Friday, February 27, 2015

Podemos and the appeal of Pablo Iglesias


Pablo Iglesias is the 36 year old leader of a new left-wing party in Spain called Podemos (We Can) that was born out of the 15-M street protest movement.

The Origins of Podemos

Podemos arose out of the 15-M "indignados" protests, which were a little bit like the Spanish version of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but crucially the Spanish protesters managed keep the movement going and convert it into a powerful political force, whilst the Occupy Wall Street movement has faded away into near irrelevance in the grand scheme of US politics.

When the right-wing Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy brought forward plans to introduce €600,000 fines for people participating in "unauthorised" public protests, they gave the 15-M movement a huge incentive to legitimise themselves as an official political party.

The rise of Podemos

Since Podemos was formed in March 2014, the party has experienced an unprecedented rise in popularity. In May 2014, just two months after it was formed, Podemos took 8% of the vote in the European elections to bag 5 MEPs (that's two more than the Green Party managed in the UK, despite the UK having 73 European Parliament seats to Spain's 54).

One area in which Podemos is utterly dominating Spanish politics is in the online sphere. The Podemos Facebook page has picked up over 950,000 followers, which is more than the pages of all of the other political parties in Spain combined!

In the space of a single year Podemos has gone from a party that did not even exist, to one that is regularly topping the opinion polls. It seems likely that the winner of the 2015 Spanish General Election will either be Podemos or the ruling right-wing PP (a party even more corrupt and right-wing than the Tories!).

The rise of Podemos has relegated the traditional left-wing party PSOE to third place in the polls, which is hardly surprising, because just like the Labour Party in the UK and PASOK in Greece, they've completely abandoned their socialist roots in order to push a disgusting concoction of orthodox right-wing economics and pseudo-socialist sweeteners. The rise of parties like Podemos in Spain and SYRIZA in Greece are a direct consequence of established so-called socialist parties forgetting that they're socialists, and pushing a right-wing economic agenda in the hope that their supporters won't notice.

Pablo's appeal

Pablo Iglesias is clearly the most important factor in the rise of Podemos. There's something about the man that makes him seem engaging and trustworthy, but it's quite difficult to explain exactly what it is. With his ponytail and scruffy beard he stands out a mile from the Spanish political class, and the down-to-earth engaging language he uses is totally different to the heavily scripted utterances of so many of his political rivals.

One of the things that counts in his favour is that he has a lot of media experience. This is valuable for two main reasons. Firstly he knows how the media works, so he can use it to his advantage, and secondly people are familiar with him from the TV show La Tuerka and his numerous media appearances as an insightful political analyst.

Even though his background is unmistakably that of a left-wing academic, he's somehow managed to position himself as the voice of the ordinary people. One of the ways in which he has managed to achieve this is by talking openly about the historic failures of the left, and explaining that the traditional language and symbolism of the left is worthless, because it does not speak to the ordinary person. Thus the left needs to reinvent itself as a tool to allow people to regain power over their own lives.

I think perhaps the best way to explain this appeal is to give you some translated quotes:

"Democracy is about taking power from those who hoard it, and sharing it with everyone."
"In the context of total ideological defeat, where the left has been insulted and criminalised; and where the right controls all mass media - in order to win, the left needs to stop being a religion and it needs to become a tool for the people. It needs to become the people."
"If the right to information is an actual right, you can't let all of the big media groups in this country be controlled by a few multi-millionaires."
"The enemy wants us small with a language that nobody understands, wants us as a minority, wants us refuged in our traditional symbols. He is delighted because he knows that in this way, we aren't a danger."
"Most people are against capitalism, but they don't know it. Most people support feminism without having studied it. When you see a father doing the dishes or playing with his daughter, or when you see a grandfather teaching his grandson that he should share his toys, in those things there are more social transformations than in all of the red flags that you take to your demonstrations."
Another way to illustrate this appeal that Pablo Iglesias has, is to share a copy of the Pablo Iglesias rap which went viral in Spain in early February 2015. The words come from the speech he made to an estimated crowd of 100,000 people who attended the Podemos rally in Madrid on January 31st (the translation and image selections are by me).



Time for a change

One of the things you soon realise when you talk to ordinary Spanish people is that they understand that austerity is not working and that it's time for a change. The sentiment I've heard from ordinary Spanish people the most often is that that it's better to go with a new party with next to no experience of running the country, than to stick with the old establishment parties that have a wealth of experience, but only experience of running the country into the ground.

