Tales From The Safe Space, Part 13 – Identity Politics In The Dem Debate

Bernie Sanders - Hillary Clinton - Democratic Party Primary - Sexism - Identity Politics

When will Bernie Sanders learn? If Hillary Clinton interrupts him while he is speaking, his job is to shut up and listen to whatever she has to say with gratitude

Identity Politics crept in to the latest Democratic primary debate on Sunday night in a particularly harrowing episode for all American women.

From Janell Ross’s account in the Chicago Tribune:

On Sunday night, Bernie Sanders was in the middle of explaining his rationale for having reservations about the 2008 auto bailout — too much of the aid went to Wall Street — when former Hillary Clinton interrupted. Clinton got out a few words before Sanders, hand raised and moving in the (surprisingly tight) space between the two candidates and interjected.

“Excuse me, I’m talking,” he said.

If you are still waiting for the scandalous part, you just missed it. That was it. Hillary Clinton interrupted Bernie Sanders while he was talking, and Sanders tried to continue his point by saying “excuse me, I’m talking”.

But something which to normal people might look like the bread and butter of political television debating is instead being whipped up into a narrative of Bernie Sanders’ deep-rooted, festering misogyny and his barely concealed contempt for Hillary Clinton on account of her gender.

Ross continues:

Clinton is the first woman with a serious shot at the Democratic presidential nomination, and therefore the first woman to spend this much time on debate stages with competition. And this is the age of Twitter, where what feel like the independently formed opinions and reactions of ordinary voters are super easy to access. And indeed, there were many reporters who wrote about this moment by quoting and pulling in other reporters’ totally serious tweets.

It all seems a bit light on substance and heavy on reaction — and reactions to reactions. And no one can climb inside Sanders’ mind and say with utter clarity what was swirling inside it. We do know that Clinton was the more experienced presidential debater on that stage. She also, by now, knows about Sanders’, shall we say, tendency to respond to Clinton with curmudgeonly chastisements and finger wags. He has said and done a few things in previous debates that people have described as chauvinistic. By that logic, Clinton may have interrupted Sanders on purpose in hopes that something like the “excuse me” moment would happen.

One could speculate a great deal about that. But then there is this: Why, at this late date and this many debates into the 2016 presidential election cycle, has Sanders made demonstrably little to no effort to alter the way he interacts with the woman he at least strongly suspected would be running against him from the day he declared his campaign? He has almost certainly had the same advice and information that every male candidate gets about the need to be constantly mindful about coming across like a chauvinist or a bully when on a debate stage facing a female competition.

“A bit light on substance” is an understatement for the ages. There was a time not so long ago where if either of the two candidates were to be admonished for anything, it would have been the candidate who interrupted, not the one who firmly but politely continued to make their point. But of course that was before the corrosive Politics of Identity began to eat away at our culture and our political discourse. And now, what each candidate thinks, says and does is far less important than who they are and into which identity categories they fall.

Now, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both happen to be white, so that already puts them near the top of the Hierarchy of Oppression, vicariously responsible for all of the ills and misfortunes suffered by those beneath them. But Clinton has a slight advantage in that she also happens to identify as a female. And because the patriarchy (no further explanation needed), Sanders squeaks above Clinton to the top of the Oppression Pyramid, which means that our sympathies and bias must rest with her, whether she happens to be right or not on any given issue.

Only by viewing the exchange through this distorting lens of Identity Politics can one watch the exchange and come away with the impression that Hillary Clinton has been oppressed by a “chauvinistic” Bernie Sanders. Yet this is indeed what some people believe, and because they perceived Sanders to be behaving in a sexist way, under the Law of Identity Politics it is the responsibility of Sanders to modify his behaviour to correct that perception, even though it is a demonstrably false one.

In other words, as Janell Ross reminds us, something can be sexist simply because another person – even someone totally unconnected with the event – perceives it as being so:

Does Sanders have the capacity to recognize the way these moments look or think deeply about the degree to which sexism propels his debate-stage performances? Whether that chauvinism is real or imagined or even toyed with by his opponent for political gain, why can’t Sanders find a better way to manage these moments? And is some combination of all of the above something that a 21st-century presidential candidate has simply got to consider and manage effectively?

