Toxic Times

I’ve not felt like writing these last couple of days, the piece I had started on the Referendum scaremongering (both sides) seems trite after what has happened. But to say nothing? It is impossible to gloss over what has happened.

I found myself crying for a woman not that much younger than me, for her husband and her children. An MP I wish I’d known more about, she appears to have been a public servant supporting causes she believed in rather than just a party member. I now have both MP & MSP who I like as people, we agree on many issues and as importantly they are both approachable enough that I can (and do) tell them if I disagree with them. I cannot say that about my previous MPs none of whom I had ever seen outside of election time. I would be devastated if this murder meant that they had to lose the contact they have with the general public and I believe they feel the same.

But the bottom line is no one deserves to be killed, let alone the way she was.  It’s not been long since my own community was rocked by the death of Mr Shah, a man who stood for peace and communities supporting each other.

The political discourse in the UK is toxic, the Overton window has moved rightwards and however people want to frame it as a “we need to talk about the effects of immigration” so much of the conversation has centered on how to stop “others” coming here. It doesn’t seem to matter why they are coming here, what natural, economic or military disaster they are fleeing.

Britain isn’t full, our services are underfunded. Successive governments are too in thrall to business to chase them for the tax they owe or for paying their staff such abysmal wages that the state needs to top them up. Working Tax Credits are not a subsidy to the people, they are a subsidy to business.

Same as Housing Benefit which does not end up in the tenant’s pocket but in the landlord’s. We need more social housing being built not the few have left being sold off. It is right-wing business focused policies that have hit people’s quality of life and migrants are just one of the scapegoats being lined up, along with the disabled, single parents and under 25s.

Speaking of scapegoats – the “lone wolf/mentally ill” narrative is so predictable, and as someone who has family and friends with mental health issues one I find offensive, unhelpful and again ultimately detrimental to sensible discourse. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, I imagine the figures are similar in the US and yet a study  – Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms – stated

Yet surprisingly little population-level evidence supports the notion that individuals diagnosed with mental illness are more likely than anyone else to commit gun crimes. According to Appelbaum, less than 3% to 5% of US crimes involve people with mental illness, and the percentages of crimes that involve guns are lower than the national average for persons not diagnosed with mental illness. Databases that track gun homicides, such as the National Center for Health Statistics, similarly show that fewer than 5% of the 120 000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.

I believe fervently in freedom of speech but that freedom also requires balance and most of all truth. It is up to the media to publish the truth not opinions. John Oliver did an outstanding piece on the how climate change is debated, instead of 1:1 usual debate balance he reflected the 97% scientific consensus. It may be satire but it proves the point.

I am aware not all fringe groups are bad – the SNP was one for long enough –  and all should have a platform but it needs to be proportional. The national media has spent years pushing Farage & UKIP to the front ostentatiously as a “look at the funny little group” but it allowed their socially acceptable bigotry  to gain traction.  “It may not be politically correct?” Bollocks it’s racism wrapped up with a pint & a fag and should have been called out from the start. Representing the working class? That’s bollocks too.

What with that and Boris ” look at me, I’m such a buffoon” Johnson isn’t any wonder our politics is going the same way as the USA. Martin Fletcher (ex Times foreign and associate editor) wrote how so much of the sheer rubbish spouted in the UK press is down to him.

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The fear-mongering seems to be a competition between some publications, 32 anti-migrant front pages in the Daily Express by day 162 of the year.

The media cannot wring their hands and try to absolve themselves from this, they are as party to it as the politicians and their rhetoric. How long since Cameron himself stated the Labour Party was a threat to national security?

Comments like that are ridiculously stupid and a so-called intelligent man should be aware the effects words can have.

The Conservative Party seem keen enough to clamp down on the “risks” posed by environmental/political activists and social media, it’s a pity they don’t pay attention to those who don’t have a beard.

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One thought on “Toxic Times

  1. The phony concern from the right wing about Thomas Mair’s mental health problems is abdication of responsibility, pure and simple. It’s an extension of their individualism over collectivism: by championing individual liberty and freedom (when it suits them, of course), they can deny any culpability whatsoever – even when it’s right-wing government policies which have failed so many with mental health issues.

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