This public recognition that a significant change of direction is needed is reflected in the fact that Podemos lead the direct voting intentions (people who say they will definitely vote for a certain party) by a huge margin, and the number of Spaniards saying they have little or no confidence in the current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rocketed to 85.9%.

With youth unemployment still above 50% and general unemployment still above 20% after over three years of austerity imposed by Rajoy's corruption riddled government, the opportunity is there for Pablo Iglesias to lead a peaceful bloodless revolution. He claims that he wants to win an outright majority for Podemos in the forthcoming General Election (which would be within two years of the party being founded), but even if he falls just short of a majority, there would be several smaller parties including the United Left Party, the Citizens' Party and several regional parties that would be vying to help Podemos make up the numbers, rather than face the damaging ordeal of being the "human shield party" to prop up another four years of Mariano Rajoy's sickening brand of austerity and corruption.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.





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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Natalie Bennett's "brain freeze" interview




When Natalie Bennett was interrupted an incredible 125 times by the ex-Murdoch hack Andrew Neil in January 2015, opponents of the Green Party gleefully used clips of it as ammunition to shoot at the Green Party. Few of them seemed to care that later in the very same show Andrew Neil went on to give an incredibly lenient interview to the Tory party chairman Michael Green Sebastian Fox Grant Shapps (or whatever he's calling himself these days), in which he allowed Green Fox Shapps to endlessly repeat himself instead of answering any of the questions he was being asked.

Having seen what an enormous PR disaster a poor interview can be, Natalie Bennett had absolutely no excuses for the "car crash" interview she did with Nick Ferrari (another ex-Murdoch hack) on LBC just a few weeks later.

If we listen to the full interview, she actually does reasonably well for the first few minutes, talking up Caroline Lucas' exemplary record as an MP, mentioning how the Scottish independence debate has re-energised political discourse in Scotland, explaining how Green Party policies are the most popular of all on the Vote for Policies blind test and criticising the Tories butchering of the NHS in order to hand out the dismembered pieces to their party donors.

The problems started when she couldn't answer a seemingly simple question about how much Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) debt legacies are costing the NHS. The answer is not an easy one to find because both the Tories and Labour before them have been understandably keen to hide these enormous debts from the public, so there is actually no easy answer.

What is clear however, is that these costs are enormous. Even back in 2012 PFI debt legacies were estimated to be worth £300 billion, and the coalition government has still been signing up to more and more of them. It's also an established fact that many of the most financially unstable NHS trusts are ones that are tied in to paying off these vast PFI debt legacies.

Natalie Bennett was right to raise the issue of these rip-off deals, but wrong to be so hopelessly unprepared to speak authoritatively about a subject that she had actually raised herself!

Once the interview got onto the subject of Green Party housing policy, the interview went every bit as badly as Nigel Farage's infamous LBC "car crash" interview from May 2014. Once again Natalie Bennett was exposed as being hopelessly unprepared to answer basic questions about her own parties policies.

Natalie couldn't explain how the pledge to build 500,000 affordable houses was going to be funded, and failed badly to explain the fact that investment in social housing returns at least £2.40 to the economy for every £1.00 spent by the government. In my view it is actually a positive that she tried to raise the important macroeconomic theory of fiscal multiplication, however it's something that hardly anyone is going to have heard of, so a garbled explanation (like the one she gave) is certain to sound like a load of completely made-up rubbish to a significant proportion of the public. Sometimes it's better to not say anything, than to give a totally incoherent explanation of something important.

Damage to the Green Party 

    
People who follow my work will know that I'm broadly sympathetic towards the Green Party (they're in the same quadrant of the political compass as I am, so it's no surprise I agree with quite a few of their policies) but when it comes to problems with the party, I'm not going to pull my punches.

The Andrew Neil interview was perhaps excusable because she was heckled and interrupted to an incredible extent by a blatantly biased interviewer, but to go into another interview with another ex-Murdoch hack just a few weeks later in the same state of unpreparedness was a terrible blunder.

What the LBC interview has done is created a perfect piece of evidence for the anti-Green brigade to post every time they want to make the Greens look like a clueless bunch of amateurs. And unlike the Andrew Neil interview, there is no possibility of offering the defence that she "lost it" because she was being heckled and interrupted so rudely, because the worst you could say about Nick Ferrari is that he was a tad condescending.

Anyone who tries to deny that clips of the last minute or so of that Nick Ferrari interview are going to damage the Green Party by dissuading a lot of potential Green Party voters is quite frankly deluding themselves.

