Saturday, 17 July 2010

Moat, Facebook, And The Failure Of Political Discourse

There has been much written in the past week of Raoul Moat and that Facebook page. Generally, it's been much of a muchness with the consensus being total contempt for Moat, and disgust with those who saw it fit to join "RIP Raoul Moat - You Legend".

Of all the pieces I read holding this view, probably the best-written were this eloquent pair from Anna Raccoon.

My own thoughts were very much on a par with Anna's, at least to begin with, especially after reading some of the 'get in there, my son' type comments in support of what Moat had done, on the group's wall.

But by around Wednesday, I'd come round to understanding exactly why the group was set up, and why so many were happy to put their name to it.

Whoa! Drop those hackles and step away from the window's X button for a second. I didn't say they were right to do so, just that I understand their motive. OK?

I can see there is some explaining to be done here.

Fortunately for me, such a job was made easier last night as JD, in an excellent article at the 'blog of the oft-invited rancour' has almost articulated my thoughts to a tee.

People like me do not see the massive state machinery as representing protecting or serving us. That machinery can be embodied by the police, or the tax man, or the quangocracy or the NHS or the schools or pretty much anything that bears the symbol of Leviathan.

I have grown to detest and hate with every sinew of my soul the very authority which I was once, years back, proud to support in a Burkeian conservative sense.

Authority now is distant and aloof. As Orwell and other libertarians came to understand, the state when it grows serves only itself, and citizens get in the way of their agendas and motives.

In these paragraphs, JD has described exactly why entire communities have lost respect for instruments and departments of the legislature. The only difference between his view and mine - if I understand him correctly - is that JD focusses most of his ire on the actions of the police, whereas I see the blame lying further up the command chain than that.

Like JD, I find myself partially agreeing - probably for the first time ever - with George Galloway!

The former Respect MP, George Galloway, said he believed the tribute page reflected the beliefs of a section of society.

He said: "I think it is a cry from the heart from poor, white, working class, unemployed people who are drifting on to dangerous shores.

"They hate the government, they hate the police, they hate society and feel left behind."
Could be truth in that. And, as I've written before, the feeling of being 'left behind'; of being marginalised and ignored, is not altogether unintentional.

The main parties have an incredibly forensic approach to elections. On count nights, they will corral their supporters to intensively scrutinise the ballot papers to see which ballot boxes, in which areas, are most likely to gain them support. Districts which show a willingness to vote, especially for their candidate, will be targeted first in the next election - areas where people 'don't do politics' are a waste of time to canvass.

Similarly, areas which offer a rich seam will attract market researchers to pinpoint what are the most pressing issues in their lives. The information will then be fed to the relevant central office, spreadsheets and databases updated, and policy formed accordingly.

It doesn't bode well for those who don't understand the process, those for whom politicians may as well be talking in a different language, those who haven't a clue what the word fiscal means, and those who can't really be arsed.

They all have valid concerns, and will talk about them at length to one another, but politicians won't give a stuff. It's not in their self-interest to do so.
As I never tire of mentioning, I grew up with working class people, I employ working class people, and I mainly socialise with working class people. The overwhelming feeling amongst them is that politicians are not interested in their meagre concerns. Nor will they ever be, as Nick Clegg recently illustrated with perfect clarity.

I'd venture to suggest that Boaty & D's initial motivation to blog may have had something to do with this ivory tower attitude from our politicians - I know it was for me. Likewise, Old Holborn's impressive visitor figures are testament to the fact that millions of us feel that however loud one shouts, however hard one tries to point out that swathes of respectable middle and working class people are being blithely ignored ... Politicians. Just. Don't. Care.

It's frustrating enough that - even in the face of informed and well-articulated debate - government is happy to ignore widely held opinions in favour of their quangoes and selected righteous arse-lickers. However, it's even more exasperating for those who have no realistic outlet to express their concerns, and no skill in conveying such even if they tried.

Owing to the electoral machinery described above, many of those who admired Moat have probably not seen a politician in the flesh for years. Even at election time they'll receive little by way of literature, and their complaints will mostly be ignored if they are in an area of no electoral importance for the main parties.

