Russell Taylor: Laughing at the Left

One of the political Right’s common mistakes is to assume that people are easily swayed by rational arguments. “Our system works!” we cry, as if anyone gives a damn. “Look, we have proof!” Meanwhile, a pop star says something about Africa and creates a million Labour voters. This is not to say that people are too stupid, or too engrossed in their celebrity magazines and X-Boxes, to understand lucid arguments. It’s just that hard evidence struggles in the face of snappy soundbites that endorse emotionally-satisfying lies.

Take the Drop the Debt campaign of a few years ago. What was going to sound more appealing to a young person troubled by the prospect of having to earn a living: Bono’s insistence that the rich give money the poor with no expectation of getting it back, or some free market bore telling us that we’d all be better off if everyone paid their own way? The former turns their brattish sense of entitlement into a quest for justice; the latter offers them a stark choice between deprivation and hard work. It’s a no-brainer: them rich dudes are hoarding all the cash.

Back on Planet Earth, this caring-sharing philosophy was put to the test when millions of Americans defaulted on their mortgages, triggering a global economic collapse. But even this reality check was spun into further vindication of the Left’s cosy worldview. Apparently, it wasn’t a ham-fisted effort to share the wealth that contributed to the recession; it was the greedy bankers wot done it. If only they’d been less reckless and more heavily regulated, none of this would have happened.

As I’ve said before, the legitimacy of leftism hinges on a narrative that divides the world into the helpless and the heartless, with a third party – the statists – protecting the former from the latter. The power, opportunities and emotional satisfaction this offers are far too valuable to sacrifice to facts and reality. The Left distils its narrative into a unifying principle: equality. It’s an idea loaded with positive connotations, which recommends an obvious series of policies that supporters can feel good about endorsing. By contrast, the Right’s lodestar – freedom – offers few assurances, and support of it confers little sense of virtue. There are no defining policies or grand designs that flow automatically from freedom, because it’s about leaving people to their own devices. It’s less a principle than it is a state of affairs.

Taken on these black-and-white terms, the Left has an obvious advantage. Equality is cool, and if you’re in any doubt about that, just look at the people who agree: movie stars, musicians, writers, comedians, artists and celebrity intellectuals, not to mention the credentialed experts who provide the smarts to go with the heart. Together, they make up a formidable caucus, which looks all the more impressive when it’s held up to the straw men the Left likes to define itself against.

But forget the celebrity lefty crowd. They’re just pitchmen for the equality cult. Their musings tell us as much about life under socialism as watching a Mickey Mouse cartoon does about working for the Disney Corporation. It’s the Left’s movers and shakers we should really be interested in – the ones who live, breathe and enforce the policies that others merely preach. These characters, past and present, from home and abroad, are a far less attractive bunch than their media cheerleaders: banana republic dictators, Labour MPs, trade unionists, beetle-browed Politburo chiefs, sour-faced social workers, obstructive civil servants, and make-work mandarins. Then there are the oddballs who didn’t make the photo shoot: the placard-waving misfits, the militant teachers, the man-hating feministas, the animal rights nutters, the tree-huggers, the crusties, the losers and the layabouts. And don’t forget the imagery forever associated with this crowd: strikes, protests, rationing, blackouts, censorship, conformity, shoddiness, waste, ineptitude, rules, regulations, taxes. There’s nothing cool or modern about any of this. It’s as hip and happening as a Soviet show trial.

This is the point the Right should be making: the Left ain’t cool. Its supporters might like to think they are channelling the passionate idealism of Ché Guevara, but that only goes to prove the point. Guevara was a torturer and murderer, who would have been more at home in the Taliban than an Occupy sit-in. If that’s the kind of character its supporters relate to, why don’t they go the whole hog and start celebrating the Third Reich? I reckon Hitler would have fitted in well with the Left’s vegetarian, eco-friendly, animal rights crowd. Sure, he was a racist, but Guevara was a homophobe and that hasn’t kept his image off student walls for the past forty years.

If you think that selling the ‘cool’ angle is superficial, you’re right, but this is more about pricking the Left’s balloon than stealing it. Hopefully, by humiliating the Left, the supposedly pitiless Right will be seen in a different light. Being free to make your own decisions and stand on your own two feet will look empowering rather than neglectful. The state will no longer be seen as an enabler, but as a weight around our shoulders.

