No tragedy is so great that it can’t be spun into political advantage. During its coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death, Channel Four News implied that Margaret Thatcher was a friend of apartheid, who opposed Mandela’s release, when, in fact, the opposite was true (h/t Christopher Booker). This kind of revisionist nonsense prompts plenty of exasperated eye-rolling among those of us who are accustomed to it – something we seem to do a lot of these days. No wonder we are accused of being swivel-eyed. If only we could rig our spinning orbs up to dynamos, we could help meet the nation’s energy needs.
From the perspective of many, Channel Four News’s deception was perfectly legitimate, because anything that rubbishes Thatcher’s reputation and undermines what she stood for serves a righteous cause. “Okay, so it wasn’t strictly true,” they might say in a candid moment. “But come on, it’s Thatcher we’re talking about here. She was evil. Everyone knows that.” If that’s the logic at work here (and it is), then it’s surely only a matter of time before the Guardian or the Independent goes the whole hog and tells us that Thatcher was Hitler’s daughter and had planned concentration camps for poor people and furriners.
Around the same time that Channel Four News was committing post-mortem slander, the comedian Simon Amstell was apologising for referencing Nelson Mandela in a gag about segregation at the BBC. The joke wasn’t obviously insensitive (and wasn’t very funny), yet Amstell felt obliged to apologise for mentioning the Left’s very own Christ figure in a quip that treated segregation with something other than outrage or somber contemplation.
Had he not prostrated himself before the moral authorities, Amstell might have suffered the same fate as sandwich shop owner Neil Phillips, who was arrested for cracking Mandela jokes online. Again, there was nothing obviously racist about Phillip’s attempts at humour, but saying anything about a designated victim that isn’t loaded with sympathy or praise is a risky business nowadays. Phillips was eventually released, but only after being fingerprinted, DNA-swabbed, and quizzed for eight hours. His computer was also seized, to look for further evidence of erroneous thoughts. He should probably be grateful he wasn’t waterboarded, too. After all, you can’t go too easy on those who think race is a laughing matter.
Since becoming Janissaries of the liberal aristocracy, the police have found it difficult to keep up with the Left’s fast-moving game of moral one-upmanship. What’s acceptable one week is off-limits the next, so it’s little wonder they sometimes hedge their bets. Staffordshire constabulary probably thought they were playing it safe by snatching Neil Phillips off the streets and dropping him before their masters, like a faithful hound. They couldn’t be sure he’d done anything wrong, but they knew it wouldn’t do their liberal bona fides any harm to come down hard on a suspected racist. Since the Macpherson Report and the introduction of hate crimes, that’s what responsible policing looks like.
To those of us still interested in outmoded ideas like truth and freedom, this is all rather depressing. On the one hand, the Left is happy to lie and deceive to further its cause, and is a tireless champion of its right to do so. On the other, it wants to silence, intimidate or imprison those who attack its beliefs or ridicule its mascots. Underlying this is a conviction that the Left has a monopoly on virtue, and that anything which serves its interests is laudable, even if it’s untrue. Likewise, that which harms the vision of the Left is considered intrinsically wicked and dangerous, even if it’s rooted in fact.
Take passive smoking, for instance. Repeated studies have failed to establish a link between secondhand smoke and serious illness – something that America’s National Cancer Institute pointed out in a recent article. Being such self-styled slaves to science, lefties should be all over this, but don’t expect them to be passing round the Marlboro any time soon. While it may be true that passive smoking isn’t as harmful as we’ve been led to believe, that fact is deliberately overlooked by the Left because it isn’t conducive to its desire to bully the electorate into being healthy. The lie peddled in place of the truth is seen as serving a higher cause, so is no worse than encouraging your children believe in Father Christmas.
The more curious among you might be wondering what is so special about the Left’s mission that makes it worth lying about. The answer is: nothing whatsoever. In fact, leftism only makes the slightest sense if you don’t concern yourself with the real-world effects of ideas. If you can pretend there are no negative costs to pay or trade-offs to be made, solving all our problems is just a matter of coming up with the right plan and finding the right people to enact it. It means that money is no object, that everyone’s interests can be reconciled, and that equality is the only just state of affairs.
From this perspective, anything less than perfection is an avoidable travesty. Freedom is not so much a cherished right as a challenge to the redemptive potential of the state. In a world where contentment can be legislated into existence, self-restraint and financial prudence are unnecessary impositions, and hierarchies, standards and traditions are tools of oppression. Who else but the truly malicious would want them in our lives?
The obvious stupidity of this point of view is overlooked because of its utopianism. It is the encapsulation of the ‘hope and change’ rhetoric on which so many left-wing regimes have swept to power. To aspire to its promised Age of Aquarius is considered so noble a sentiment that the truth appears brutish by comparison. Moreover, to give in to the truth is seen as an admission of powerlessness – something which those who pride themselves on their brilliance are loathe to contemplate.
So, do individuals choose to overlook the need for trade-offs, or do their circumstances encourage ignorance? I’m not sure it matters, to be honest, but it certainly can’t help if your profession affords you the luxury of opting out of reality. Many people in the public sector, academia and the media are unfamiliar with the world beyond their ivory towers. They’ve studied it, travelled it and formed opinions about it, but they’ve not lived with its challenges and demands. They can make mistakes and indulge opinions that would (and do) have dire effects for the rest of us, and never have to suffer the consequences. They probably think a reality check is some kind of government handout. It’s little wonder they tend to become rabid lefties.
We on the Right have to recognise that we cannot win over our opponents with logic and evidence, because theirs is a faith-based dogma, underpinned by a self-reinforcing sense of righteousness. Lefties reckon they’re in a fight and have taken to heart Churchill’s assertion that in wartime truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.