Saturday 7 February 2015

On Left Wing Fibs and Lies

No, the blog hasn't been hacked. That really is the headline.

It's there because I'm going to have a bit of a moan. This did the rounds among fellow lefties on Twitter the other day:

Ho, ho, ho. What a hoot! Isn't Sarah Palin utterly stupid? No wonder the Republican Party is fucked, etc.

Funny ha, ha, indeed. Except it's bullshit. An exemplar of the moronic degeneration of the American right to be sure, but she didn't say it. 30 seconds with your search engine of choice would have established that. As Snopes notes, this is from a "satirical" website that churns out wannabe memes of right wing blowhards mouthing lunacy about vaccines, guns, Obama's secret Muslim/communist conspiracy, etc. This stuff then gets picked up and circulated as good coin. After all, no one any more can be arsed to do basic fact checking, even if we risk getting it wrong.

Then there is this one which circulates every time a #webackEd/#CameronMustGo-style Twitter storm takes off.

This, again, is utter bullshit. IBS is particularly loathsome because he dresses up his Dickensian social security policies in the garb of Christian concern for the poor. The quiet man is also a spiteful and mean-spirited little man. Yet he didn't punch the air when Dave announced a freeze on welfare payments, his fist hit the sky with the announcement of the raising of the 40p income tax threshold. Don't take my word for it, here's IBS doing just that at the 25:49 mark.

I can understand why people would happily pass this meme off as good coin. It would be entirely within the Tory character, that thinks a princely dole handout of £71/week and not lack of jobs causes unemployment, to do so. Yet someone went to the trouble of going through Sky's footage of the speech, taking the cap, and giving it that lying spin. I suppose it's safe to assume that whoever did is not a Conservative, and chances are they're somewhere on the left. Just because the Tories are awful and have caused much suffering in their self-defeating class war doesn't mean we should be lying about out opponents.

Lefties lying is a real bugbear of mine. Whether it's fibs bits of our movement tell ourselves, like Left Unity/TUSC are on the verge of doing a Syriza, that Blair won in 1997 because he was uniquely gifted, that Stalin was merely misunderstood, misrepresenting the positions and distorting the arguments of opponents ostensibly on the same side, lying about comrades and/or yourself to make you look good/advance yourself, or weaving great big fat ones about the words and deeds, personalities and policies of political enemies, it's irritating and counter-productive. Maybe I am naive. I expect the right to lie because their bottom line is defending the indefensible: entrenched privilege. The left, from the weakest pink to the deepest red, doesn't: it's about something else. Whether your perspective is limited to a few reforms that make life better or expansive enough to envisage the root and branch change of entire societies, your case cannot be built on falsehood. Whether a simple reform or something more ambitious, politics rooted in the labour movement are about building things. Prosecuting the interests of our people requires a politics constructed from sturdy materials. Anything less is a recipe for disillusion, or the path to you're-just-like-themism.

Remember that next time you tweet a dodgy-sounding meme, or about to spin a lie for whatever political purpose.


WillORNG said...

It's so easy to get sucked into the negative approach, sure be anti-austerity but put the positive alternative of sustainable prosperity...set our own frame of reference, lob the ball over the austerity Maginot line and get the defenders of indefensibility on the back foot twisting and turning, their lies evaporating in the hot spotlight of positive hope based on evidence and logic.

Anonymous said...

"Lefties lying is a real bugbear of mine. Whether it's fibs bits of our movement tell ourselves, like Left Unity/TUSC are on the verge of doing a Syriza"

This is not what is being said, rather that Syriza show an alternative is possible. You are playing fast and loose with the truth here, twisting something and presenting it as a lie. In fact you are lying. Even when protesting at lying you can't help but lie!

Now that's irony!

Phil said...

But is a Syriza-type alternative in Britain possible? Demonstrably not on the basis of the last eight years. Will it be again over the next few? Let's see. Growing economy, more in jobs, continued fragmentation of the working class, an easing up of austerity ... the signs aren't encouraging.

So I'm left asking the question. How much is such a perspective the result of an honest but mistaken analysis, or the cynical attempt to build a head of steam behind a dull, uninspiring project that's been butting its head against reality in some form or another for the last 20 years?

Unknown said...

I wonder if the fundamental point here is about the identity of the left. As you rightly mention, Phil, there is unfortunately a tendency for bickering on the left and "lying about comrades and/or yourself to make you look good/advance yourself; or weaving great big fat ones about the words and deeds, personalities and policies of political enemies, it's irritating and counter-productive." This is part of the reason why the left is usually a lot less than the sum of its parts whereas the opposite is true of the right who can always unite behind the notion of financial gain.

What I have been increasingly thinking as of late is that the left needs an identity 'audit'. Looking at some of the comments on the Left Unity website, for example, shows that we on the left really haven't moved on from the same old arguments of socialist vs marxist vs trotskyist vs soc. democrat...etc. The only way we are likely to see a Syriza or a Podemos in the UK is if we can put this factionalism behind us and unite behind what should be at the heart of leftwing politics - social justice, equality and, as you say, building things.

So although lies are an inherent part of politics they also reveal some of the insecurity of popular leftwing movements in the UK - that it is easier to slag off other people's policies than present your own united popular vision of the future. Until the left can find the politics which it is prepared to truly unite behind, it will be much easier for everyone to continue bickering with each other and misrepresenting all sides of the argument.

Samurai Socialist

Anonymous said...

"But is a Syriza-type alternative in Britain possible"

I do not know that anymore than you do. But that is a different question. You implied a lie on behlaf of those who think it is possible. This is itself a lie and not a really intelligent way to approach such a question.

Instead of calling this a lie, why not call it living in a dream world, Utopian and then provide reasons why it is Utopian.

So you are lying and thats irony!

FacingReality said...

Facing Reality blog has done a fair few spoofs of left nonsense, some of which were believed by others on the left.
But when we spoofed a tusc result, we just cut & pasted the Stoke SP site boasting of their "success".

Phil said...

An identity audit would be interesting, Samurai. I've written on this matter before. The problem is sectarianism is deeply rooted in the material existence of the far left as competing sects battling over members, paper sales, and occasional wider influence. Add to that the contemporary cultural swing to the narcissistic individual you have a heady brew.

Being in the Labour Party you find much the same vices. But what stamps a degree of order and discipline on it is the wider social forces that animate it and are articulated through it. Until the far left become a significant factor then lefty identityism will be their lot.

Phil said...

You can make educated guesses on the basis of a balance of forces. And there is no evidence whatsoever that a Syriza scenario is possible. So the question - again - has to be asked, honest mistaken analysis or bullshit for the troops: i.e. lying.

Take this stupid claim for instance, gleefully retweeted by a number of official TUSC accounts. Honest mistake or bullshit?