Sunday, 12 June 2011

Adventures Behind Enemy Lines... Part 1

This was fair comment, delivered with a conviction that the Leader of the Opposition could do with mustering. I decided to follow the discussion on that bastion of the Right, the Daily Telegraph, and the Guardian on the left-hand side.

The Guardian had a predictable amount of knee-jerk atheist attacks on Williams, which did not address the content of what he said. I assume some of these were right-wing 'trolls' trying to sway general Guardian-reader opinion against the Archbishop's comments - trying to play upon the readership's general skepticism towards religion.

The Torygraph had several comments to the same sort of effect, but putting across more of an emphasis on Williams's supposed socialism or - most absurdly - his status as a Marxist guerilla about to destroy the nation. This sort of hysterical inexactitude was the type of thing I had not really encountered for years; perhaps going back to my days as intermittent contributions to a UK political 'news-group'. The right-of-centre people I have encountered in person have largely been polite and I am able to have a reasonable discussion with them.

There were a few somewhat rational comments, critical of Williams, but the DT commenting crowd seems to be comprised of would-be retired Majors or bitter, infantile 'libertarians', pushing Hayek's The Road to Serfdom as their holy text. If one is after an insight into what it is to be incoherently angry and misanthropic, you could do worse than check out the Daily Telegraph's comment-threads.

Upon reading, I was so exasperated that I decided I would have a go at posting - under the moniker 'ordnancesurly', taken from a song of mine. Clearly any attempt to 'get through' to these people will be 99% wasted effort, but I thought... why not have a go at reasoning with them and see what emerges? Try and plant a few seeds of doubt.

There were multiple articles assailing Williams, but I alighted on two in particular; firstly one from Benedict Brogan, he of the John Majorish accountant's accountant-style Tory visage. Deputy editor of the paper, no less.

There were a reasonable number of sane, agreeable commentators:

But then there were the absurdly sanctimonious Thatcher fans, talking about toxicity without reference to the Iron Lady as the defining influence on modern Blighty:

Needless to say, there was no response to my last points.

I was baffled by the odd religious 'vision' of jeongu, which they were not willing to clarify for me:

Dynamic phrases such as 'the frocked coward' are routine on these boards. People without any sense of balance or even awareness of how even-handed Williams has been in his comments:

I was able to probe the perennial post-Thatcher Tory tensions: between loving the free-market and hating immigration, the EU and immigrants:

I note the maniacal conspiracy theorist, PP, who provides no link to evidence backing up his fraud claim or the electoral statistics that would prove it made the difference:

Such absurd hyperbole from Edward Green, that made me link to this famous old clip of Jimmy from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin - oh, and yes: I got told to read Hayek, after suggesting that the bellicose nutter might read a true 'conservative' like Edmund Burke... 

'Rabid emotionalism' seems about right to me. Their 'realism' is a fantasy:

They conflate individuals' debt with government debt; the old 'we've maxed out the nation's credit card!' stupidity, again not fully understanding Rowan Williams's longer-term position and consistency:

The above bit on the role of the church was actually my first entrance into the debate, highlighting what I would have thought were obvious points.

The other article that was graced by an ordnancesurly intervention was a shoddy piece of work from Cristina Odorne, bizarrely - on this evidence - a former deputy-editor of The New Statesman. An admitted Tory voter in 2010, Odorne is also a Catholic, and one would at least expect a temperate view to be taken with the head of the Church of England. However, she attempted to score points in precisely the manner she was accusing Williams of doing. This is truly the sort of journalistic trifle that could have been thrown together without even having read RW's words, and makes Brogan's comments seem a model of sanity in comparison. It is a stock response that one can imagine she had filed away ready for the next time Williams came into the news. When it turns out that his comments are not slavishly approving of the Tory policies of the Coalition, then it is fair game for the attack dogs to be unleashed!

Attack dogs who do not fail to trot out this sort of tired nonsense, which has been thoroughly discredited post-economic crisis, if it was not before:

It was good to have had some support in the debate, as from norto here. While I suspect he/she (though, he really... when have women been known as avid frequenters of DT comments-threads?!) may be a bit of a Blue Labourite, good points were made. 

This article did receive far more critical comments, attacking the style of writing and half-baked arguments, but there was still a nauseating level of support - as one would expect:

I made a few more contributions to that thread, but I think that is an appropriate note to end on. I doubt I will be logging onto the DT's site on a regular basis - it would frankly be a waste of time. Much better to argue with open-minded people elsewhere, and try and steer the discussion on the Guardian CIF threads in the right direction. There are articles to write, there is music to make and listen to; there are interesting films and television programmes to watch. There are indeed people to meet in the outside world and communicate with online. It would be a dead end to spend time trying to destabilise a stultefying discourse. Only the occasional intervention on certain issues. Maybe my next intervention will be with that vile organ, the Mail - so rightly attacked by the Speaker of the House of Commons last week. One that has a far greater readership and influence than the Torygraph.

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