Damage to the anti-austerity movement

A few people have raised concerns that Natalie Bennett is in danger of damaging or derailing the anti-austerity movement with her inability to answer seemingly basic questions.

It is of fundamental importance that left-wing and centre-ground politicians begin to show how ideological austerity has failed in its own terms (George Osborne has missed all of his 2010 economic projections by absolutely miles) and explain that it doesn't work because it's nothing more than a crackpot right-wing agenda that ignores the fundamental basics of macroeconomics.

Thankfully Natalie Bennett isn't the only politician arguing against ideological austerity. In fact she's not even the most important one in the UK. When it comes to the pre-election leaders' debates, Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru will be there; they're both anti-austerity; and they're both competent public speakers. Nicola Sturgeon is particularly good judging by the well crafted demolition of Tory ideological austerity she presented in a speech in early February.

Looking beyond the UK, the emergence of high profile anti-austerity figures elsewhere in Europe is an important factor. The new Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis clearly knows what he's talking about (I've been following his excellent blog for a few years) and Pablo Iglesias has taken the anti-austerity Podemos (We Can) party to the top of the Spanish polls, even though the party was only founded in March 2014!

In my view, the idea that more of Natalie Bennett's stumbling and mumbling might deliver a death-blow to the anti-austerity movement is completely unwarranted hyperbole.

Excuses and justifications

I've heard a lot of excuses from Green Party loyalists, and none of them are particularly convincing.

One of the most commonly proffered tropes is that the other parties can afford loads of image consultants to help them look slick and professional, whilst on their shoe-string budget (the Greens don't accept donations from millionaire tax-dodgers), the party simply can't afford it. The problem with this excuse is that there is a vast difference between being not having been coached to appear slick and professional, and being woefully ill-prepared for an important public interview.

Other Green Party supporters have tried to say that Natalie's woeful performance was okay because "we all make mistakes" and "at least it shows that she's human". While there is an element of truth to both of these points, it doesn't prevent the fact that many thousands of potential Green Party voters will have been put off by this performance, and Green Party critics will now be able to use it as ammunition for the remainder of Natalie's tenure as Green Party leader.


Some people have tried to offer the defence that "policies are more important than personalities", which again is a fair point when considered in isolation. However if the politician who you've chosen to be the figurehead of your party is incapable of offering a coherent explanation of the carefully costed policies that you've been working on, and in fact makes them appear to be a bunch of made-up nonsense, then that's not a matter of "personality politics" at all, its a matter of basic competence.

Sometimes it is important to look beyond our desire to defend people with whom we have an affinity, and realise that making excuses for them isn't going to help. The only thing that is going to actually help is if we let them know that they've made a mistake, tell them that we expect better, and offer them the support that they need in order to avoid making that same mistake again.

Natalie's apologies

Natalie Bennett has tried to mitigate the damage by making a lot of apologies for her "brain freeze", including this one in the Guardian.

Making such apologies is clearly the right thing to do in the short-term, because she has damaged the Green Party and disappointed an awful lot of Green Party supporters. However such apologies are not going to win over very many neutrals.

It is certainly important to apologise when we've let people down, but something my mother always tried to instill in me was that the most important part of the apology is not actually the words that comprise it, but the effort we make to not do the same thing again.

What Natalie Bennett needs to do now is to work out a strategy so that she doesn't end up getting all flustered like that again the next time she's asked for specific facts and figures, because it's now absolutely certain that almost every interviewer she faces is going to try to catch her out again so that they too can go viral like Andrew Neil and Nick Ferrari have.

What the Green Party can learn


The Green Party have learned that Natalie Bennett is limited when it comes to remembering specific facts and figures, thinking on her feet and answering questions under stress. It's far too close to the election for her to stand down, so the Green Party are just going to have to play with the hand they've got.

The fact that Natalie Bennett struggles in interviews is a very serious problem, but it is a problem that can be mitigated through the use of a few simple tactics (tactics that anybody can use).

