Saturday 20 January 2018

Of George Villiers, Charles I, Donald Trump and Andrew Marr

Charles I (l); Charles I (c); Charles I (r)

Andrew Marr has a startling piece in the Evening Standard headlined 'Basic civility and respect must prevail over the rule of the mob'. 

In it he argues that we are now approaching the same situation that prevailed in the reign of Charles I in the years leading up to the Civil War thanks to social media. 

Back then it was inflammatory words on pamphlets and ballads and cartoons and news sheets inciting the mob; now it's inflammatory posts on Twitter and Facebook. Back then it was the Duke of Buckingham; now it's Jo Cox. Fake news then; fake news now. Polarisation then; polarisation now. 

The piece ends:
And it’s dangerous. In a new book about Trump’s America, two political scientists from Harvard, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, discuss “How Democracies Die”. In it they emphasise the importance of not just political rules but how we behave. These “soft guard rails” include mutual toleration or “the understanding that competing parties accept one another as legitimate rivals”. Got that, Donald? 
So yes, we need basic civility and some mutual respect even when we disagree. This is going to be a difficult year. The last thing we need is a spitting arms race of abuse. History, as so often, tells us why.
I very much agree that basic civility and respect are very valuable things, but I think his historical analogy-drawing is overblown. We do need to tone it down but we are not in a pre-Civil War situation. 

(Or am I being too blithe? After all we could have a government headed by Marxists and near-Marxists in the not-too-distant future - and no one was expecting that a couple of years ago, or for much of the past century).

Naturally Donald Trump is Andrew's main present-day bogeyman here.

The funny thing is that, at work, I keep hearing friends and colleagues openly hoping for the assassination of Donald Trump. The constant demonisation of Donald Trump is something that might lead to a Duke of Buckingham type of situation too (and one that one Brit has already tried).

Has the BBC exactly covered itself in civil, respectful glory on that front, Andrew? 

1 comment:

  1. There can be only one response to such pathetic nonsense and that is a healthy Saxon-style riposte of "Bollocks".

    In the late 18th century we had the period of the French Revolution/Napoleonic era and our marvellously scatalogical cartoons lampooning the great and the good of the day in the UK. Society didn't collapse in on itself. The days of That Was the Week That Was in the early 60s delivered plenty of well deserved "divisive" kicks to sensitive regions of the establishment. Monty Python carried on the tradition of mocking all the professions. And when we get on to Spitting Image the "divisive" mockery was even more pronounced, but tended to be directed solely at the Right, as its makers now admit (they took it off as soon as Blair got elected).

    The truth is, the Left can dish it out but they can't take it. They've been driving wedges into society all over the place: working class v middle class, black v. white, secular v religious, public sector v private sector, women v men, Scots v English, gays v straights...but as soon as someone fights back and mocks them and their pretensions, they try to nail down a consensus to suffocate the life out of us.

    As you indicate, most violent and divisive speech and imagery comes from the left: Tory scum...aged decrepit Brexiters who will soon be dead...fascist Farage...racist this and racist that...

    The use of the words "political scientist" should set alarm bells ringing. There is no such thing as political "science": there are only interests, opinions and actions. How you view them is highly subjective, relating to your own moral compass.


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