Sunday 10 July 2022

Very weird and foreign

This week's Unspun World with John Simpson saw John Simpson discussing the state of the United States with BBC North America editor Sarah Smith.

Note that the "very weird and foreign" things are ones associated with conservative viewpoints in the US, and how when Sarah Smith criticises "politicians, on both sides of the political divide, who play to that...fracture" she actually only cites an example used by US conservatives. 

And also note the bit where she criticises social media for making "everybody's voice more extreme and louder" (hyperbole!) and where she says social media "allows people with extreme views to find each other, communicate and reinforce them." 

Well, Unspun World with John Simpson allows people with BBC views to find each other, communicate and reinforce them.

Here's a transcript. 

Please enjoy all the bits where the conservatives on the Supreme Court are to blame, along - of course - with Donald Trump. And Sarah and John's refusal to blame, name and shame 'the other [Democrat] side'.

And note how 'the man kept in a basement' during the 2020 election, the present President Joe Biden - presently unpopular and widely perceived as not competent - doesn't even get a mention in Sarah's 'roll of shame'. 

The BBC - like their US counterparts - have been covering for him better than those censorious types who endlessly knit socks for all the centipedes who dance each night at the Moulin Rouge, as painted by M. Toulouse-Lautrec:

John Simpson: In the eyes of the outside world the United States can seem very weird and foreign. The whole business of the right to bear arms, for instance, or the hostility towards abortion. And yet it's always hugely influential. Think of the spread of the Me Too movement and Black Lives Matter. Other Western countries are fiercely divided at present, Britain and France among them, but not as damagingly as America, where some people are talking openly of a second civil war. Is that just excitable, exaggerated stuff, or is there something to it? I asked Sarah Smith, the BBC North America editor, what she thought.
Sarah Smith: Social media does play a part because it makes everybody's voice more extreme and louder, and also allows people with extreme views to find each other, communicate and reinforce them. One of the other things that's happening in American society is that these two tribes of left and right, conservative and liberal, are living in different places as well. They are geographically sorting. So that you have liberal with a small l people in the cities, in urban areas, and living along the east and the west coasts, whereas in rural areas, in the countryside and in the states in the middle, you have far more Republicans. You can see it also between the North and the South as well, to a certain extent, with the northern states generally being far more liberal than southern ones. So these days, it is entirely possible for people to not interact with anyone who has a very different world view from theirs, and there's no attempt to meet in the middle. So it creates this fracture that just gets worse and worse and is, frankly, self reinforcing. And there are politicians, on both sides of the political divide, who play to that.
John Simpson: I mean, is it right across society, or is it really just all springing out of politics and is Washington-focused?
Sarah Smith: What some Washington politicians have done very cleverly is take some of the social issues that people are genuinely concerned about - what their kids are being taught in schools for instance, which is something that would deeply affect every family - and have turned and weaponised them into issues that show people that right in the heart of your community there are things which the other political side are doing which could damage your life in ways you hadn't realised.
John Simpson: This politicising of justice and the law, that must be also playing a major part in these divisions, isn't it?
Sarah Smith: Well, certainly since the really controversial and momentous decisions that the Supreme Court has taken in the last couple of weeks, touching on some of the most incendiary issues in American politics - abortion rights, gun rights and climate change. They've issued quite conservative rulings in all of those cases, as well as some other ones too. But the Court itself is supposed to be above politics. It's supposed to look at the law, look at the constitution and come to a judicial decision about what politicians and lawmakers can and cannot do. But because they are appointed in a partisan way - partly because Donald Trump, unusually, in one four-year term got to appoint three justices - the Court looks more and more political. It's got a 6-3 Conservative majority at the moment - and a really pretty conservative majority that is prepared to do quite radical things like overturn nearly 50 years of abortion rights. And you can see that opinion polling is already suggesting that people are starting to view the Court as just another branch of politics, see it as political and partisan, and are losing faith and trust in it. You get to a point where society feels really quite removed from the people who are making the rules and the laws that govern their lives, and that is a potentially dangerous situation. We live in a time when serious political commentators, not people given to hyperbole, are talking about the possibility of a second American civil war. I mean, not one that would look like the first, where you had two armies confronting each other, but one where there is the potential for political violence. And, you know, it is possibly true to say you could describe the state of affairs we're in at the moment as already being an American cold civil war.
John Simpson: Is there a way forward out of this, do you think?
Sarah Smith: For the first time ever since I've been coming here, over 25 years, Americans themselves aren't hopeful for the future. They are the ones who are starting to say 'America's time is finished. This, the American Age is over. I don't know what direction our country is going in, but it's certainly not forwards'. And although there have been commentators around the world saying that again and again, this is the first time out of the mouths of patriotic Americans, even as they are watching the 4th of July fireworks, have I heard them talking like that. And, of course, one of the things that's depressing them so much are these mass shootings. And on the 4th of July itself, at an Independence Day parade, six people are shot dead. That's the kind of shocking incident that just makes people really worry about what the future of this society could look like. Are these mass shootings. And on the 4th of July itself at an independence day parade. 6 people are shot dead. That's the kind of shocking incident that just makes people really worry about what the future of this society could look like.

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