Jack Wharton condemns the partisan misuse of language that distorts political debate
Our society is broken. That’s the unfortunate conclusion I’ve reached after observing the last week or two of our polluted political debate. In this country, rather than serious, considered and nuanced discourse, we have catchphrase politics where applause-monkeys make a living by craftily deploying utterly meaningless buzzwords and phrases, in order to garner a favourable reaction.
There is no worse offender than Medhi Hasan. In Medhi-Land, the US debt ceiling issue shows the ‘fallibility’ of the American political system, not the failings of an economic and political ideology which, having borrowed $17 trillion, is pathologically attached to borrowing even more. This man is the personification of all that is wrong in the British public sphere, trivialising even the most important and serious subject matter. But it is the language used by Hasan and his comrades that is truly destructive.
Anathema to any libertarian is the socialist fall-back phrase – the holy grail of the absent minded left-wing chattering-class commentator – ‘the government needs to create more jobs.’ In this one sentence, basic economic logic is flung out of the window. Simultaneously and almost instantly, to the detriment of us all, the level of economic debate in Britain is reduced to a patronising slogan, and the majority of the British people are denied serious debate about the true nature of labour markets and job creation.
Coming in a close second, and a real indictment of contemporary left-wing thinking, the buzzword ‘support’ has taken on a dangerous and subversive meaning. ‘We need to support, not punish, young people,’ emoted a stereotypical recent Question Time panelist. For those of you who do not speak the Labour Party’s language, I shall translate: ‘The Government needs to spend more money.’ The source of this increased revenue is given little consideration.
But perhaps even worse than that, at around the same time, we learnt the perilous condition of British state education, ranking 21st and 22nd out of 24 countries for literacy and numeracy skills respectively; in the only major developed country where school-leavers have lower levels of basic skills than their grandparents, the word ‘support’ has become utterly meaningless. Our young (mainly poor) people are being anything but supported.
They are being cocooned in a virtual reality by a left-wing political elite that values an increase in the dole cheque above teaching our children how to read and write. For as long as our political discourse defines ever-higher benefits as the only way that young people can be ‘supported,’ our Dear Leaders can preside with impunity over policies that consign to the scrapheap both them and their aspirations for social mobility.
The perversion of our political discourse leaves young people destined for dependency. When a glimmer of hope appears, in the form of low-paid work, the Orwellian doublespeak of the Left rears its ugly head once more. That an influential member of British public life can appear on Sky News and explain how ‘it doesn’t pay for young people to take some jobs’ should be a national scandal.
We’re all aware of the perverse incentives created by the welfare state: but to see them justified on national news, and remain unchallenged, is a development that should worry us. But the fact that our politicians can so easily and readily overlook the beneficial effects of working on the lives of young people, regardless of the monetary value, should worry us even more.
The real culprit here is the Ministry of Truth, sorry, the BBC. Isolated from the cost pressures faced by the rest of the mainstream media, and thanks to its unholy reliance for its funding on state-backed coercion, the already mammoth scale and influence that the BBC commands is only going to grow. Our political discourse will, as a result, degrade even further. The BBC decided, a long time ago, that ‘balance’ means according two people, from opposite edges of one side of the same coin, the opportunity to tell lies.
The BBC is atrophied, and along with it, our political debate. A free press is supposed to be there to challenge, expose and harass politicians when they speak untruths. But the BBC, despite its staggering 8000 journalists far outnumbering all national print journalists combined, is not only incapable of doing this, but simultaneously uses its monopolistic status to crowd out commercially the smaller, more critical outlets to which this task could otherwise fall.
And it’s about this particular aspect of the pollution of political debate that we should perhaps be worried most of all.