Tony Blair understood the importance of image. He realised that people were tired of Thatcherism, but were not yet ready to embrace old-school socialism, so he pitched New Labour somewhere between the two. Having won the trust of the public with his Third Way cobblers, he was able to push through progressive reforms, buy himself a client base, and change the face of the nation, possibly forever.

For the Right to follow the same path world require a political party able and willing to take up the challenge. I’m not sure such a party exists right now (although UKIP is making more promising sounds than most), but this is about the long game. Most politicians are zeitgeist-chasers, who will adapt their policies to secure the maximum number of votes. Just as Tony Blair reformed the Labour Party to win over the country, so the Conservative Party will move to the Right if its leaders believe there is political mileage in it. At the moment, the party is married to the liberal-left consensus, because it is run by focus-group-fixated idiots, who think the opinion of the chattering classes is worth listening to. But if sufficient interest could be generated in libertarian ideas, the tide will start to turn.

How to do this? It doesn’t help that the Left has such influence in the media. By focusing on the ostensibly benign intent of statist policies, rather than their disastrous effects, the media has helped create the Left’s smug image. And when I say the media I really mean the BBC. The corporation is the media as far as many people are concerned, so it sets the tone for public discourse. Until the plug is pulled on the licence fee, and the state’s propaganda bureau is exposed to market forces, forcing meaningful change will be difficult.

In the meantime, we should mock and deride lefties for all we’re worth. After all, they’ve been doing it to us for years. Think of all those panel shows packed with comedians and satirists, who invite you laugh along with their conservative-bashing jibes. Think how that laughter draws people into their smug little world, and encourages them to snub the targets of their wit. Well, enough’s enough. It’s time we started laughing back.

If you enjoyed this piece, you can follow me on Twitter @RussTayles

15 comments on “Russell Taylor: Laughing at the Left

  1. Despairing Realist
    November 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    No matter how beautiful the idea, sometimes you really should look at the results.
    Russell Taylor for PM.

  2. dr
    November 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Its a marketing problem. Government isn’t cool. The left knows this, so it pretends to be pro-liberty, which it isn’t by supporting things like gay marriage and fighting hard against discrimination.
    The right could win easy points by promoting “power to the people” and you choose how you spend your money. But the left has shifted the view of government to focus on its output, not its input. So when you talk about shrinking government the left shouts “cuts”. Its at this level of simple principles where the right needs to fight. Immigration has made the UK government unpopular. It has also made the EU unpopular. Many people will support control of our borders. Many people will support tax cuts, they’ll support more job creation, they’ll support making it easier for businesses to function (deregulation), they’ll support improving the efficiency of public services to improve value for money.
    Its not right wing policies that people don’t like, its the angles that the left has pursued on certain issues. So if you talk about efficiency improvements in the NHS, people will say, that they don’t want it privatised, because they think that fatcats will create monopolies. Not because this is necessarily true, but because this is the message that the left constantly band away at. The right should counter with claiming that other countries have better healthcare than us, and every time a useful statistic comes up to make that point, they should use it. So we get to a point where we can say that “We would all like a state run NHS, but unfortunately, Labour are so incompetent, we would be better off copying the system in another country rather than sticking with full state ownership and control” When someone says fatcats or whatever, you just point to all the statistics that you have been pushing claiming that the NHS isn’t as good as someone else’s system.
    A lot of right wingers, and I think it includes some people who read Bogpaper, put a lot of effort into understanding economics and political ideologies so that they can have very factually informed opinions. But this isn’t the level of the political debate in our country. It happens at a much simpler level of soundbytes and simple concepts. This is because most people don’t give a toss about politics, so they don’t know much about it. I think that until the right simplifies its arguments it will continue to lose the debates.
    Another example could be on gay marriage. The left argued that the government should give permission for gay people to get married. I thought that Douglas Murray’s argument would have easily trumped the left in a debate. He simply said “Why should who you go out with, have anything to do with the government?” To me this is an example, of how a Libertarian ideal of freedom can be made attractive, in a simple way, rather than making philosophical claims about the nature of liberty that most people will just ignore.

