A couple of years ago I read an article by Janet Street-Porter in which she claimed the problem with this country is that for a worryingly large number of people the way they think can only ever been framed in black or white. Challenge them to engage in a grey, middle ground and they – according to Ms Street-Porter – simply do not have the wit, wherewithal or intelligence to cope. How right she was.
From Brexit to Trump, radicalised Muslims to Piers Morgan and the future of the NHS to the judiciary, police and care for the elderly, it seems the only voices now listened to in this country – and perpetually fuelled by a bear-baiting main stream media – are radical and extreme ones (on both sides). And that’s before we even discuss “diversity” and all the lunacy with which that is often accompanied these days.
Add to that the rise of ridiculous “commentators” such as Aaron Bastani, Ash Sarkar (that daft one wants “luxury communism now”), Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Owen Jones – I could go on – and you don’t have informed or challenging discourse, you have ranting extremists whose intransigent views are as dangerous as their lack of insight or intellect.
Take just last week an appearance on ‘Good Morning Britain’ (GMB) by Iain Dale – one of the most measured political and social commentators and a man who is unfailingly polite to everyone regardless of how much he may disagree with their views.
Dale was invited on to discuss whether social care failings had been to blame in the horrendous case of the teenage boy thrown off the 10th floor viewing platform at Tate Modern by a psychiatrically disturbed man who “wanted to be on the TV news”.
Mr Dale was sandwiched between two other (clearly not very bright) “commentators” who merely shouted over him, leaving him with no opportunities to challenge their opinions or engage in any meaningful way. For a start, why did GMB (like so many other media outlets these days) go for a “ganging-up” mentality (why not just one opposing voice to that of Mr Dale’s?) in a debate at the expense of balance?
And let’s not get started on the three GMB presenters who sat there like a trio of limp dicks at a Roman orgy and then looked surprised (Kate Garraway doing a perfect “the lights are on but no one’s home”) when Mr Dale took off his microphone and left the studio.
But this is just one small example of how the loudest, most intolerant (and invariably rudest) voices now dominate the arguments.
Look at Brexit (I know, must we!). If, over the past four years, you’ve occupied a centre ground position you’ve almost entirely been ignored at the expense of the most vociferous voices from either side of the argument. And, it has to be said, factions that really have been unfortunate enough to have some of the most blinkered and nasty types within their ranks.
Take the bizarre extremes from the night of January 31: A not very bright leaver in Parliament Square who wanted “our powers back from Germany” and a deranged woman who’d taken to a vigil on Brighton beach to tell us this was “like a family bereavement”!
While most sane people were probably sat at home either feeling very sad, depressingly resigned or glad we can “just get on with it”, the media sought, yet again, to find the most (clearly) unstable individuals and aforementioned “rent a gobs” to offer rambling voices to which the majority of us just rolled our eyes…yet again.
Nothing is ever that simple and the fact we now pedal and pander to these types of people is partly the reason we’re in such a mess.
Life isn’t black and white and neither are its myriad challenges.