  • Always agree the topics of discussion with the interviewer beforehand, then make sure you're well prepared on those subjects.
  • If you're going to talk about something that the majority of people aren't aware of (like fiscal multiplication) you've got to make sure you give a very clear and authoritative explanation, because if you don't, it will sound like completely made-up rubbish to most of your audience.
  • Always take detailed notes so that you can look up specific figures if you forget them under pressure.
  • Remember that taking a moment to look up a specific figure actually gives you the time to prepare a nice clear answer to the question.
  • If any interviewer attacks you for not knowing a specific figure off the top of your head, turn it back on them by asking whether they want to know the precise answer to their question (in which case they'll have to wait a moment while you look it up) or whether they want to have a completely different debate about your personal ability to accurately memorise thousands of precise figures.
Conclusion

I've always had my reservations about Natalie Bennett as leader of the Green Party, but rather than make a song and dance saying "I told you so didn't I?", I've decided to try to give a more-or-less neutral appraisal of the damage Natalie Bennett's stumbling and mumbling is doing to the Green Party and to the wider anti-austerity movement, and offer some advice on how the Green Party can try to mitigate these problems in future.

     
 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.





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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history!


Over the years I've presented a lot of facts and statistics to demonstrate that George Osborne has been doing a terrible job as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that his ideological austerity agenda is spectacularly failing to achieve what he claimed it was going to when he came to power in 2010.

One of the main problems I've faced is that the facts and statistics I've presented contradict the almost ubiquitous mainstream media narratives that "George Osborne is doing a good job under difficult circumstances" and that "there is no alternative" to his ideological austerity agenda.

People find it difficult to accept the evidence that I'm presenting because it conflicts so badly with the narratives they've been conditioned to accept as true through their endless repetition in the mainstream media.

One of the assertions that people really struggle to accept is that George Osborne has created more new debt than every Labour government in history combined. This one is particularly hard for people to come to terms with because it conflicts with the (totally inaccurate) "folk wisdom" that "Labour always spend loads of money, then the Tories have to tidy up the mess". Further confusion is added by the way that Tory politicians (including the Prime Minister David Cameron) try to conflate the meanings of "the debt" and "the deficit" which are economic terms with completely different meanings.

George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history

  
A quick look at the economic evidence reveals that only two Labour governments have ever left office leaving the national debt higher as a percentage of GDP than it was when they came to power, and all of the others have lowered it as a percentage of GDP.

On the two occasions that Labour oversaw increases in the national debt as a percentage of GDP there were the mitigating circumstances of huge global financial crises. The Ramsay MacDonald government of 1929-31 coincided with global fallout from the Wall Street Crash (they left a 12% increase in the debt to GDP ratio), and the last few years of the Blair-Brown government of 1997-2010 coincided with the 2008 financial sector insolvency crisis (they left an 11% increase). The other Labour governments all reduced the scale of the national debt, Clement Attlee's government of 1945-51 reduced the national debt by 40% of GDP despite having to rebuild the UK economy from the ruins of the Second World WarHarold Wilson's 1964-70 government reduced the national debt by 27% of GDP; and even the Wilson-Callaghan government of 1974-79 managed to reduce the debt by 4% of GDP.

The majority of Labour governments have ended up reducing the national debt, and the two that didn't happened to coincide with the biggest global financial crisis of the 20th Century and the biggest global financial crisis so far in the 21st Century.

When we come to look at George Osborne's own record as Chancellor of the Exchequer it is an established fact that in his first 3 years as Chancellor, Osborne managed to add more to the national debt than the Labour Party did in the 13 preceding years

By George Osborne's own estimates, the national debt will have grown by 26.9% of GDP between 2010 and 2015. If you want to check this for yourself, have a look at page 19 of the November 2010 OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook which records the debt to GDP ratio as 53.5% of GDP for 2009-10, and page 20 of the December 2014 OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook which records the debt to GDP ratio for 2014-15 as being 80.4%.

In the last 200 years of economic history there have only been three prolonged periods of debt accumulation worse than George Osborne's tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer: The First World War (+110% of GDP), the Second World War (+100% of GDP) and the tenure of Tory Chancellor 
Nicholas Vansittart 1812-1823 (+64% of GDP).
Having increased public sector debt by 26.9% in five years, George Osborne has undeniably created more new debt than any single Labour government in history ever has. In fact it's a bigger proportional increase in the national debt than all of the Labour governments in history combined.

Disclaimer

The reason I've written this article is not that I support the Labour Party. Anyone who is familiar with my work knows that I'm not, and anyone who isn't familiar with my work can read this, this and this to establish that I'm no blind Labour Party tribalist.

The reason I've written it is that I believe that George Osborne is such a poor Chancellor that he makes Gordon Brown's tenure look highly competent in comparison!

It's absolutely incredible that George Osborne has the chutzpah to carry on churning out the "irresponsible Labour" narratives when his ideological austerity agenda has failed so spectacularly in its own terms, meaning that in just five years he's ended up creating more debt than every Labour government in history combined!


