19th February 2021
There are various ways of seeing the current ‘war on woke’ being promoted by certain politicians and their media supporters.
One is to see it as a growing threat: that certain divisive issues are being ‘weaponised’ by those seeking and holding political and media power as a means of mobilising and consolidating sufficient support so as to obtain and maintain political and media power.
Another way is to see it is as the signals of declining political and media power: certain divisive issues are being ‘weaponised’ with increasing frequency as a means of holding off falls in political and media support, with each promotion of illiberalism illustrating the law of diminishing returns.
Either – or neither – of these things may be true.
One hopes for the latter, but one fears the former.
And perhaps which one is (or will be) true is down to what liberal and progressive people do now, as few things in human affairs are inevitable in any direction.
But there is the question of how, if at all, a law and policy blog should engage with each of these blows of the trumpet.
Should each blast be taken with anxious earnest solemnity – and risk being ‘owned’ like a ‘lib’?
Should one point and laugh and jeer – and risk being portrayed as having some metropolitan sneer?
Both of these responses are, of course, factored into the provocations – they are the desired results of the pulls on the chain.
Yet a third response, of ignoring the provocations – not ‘feeding the trolls’ or ‘giving oxygen’ – carries the risk of something significant being ignored that can then grow and manifest itself into a thing unwanted: such as the lack of engagement with Ukip ended up with a Brexit with the United Kingdom outside the European Union single market and customs union.
So what, if any, is the best chess move to make?
The approach of this blog – for what it is worth – is to acknowledge that there is an attempt to start a culture war, but to not participate on the terms of the aggressor.
As a previous post asked: what happens if they started a culture war and nobody turned up?
Instead – perhaps too boring and unconfrontational for the tastes of some – the claims of illiberals will be patiently set out and the merits of those claims examined.
Invariably those claims will be found wanting.
And that will be because the claims are not intended to be serious contributions to law and policy but instead political – indeed, populist – speech acts.
Such claims need – somewhere – to be pointed out as such.
But this approach itself is problematic.
As I have previously averred, pointing out lies and disinformation does not make any difference if people want to be lied to – or do not care.
The ultimate problem is not that politicians lied— davidallengreen (@davidallengreen) December 12, 2019
It really isn't
The ultimate problem is that voters do not mind being lied to
Brexit, Trump, whatever
And until voters care about being lied to what happened today will happen again and again
But it is a public good anyway, and it still should be done even if there are no obvious benefits.
And at least it will be a resource for those who do want to know the facts of matters before making media and political choices.
The reason for setting this out is that have some have critically responded to recent posts – for example setting out how a government minister was getting the law about statues wrong or how a pro-Brexit politician was misrepresenting the Human Rights Act and what, if any, was the significance of such misinformation.
It was contended that these very acts of engagement were wrong – that it, to use that most dire of hackney phrases, ‘played into their hands’.
I think, however, what ‘plays into their hands’ is to allow your response to be defined by the provocation.
Dull, plodding, matter-of-fact posts setting out the false law and policy premises and incorrect facts about various provocative claims do not seem to me to be ‘knock-on’ effects that are desired by the provocateur.
Indeed, it may well be the most irksome of all possible responses – for it removes credibility without adding any drama or excitement.
Of course: such responses do little or nothing directly to politically counter the provocateur.
For that, one must look to opposition politicians for leadership.
And that is certainly not a job for a non-partisan blog – for partisanship is the enemy of useful commentary.
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