Politically Speaking, Those Ropes Can Give You A Nasty Burn

Political views are rather like underwear, in that when you’re young your parents choose yours for you and you don’t really notice them until you reach an age when you suddenly realise you don’t have any but you really need some sexy ones if you’re going to get laid at all this semester.

Some people leave the house with theirs on outside their ordinary clothes, thinking it make them some kind of hero. Of course, everyone else thinks they’re a twat. Other people don’t have any at all, which they mistakenly think makes them cool but just means that potential lovers performing exploratory clothing excavations are put off when they discover a load of balls a lot sooner than they expected.

Most of the time it’s just assumed you have some, but sometimes you’re best off checking you have some before you take part in your day’s activities. If you’re abseiling, for instance, you probably want to have something on between your tender parts and those special abseiling trousers abseilers sometimes wear (disclaimer: I have no idea if abseilers wear special trousers, although I can’t imagine they don’t), or you could be renting a suit. In the political world, renting a suit is comparable to writing to your MP or congressman, a relatively commonplace activity that some people take part in all the time but others only bother with once in their lifetime. Abseiling, politically speaking, is the going on the protests, the breaking into the banks and stealing the pens on the chains and the hacking of the government websites.

Some people rent special abseiling trousers to go abseiling. This is fine for the new abseiler who wants to try it out, but professionals and those who are going to abseil every weekend will want a really good pair of abseiling trousers of their own. You’re going to spend a lot of time in these trousers, and you want to spend a lot of time making sure you’ve got the best possible trousers you can.

Very few political abseilers own their own special abseiling trousers. Many do, and it’s in their favour that they’re well-cared for and that they’ve shopped around for a really good pair of abseiling trousers, Quite a few political abseilers seem happy not even to bother renting the special abseiling trousers, but go out abseiling wearing only their underwear, oblivious to the fact that if you’re going to go abseiling you need a good pair of abseiling trousers first. If you don’t, at best you’re going to look like an idiot under close scrutiny and at worst you’re going to fall off something and hurt yourself.

The kind of person who goes abseiling with neither special trousers nor underwear is a danger to society and themselves, and yet they’re the ones who always get on the news. This is strange, because they’re the kind of person who thoughtlessly disguise themselves as the 17th Century’s most infamously stupid terrorist because a crap film of a good graphic novel told them it was a good idea. A similar impact to such twattery could be achieved by baking a tray of cupcakes with ‘politics’ written on them.

And that is all you need to know about a) Anonymous and b) the kind of dimwit who refers to all police officers as ‘fascists’.

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I achieved as much as Anonymous have done all their lives in one frosting-filled evening.

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Political Hyperbole is the Absolute Worst Thing Ever

Hyperbole’s great. Scratch that, hyperbole’s amazing. It’s terrific. It’s the best thing in the world. If hyperbole were my dad, then it would definitely be able to beat up your dad. It could beat up ALL of your dads with one hand behind its back, because it’s hyperbole.

It’s one of the first tools we learn in school as a means of verbally outwitting our peers and scoring those all-important social points. A typical conversation in my primary school playground would have gone like this:

“Did you see that? He just pushed that kid over!”

“Yeah, well, when I was playing football at my uncle’s house on Saturday, ninjas attacked out of nowhere, and I killed, like fifteen of them. With my dad’s machine gun, ’cause my dad’s a super-general in the army. That’ll be a social point, please. KER-CHING!”

Hyperbole was only countered when certain schoolchildren looked around, realised that some things people said weren’t true, and developed cynicism to cope. “Yeah, right,” is the most uniformly-accepted expression of this, though many British youth were more used to stroking an imaginary beard in the presence of hyperbole and occasionally intoning “chinny” instead. For non-British readers, don’t worry about it, you just missed out on the greatest cultural acheivement possible, that’s all.

When hyperbole meets cynicism, we have an impasse. The best way that schoolyard minds have come up with to defeat an impasse is to call your opponent a poo head, push him over into the mud and then run away, preferably while fighting imaginary ninjas with a machine gun. Social point, please. Ker-CHING!

Which is all well and good, except that politics has never really developed past this stage. “Look,” says the Government. “Our new cordoury tax will improve lives a thousandfold and save the state seventy bajillion pounds.”

“Chinny!” yells the Opposition.

“You poo head,” responds the Government, turning to bring the Nation into the whole childish debacle. “Hey, the Nation! This guy’s a poo head! This guy’s a poo head and, apropos of nothing, he once had sex with a lady who isn’t his wife! How can you trust the budgetary opinion of a poo-headed adulterer? Political point please. KER-CHING!”

They may have changed the words a bit, disguised the hyperbole as far as they’re able and leveraged a bit of subtlety, but what I’ve done there is summarize no less than one hundred percent of all political discourse that’s ever occurred on this planet or any other, ever, ever, in the history of all time.

That’s not just front line political discourse either. If you’re involved at all in the political process, you’ve doubtless indulged in or implicitly approved a piece of political hyperbole or ad hominem attack. You probably do it all the time. You don’t ever take a breath without the resulting exhalation being shaped around the insinuation that a politician you don’t like does the nasty with goats.

The other day a story broke that donors of over £250k to the UK’s Conservative party were being allowed to meet David Cameron, have dinner and a lovely quiet chat about policy. I read the story, and decided it was a terrible thing. So much so that when I came across a satirical website’s take on the matter, in which Cameron was referred to as a “shiny-faced suit full of piss”, I immediately took it upon myself to share it on Facebook with all my friends.

Why did I do that? I’m RIGHT. I don’t need to focus on the name-calling bit of a satirical article to defend my view. As any number of five-year olds have been told while being held inside during playtime, name calling isn’t nice and it won’t make you any friends. You might argue that politics isn’t about making friends, in which case I wish you well in that totalitarian dictatorship you’re running and would remind you to have your architect killed once he’s designed your palace, so he can’t tell anyone where the hidden escape tunnel is.

The rest of us, though, have to play the game. Well, I say ‘have to’. That’s hyperbole again. Most of us are actually aware of the rules of the game so that we can quote them to our friends as further evidence that the opposition are worse than us because of the way they consistently break them and we don’t.

“Shiny-faced suit full of piss” is no different from “New Labour, New Danger”, which is no different from “Thatcher Thatcher milk snatcher”, which is no different from “Oh Em Gee Mitt Romney speaks French”, which is no different from “Communists will burn down your baby and eat your house”.

It’s propaganda. It’s dehumanizing our opponents. Look at them. They’re weak. They’re cowardly. They’re stupid, selfish, short-sighted, greedy, vain, arrogant, nasty, spiteful, deceitful liars and they don’t know what they’re doing. But then, so am I. So are you. The only time any of us are likely to admit it is when we’re writing smugly self-aware and contrite blog posts.

The only difference between you and them is that you’re RIGHT. And the best way of proving you’re right is through debate, discussion and calm exchange of ideas. Some people will come round. If they don’t, have another look at what you’re saying. It’s just possible that you’re the one talking nonsense, not them. You’d best be really sure.

Some will come to understand your viewpoint a bit better, and you theirs. Some will fail completely to grasp even the basic premises of your argument. Don’t demonize them. Move on. And don’t engage with the ways others demonize them, either. At best, you’re providing them the means of keeping the bitch-cycle going. Why not have a bath instead?

Self-important blog post point, please! KER-CHING!