Does the inability or unwillingness to examine his body language, tone and actions for hints or indicators of sexism — if not real but perceived by some women — tell us all what we really need to know?

Yes! Doesn’t Bernie Sanders’ failure to modify his entire manner of speaking and body language in order to address perceptions of a sexism which doesn’t even exist tell us all that we need to know about just what a horrible person he is?

Though this seems (and is) utterly ridiculous, it is neither new nor unexpected. Modern hate speech laws and the actions of Western governments to suppress or discourage the exercise of free speech are based on the same principle – that it is the perceptions of the offended party which matter most of all, and which must be flattered and mollified at all costs.

But who is really demeaning and belittling women here? Is it Bernie Sanders, who clearly views Clinton as a formidable opponent (she is the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, after all) and debates her with gusto, or is it the virtue-signalling feminist “allies” who go riding to her defence after a debate because they believe that women cannot withstand being contradicted with firm but polite words and one of Bernie Sanders’ ubiquitous (and non gender-specific) dismissive hand gestures?

Of course it is the people now crying “sexism!” who are themselves guilty of behaving in a truly sexist way, by treating a rich, powerful, well-connected 21st century American woman (Clinton) as somehow less capable than a somewhat less rich, less powerful, less well-connected man (Sanders), and consequently in need of their finger-wagging intercession on her behalf. But so powerful is the weapon that they wield – labelling their targets as sexist, chauvinist or even misogynist – that it is often easier to acquiesce rather than stand up to the Identity Politics power play.

Therefore, if he is to survive the Democratic Party primary season without having his reputation and good name completely torn to shreds, Bernie Sanders would do well to learn one valuable lesson: the next time that Hillary Clinton interrupts him, his role as a white cis man is to stand there meekly and just let her talk out the rest of the debate.

It’s the socially just way to behave.


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Douglas Carswell Warns Against The Allure Of Protectionism

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Douglas Carswell makes the short and eloquent case against protectionism:

The prosperity we take for granted today couldn’t have happened without free markets and free trade. That doesn’t stop people – even presidential candidates – saying we’d be better off starting trade wars, and only buying goods made at home. But the fact remains: protectionism is the route to poverty.

Globalisation gets a bad press. When manufacturing moves from Britain or the US to China and India, it looks like we’re losing out. But the result is that we get our clothes, shoes, computers, phones, and televisions much more cheaply. And lower prices don’t just make us better off. They also increase demand, and create jobs.

As Adam Smith and David Ricardo realised 200 years ago, prosperity comes from specialisation. If each of us tried to be self-sufficient, we would all be living in prehistoric penury. Instead, we specialise in what we’re best at, and exchange the product of our work for what we need.

The same applies to countries. Today, Britain’s comparative advantage is in services. Other countries are best at heavy industry or agriculture. By specialising in services, we get more and better manufactured goods and agricultural produce than we would if we diverted our resources into making them ourselves.

Protectionism might seem like the solution for people who have lost out to globalisation. But its effect would be regressive – like the poll tax. It would force prices up, and employment down. That would hit the poorest hardest.

Carswell goes on to argue that protectionism does not bring prosperity, but rather leads to inefficient, monolithic corporations like British Leyland, churning out low quality product that nobody really wants – and even then, only at the cost of massive subsidies from the taxpayer.

The case against protectionism cannot be restated enough at a time when globalisation and free trade is under sustained attack on both sides of the Atlantic – by the otherwise polar opposite Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in America, and by the worst elements on both sides of the EU referendum debate in Britain, who believe that we should retreat either into mercantilist isolationism or protectionist euro-parochialism.

There is an important debate here to be had among advocates for smaller government. Clearly the state is presently far too involved in our lives in all manner of ways, but surely one of the things that a smart, lean and effective small government absolutely should do is watch out for its citizens when they are impacted by massive changes to the way that the world trades and communicates.

Labour’s solution has been to park people on welfare and then forget about them, which is remarkably immoral for a group of people who love to endlessly brag about how virtuous and compassionate they are. The intelligent Right should come up with something better. And that means doing something more than simply aping Labour policy by raising the minimum (or “national living”) wage to £9 an hour so that the most tedious of low-paying McJobs keep people just out of working poverty.

