Unpopular #GE2019 personal opinion time:
This isn’t Jeremy’s fault.
He was a deeply imperfect candidate who screwed up handling a bunch of stuff, sure. He has serious flaws.
But any reasonable person should have been able to look at the choices and chosen the lesser risk.
Jeremy probably would have been a bit of a mess as PM, but he wouldn’t have been the howling void of cruelty, mendacity and privilege Johnson is.
Reasonable voters in a reason-based election would have been able to see that.
But Jeremy never stood a chance, because the tactics of politics have changed and, all over the world, the left wing is failing to deal with it.
We live in the era of alt-right tactics and we don’t yet have any useful counter to it because we’re in denial.
The left still desperately, desperately wants to believe that if you just make a good argument and show people the facts, they’ll change their mind, behaviour, position or vote.
It’s not true anymore, if it ever was. With some individuals, sure, but not on a mass scale.
The Brexit campaign and this election were run with these tactics. We’ve seen it with Trump, Bolsanaro, the rise of the alt-right.
We are still naive enough to think it’s just a blip and not conscious manipulation that works incredibly well.
All the careful argument and evidence and reassurance in the world doesn’t stand against ‘they’re coming for your country and your children and you are The Good Guys and they are wrong to ask you to change your view of the world or your place in it.’
Tell people they’re right, that they don’t need to change or learn or adapt. Tell them the people asking them to are snowflakes or ‘deluded’ or the ‘woke stasi’ (🙄).
These are often complex issues which require thought and time to understand.
So bombard them with misinformation, scare stories, carefully selected phrases and dogwhistles, so that even if they do try to think critically, the noise drowns out reason.
Everyone is exhausted and overwhelmed. Everyone likes to think they’re good people. That bias means people are primed to believe that what they think is automatically A Good Person’s Position because they think it.
So when the people with the most privilege and resources want to avoid being held accountable for the stunning, lethal inequality destroying our world, they just need to offer comforting reassurance that you are right, everyone else is wrong (and trying to silence you).
Turn some marginalised, poorly understood group who lack the resources of the privileged into The Bad Guys and you’re set.
People will repeat lies to each other until they’re true. They’ll ignore the screaming, obvious truth for the sake of not having to do the work.
And they’ll vote in a party we know lies like they breathe, a man who lied to the electorate, his party and the Queen, who is so scared of being held to account that he hides in a fridge, because he’s somehow a better option than a bumbling, relatively decent man?
We have to – *have to* – start catching up to this instead of hoping they’ll burn themselves out. So much of the left-wing response is based on the idea that there’s some point at which followers will think they’ve ‘gone too far’. There isn’t.
They might lose a few people around the edges, but sunk cost fallacies mean people decide to view every escalation as A Good Thing, or ‘brave’ or ‘sticking it to the lefties’.
We can’t afford to wait for them to burn out: if they haven’t by now, they’re not going to.
I don’t have answers for how to address this. We have to start listening to historians, sociologists, psychologists, who have been researching this, instead of what we feel *should* work.
But we have to address it right now, because the more power they get, the harder it becomes to counter them. And if we are about to fight a new independence campaign, our idealistic version of the debate will be crushed under that onslaught.
We have to look to the places which have countered propaganda before. And we have to stop pretending that this threat will pass with a couple of op-eds about ‘post-truth politics’ and a cutting video or two.
It’s going to take work. Effort. Research. Community.
In the meantime, the single biggest thing we can do to prepare is get involved in non-political community groups and work. Speak to people who aren’t involved in politics, listen to them, don’t browbeat them, but find out what their values are.
Start with community.
ETA: Just for the record, since some people have misinterpreted it – this is NOT a call for us to use these tactics. We are irrevocably lost if we do.
It’s about countering them with more than wishful thinking about how people ‘should’ respond to arguments.
It’s also not a criticism of the English left, who put in the kind of shift we haven’t seen for decades and gave us a few shreds of hope that things could be different this time. They deserve our thanks and respect for bringing society and community back into the Labour Party. This is a much, much bigger force than they could have countered. It’s going to take a global solidarity movement, sharing resources and skills.
For inspiration, we should be looking to the newer Eastern European countries who have overcome propaganda wars before, and to the US deep south, where Black organisers are at the cutting edge of this fight. They knew long before we did that our approach wasn’t working.