Archive | July, 2022

Ad hominem, ad infinitum

14 Jul

In his death throes, Boris turned yesterday’s PMQs into even more of a pantomime as he unleashed his Inbetweeners-style silly verbals on Keir Starmer. Serious questions were batted away with a brio of non sequitur and ad hominem. Answering questions truthfully and succinctly has become redundant; Punch and Judy is all.

I confess that I giggled like a naughty schoolboy at BoJo’s snide taunt of Starmer. ’Captain Crasherooney Snoozefest,’ he jibed. Pure panto but politics it ain’t. Or is this the level we expect? It’s not wit, it is farce; not incisive, merely evasive.

Social media encourages half-wits to slag off others without engaging in discussion respectfully. Adopt a point of view (perhaps unquestioningly), stick to it – and viciously attack anyone who demurs. The result? The majority retreat to silence and the more extreme minority fill the space. Moderation and compromise become even more abstract nouns. Too often the more genuine concerns of minorities are hijacked by the sound and fury of those with questionable credentials.

As the runners and riders for the great office enter the starting stalls, I note that the so-called culture wars are moving on to the agenda of one or two. How important a wokery debate will be as the principals enter the home straight is anyone’s guess. It could be a clever tactic for an outsider to champion social moderation. Local pub chatter is regularly of the ’FFSake, really?’ variety on all manner of ’vital’ issues from biological men competing in women’s sport to plural pronouns to pulling down statues.

I sit on the sidelines somewhat. One of the quiet majority who don’t know what to say. I don’t like to offend – or be offensive. I fact check as best I can which is sometimes difficult. I am an avid listener to More or Less on radio 4, one of the best fact checking programmes or podcasts around.

Of course, the views of a moderate, white, 70 year old retired teacher are of little interest to most but we do our children a disservice if we don’t encourage them to seek out truth, test their views and attitudes and enter into discussion and debate vigorously and respectfully. That teachers and lecturers have a fear of being ’cancelled’ is a real danger in these febrile times.

Boris Johnson clearly learned early that being a witty clown and treating your opponent as a figure of fun would win him, if not friends, then supporters. Charisma? I don’t think so. Keir Starmer might wish for a greater spark but he doesn’t need to copy much else from the Johnson oeuvre. Let’s hope that the next Prime Minister is genuinely ’Right Honourable’.

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