Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Toxic Politics

I must confess that when I first saw this, I thought it was a gift to humorists. It looks as if Sam is available at the car boot every Saturday, and perhaps even for sale. Yes, for a bargain (or you may need to haggle), you can purchase your very own Sam Mezec, to keep in your garden, perhaps with a rod and line, sitting around a goldfish pool!

Sam himself has a sense of humour too, and put this up with the caption "Vote Mézec. If elected I pledge there will be more carboot sales."

To which there came the rejoinder: "Can we have an independent report into the number of car boot sales that happen now, so we can properly gauge whether our politicians are keeping their campaign promises."

Light hearted fun is one thing. Robust political debate is one thing. But there is some rather toxic politics going on at the moment. On the internet, one individual has used the crudest of insults, with words like tw*t and sh*t. That isn't an argument, even in the Monty Python style, it is just nasty. It's the room next door. And Mary O'Keefe-Burger has suspended her Twitter account after receiving abusive torrents.

Man: Well, Well, I was told outside that...
Man: What?
M: Yes, but I came here for an argument!!
A: OH! Oh! I'm sorry! This is abuse!
M: Oh! Oh I see!
A: Aha! No, you want room 12A, next door.
M: Oh...Sorry...
A: Not at all!

Online abuse is hard to pin down. Like a hydra, fake accounts can spring up as fast as they are chopped off. Blocking one account is only a temporary solution. And pinpointing the miscreants is one of the obvious flaws behind the new laws about cyberbullying. It is like trying the find the assassin in Day of the Jackal:

We're in trouble on this one. Our agents inside the OAS can't pin him down... ...since not even the OAS know who he is. Action Service can't destroy him. They don't know who to destroy. Territorial surveillance can't pick him up at the border... ...because they don't know what he looks like. The gendarmes, all 48,000 of them, can't pursue him. They don't know who to pursue. The police can't arrest him. We don't know who to arrest. Without a name, all other proposals are meaningless.

But what is happening now is going further than online abuse, or fake letters to the JEP - again targeting Sam, but toned down to be polite enough to publish. There is physical action being taken.

Sam noted this in his own words:

Politics is often a dirty game, but today I was subjected to the dirtiest political smear I have ever witnessed. In Grouville somebody has been ripping down my posters. Now, that in itself is not so bad. It happens every election. Oh well.

However this time somebody took one of those posters and put it up against a war memorial to make it look as if I'd put it there on purpose. I'm absolutely shocked that someone would consider this to be an appropriate thing to do to in what should be an honest and clean competition between candidates.

If you don't like what I stand for, fine, feel free to shout it from the rooftops. But to use a war memorial as a prop for part of a political smear is absolutely disgusting and whoever did it should be ashamed of themselves.

This is clearly premeditated and thought out.

It is about time that the Home Affairs Minister issued some guidelines about what is acceptable and what is not; she is, after all, responsible for bringing to the House the legislation on cyberbullying, and as a Minister with responsibility for a law and order portfolio, is best placed to make a statement on the matter. It may not prevent this happening, but it may give pause to those miscreants who do this or those who may be tempted to become their fellow-travellers.

In the meantime, the atmosphere in politics seems more toxic that it was prior to the UK vote for Brexit. It appears that post-Brexit, a lot of toxic abuse has almost been legitimised. The referendum was outside 
Jersey, but it has caused a cultural shift. I do wonder what it will be like in 18 months. It certainly is not conducive to democracy; it is the politics of the virtual mob.

It reminded me of the words of Robert Heinlein: “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

1 comment:

voiceforchildren said...


The candidates opening (and in one case closing) speeches from last night's St Clement Hustings and new poll can be viewed, and votes cast HERE.