    • dr
      November 24, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

      For example, on the BBC, the right should campaign to have the licence fee scrapped, rather than the BBC privatised. If the government responds by trying to fund the BBC directly from taxation, then make the attack on the government for cronyism and corruption needing a voice of the state, and discredit the BBC and the government. Then the question will be, if we want the BBC how will it be funded? The right would answer, “In other countries they don’t have a licence fee but still have television” or answer advertising. Also, when people talk about “public service broadcasting” this could be painted as “the news” which a lot of people don’t watch, and there are many alternative sources of news today online or on other channels or the internet or newspapers. I think that so long as some news was available somewhere on TV, then people who don’t use the Internet, would still know what was going on in the world. I just don’t think many people want to pay £100+ per year of “public service broadcasting” or “the news”, particularly if they know it has a strong left wing bias.

  3. dr
    November 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Russell Taylor wrote:
    “Hopefully, by humiliating the Left, the supposedly pitiless Right will be seen in a different light. Being free to make your own decisions and stand on your own two feet will look empowering rather than neglectful.”
    I would doubt it. This isn’t a zero sum game. The right isn’t going to look any better if the left is made to look bad. People will just decide that all politicians are idiots, and become disillusioned.
    Being free to make your own decisions and stand on your own two feet may be empowering, but its not “cool” and its not exciting and its not emotionally engaging. I think that being free to make your own decisions would be better argued in terms of being nosey or “minding other peoples business”. Wanna get a date? Would you like the government to help you with that?; Wanna get a job? Would you like the government to suggest where you should work or what you should do?; Wanna buy a car? Would you like the government to choose one for you?; Want some medical treatment? Would you like the government to tell you when and where you can be treated or would you like to choose? Want a referendum on the EU so that you can decide where the country you live in is governed from, or would you like the government to “do it for you”?
    Wanna tell the government to effoff? I thought so.

  4. dr
    November 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    As an example of this contrast between empiricism and sound bytes, look at the argument about “climate change” or AGW.
    There is masses of science on both sides of the argument, and much that is in between. Some of the science is of a good quality and some of it is poor quality or manipulated.
    But what wins the argument for the sceptics, is not a long and detailed rebuttal of the contents of the IPPC ARs, it is simply the statement that the planet hasn’t warmed up since ’98. Its simple, and it shows that we don’t have an urgent problem.
    If people challenge that and want into the details, fine, but most of the middle ground, the people who matter but aren’t really that interested in politics will be happy to know that it isn’t happening, and therefore there is no justification to try to “fix” the climate.

    • AndyL
      November 28, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      No, that simply shows that you don’t understand science or statistical analysis.

  5. shorelark
    November 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Did you mean to say “their british sense of entitlement”? Makes sense both ways though.

  6. silverminer
    November 24, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    The Cameroon Tory Party needs to be broken. They’re an embarrassment to the “Right” and making us a laughing stock never mind us laughing at the “Left”. Three cheeks of the same arse…

    Much as I don’t want to see Labour form another Government, a good drubbing for the Tories under Cameron might be enough to finish them off. Perhaps there then follows a mass defection of the better parts of the Conservative Party to the newly elected UKIP bridgehead in the Commons to become the official opposition under Farage as leader.

    Then, Labour in the hot seat during the total collapse of the Western banking system (now inevitable). UKIP Government elected in 2020 to take us out of the EU, re-make the financial system based on a system of credit money, not a debt ponzi scheme, and jail a few bankers, war criminals and paedophile politicians for good measure.

    Could happen! Don’t spoil it for me 😀 !

    • Honey Badger
      November 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      All right thinking libertarians should pour into UKIP. Let’s mould the party in our own image. We don’t want handouts or hand-ups – we just want freedom.

  7. Simon Roberts
    November 25, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    There already are many excellent critiques of the left, highlighting their ridiculous wishful thinking and ignoring of inconvenient facts.

    The problem is that hardly anyone hears them because the media conspires to deny them oxygen.