They are fundamentally dissatisfied with how they are treated by the state, and their main interaction with the state is through the police. So when Moat leads the police on a merry old dance, he is 'sticking it to the Man' and, in their minds, is to be applauded.

It's true that many of the working classes bring a lot of this misery on themselves by not voting, but their worries and concerns should still be addressed. Bullying and coercion to fit into a proper way of living as perceived by those who do vote only serves to further erode their trust in the system as a whole, makes their participation in the process less likely, and further escalates the anger and sense of isolation.

It's why many of the lowest of the working classes I have met are able to start an argument in an empty room. Issues which would appear inconsequential to most are magnified to a position of huge importance - for many, personal relationships are the only part of their lives over which they feel they have some kind of input. A perfect example is the fact that Samantha Stobbart's sister is apparently not allowed to visit her in hospital, at the behest of her Mother with whom she "has had a difficult relationship". Under the circumstances, can you imagine the same attitude in any other class of life? I know I can't. Whatever the feud, such a hideous attack would see family drawn together, not stubbornly adhering to some argument over who done what at Christmas three years ago.

It's the consequence of decades of being ignored; of being dictated to by those who they feel impotent in engaging with; of being bossed around by the state with no avenue of objection.

Rather than take the Facebook group as a sign of degenerative behaviour, maybe all parties should be looking at why, for very large sections of the public, a social networking site is now a more realistic method of registering dissent than by trying to talk to a politician.


Callie said...

aha like you I found myself partially agreeing - probably for the first time ever - with George Galloway!

Jill said...

"Rather than take the Facebook group as a sign of degenerative behaviour, maybe all parties should be looking at why, for very large sections of the public, a social networking site is now a more realistic method of registering dissent than by trying to talk to a politician."

In the parlance of our times, absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

When you think about Dave's big society claptrap, you do realise just how many light years he is from the reality on the ground, dontcha?

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

"their main interaction with the state is through the police"

I don't think that's true. Their main interaction with the state is with the benefits office, where they are told that they can't have everything they want merely because they are working class in spite of all the propaganda spouted by ZaNuLabour

Naturally they resent being told they can't have what they want because no-one has ever said 'No' to them before; clearly the Guvverment are depriving them of something. After all, they live in 'deprived areas', don't they?

Anonymous said...

A superb post Dick.
I found it very worrying that I could find common ground with George Galloway, you have taken his theme and developed it to perfection.


John Demetriou said...

Thanks for the article and links, Mr P :-)

Great stuff and excellent comment. Bravo.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Brian, FOD: Yes, there is that aspect, but there are far more who are punished wrongly than those who are abusing the system.

Read this for just one of many examples from my personal experience.

The educated and level-headed amongst us are able to fight our corner, though increasingly (it seems to me) obstructions are being placed to stop even that.

If you're someone who hasn't the wherewithal or skills to fight the massive amount of state interference, the only answer is to shout and scream, or throw things.

Then the police are called to enforce compliance.

And, as the article I've linked to shows, all the while the politicians get away with far more egregious excesses without sanction.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Ta Jill, Anna & JD. :)

Caratacus said...

Thank you Mr.P. Intelligently and sensitively argued, and reflects the unease I have felt about the knee-jerk reactions to the Facebook page.

I worked for seven years as a nightclub bouncer and did (drug-free) bodybuilding. I saw what sometimes happens when bodybuilders go the steroid route; yes you grow rapidly (you also get weapons grade acne, they don't tell you that bit) but you also end up a touchy bastard whom even a close friend has trouble getting through to. There is no respect for anyone's opinion unless they are a hard bastard too - I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture.

I don't sympathise with Moat at all. He was a silly bugger who was very much the architect of his own misfortune. My sympathy is for those poor people whose lives have been ruined by his stupidity. The Facebook page reflects the thought processes of a group of people. People with whom we share this little island.... It is also, far more importantly, free speech.

Anonymous said...

