Liberally blamed

November 12, 2016

I normally confine myself to writing about genetics. Now and again, as below, I write about other stuff. Please be kind.


There is an idea that it is the liberals who are to blame for Trump. It's entertainingly explained by the spoof news reporter Jonathan Pie (below). The idea is that the left, complacent after years in power, has become a snowflake. Sensitive precious darlings who need trigger warnings and safe spaces. Having grown up in a sterile politically correct (PC) environment they can’t cope with being offended. They castigate, chastise and criticize anyone who dares speak out against the orthodoxy. This has lead to anyone else feeling as if they can’t speak their mind without being judged. Yet there remains one bastion of free expression; the ballot box. Millions of people mark on paper their support for someone or something they would never tell their friends, family or even pollsters about. This explains Brexit. This explains Trump.

Neat argument I grant you. But it has major flaws. First, if there are snowflakes they are not unique to the left or to liberals. There have always been people outraged by others with views they find different to their own. Yes liberals do this. So do conservatives. Think of when Monty Python’s Life of Brian was picketed by rabbis and nuns. Think of Mary Whitehouse. Think of what happens if someone says they don't wear a poppy. Think of Corbyn not singing the national anthem. Think of wishing your conservative friends happy Winterval this year.


Second, the vehemence with which views are opposed again is not confined to any political allegiance. If you disagree that conservatives also do this, I point to you the rhetoric post Brexit: traitors, enemies of the people, remoaner, loony left. 


So the argument rests on the idea that the ballot box is the last vestige of free expression. But as both sides take offence, often and easily, this can not explain either Brexit or Trump. The freedom of the ballot box would serve the liberal cause as much as the conservative. Instead Brexit was lost and Trump won because liberal voters didn’t turn out in force. They had no reason to, no charismatic figure head, no powerful narrative, not even a half decent catch phrase to get behind. Nearest we got was Ed's stone tablet.


The thing that often gets forgotten about PC is it’s just a clumsy attempt to use language in a way that doesn’t denigrate those who for many years have had to fight, often bitterly, for their civil rights. Women, people of colour, LGBT people. I don’t want to surrender this agenda.   


But the problem with blaming PC for right wing victories is it hands the agenda back. It tacitly accepts the narrative that, yes, we were being too sensitive all along and you lot were really ‘telling it like it is.’ Incidentally I do have a problem with people who tell me they ‘tell it like it is.’ I swear the sheer arrogance of the phrase gives me gas. If I ever meet Katie Hopkins I’ll have to ensure I'm around no naked flames. But, back to the point, the fact of the matter is both sides have been sensitive. Both sides have denigrated each other, hurling insults that have shut down debate. We won’t take back the initiative by blaming ourselves for being PC. Instead we need to argue convincingly for values that PC has often stood for such as inclusivity, compassion, decency and kindness.   

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