    Any serious analysis of progressivism will never make it as far as the TV screens. The “right wingers” that do appear are either just statists of another colour like Toby Young, Tim Stanley, Douglas Murray etc. Occasionally you will see single-issue pundits like (the excellent) Christopher Booker but only to be held up as objects of ridicule.

    Farage is currently getting coverage because they haven’t worked out what UKIP is really about yet. Once they do, the gloves will come off.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, democracy can only work if the actions of government are accurately reported in the press. I don’t think there’s anyone left who would suggest that much is accurately reported – assuming that it ever was.

    Once we do away with the marxist dinosaur that is the BBC, the remaining old media will continue its current slow death. We’ll have internet-only reporting – i.e. anyone with a PC can attract a following according to the quality of their work.

    Technology will set us free (as long as we can keep the government away from the internet).

    • Russell Taylor
      November 25, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Well, precisely. The mainstream media denies exposure to proper right-wing views, preferring to present anyone who deviates from the liberal consensus as a kook. It doesn’t help that a lot of so-called right-winger insist on playing the game on the Left’s terms. They spend too much time arguing from a statist perspective, which tacitly reinforces the validity of leftist ideas.

      Farage generally avoids this trap. He doesn’t apologise for what he believes because he doesn’t accept the Left’s definitions or right and wrong. If someone on the Right says something that contravenes the holy sacrament of equality, for instance, the media is up in arms. But if the ‘offender’ is truly of the Right, he should simply shrug and say that he doesn’t think equality is important, then go on to explain why. Sadly, we have allowed ideas like equality to become the stuff of common sense. This prompts outrage when equality is not forthcoming, giving the impression of us living in an unjust society, which only a liberal-left government is fit to remedy.

      • Honey Badger
        November 25, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

        I agree with your sentiments entirely. We need to get organised. We need to extinguish all socialist ideas with the weight of rational and informed debate.

        Maybe the example of France will help? Or the Obamacare car crash? Or the complete implosion of our welfare state due to a buyers’ strike for UK Gilts?

        Whatever it is, I hpoe it comes soon.

        If you are receiving this boradcast … you are the resistance!

      • kevinsmith2013
        November 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

        I did find the Godfrey Bloom incident quite disappointing, and in the case of Farage quite surprising. Okay maybe what he said was a little off-colour, but that was no excuse for UKIP to play straight into the hands of the liberal left loonies. He made a comment to someone who wasn’t offended, he apologised for any offence caused, case closed.
        Except it wasn’t, the left had yet another field day, and decided they would be offended on behalf of the “victims”, against yet another vile closet UKIP racsist/sexist/misogynist/bigot (delete as necessary).

        Farage and the leadership should have just come out and said “he’s apologised”, nothing further whatsoever to add.

        As Russell (and dr) has suggested elsewhere, we need to stop trying to argue on their terms, we can’t win on their home ground, where no-one cares about outmoded principles like the truth or facts.

  8. AndyL
    November 26, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    Welll, as someone a little to the left of you guys, I find this talk of ‘truth and facts’ bemusing: A scan through all of these posts reveals not one truth, not one fact. Just conjecture! Oh OK, Hitler was a vegetarian; agreed.

    The freedoms you ask for would create constant economic instability; anarchy. What you advocate is akin to pushing past an 85 year old on their doorstep to take their money from under the mattress and then doing it again the following week and so on:

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/525240/20131126/energy-uk-big-six-ofgem-profits-fuel.htm

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/outlook-surely-this-cant-pass-without-a-breakup-8963341.html

    What you wish to have would only benefit a very small minority and does not benefit the 20 million + workers in this Country or, more to the point, businesses. You are anti-business. It all comes down to where we draw the line with regards fraud and anti-competitiveness.

    Russell’s post is nevertheless a good read and DR’s first response is spot on.

    However, the Tory Left chase badgers and lose votes….

    I can see your problem.

    One question: If you cut spending and cut tax, how do you continue to fund the annual £144bn pension bill? (thought I should throw in a fact!)

  9. silverminer
    November 27, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I think Bloom was deliberately hounded out by the media because he got a bit too close to exposing the banking fraud:-

    Farage had no choice but to reluctantly expel him as he wouldn’t bite his tongue and so was proving a total distraction to the UKIP message. Very unfortunate.

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