The new permanent majority will not be secured by the Cameron / Osborne strategy of enacting Tony Blair’s fourth term of New Labour governance. It will come about by radically rolling back the state in all manner of areas where it should be doing less, while also giving citizens the tools and opportunity to prosper in the new economy.

Less protectionism, less pretending that the old jobs will come roaring back if only we leave the EU, embrace the EU or otherwise throw up barriers to global trade. Less shooting for the middle all round, and more empowerment of British citizens to pursue high value-add, high-wage, twenty-first century careers.

Now put that on a bumper sticker.


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Tony Blair And The Shell-Shocked Centrists: The Fears Of A Fading Elite

Tony Blair - New Labour - Centrism

Pity Tony Blair. Unloved and discredited in his own country, he still fails to understand the role he played in the anti-centrist backlash on both sides of the Atlantic

A panicked, uncomprehending Tony Blair is struggling to understand the appeal of left-wing insurgents such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, LabourList reports:

Tony Blair has said he finds it difficult to understand the surge to prominence of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders amid doubts over both men’s capacity to win general elections.

The former prime minister said the two veteran left-wingers faced a “question of electability” but admitted that stagnating living standards for people on lower- and middle-incomes had generated anger at elites in Britain and the US.

Blair also warned political parties they would be powerless to help people unless they “selected someone who is electable”.

[..] Blair, who was speaking to The Guardian and The Financial Times, said candidates who could “rattle the cage” were emerging, in a reference to Corbyn, who came from the left fringe to easily beat the party establishment to claim the Labour leadership, and to Sanders, who hopes to emulate him by winning the Democrat nomination ahead of Blair’s friend Hillary Clinton.

“It’s very similar to the pitch of Jeremy Corbyn,” Blair said. “Free tuition fees: well, that’s great, but someone’s going to have pay for it. An end to war, but there are wars.”

Where to begin?

Let’s start with Tony Blair’s “pass the smelling salts!” terror at the supposedly unhinged and crazy far-left politics of Bernie Sanders. That’s the same Bernie Sanders who would be chased out of Britain with flaming torches and pitchforks for being too right-wing, were he the UK prime minister, thanks to his support of private sector-delivered healthcare and the right to bear arms.

The interesting thing – and Todd Gillespie at Spiked has also picked up on this – is that with his support for civil liberties and the rights of the individual over the big guy (corporation or government), Bernie Sanders is in some ways a better conservative standard-bearer than most of the people currently squabbling for the US presidency – and certainly far more so than our own Coke Zero Conservative prime minister, David Cameron.

In many ways, when Tony Blair comes charging into the US presidential contest in support of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, he is not making the principled case for a pragmatic, centre-left policy platform capable of winning elections, as he so smugly claims. After all, the American Right is also tearing itself apart at the moment, and there is nothing to say that Sanders could not defeat one of the more inexperienced or unpalatable GOP candidates still standing.

No, what Tony Blair is doing here is siding with the political elite – of which he is very much a part – and the tired old orthodoxies which people have grown so heartily sick of that they are now desperately casting around for alternatives in people like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. A former Labour prime minister who remembered anything at all about his party’s roots might not be quite so quick to publicly embrace a US presidential candidate awash in Wall Street donations and influence.

But Blair genuinely can’t see the problem with consistently, publicly and unapologetically siding with globalisation’s winners and richest beneficiaries while either ignoring or actively harming those who are left behind. And he cannot understand why this fawning deference to money and power is creating a populist backlash which has changed the course of his party.

Which brings us on to Jeremy Corbyn. LabourList’s report of Tony Blair’s comments continues:

He suggested the sudden rise of Corbyn and Sanders, each after years spent toiling in relative obscurity on the left of their parties, reflected a loss of faith in the centre-ground of politics as well as the changing technology of political communications.

“I think there is a combination of factors behind these movements which are happening both sides of the Atlantic. Part of it is the flatlining of lower and middle income people, the flatlining in living standards for those people, which is very frustrating. It’s partly an anger for sure at the elites, a desire to choose people who are going to rattle the cage.

