Language

I have said this before but, I love the way that language can be used to manipulate the way people think about something. Take, for example, the way that people who have entered a country though means other than the official channels have been described before and after the recent U.S. Presidential election.

Prior to election day, during the campaign, these individuals were routinely referred to as “Illegal Immigrants.” And following election day, in particular in connection with the #sanctuarycampus protests, they are being called “Undocumented Immigrants.”

Both descriptions are factually accurate. Entering a country in ways other than the proper channels, for example sneaking across a land border or stowing away on a sea-going vessel, is very much an illegal act and leads to the individual not having the appropriate documentation, like a visa, and thereby being ‘undocumented’.

But the two words used here are meant to make the listener/reader think and feel different things about those being described. “Illegal” is clearly a bad thing. Its usage is designed to make one consider these people in a harsh light. They are criminals. They are ‘cheating the system’.

Whereas “Undocumented” is a much softer description. Its use is designed to make you think that those being described are not bad people, they haven’t really done anything wrong, they just don’t have the right paperwork.

And yet, both words remain factually accurate descriptors of the people in this situation – that being, people who have not used the proper channels to enter a country. Keep in mind, this isn’t even a descriptor of refugees, because refugees entering a country do so legally and will have appropriate documentation.

The choice of descriptor tells you as much about the people choosing to use it as the people being described – if you’re able to look past the rhetoric and no be manipulated by the power of the chosen descriptor, that is.

Language. It’s fascinating. And it’s one of the reason I choose to write. I love being able to manipulate what people think and feel through my choice of words. I guess what separates me from the political class is that I do it for entertainment, yours as much as mine, while they do it for “other reasons”.

Protesting Democracy

In 2015, when Britain voted for a right-of-centre Conservative majority that no one had predicted, there were protests on the street from left-wingers.

In June 2016 when Britain voted to leave the EU when no one expected it, left-wingers were on the streets protesting.

And now that Trump has been elected President when no one expected it, the left-wingers are on the streets protesting.

Why don’t left-wingers like democracy? You didn’t see right-of-centre people protest when Tony Blair or Barrak Obama were elected. But when they lose elections, left-wingers seem to be “mad as hell” and “aren’t going to take it anymore”.

Sorry, but I don’t understand that attitude.

A Message to the People of the USA

I’d like to say something to the folks across the pond who are feeling the kind of shock, disappointment and, yes, even anger, that I felt on the morning of June 24th.

Democracy sucks. It’s a flawed system and sometimes you don’t get the result you want or expect. But it’s the best system we have and the alternatives are not even worth thinking about.

You didn’t get the result you wanted. You are angry and can’t understand why *anyone* would have voted the opposite way to you. How could they? Don’t they see? What’s wrong with these people? It shouldn’t be allowed. Something must be *done*!

But at the end of the day, this is Democracy. Your nation had its say, and it spoke clearly. And now you *have* to accept the result.

Yes, *you*.

You personally.

You don’t have to be happy about it, but you *do* have to accept it.

Because if you don’t, you undermine everything your Democracy, your country, stands for. Everything that our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought for.

Yes, yes, I know, right now you think that the other guy winning undermines everything your country stands for. But the truth is that more people disagree with you than agree. And in a Democracy, The Majority rules.

Even the “quiet Majority” that don’t express on social media every feeling they have every second that they have it. Tweets, facebook posts and hashtags don’t matter. Votes do. One person, one vote. No-one’s opinion is more valuable than anyone else’s – even the rich, famous and powerful still only get one vote.

I was shocked and angry when Britain voted to leave the EU, but I accepted the result. I expressed my disappointment and confusion on social media, and my anger among friends. But I didn’t publicly call anyone any names, I didn’t publicly question anyone’s intelligence. That kind of reaction does not help, it only makes things worse. You may think you know better than ‘all those idiots’ that voted for the other guy – but they also think they know better than you. That’s why they voted the way they did.

And let’s be honest – if the result had gone the other way, if your girl had won and it was currently *his* supporters screaming about a ‘rigged system’, wouldn’t you be telling them to jog on? Wouldn’t you be telling them to shut the hell up and accept the result?

No? Really? You sure about that? Be honest, if not with me then with yourself.

Your country now needs to heal from what has been a vicious, divisive few months. And the only way it will heal is if you all accept what has happened, come together again as friends and find a way to make it work for the best – not just for you, but for the rest of the world too.