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.





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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Don't read this article


I'm not sure why you're reading an article entitled "don't read this article". Maybe you're childishly susceptible to reverse psychology? Maybe you're so belligerent that you simply won't be told what not to do? Or maybe you're just curious as to why anyone would write an article called "don't read this article"?

Not reading articles

The reason I've written this is that I'm absolutely sick of people wading into the comments threads underneath the links I've put up on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page and making it absolutely and totally clear that they didn't even bother to click the link and read what the article said before they started spouting off about how shit and wrong it is.

What makes this behaviour so annoying is that I know that some 90% of people never (or very rarely) leave comments, even when they have read the article. This means that that those who leave comments without having read the article are part of a vocal minority. There's nothing wrong with being part of the vocal minority (in fact I'm delighted that so many people read my articles and then leave insightful comments), but there is something terribly wrong with people who are so opinionated that they yell their opinions without having even made a rudimentary effort to establish the facts about what it is that they're shouting about.

This habit of barging in with their opinions about the article they didn't even read is most commonly observed amongst UKIP supporters. Over the years I've found that you can't even convince them to read the article even when you use a link description goading them about the Ukipper habit of not reading the article.

Even if you say something along the lines of "If you leave a comment on this article about UKIP that shows that you haven't read it, you're only demonstrating to the rest of us what a confirmation bias riddled and belligerent bunch Ukippers are" - you'll still get a load of Ukippers showing up to write criticisms that demonstrate beyond doubt that they haven't bothered to read the article!

This trait of not reading the article before spouting off is most common amongst UKIP supporters, but it is not confined to them. In February 2015 I shared an article by Professor David Nutt about the way the UN is planning to impose a world-wide ban on the medical use of ketamine, even though it has proven and unique medical properties (it's the only anesthetic that does not cause respiratory depression).

The idea that just because some people use a substance to get high, means that doctors all over the world should be banned from using it for medical purposes is precisely the kind of ideologically driven nonsense that proves the irrationality of the "war on drugs". However many of the people who saw the link decided to wade in with their opinions on the recreational use of ketamine, and even to chastise me for "promoting drugs".  Had these people actually read the article, or even the article description where I explained that it was about the medicinal use of ketamine, there's no way that they could have construed my posting of the article as an endorsement of the recreational use of ketamine.


The Dunning-Kruger effect

This tendency for people to express opinions on articles they've not even read is an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the proven theory that the less of an expert a person is on a subject, the more they tend to underestimate their lack of knowledge. Thus a guy who reads nothing but simplistic pro-austerity narratives in the S*n or Daily Mail (written in the vocabulary of a 10 year old) might think himself an expert on economic issues, whilst an economics expert who understands how ludicrously complex the global derivatives market is, will know that it's now so complicated that it's far beyond the ability of even a visionary genius to understand the entire financial system.

Essentially what people are doing when they express an opinion on something they've not even bothered to read is taking the incredibly pompous stance that they're such an expert, and their perspective is so inherently perfect that they don't even need to examine the evidence before they share their sage and ever-so-important opinion.

Long before the Dunning-Kruger effect was formalised, the philosopher Bertrand Russell said "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."


Intellectual laziness

There is nothing wrong with forming an opinion just by looking at the title of an article and the associated image, in fact that's the way that most of us determine which links we're actually going to click and read, and which we're going to ignore.

The problem I have with intellectually lazy people is that they make the perfectly natural decision not to read an article, but then decide to share their blatantly unfounded opinion that the article they refuse to read is "absolute crap"!

The thought process they undergo is something like this:

1. I'm not going to read that because I don't like what I imagine that it says.
2. Nobody else should read articles that say things that I don't like.
3. I'm going to leave a comment saying how crap the article is in order to dissuade other people from reading it.

This kind of behaviour is about as clear a demonstration of intellectual laziness as is possible.

I find people who are ill-informed slightly annoying, but it's understandable that the person who hardly reads anything other than flicking through the copy of the Daily Mail/S*n in the workplace canteen has got some pretty weird misconceptions (like immigrants being to blame for everything or George Osborne being a genius). Okay, these people should still probably understand that the newspapers are propaganda devices, and that they shouldn't allow themselves to be so easily programmed with right-wing propaganda narratives, but they can't really be blamed for their lack of critical thinking skills (that's a result of the top-down authoritarian education system we suffer in this country) nor for failing to come across independent information sources (even a reasonably successful blog like mine is a minuscule drop in the ocean compared to the daily circulation of the S*n or the Daily Mail).