“And it’s partly also about social media, which is itself a revolutionary phenomenon which can generate an enormous wave of enthusiasm at speed. When I first started in politics, these things took so long to build up momentum; your decision points were well before that moment was achieved. But it’s also a loss of faith in that strong, centrist progressive position and we’ve got to recover that…

“One of the strangest things about politics at the moment – and I really mean it when I say I’m not sure I fully understand politics right now, which is an odd thing to say, having spent my life in it – is when you put the question of electability as a factor in your decision to nominate a leader, it’s how small the numbers are that this is the decisive factor. That sounds curious to me.”

Blair is absolutely right that there has been a loss of faith in centrist politics. But centrist politics is not an innocent victim. Centrist politics has delivered a cross-party political consensus which was defiantly pro-European in face of public euroscepticism, which doggedly refused to talk about immigration even as a centre-left New Labour government spurned transitional controls and allowed hundreds of thousands more economic migrants a year into Britain without ever consulting the people, which sought to label anyone who questioned this policy as racist, and which trotted out the same tired old tropes about Our Beloved NHS and precious public services while doing almost nothing new or radical to reshape them for the twenty-first century.

Many people in Britain yearn for more genuinely left-wing solutions to be offered by a political party. Many would like the railways renationalised, and the energy companies too. This blog believes that such moves would be hugely regressive and statist, and very quickly result in poorer service and less choice for consumers. But those who believe in nationalisation deserve a voice in the political debate – a voice which Labour studiously excluded for many years. If Tony Blair seriously believed that high-handedly shutting people out of his party would store up no resentment for the future and possibly one day result in a backlash, then he is quite delusional.

Blair acts as though the rise of Jeremy Corbyn is merely a function of social media, and angry far-leftists hijacking the conversation. But it goes far deeper than that. The rise of Corbyn on the British Left, Sanders on the American Left and Trump on the Right are not an inchoate expression of public rage, but rather an indicator that a fully rational public has finally realised that the political consensus of the main political parties is not delivering what they need – be it middle class job security or success on the world stage.

The growth and prosperity delivered by the centrist political consensus in Britain has not been experienced uniformly by all citizens. That much is understandable – different policies will impact different socio-economic groups differently. What is unacceptable, though, is the fact that the centrists from both main parties never made a concerted effort to tweak those policies to help people who were left behind. They simply advocated more of the same.

More European Union. More government spending on the bloated, unreformed welfare state. More uncritical praise for the NHS. And more of the depressing view of Britain as nothing more than a nation of schools, hospitals and public services rather than a great nation built on our commercial, private sector initiative, and with boundless untapped potential.

Choose to treat the people like mindless, avaricious consumers rather than thinking, engaged citizens with a stake in their world, and you had better make damn sure that you deliver sufficient prosperity to keep everyone happy and distracted. This is how the centrists have treated us for years – essentially saying “you leave the global governance and great ideological questions to us, and in exchange we will deliver you a cheap supply of flat-screen TVs and other consumer goods”.

But when not everybody can afford the flat-screen TV or the iPhone or to scramble on to the property ladder, they start to look around them and notice things. Awkward things. Things like the fact that they no longer have the final say in issues affecting them, because sovereignty has been outsourced to the European Union. Or things like the character of their towns and cities – even their whole country – visibly changing because of levels of immigration about which they were never consulted. Or things like a broken welfare state which ensnares some people in lifelong dependency while allowing others to fall straight through the safety net to their deaths.

Brendan O’Neill picks up on this point – the fact that it is those who have not benefited economically from centrist consensus politics who are most likely to recognise that all is not well with our democracy – in his excellent piece in the Spectator:

The Third Wayists are quaking in their boots. The middle-class, middle-of-the-road technocrats who have dominated politics for the best part of three decades are freaking out. These people who bristle at anything ideological, are disdainful of heated debate, and have bizarrely turned the word ‘moderate’ into a compliment feel under siege. And no wonder they do, for on both sides of the Atlantic their very worst nightmare — a revenge of the plebs — is becoming flesh.

You can see this sometimes clumsy but nonetheless forceful reassertion of pleb power in everything from Trumpmania to the staggering back to life of Euroscepticism — or what snooty moderates call ‘Europhobia’, because every point of view that runs counter to their own must be a mental illness, right?