I wish the *United* States all the very best for the next four years. I hope they truly can be *united*. It may well be a bumpy ride, but the only way you, and the rest of us, will be in a better position in 2020 than we are right now, is if you do *unite*.

There will be time for analysing “what went wrong” later. You have four years to work out why this candidate failed to appeal to so many voters.

In the meantime, put aside your anger. Stop the name calling. Unite and move forward. For you. For your family. For your country.

And for all of us.

Hypocrisy

If there’s one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s Marmite. But that aside, what I hate, really hate, particularly in public figures, is hypocrisy.

So when I see a candidate in an election describe themselves as the “Unity Candidate” even though they wrote off roughly a quarter of the electorate as “deplorable”, I find it somewhat distasteful.

When I see a supporter of a candidate who is currently in the office being sought bemoan the ‘mud slinging’ of the other candidate, even though copious amounts of mud has been slung in both directions by both sides, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth

When I see one candidate pushing their gender as a reason to vote for them while calling the other candidate sexist, it saddens me.

Neither of the main candidates are innocent of rank hypocrisy. Both of them have set new lows for a political campaign – if you can call it that, I’m not sure it’s an accurate description. Whoever wins, “Unity” will be a long way off. Whichever candidate wins, I’m not sure America, or indeed the rest of the world, will win.

I’m actually glad I’m not voting today – that’s something I never in a million years thought I’d find myself saying – because voting for either of the two large parties’ candidates would have to be done while holding my nose. I suspect I’d be voting for Johnson if I’m honest – although, what I’ve seen of him isn’t that impressive either.

I suppose the best we can hope for is that this year is the shock to the system that US democracy needs. That this will be a one term president and that come 2020 – when, incidentally, the UK is due to go to the polls again too – better, more suitable candidates can be found and a debate can be had around actual issues and policy.

Hope – wasn’t that what Obama was elected on? Where all the hope gone now?

The Mother of all Laughing Stocks

It’s sometimes (erroneously) referred to as “The Mother of All Parliaments”, can claim to date back to the late 1200’s and it’s the model for parliamentary democracy in large portions of the world (primarily the Commonwealth countries that gained independence from the British Empire). But today, at around 4:30pm, The House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster, became The Mother of all Laughing Stocks.Why? Because today a debate took place in which the elected Members discussed if the United Kingdom should ban a US Presidential candidate from entering the country.

And regardless of what you think of his politics or some of the frankly outrageous things he’s said in the campaign so far, banning Donald J. Trump would be the most ridiculous thing this government could do. I mean, we’re talking about debating whether or not to allow the man who could end up being the leader of one of our major allies—some would say our biggest and most important ally—to set foot on these shores. Shores which, I should add, he owns a big chunk of and has invested heavily in.

Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the policies that DJT is espousing. And let’s be honest, the one that prompted the petition that has led to today’s debate is not only inflammatory, it’s completely unworkable. I mean, his policy is to ask people if they are Muslim before they enter the country and turn them away if they say yes.

Because Islamic terrorists are not going to lie in order to get past the security on the way to blow themselves (and hundreds of innocents) up. Yeah, they are clearly too stupid to think of not telling the truth as a way of avoiding detection.

But DJT’s policies are not the issue here. Nor is my opinion of them (on that I shall keep my own counsel—mostly). Who the citizens of the United States elect as their President is no more my business than who we elect as PM is theirs.

The issue I’m concerned about is that one of the most respected debating chambers in the world, the chamber on which so much of the world modelled their own governance, is actually stooping so low as to debate banning this man—or indeed any man, woman or child—one the strength of an online petition.

In case you didn’t know, the debate has come about because of the change.org e-petitions we have in the UK. If 100,000 people sign a petition on any topic, the subject has to be debated in Parliament. Which sounds like a good idea. It sounds like it’s increasing ‘access to democracy’ and ‘engagement in politics’, which can all agree is a good thing I’m quite sure.

But, frankly, it’s crazy. Just think about the possibilities for a second.

If 100,000 people signed a petition to make “The Way of the Jedi” a religion officially recognised by the state, it would have to be debated in parliament.

If 100,000 people signed a petition insisting that the Muggle Prime Minister give way to the Minister for Magic at PMQs once a month, this would have to be debated in Parliament.