Let me amplify the cry from the
underclass,the uneducated,the dysfunctional,the Chavs and other
undesirables.I had an excellent
upbringing and first rate education followed by a life time of respect for the law,for other
people,for property,for the state.Then the Government, aided
by the chattering classes decided
I was to be treated like vermin,
like a rat,like a rabid dog,why,
because I smoke cigarettes.
48 years of working,paying my taxes,behaving myself and encouraging others to do likewise.
All to no avail,half a century of
serfdom for nothing.So when the
underclass skive ,thieve ,smash
and grab,they are doing what some of us should have done years ago and maybe the ruling elite might have got the message by now. We may not have the power to alter the mindset of central power but
we sure can snap local wrists and ankles.Those in high places need reminding,treat us like dogs,
like dogs we shall behave.

So be it.

Reason is to an end.

Curmudgeon said...

Very well put, Sir - one of your finest posts. Can't find anything to disagree with.

JuliaM said...

What Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

JuliaM said...

And yes, excellent post.

Curmudgeon said...

And, incredibly, Janet Street-Porter more or less agrees with you.

"what we should be bothered about is the fact that a large section of our society feel like outsiders."

In many cases, literally outsiders.

MrAngryman said...

Brillaint comment. Agree wholeheartedly.

Anonymous said...

Scorched Earth.
It is apparent those, who are not concerned about the life style of the poor, are quite eager,in small numbers, to frequent the remaining
inns and taverns of England.
Can these petty Ivory Tower dwellers be allowed to enjoy the
fruits of their malice whilst the
poor and old shiver.
Surely not.
In the name of justice and honour
if freedom is to be denied to some
then a scorched earth attitude will have to be extended to all.
If those who have fought and toiled for this nation cannot
have some relaxation in their last years,neither can anyone else.
As we retreat into isolation ,we
will leave nowhere fit for those
who did not care.

Sum Dignus

Mark Wadsworth said...

What's all this Moat Moat Moat nonsense? Have we already forgotten that taxi driver fellow who went on a proper bloodthirsty rampage?

Dick Puddlecote said...

Thanks for all the comments, especially the nice ones.

MW: We'll forget the Moat fella too soon, once someone is inspired by his bravery and runs around provoking the police with an AK47. :-0

Private Widdle said...

I'm very rarely inclined to agree with either Demetriou or Galloway but I think they (and you) are onto something.

However, as your tag say- there is something very wrong with this country. When a 6'3" 17-stone paranoid 'roid freak who has been to prison for assaulting a nine-year old girl can command the popular imagination then there is something very skewiff about the values and beliefs of huge number of people. I bet 99% of the blokes who signed up to the Facebook shrine have leant an elbow on a bar and declared "Anyone lays a finger on any of my kids and I swear I'll do time...". This is where we are now- this is how corrupt our society is. Is there a way back?

Caratacus said...

Private Widdle - No.


We are somewhat advanced down the slippery slope called "democracy". Once we have hit rock bottom, THEN we start to climb back.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Widdle: Is there a way back? Not without politicians and civil servants admitting that their alarmist, authoritarian, infantilising approach for the past 40 years has been fatally flawed.

"Anyone lays a finger on any of my kids and I swear I'll do time...".

Truly an indicative phrase of our time. :(

Peperbarmi said...

Oh please "The poor white working class"

ahh bless em,the poor dears,living in the 4th richest country in the world is just too hard for them,all that money throw at them for doing fuck all is just not enough,of course they should support some murderous cunt,the poor man, his mummy didnt tuck im in at night.

Moal was a piece of filth and all his supporters are either mongs who couldnt make a success of their lives if they were born from a royals womb or hand wringing middle class meddlers making excuses for filth to salve their middleclass guilt.

A lifetime living of a rubbish heap without a cat in hells chance of living past 25 might give em all a sense of perspective!

Simon said...

A good thought provoking post.

Owing to the electoral machinery described above, many of those who admired Moat have probably not seen a politician in the flesh for years. Even at election time they'll receive little by way of literature, and their complaints will mostly be ignored if they are in an area of no electoral importance for the main parties.

Yup. And then the main stream parties, BBC, Groan and other assorted righteous wonder why the BNP garner so many votes.