who claim the authority of standing on the "right side of history" are in effect endorsing the historicist belief that the future is already foretold. During the past century historicism often dominated the world views of the dogmatist and the simpleton.
One of the most memorable example of this orientation was provided by Nikita Khrushchev, the former leader of the Soviet Union. In a self-consciously provocative speech delivered in November 1956, he noted "whether you like it or not, history is on our side", before he threatened the Western world with the memorable phrase "we will bury you".
Not for the first time a prediction of who would be on which side of history proved to be wildly misguided.
The problem with appealing to history is not only that it tends to be at best a rhetorical affectation rather than an argument. It is also a rhetorical tactic used to avoid discussion and the clarification of difficult issues. It is not possible to argue against a prophecy.
Moreover, the claim that an act or a policy enjoys the authority of history closes down discussion. Its practitioners are not only putting forward their own opinions, they are claiming to speak on behalf of an unquestionable higher authority that cannot be held to account by mere mortals.
If history has spoken and given its verdict on climate change or on the Arab spring, any opposition to it can be castigated as not only wrong but malevolent.
One final point worth noting. Until recent times most serious political figures were too embarrassed to use the phrase "on the right sight of history". Through searching the Lexis-Nexis database, I found only one reference to this phrase during the 1970s. In September 1979, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson called on American businesses to stop trading with South Africa and "choose to be on the right side of history".
During the next decade until September 1990, the database provides only 120 references. Compare that with the past 12 months, which provide 1375 claims speaking on behalf of the right side of history.
With so much energy invested in upholding the authority of history it is evident that what we are experiencing is a 21st-century variant of the old doctrine of fatalism. This elevation of Fate assigns human beings the unflattering role of deferring to forces beyond their control. Surely there is much more to the human experience than acting out a script casually scribbled down by Fate.
The British children's football league which only lists scores as 1-0 or 1-1 'to avoid humiliation after heavy defeats'
A junior football league has stopped publishing the results of its matches in case the scores embarrass the young players. Telford Junior League – made up of 20 divisions ranging from under-10s to under-16s – now records all games as either 1-0 wins or 1-1 draws.
Bosses at the league have defended the decision to withhold the number of goals scored which they claim will spare the youngsters the humiliation of losing badly.
But campaigners and parents say the policy teaches children that competition is a bad thing and risks creating a generation of bad losers.
Unrepentant league bosses have defended the policy, saying it is in line with Football Association guidelines, which the FA disputes. The FA says it has no rules relating to results above the age of eight.
And the league, which was founded in 1984 and has more than 2,000 players from clubs in Telford, north Shropshire and Bridgnorth, will also stop recording results for under-11 teams altogether from next season.
One parent, who did not want to be named, said: ‘This is because they don’t want kids embarrassed if their team has lost heavily. ‘If that’s the case what’s the point of having a league table up on the website at all?’
Another parent, who also did not want to be named for fear of turning officials against his son’s team, said: ‘I think it’s crazy - kids need to learn about winning and losing from an early age. They aren’t recognising the boys’ achievements.
‘They might not want to embarrass the losing team but if one of the lads scores six or seven goals and that isn’t recorded what kind of message does that send to them? ‘The lads might as well not turn up.’
Assistant secretary Stephen Groome said the league had introduced the results policy on its official website this year. He said: ‘Shropshire FA have said it is a guideline and we chose to go with it. If someone else wins, the children do not need to be embarrassed. ‘There are mixed feelings about it and it’s up to each league. From next season under-11s won’t even have their results recorded.’
He said goal difference did not play a part in determining final league positions and teams finishing on equal points would share their position. ‘Sometimes there is a 16-1 or 16-0 goal difference but it’s not a determining factor in junior football because the league will be shared,’ he added.
Stephen Clarke, manager of the under-11s Wrekin Panthers team, backed the move. He said: ‘The children’s welfare is paramount. The winners have three points on the website if they win and the children who lose 20-0 would feel very disheartened if it was on the website. ‘They might think of not playing. I think it’s a very good idea.’
But Mr Clarke added there must come a point when players had to accept defeat. He said: ‘I think probably by the age of 15 then they have an understanding that life is a bit of a competition and we are competing with other people.’
Dame Kelly Holmes, the double Olympic champion, has spoken out in the past about the decline of competitive sports for children. She said it risked spawning a generation of bad losers and blamed a culture of political correctness for making ‘competitiveness’ a dirty word.
A spokesman for the FA commented: 'There’s an FA rule that prohibits the publishing of results and league tables across all media for U7 and U8 age-groups where the focus of the game is about learning to play without the pressure of full-time scores. 'For older age groups, there are no rules or FA guidelines which indicate that the final score should be changed.'
British father calls for shopping centre boycott after he is quizzed by police for taking photos of his own daughter
Give a Brit a little bit of power and his/her inner Hitler comes out
A father claims he was quizzed by police under anti-terror legislation after he was spotted taking a photo of his daughter in a shopping centre. Chris White took a picture of his four-year-old daughter Hazel while she was eating an ice cream at Braehead shopping centre near Glasgow last Friday.
However, Mr White said a security guard ordered him to stop, claiming it was 'illegal' to use a camera in the centre, and asked him to delete any images he had taken on his mobile phone.
Mr White had paused to take a snap of his daughter posing on the back of a scooter seat at an ice cream bar on their way around the shops.
A Facebook campaign was launched over the weekend calling on the public to boycott the mall. It has attracted more than 19,000 'likes' on the social networking site and hundreds of comments.
Mr White said he was approached by the security guard who asked him to delete the pictures at about 4pm.
Explaining the incident on his Boycott Braehead Facebook page, Mr White said: 'I explained I had taken 2 photos of my daughter eating ice cream and that she was the only person in the photo so didn't see any problem. I also said that I wasn't that willing to delete the photos and there seemed little point as I had actually uploaded them to Facebook.
'He then said i would have to stay right where I was while he called the police, which seemed a little extreme.'
When police arrived he told Mr White there were 'clear signs' in the centre ordering shoppers not to take pictures inside the mall.
Mr White said: 'The police officer than started to say that there were privacy issues around photographs, to which I said yes and in a busy shopping centre I waited until only my daughter was in the shot. 'I explained that I was happy to show him the photos although not sure under what authority he could ask me to delete the photos.'
Mr White said police told him they 'were within their rights under the Prevention of Terrorism Act' to confiscate his mobile phone without any explanation. However officers let Mr White keep his photos but took all his details and he was then allowed to leave.
The shopping centre tonight apologised to Mr White and said it was changing its policy 'with immediate effect' so families and friends can use their cameras in the centre.
A Braehead spokesman said in a statement: 'We have listened to the very public debate surrounding our photography policy and as a result, with immediate effect, are changing the policy to allow family and friends to take photos in the mall.
'We will publicise this more clearly in the mall and on our website. We will reserve the right to challenge suspicious behaviour for the safety and enjoyment of our shoppers.
'We wish to apologise to Mr White for the distress we may have caused to him and his family and we will be in direct contact with him to apologise properly.'
Mr White said he had been overwhelmed by the public response on the issue and thanked people for their support. He added: 'Hopefully we can now move forward with a common sense approach into a situation that allows families to enjoy precious moments with their children, but at the same time ensure that such public places are areas where we can feel safe and protected.'
Supt George Nedley, of Renfrewshire and Inverclyde division, told BBC Scotland: 'As a result, a full review of the circumstances surrounding the incident and the allegations made is under way.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.