Or if 100,000 people wanted to ban the potential President of the most powerful country in the world from getting off the plane at Heathrow, it would have to be debated in Parliament.

As it happens, it wasn’t 100,000. It was 570,000. But that doesn’t make it any less stupid to debate this issue in parliament. It’s a waste of parliamentary time when there are so many other, more important issues, to be debated.

Like solving the junior doctors strike, for example.

Okay, so 570,000 sounds like a lot. But the population of the UK is 64.1 million, so it’s not even 1%. (It’s about 0.89%)

And in any case, the 570,000 figure spread across two petitions, so it’s possible, if not highly likely, that the same people signed both petitions. And since all you need to sign one of these e-petitions is an e-mail address, and one person can claim as many of those as they like, there’s no way of knowing if people have ‘signed’ each petition multiple times or, indeed, how many times.

And there’s no way of knowing if the people signing this are 14 year olds who seen it on Facebook and are doing it “for a laugh”.

Or if the people signing it are doing so while living in Outer Mongolia or Darkest Peru.

I’d be surprised if the actual number of actual real people, with an actual real vote in the UK General Election, who signed this thing was a lot, lot less than the 570,000 being quoted.

But even that’s not massively important in the grand scheme of things.

The real issue here is that this debate is symptomatic of a worrying trend in Britain, which is most evident on university campuses right now.

As a firm believer in free speech—in that old notion that I don’t have to agree with what you’re saying to defend your right to say it—I’ve always thought that the best way to show up a ridiculous idea, is to allow it to be heard and subjected to the harsh glare of public scrutiny and debate. But increasingly people in this country—or, at least, a small, but very vocal, sub-section of people—seem to think that the best way to deal with ‘wrong-headed’ views, is to ban them from being heard altogether.

Can anyone think of any societies that banned views that the ‘ruling elite’ didn’t agree with? What happened to those I wonder?

Look, the best way to deal with someone talking utter bollocks, isn’t to not allow them to talk. It’s the exact opposite. You allow them to talk bollocks, then point out to those listening just what utter bollocks it is using reasoned debate and argument. You make the bollocks-talker look stupid for talking bollocks. You make people want to point and laugh and shout, “what utter bollocks”.

That’s the reason we haven’t banned UKIP.

Just look again at the DJT policy that triggered all this. Whether you agree with it or not, you have to agree that it quite simply doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny as a practical, workable way to run a county. It’s nonsense, and as soon as you start to ask questions about it, you can see that it’s nonsense.

And yet, the number of people being banned from having their views heard on the campuses of British universities has sky-rocketed this past year. Maryam Manazie, Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and that @nero bloke, who even triggered a trending twitter hastag, #jesuismilo, after twitter “de-verified” him.

It’s madness.

I’ve always thought that the only people who want to ban opposing views rather than defeat them in debate, are those people who couldn’t debate their way out of a paper bag and know their deeply held views are utter bollocks that hold no water.

Yet these type of people now seem to be infesting our university system. And after that it’ll be in our parliament and quangos. It has to stop. And it has to stop NOW.

Or before you know it we’ll be living in some horrendous Orwellian nightmare where Thought-Crime becomes and Actual-Crime.

If I was a MP today, I’d have said that the way to deal with Donald Trump isn’t to ban him from the country, it’s to invite him to the country. It’s to debate him. It’s to show him how well muslims can integrate into a country like the UK given the opportunity. I grew up in the West Midlands and some of the nicest people I knew were Muslims. Or were they Sikhs? Or Hindus? Or something else? Honestly, I don’t know because it never mattered to me because first and foremost they were my friends. And we didn’t discuss religion when were were teenagers any more than we discussed the economy or the defence of the realm. We tended to discuss football instead.

I hope, I really, really hope, that this trend away from ‘free speech’ is temporary. That the sane and rational people in the country will reject it. That they will subject this attitude to the harsh glare of public debate and scrutiny.

Universities should be a place where you are taught how to think critically and question everything and have your personal views challenged and be able to challenge other views. Not a place you are taught what to think, never to question and be protected from ‘offensive opinions’.

After all, it’s that questioning attitude that has led us to be the great nation that we are today, at the forefront of so many industrial, technological, and cultural advances.

And that is what’s really at stake. Today’s debate wasn’t about Donald Trump. It was about Britain and ‘British Values’. I just hope that the MPs remembered that.