Be tolerant and respect the sincerely held political views of other people. Unless those people happen to be Tory Scum…
Apparently, as we seek to move on from the EU referendum in the post Jo Cox era, we are all supposed to be more civil to one another and focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.
We know this, because the New Statesman high-mindedly told us so:
I believe the horrific killing of Jo Cox is a moment for this New Generation of us to speak more openly about what has gone wrong and how we must, collectively, tackle it. Fundamentally, I believe we must see this as a moment in our history to re-covenant our respect as a society for politics done well. Democracy can ultimately only be as good as the society it represents. We must all learn once again to value free speech and civilised debate, led by open, accessible and accountable Parliamentarians. We must pledge ourselves to continuing the fight for freedom, for tolerance and for understanding between individuals, nations and peoples. We must ensure that love, hope and understanding will always triumph over hate, fear and despair.
We must reject the politics of alarmist language, personal attacks and fear.
A noble sentiment which surely we can all take to heart – it should certainly be possible for all of us to watch our rhetoric in the heat of debate, as none of us benefit from the current toxic political climate.
So why, then, is the New Statesman now actively trying to whip its readership into a quivering fear at the prospect of Andrea Leadsom winning the Conservative Party leadership contest and becoming prime minister?
Having apparently forgotten their own edict to respect people with different political views, the New Statesman instead lists nine reasons why its readers should be terrified – yes, terrified, that emotion which would be more appropriate if masked intruders had just smashed down their front doors – by this relatively unknown politician.
With polls suggesting Andrea Leadsom will be one of the two Tory leadership candidates put to a vote of the members, it’s only natural to be curious about what this potential prime minister believes.
Luckily, she’s been busily keeping a blog for the last decade.
It turns out she has strong views on babies’ brains, and thinks she may have discovered the secret to preventing a repeat of the riots which plagued London in 2011.
So far they seem to be trying harder to make Leadsom seem ridiculous than terrifying.
There then follows a list of generally banal and uninteresting statements which Leadsom has made, or policy positions which she has taken, including:
1. Gay couples to the back of the adoption queue
Back in 2009, Leadsom used an adoption case – in which the two children of a heroin addict were given to a GAY couple (!?!?) – to question just when enough is enough when it comes to gay rights. “And if that weren’t enough, the two strangers are a gay couple, who have been selected ahead of several heterosexual couples.”
2. Watch out for those single parents
In 2006, she wrote that “the child of a single parent family is 70 per cent more likely (than the child of a two-parent family) to have problems at school, and even to become a drug addict or a criminal.”
3. And that anti-marriage media
“The self indulgence and carelessness of non-committed adult relationships is proving fatal to the next generation,” she wrote in 2008.
5. Those baby-brained rioters
“I explained how secure attachment or parental love literally hard wires the baby’s brain,” Leadsom wrote in 2012.
6. No money for wind farms
“I completely welcome the announcement from the European Commission made recently regarding the possibility of ending all subsidies for winds farms,” she wrote in 2014.
and, particularly ludicrously
8. Those US presidents getting invites before us
“How can France be hosting the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings with Sarkozy and Obama (neither of them a twinkle in their father’s eye in 1945) in attendance, and yet the Queen of Britain, Canada, and Australia (who was not only alive, but who also served in the war) was not invited until two weeks ago?”
Now, one can disagree vehemently with one or many of these points. This blog certainly does not share Andrea Leadsom’s reflexive opposition to gay couples adopting children, for example. But sincere political disagreements on social, cultural and economic issues – the full range cited throughout the New Statesman’s tawdry hit piece – should be possible without us becoming physically afraid of one another.
Yet the New Statesman presents these rather pedestrian conservative positions and then exhorts its readers to be “truly terrified” by what they see. The magazine does not encourage them to challenge the validity of Leadsom’s views, much less offer its own point-by-point rebuttal. The fact that Leadsom is wrong is taken for granted, which is bad enough, but worse still is the fact that the New Statesman seeks to provoke an emotional rather than an intellectual reaction.
This is exactly what so many commentators (including that magazine) were telling us we should not be doing in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox MP. Less than a month ago we were being told to respect one another’s opinions and engage in calm, rational dialogue. Yet when it comes to confronting conservatives, many opinion leaders on the Left are more than happy to provoke angry, confrontational responses – whether they take the form of hateful mobs outside the home of Boris Johnson on the morning after the EU referendum or articles instructing people to actively fear conservatives.
This is an exclusively left-wing phenomenon. While there are plenty of nasty, stupid reactionaries on the conservative side, rarely do they treat left-wingers as a physical or emotional threat. The murderer of Jo Cox, to the extent that he was motivated by politics rather than madness, is the great exception to this rule. The Left, by contrast – particularly that part of the Left which has been captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics – are starting to treat anybody who does not agree with and actively validate their ideas as enemies, literal enemies who mean them harm. If this atmosphere persists, how long will it be until some mentally unstable left-winger, taught by the commentariat to believe that political disagreement is akin to an act of harm, lashes out at an opponent with potentially tragic consequences?
One way or another, we are all going to have to coexist on this island – at least, those of us who are not bizarrely reacting to the Brexit vote by flouncing off to independent countries without an NHS will still have to deal with each other. Treating half of the country as actively dangerous people of whom we should be terrified is about the least conducive thing to bringing about that spirit of tolerance, and the New Statesman should be ashamed for its part in feeding this atmosphere of hysteria.
And look at some of the things which the New Statesman wants its readers to be terrified about. Andrea Leadsom celebrated the potential end of subsidies for wind farms – how scary! Leadsom wants to invest in “psychotherapeutic support for families struggling with the earliest relationship with their baby” – why, she’s just like Genghis Khan! She didn’t take kindly to President Barack Obama interfering in our internal EU referendum debate, and dared to say so – what an awful, America-hating isolationist!
The disbelieving hysteria which greeted Ed Miliband’s 2015 general election loss and now the 2016 EU referendum result shows that much of the modern Left is already utterly incapable of empathising with those holding other viewpoints – and in some cases simply cannot conceive of their existence. Time and time again we hear tearful sob stories from disappointed lefties that they don’t understand how they lost, because everyone they know voted the “right” way.
But with tawdry articles such as this, the New Statesman seeks to turn that gulf of incomprehension into a gnawing, corrosive and dangerous fear of conservatives, and of any ideas outside of the insular leftist orthodoxy. And this could potentially be disastrous for our country, not to mention for individual conservatives currently being demonised as terrifying, two-dimensional cartoon bogeymen rather than thinking, decent people who just happen to have a different outlook on life.
So how should we respond to opposing political views in the post Jo Cox era? Here’s a tip for the New Statesman and everyone else in the media:
If your article encourages people to learn more about those opposing views, or presents an intellectually grounded rebuttal of them, then you’re doing it right.
If your article is a smug, self-satisfied and fundamentally uncurious exercise in confirmation bias, designed to delegitimise and vilify the sincerely held political views of others, then you haven’t learned a damn thing.
Top Image: Herald Scotland
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