Sunday, April 19, 2009

The reactionary left

Over on Iain Dale's Diary there is a quote from the architect of the Red Rag website, Derek Draper.

"We believe that what is true of political communications and consumer marketing is true of any and all communications: human beings decide what they think of you with their gut. If your emotional message leaves them cold, then your argument won’t matter."

I've tried to leave a comment on this on the site, but for some reason it won't accept my words of wisdom. So I'll post them here.

Basically, Draper is right - but only because we let him be right.

Once upon a time, political discourse in Britain was based on rational, fact based argument - but that was when Britain was a reserved nation not given to emotional outbursts and mawkish sentimentality. Unfortunately for the left, their arguments have very little impact when faced with rational argument which is why left wing politics made very little progress in Britain until the left introduced emotive argument.

I suppose the exact moment this happened is debatable as the origins of this lie in the suffragette movement - not directly, as the suffragette movement's main argument was actually quite rational - but as a consequence of middle and upper class women being exposed to the harsh realities of the prison system through their illegal activities.

This led to the movement for prison reform based entirely on irrational, emotive arguments rather than rational thought and was a turning point in political terms. Even so, it would still be another 40 years or so before it became mainstream. The reason for that, as I mentioned, is that Britain was still a reserved and conservative nation driven by an overriding belief in rational thought as the guiding principle for action.

The real change, however, didn't occur until the sixties when the left finally started to break down the traditional British reserve which was always their biggest obstacle. Instead of being encouraged to keep our emotions in check we were encouraged to "let it all hang out" as if this was a good thing. This was propagated through a series of reactionary movements designed to kick back at the "establishment".

Since then the left has relied entirely on reactionary, emotive argument to put their case and to close down any dissenting voice. Whatever the subject, the response of the left is to use emotive language to win the argument - so if you argue that spending cuts are necessary, they insist this means closing schools and hospitals.

The biggest mistake of the right was to fall into the same trap and start trying to argue their case on emotive terms. Cameron is a prime example of this with his ridiculous publicity stunt early in his leadership to demonstrate the dangers of "global warming".

AGW is a perfect case in point. Rationally, the anthropogenic global warming case is slight to say the least. The belief that mans contributions to greenhouse gases (a mere 0.03% of the naturally occurring total) is the main driver of global climate. Rather than concentrate on the facts - i.e. climate variability is entirely natural and nothing out of the ordinary; that warming is generally more beneficial to life on earth than cooling; that CO2 is not a pollutant, but an essential trace gas and airborne fertiliser helping us to produce higher crop yields and feed our growing population - instead of that the left use emotive arguments.

So AGW is all about drowning polar bears, flooded nations and drought ridden deserts where arable land once flourished - all of which, apart from being dubious assertions anyway, are emotive arguments.

This is the way the left works - whatever the subject. You want to discuss immigration? You're a racist. You think education was better with selective grammar schools? You're an elitist. You think the first principle of the criminal justice and prison system is to punish wrongdoers? You're inhuman. You think social conservatism is better than social liberalism? You're an authoritarian.

The left can do this because the right has let them. And because we've let them we've had to join them. So now all the arguments take place on their terms - and this is why the Tories have moved so far to the left.

Rational argument has been thrown out of politics because we now let our hearts rule our heads. We know in our minds that Britain is descending into an anarchic hellhole. We know that the policies of the last fifty years have failed to produce a better nation, but we're unable or unwilling to argue the rational case.

Until we on the right start to argue the toss using rational argument we will never be able to beat the left. As long as we continue to let them dominate the debate with their emotive reactionary arguments then we'll always be second best. Draper knows this.


Anonymous said...

Yet again, you put into words what all rational (right-wing) people are thinking.

It's at the stage where I don't want to live in a society like this.

The liberal left preach tolerance when it comes to human rights. But is it a homosexual couple's right to get married in Church? Well I don't think so, and neither does the Church. But to hell with the Church, say the liberal left. Let's force them to conduct gay marriages, no matter what the general public thinks, and no matter that it goes against the fundamental principles of the Christian scriptures.

Fascism . . . . it's okay when they do it.

Stan said...

I'm glad my words struck a chord with you, anon - to be honest, I'm never satisfied with any of my posts and I'm surprised anyone even bothers reading them. They're just my way of letting off steam.

I can understand your frustration, but I'd ask you to bear in mind that politics is cyclical. We've gone through fifty years of liberal progressivism and it has clearly failed. I am seeing signs in the next generation - the ones most failed by the system - that they have had enough of this and are increasingly turning to conservatism - proper, right wing conservatism.

Fascism is never OK whoever does it, but it has never ever been a feature of British conservatism. Authoritarianism, however, has always been a part of British socialism.

Bob's Head Revisited said...

Excellent post, Stan. One of your best.
You have indeed articulated with great clarity what a lot of people (including me) have known, or at least suspected, for a long time.


Anonymous said...

Hi Stan,

I'm the anon who made the 1st comment.

I just wanted to ask who you will be voting for at the next general election, if that's not too personal a question. I am fairly certain it won't be Labour, but given that there seems to be less separating the parties than ever, who would you opt for?

I'm in a dilemma on the issue of who to vote for. I live in Scotland, if that makes any difference.

- Lawrence

Stan said...

I don't mind you asking Lawrence - the answer is that I don't know.

I live in Slough and Labour always win in Slough. The Tories and Libdems usually offer a candidate, but no one serious - at local elections they don't even bother in my ward. It's just Labour versus a few independents. I normally vote for an independent who happens to be a mate of mine.

In the past I've voted Labour, Liberal and Conservative - never ever voted for Lib Dems. As the Liberals used to oppose membership of the EU I tended to vote for them in recent elections, but last time out there wasn't a Liberal candidate - and I think they've changed their policy anyway.

If they put up a candidate this time I may well vote Liberal again - mainly out of nostalgia.