[..] In both Middle America and Middle England, among both rednecks and chavs, voters who have had more than they can stomach of being patronised, nudged, nagged and basically treated as diseased bodies to be corrected rather than lively minds to be engaged are now putting their hope into a different kind of politics. And the entitled Third Way brigade, schooled to rule, believing themselves possessed of a technocratic expertise that trumps the little people’s vulgar political convictions, are not happy. Not one bit.

And with regard to euroscepticism specifically:

We’ll see more of this in the coming months, more defamation of those who dare to say: ‘I don’t like Brussels.’ But Euroscepticism represents, not some swirling, xenophobic disgust with Europeans, as it has been pathologised by the pleb-fearing PC lobby, but a people’s feeling of exhaustion with the ossified oligarchy of the Brussels machine. It speaks to a desire among ordinary people to take back some control over their lives and destinies. And as The Economist pointed out, this Eurosceptic urge is strongest among the less well-educated — that is, the plebs, those tired of being treated as welfare, nudging and paternalism fodder by the new political elites.

So bring it on, this revenge of the plebs. Let’s cheer their rude, intemperate injection of ideology into the flat, lifeless sphere politics has become over the past 20 years. And let’s enjoy the squirming of an aloof political class and commentariat who mistakenly thought they had put the pesky masses and their troublesome views out to pasture.

If Tony Blair does not understand the anger and disillusionment directed not just at him but toward consensus politics in general – and there is no reason to doubt that his bewilderment is genuine – then one has to ask: what happened to the political nous of the man who won three consecutive general elections for Labour?

Why, when he has one foot firmly planted on each side of a massive new fault line emerging in our politics – not between Left and Right but between consensus politics’ winners and losers – is Tony Blair unable to understand his own starring role in precipitating the earthquake?


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Support David Cameron? I’d Rather Feel The Bern

Bernie Sanders For President

Bernie Sanders or David Cameron? There’s no contest

At a time when far too many conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have revealed themselves to be either snarling authoritarians (Marco Rubio, Donald Trump) or patrician, vacuous hairdos (David Cameron), the search for authentic commitment to individual liberty can sometimes lead to unexpected places.

Spiked are now making the controversial argument that this search leads all the way to Vermont, and to US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Todd Gillespie writes:

Despite being slammed by some as a big-government lefty, Sanders’ track record is more complicated — and arguably more libertarian than has been appreciated. Even libertarian stalwart Ron Paul has come out in support of Sanders’ small-government credentials, shortly after his son, Rand, left the Republican race.

Bernie has espoused positions similar to Rand’s, even joining with him to oppose government surveillance. Last year, Sanders wrote a blistering criticism of the ‘Orwellian’ practice of spying on citizens. He voted against the 2001 Patriot Act and its dreadfully named replacement, the Freedom Act, in 2015 — both of which Clinton supported. He is arguably the only candidate left who takes positions that can legitimately be described as libertarian.

He supports freedom of speech. He backs net neutrality and opposes attempts to censor the internet. In 2005, he introduced the Stamp Out Censorship Act, which sought to prohibit the government enforcing ‘indecency fines’ on non-public media (it failed to pass). Recently, addressing students at Liberty University (a Christian institution whose president has just endorsed Donald Trump), most of whom think very differently to Sanders, he said ‘it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views’ to engage in debate.

Anti-surveillance. Anti-censorship. Pro civil liberties. Pro free speech. All more than can be said of many American conservatives, who ostentatiously flaunt their love of the Constitution – by which they mean the Second Amendment, while conveniently overlooking the First and Fourth Amendments.

Gillespie continues:

Sanders’ right-wing critics write him off as a big-state socialist. But a better label might be ‘libertarian socialist’. Yes, he has a vision of centralised government spending funded mainly by tax hikes on big business, but Comrade Bernie also envisages having a private sector with greater employee ownership. He has introduced legislation several times to increase government funding for centres that would provide training and technical support for the promotion of worker ownership and participation. He introduced the Rebuild America Act 2015, proposing an extra $1 trillion investment to renew America’s crumbling infrastructure, increasing airport capacity, improving and expanding railways, roads, bridges and broadband connection. He also wants to end crippling student debt and drastically increase loans to fuel small-business innovation. You can’t accuse him of thinking small.

Of course there is also much in Bernie Sanders’ platform to abhor – the punishing effective tax rates which would be required to fund this social democratic revolution, the increase in the size of government and the stripping away of agency and responsibility from free citizens to make their own decisions and take their own risks, for a start.

But perhaps it is also a sign of the divergence between the American and British political spectrums that I quite often find myself nodding along in agreement when the ornery senator from Vermont opens his mouth to speak. Perhaps when you move far right enough in your British politics (many certainly seem to think I am Thatcher on steroids) you actually break through and register on the far left of the US political scale.

And one thing is certain – if Bernie Sanders were prime minister of the United Kingdom, we would have a far more ideologically conservative leader than we currently have in David Cameron.

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Don’t Blame Anti-Establishment Politicians For Vile Online Abuse

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Taking offence in the behaviour of a politician’s online supporters says a lot more about your view of that particular politician than the uniquely “hateful” nature of their fans

What do Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage all have in common?

Nothing to do with their political views, obviously – you would be hard pressed to imagine four more different politicians, both in terms of style and substance. But they do share something more fundamental in common: the fact that their supporters are uniquely derided as being angry and intemperate, even sexist or racist trolls, especially when compared to the supporters of their more established rivals.

How many times have you heard a wounded, thin-skinned Westminster media type complain in hurt tones that they have received “vile online abuse” from crusading Ukippers or SNP-supporting Cybernats? And this is nearly always followed by the accusatory observation that the journalist or media star in question has never been so insulted or abused by supporters of the other mainstream parties or candidates.

You have likely seen or read this lament numerous times in one form or another. Typically, they will conclude – either explicitly or by inference – that there must be something uniquely awful and unacceptable about that particular party or candidate’s views, something which either attracts a disproportionate number of crazy people, or else makes otherwise good people behave in reprehensible ways.

Here’s the Telegraph’s James Kirkup raising an eyebrow after receiving a less than loving and nurturing response from online UKIP supporters, in a piece rather preciously titled “Why are UKIP supporters so rude and horrible?”:

A brief glance through the comments sections of the Telegraph website will show this is not an isolated incident; hostile and personal remarks are a common feature of online discussion about Ukip-related stories and columns. My email inbox tells a similar story.

I’m not alone here. There is nothing unique or special about me, no individual quality that attracts such strong feelings. All of my colleagues who cover Ukip and Mr Farage regularly receive such vitriol, and several of them get it in much larger volumes than me.

[..] I’m increasingly convinced that Ukippers are one of the political groups whose members are disproportionately likely to go in for online bile. (Scottish Nationalists are another; I haven’t had the pleasure of their electronic company for a while, but in a previous job I got to know the “cybernats” fairly well.)

Kirkup’s piece is actually fairly generous – he goes on to praise Ukippers for their passion and commitment, although it comes across in a rather condescending way.

But there is no such generosity in this farewell to the Labour Party from Barbara Ellen, who took her leave after finding herself unable to cope with the fact that her preferred centrist wing of the party finds itself temporarily out of favour for the first time in decades.

Smarting from the “howling gales” of disagreement she encountered, Ellen raged:

Still the Corbynista circus refuses to leave town, with one troubling result being that the term “moderate” is starting to look tarnished and devalued – deemed too centrist, restrained, temperate, cautious. Never mind that this describes most of Britain – or that this culture of moderate-baiting is hounding people like myself (lifelong Labour voters) out of the party. Like many in the great disenchanted Labour diaspora of 2015, I don’t feel remotely “Tory lite”, but nor do I feel that there is a place for me in this brutal and monochrome, but also silly and over-simplistic, “with us or against us” regime.

And maybe there’s a faint hope that by leaving, by voting with your feet, you’ll finally quietly reasonably (moderately!) make your voice heard. It’s a sad scary moment when “moderate” starts feeling like a insult. I’d have thought that moderates were the bricks and cement of any political party – without them, the extremes become unmoored, sucked into howling gales of their own making. The leftier-than-thou can taunt the departing “boring”, “gutless”, “Tory lite” moderates all they like. In the end, we were necessary and we’ll be missed.

