Straining at gnats

I was white van man once. Well sort of. Back in 1984 I bought a Vauxhall Chevanne from an electrician friend. I am no workman, and I cannot explain why I thought that this vehicle was an ideal family automobile – but at the time it suited my purposes. Yes, it was white. It transported me to football games, it transported my wife and I plus infant son to Wales on holiday. We did the shopping in it. White man, white van, in Essex – moi.

There have been two stories about the world of micro-blogging recently that offer a cautionary lesson to the Left. Both @EmilyThornberry and @MsJackMonroe have seen themselves at the centre of storms which leaves me wondering.

The Islington South and Finsbury MP posted three images from Rochester, the second of which was of a house with a large white van outside and three England flags on display (although one of these was really a West Ham United flag – which made me wonder if supporting your country is so important, why not your local team, Gillingham FC?) The accompanying text read: Image from #Rochester

I will be honest, I struggle to comprehend how this offended. However, I do understand that in some eyes it was seen as a commentary on white van man by a member of the metropolitan elite. Making such judgements about someone from Islington also displays snobbery – being judgemental about someone perceived as judgemental. She apologised, and in what I see a gross overreaction has resigned from Labour’s front bench.

The austerity chef wrote: Because he uses stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling our NHS to his friends: #CameronMustGo

I guess, in both cases, in comes down to perspective; those on the Right, some anyway, will be outraged. I have no knowledge as to whether Mr Cameron has even heard of Ms Monroe, let alone read the tweet. If he is personally offended then Ms Monroe should apologise. However, I am bewildered as to why some of those offended feel the need to be even more offensive in response.

There is often a blurred line that separates legitimate political comment from personal attack. For me a simple test is whether a politician uses their personal life for political purposes, for if they do then that aspect must be subject to critique.

I tweet, and am aware that being limited to 140 characters hardly allows a proper analysis of any argument. I live in fear of typos; as anyone who reads my emails will attest I am a poor typist. I dread the day that my clumsy fingers leave me causing some offence. Twitter is not the medium for serious debate, although it provides links to places that are. It is a reflection of our sound-bite age that Twitter is often the go-to resource for the latest news and opinion. Being short and snappy has its advantages; it is also the place for online pratfalls.

The lesson, as far as I can see, lies less with what was written and more in the medium; less with the tweet, more with the response. One hundred and forty characters allows little room for subtlety or considered argument, but gives much scope for misinterpretation.

Advertisements

One Response to Straining at gnats

  1. I will be honest, I struggle to comprehend how this offended. However, I do understand that in some eyes it was seen as a commentary on white van man by a member of the metropolitan elite. Making such judgements about someone from Islington also displays snobbery – being judgemental about someone perceived as judgemental.

    Agreed, but there is a “Labour elite”, partly at party headquarters and partly in the offices (or VPN nodes) of certain newspapers. They are terrified of “causing offence”.

    – Someone expressed bigoted views to you in front of the cameras and you wimp out of saying anything – you condemn the views but not necessarily the viewer.
    – Someone post a picture of what might be thought of as a stereotypical “labour area” and you push the twitter out as “snobbish” – what is wrong with pointing out that in Strood there are areas that might be thought of as places where you may find support?
    – A rather silly contributor on a TV programme makes a rather silly remark about the cost of garages in London and you freeze for fear of being thought “offensive” if you gently point out how silly she is – what is wrong with defending you policy (even if it is a LibDem re-tread)?

    All this says a lot about that “Labour elite”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: