Friday, 5 May 2017

If at first...

Yesterday I was savagely torn into... okay, I was mildly gummed by a toothless class warrior armed with what are commonly, if generally incorrectly, referred to as memes. Of course memes ain’t what they used to be but accused as I was of confirmation bias, a condition I freely admit (unlike those who believe that memetic argument is the thing) I nevertheless had a look at what they had to offer. The same old tired aphorisms posing as truth; no good to anybody with an actual engagement with the living world, but useful, I guess to those whose life view has been shared almost entirely by the meme-makers guild, whose important works include:
  •  A picture of a gurning Noam Chomsky captioned with “If we didn’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise we don’t believe in it at all.” Posted by somebody who has been telling you all day to shut up.
  • The sainted Margaret alongside “If they attack you personally it means they have not a single political argument left.” By one who started out questioning your legitimacy, but is singularly unimpressed by ‘creative’ vocabulary and the fact that he had to look up half of your invective.
  • The claim that Churchill said “Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.” By somebody outraged that you dared challenge their views.
  • And any number of mangled statistics presented as fact to prove a point nobody cares about, superimposed on an old photograph of somebody nobody remembers.

Memes can be funny – who hasn’t laughed at Batman slapping Robin? – but they are hardly the definitive way to win an argument. The way you come out on top of an argument is firstly by not getting into one, secondly by having impeccable facts at your disposal and the wit to wield them and thirdly, being able to point and laugh at the ridiculous posturing of the other side. (It drives them bandy!) Which brings us neatly on to Caroline Lucas who, having decided to continue public self-harming, has demanded (again) a second referendum so that those of us who knew exactly what we were voting for last year can demonstrate that yes, leaving the EU completely, along with all its institutions, is... exactly what we voted for.

Of course she won’t be happy with the inevitable outcome of the general election, itself touted as a second referendum, so her proposed next vote would effectively be a third referendum. It reminds me of when, faced with a diary clash she had to decide whether to support a rally to lobby for equal vegan rights for environmentally sensitive gay tigers or attend a routine vote in the House of Commons.

By the time she made it on to the stand to deliver a rousing speech at the tiger rally people were already beginning to disperse. “Why are you so late?” she was asked. She explained that she had to make a choice; attend parliament and do her duty by her constituents, or be here, fighting for gay tigers. “I tossed a coin” she explained. “But that couldn’t have taken so long” protested the inquirer. Caroline replied, “I had to toss it 37 times.”

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