The media’s hysteria about boisterous and sometimes deeply unpleasant online political discourse reached its peak with their coverage of the Jeremy Corbyn campaign, with endless finger-wagging remarks about how the actions of a few anonymous knuckle-dragging trolls supposedly make a mockery of Corbyn’s “New Politics”.

Here’s the Spectator’s Sebastian Payne rending his garments in anguish at the fact that some unhinged Corbyn fans happen to say some very unpleasant things online:

It was meant to be about open debate and discussion, consensus through dialogue. But so far, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party and the arrival of the so-called New Politics has resulted in division and a lot of abuse and bad feeling. In light of last night’s vote on Syria airstrikes, Twitter and Facebook have been exploding with extraordinary levels of comments and abuse that no one, MPs or otherwise, should be subjected to.

For example, hard-left groups such as Lefty Unity, have been using Twitter to stir up agitation against the MPs they disagree with.

The article goes on to cite a tweet listing the names of Labour MPs who voted for military action in Syria, and calling for party members to deselect them. Remarkably, Payne presents this as some terrible affront to civilised behaviour rather than precisely what should happen in a democracy: MPs making decisions in public, and the public judging MPs based on those decisions. The horror!

Unfortunately, our default reaction is increasingly not just to sit back and mock the individual trolls (justified), but to then also make the lazy assumption that the internet trolls somehow speak for the wider movement or supporter base (much less justified). Everyone enjoys seeing an ignorant verbal abuser put back in their box, but we are being intellectually lazy if we then go on to believe that people like the anonymous idiot silenced by JK Rowling are representative of general UKIP or SNP opinion.

Cybernat - Online Abuse - Trolling

Exactly the same phenomenon can now be seen in the United States, where supporters and media cheerleaders of Democratic establishment favourite Hillary Clinton are lightning-quick to accuse their opponents of sexism, and to refer disparagingly to supporters of socialist rival Bernie Sanders – alas, a white male – as the “Bernie Bros”.

Glenn Greenwald does a superb job of debunking the myth that Bernie Sanders supporters are uniquely sexist or misogynistic among political supporters over at The Intercept, writing:

Hillary Clinton is the establishment candidate. Therefore, she has far more supporters with loud, influential media platforms than her insurgent, socialist challenger. Therefore, the people with the loudest media platforms experience lots of anger and abuse from Sanders supporters and none from Clinton supporters; why would devoted media cheerleaders of the Clinton campaign experience abuse from Clinton supporters? They wouldn’t, and they don’t. Therefore, venerating their self-centered experience as some generalized trend, they announce that Sanders supporters are uniquely abusive: because that’s what they, as die-hard Clinton media supporters, personally experience. This “Bernie Bro” narrative says a great deal about which candidate is supported by the most established journalists and says nothing unique about the character of the Sanders campaign or his supporters.

And the same blindingly obvious truth hits closer to home with the media’s reaction to – and coverage of – Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership:

This exact media theme was constantly used against Corbyn: that his supporters were uniquely abusive, vitriolic, and misogynistic. That’s because the British media almost unanimously hated Corbyn and monomaniacally devoted themselves to his defeat: So of course they never experienced abuse from supporters of his opponents but only from supporters of Corbyn. And from that personal experience, they also claimed that Corbyn supporters were uniquely misbehaved, and then turned it into such a media narrative that the Corbyn campaign finally was forced to ask for better behavior from his supporters.

Time and again we see establishment candidates and their fans in the media reaching for the smelling salts and clamouring to tell us how insulted and distressed they are, simply because something they said or wrote happened to tap into the coarsing vein of popular anger against a political establishment which grows remoter and more self-serving by the day. But we should recognise this for what it is – a cheap attempt to shut down the debate by rendering certain political ideas unthinkable or unsayable.

It is very much in the interests of centrists within Labour and the Conservative Party that people should fear policies with a genuine ideological twist to them, be they from the Right or the Left. When their entire pitch to the electorate consists of fatuous promises to be the most competent managers of our public services, as thought Britain were nothing more than a rainy island of hospitals and job centres, anything which attempts to inject some inspiration, ambition or bold thinking into our political debate is to be greatly feared, and thwarted at all costs.