There is a huge difference between being misinformed, and the sheer intellectual laziness of choosing to completely ignore the information you've been presented with, yet trying to form a counter-argument anyway. 


  
Hopeless counter-arguments
 How is it even remotely possible for anyone to believe that they've presented a coherent counter-argument, when they've refused to even read what the argument is?

The only way that it seems possible is if they are so fundamentally lacking in debating skills that they think that ad hominem (against the person) attacks, foul mouthed abuse, blatant straw man misinterpretations of what has actually been said, or a whole host of other common logical fallacies constitute debate winning tactics.


It is stunningly obvious that it's impossible to construct a rational counter-argument if you're unwilling to even consider what has actually been said. Yet some people are so afraid of reading things that might challenge their worldview that they will not only refuse to read it, but they'll construct ludicrous fallacious arguments against it in pitiful efforts to deter others from reading it too.

A simple rule

If you see an article that you think you're not going to like and choose not to read it, that's fine. It's just a manifestation of confirmation bias. I'm not judgmental about that in the slightest because I do it every single day when I decide not to read clickbait articles, celebrity culture drivel, above-the-line trolling or articles written by journalists with writing styles I find annoying, or opinions that I find offensive.

What I have a problem with is people who decide not to read an article, but then decide to express their opinion on it anyway. There's a simple rule that I try to follow, and it's this: If you can't be arsed to read the article, don't bother to offer your (worthless) opinion about what it says.

Conclusion

The problem I have in explaining my objection to the people who are this intellectually lazy, is that I can't explain why they should read things before they comment on them in the form of an article, because they clearly wouldn't bother to read it would they?

I was hoping that by giving it a "don't push this button" kind of title I might at least trick a few of them into reading it.

If you're the kind of person who doesn't angrily criticise articles that you've blatantly refused to read, and you feel like I've tricked you into reading this, then I hope you at least understand my reason for me doing this, and accept that the blame is entirely yours anyway, because I clearly told you not to read it in the first place!


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.





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The rise of the non-traditional parties in UK politics
  




Friday, February 20, 2015

What this photo of Nigel Farage doesn't tell you about UKIP



On Tuesday the 17th of February 2015 a few revolting Chelsea fans brought shame upon their football club and, more significantly, shame upon our country when they were filmed repeatedly shoving a black man off the Paris Métro, then singing a song gleefully celebrating how racist they are.

After the incident, efforts were made to track down the guilty parties, and fairly quickly one of them was identified as Josh Parsons, a vocal 21 year old UKIP supporter who was educated at the £30,000 per year Millfield private school in Somerset, who was once photographed with the UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Many people have tried to use this photo in order to attack Nigel Farage as someone who associates with racists, but in my view these efforts are extremely weak, and in fact self-defeating. Nigel Farage is a famous person who is photographed with all kinds of people on a daily basis. There's absolutely no way that he can be held responsible if one of the many people he's been photographed with goes off and does something unacceptable at some point in the future.

Anyone trying to manufacture the conclusion that Nigel Farage is a racist from this particular photo is really stretching the argument well past the bounds of credibility and, in fact, making other critics of UKIP look rather desperate by association. This is pretty ironic stuff because by using this photo to try and make Farage look racist by association, they're making more rational UKIP critics (who prefer to use facts and evidence to criticise the party) look desperate by association with them.

The really sad thing about such weak efforts to taint Nigel Farage by association is that there is such a mountain of evidence out there to criticise UKIP with, meaning that such desperate tactics aren't even remotely necessary.

To give you an illustration of how many real issues there are about UKIP, I'll briefly list a few of them:


Returning to the photo of Nigel Farage with the Chelsea fan from the Paris Métro incident, it's simply not possible to conclude that Nigel Farage is racist from that picture, and any attempt to do so actually undermines the many rational fact-based arguments that can be deployed against UKIP.

It is of course possible to use the photo to illustrate the fact that UKIP is a party that tends to appeal to racists, but then that's an assertion that hardly needs any more supporting evidence. You only have to look at the constant stream of fruitcakes who are thrown out of the party for spouting bigoted nonsense, or at the vile comments that appear so regularly in the comments on UKIP social media pages, in order to see that an awful lot of bigots and racists are undeniably attracted to the party. When it's already so clear that UKIP have a strong appeal to bigots, and there's such a wealth of factual evidence to criticise them with, using a picture that can easily be construed as a "cheap shot" against Nigel Farage is simply not necessary.

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