Hence the continual efforts to portray Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wingery, something which would have been considered perfectly normal in 1986, as beyond the pale of acceptable thought in 2016.

Hence the sneering, virtue-signalling attacks on Ukippers, who have been shamefully portrayed by the media as a bunch of grunting, uneducated, economically “left behind” losers who wrap themselves in the Union flag because they are somehow more scared of change than a “normal” person.

Hence the apocalyptic predictions of those opposing Scottish independence, warning that Scotland would become some kind of tartan-clad North Korea if they went their own way.

Now, this blog believes that Jeremy Corbyn’s left wing policies are utterly wrong for Britain, that UKIP does have a certain unsavoury element within it, and that Scottish independence and the breakup of the United Kingdom would be a tragedy. But I don’t for a moment assume that the virtue of these ideas can be judged in any way by the behaviour of their most crude and sociopathic advocates. And nor do I attempt to suppress the expression of those ideas by linking overheated rhetoric on social media to any one particular idea, candidate or party.

All of which makes you wonder: If the establishment are so self-evidently right, if the centrist parties and politicians do indeed have a monopoly on Good and Pragmatic Ideas, and if anybody who proposes the slightest departure from the status quo is a juvenile dreamer or a tub-thumping populist, why not let the arguments speak for themselves?

If the establishment have the facts so overwhelmingly on their side, why do they not limit themselves to patiently explaining why Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are wrong on the issues? And at a time when political engagement is falling and faith in democracy ebbing, are the Corbyn critics and Farage haters really saying that they would rather people were disengaged than back a radical candidate?

This blog would argue that there is a certain nobility in all of the populist insurgencies currently roiling the political landscape in Britain and America. Whether one agrees with them or not (and there is often much to vehemently disagree with), they are at least attempting to drag us out of a stale and timid political consensus which has delivered prosperity for many but also failed too many of our fellow citizens.

Or as this blog remarked last year:

It is very easy to sit smugly on the sidelines, throwing the occasional rock and taunting those who risk hostility, ridicule and contempt as they struggle to find a way to make our politics relevant to the people. Anyone can be a stone-thrower. But it’s another thing entirely to roll up your sleeves, join the fray, pick a side or – if none of the available options appeal – propose new political solutions of your own.

Ukippers and Jeremy Corbyn supporters have often been steadfast in their political views for years, and as a result have languished in the political wilderness while those willing to bend, flatter and shapeshift their way toward focus group approval have been richly rewarded with power and success.

The “Bernie Bro” phenomenon in the United States and the centrist Labour hysterics about the antics of a few offensive people are nothing but a choreographed backlash from the establishment, whipped up by people who are happy to hijack issues like feminism and use them for their own short-term political advantage, or do anything else to disguise the yawning chasm where sincerely held convictions and beliefs should reside.

So, when you see a bunch of prominent, well-connected people feigning horror at the way in which people with whom they disagree are comporting themselves on the internet, your first thought should not be to dismiss the idea or candidate whom the obnoxious trolls support, but rather to question the real motives of the people weeping and rending their garments because they have been spoken to rudely on social media.

It may turn out that the trolls are still wrong, as well as being obnoxious and offensive. But many times, it will likely transpire that the people making the most fuss about the way that a particular candidate or party’s supporters are behaving also happen to have the most to lose in the event that those ideas gain a wider following. And their sudden desire for comity and a more respectful public discourse is cynical at best.

So what do Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage all have in common?

They are all flawed.

They are all willing to say things which make them wildly unpopular with large swathes of people.

Without their boldness and tenacity, few of us would still be discussing their top issues and obsessions – be it genuine socialist politics, Scottish independence, immigration or the coming EU referendum – and our politics would be left to the stale old two-party duopoly.

And none of these politicians, whatever their flaws, deserve to be judged by the online behaviour of their most angry, antisocial supporters.

Bernie Sanders - Refutes Bernie Bros

Top image: “#GamerGate is the future of troll politics”, Techcrunch.com

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