I’ve never written a response to a Gaby Hinsliff column before. I’ve never felt the need. In much the same way that I’ve never written an online review of sliced bread or an essay about cardboard. It’s…there, I suppose, and it does a job, but it’s hardly worth getting excited about.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi
The Manchester bombing was “let happen” by MI5 because of the Conservative party’s disastrous dip in the polls. That was the theory tweeted by Rufus Hound, a comedian. As theories go, and it is still just a theory at this early stage, it’s not at all outlandish. History is full of precedents of power structures making people believe they are under threat in order to secure their position. As Hound succinctly put it, #Reichstagfire.
The bombing, whether real or staged or allowed to happen or planned by MI5, will allow May to talk about strength and stability some more, allow the Tory’s to attack Corbyn on the grounds of being “soft on terrorism”, and distract everyone from the conservative plans to sell everything in the country that isn’t nailed down, arrest anyone that isn’t a member of a golf club, and levy hefty taxes on bedsits, old-age and despair.
If you find yourself reading this and thinking, “Well, I guess that’s possible,” I have some bad news for you: You are a dangerous, delusional moron.
At least, according to Gaby Hinsliff.
Mr Hound posited a theory, one with which Ms Hinsliff disagrees. In a rational world what would follow is a balanced exchange of ideas. Rhetoric, debate, discourse. These are the tools that make a society great, right?
Instead we get roughly 2000 words of insults, innuendo and fallacy. Her defence of Theresa May’s morality is a wondrous example of double-think:
This isn’t just silliness crowned with ill-judged Nazi references. It’s using a public platform to baselessly suggest that loved ones could be alive today had the Tories not been desperate to win an election. Before eventually apologising and deleting the exchange, Hound explained that “I struggle believing our establishment is incapable of great evil” – as if one comedian’s struggle with his own addled beliefs was reason enough to allege complicity in mass murder.
Clearly facts are too burdensome to carry when storming uphill to capture moral high ground, because Hinsliff seems to forget: May’s “complicity” in mass murder does not need to be “alleged”. It is an historical fact.
As an MP, May supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.The final count on the number of dead Iraqi children as a result of that war is still unclear, however most reasonable estimates put it somewhere north of 22. Likewise Libyan children. And Afghan children. And Syrian children. In fact, Theresa May has actually never once voted AGAINST military intervention of any kind.
Theresa May is absolutely FINE with blowing up children, and has never given us any reason think she sees our children as more precious than their children. That Hinsliff can so easily, comfortably, make that distinction says more about her own mind than anything else.
Even if you buy into the (vaguely racist) assumed distinction between children born in Baghdad and children born in Manchester, any defence of May’s morality – or the morality of the conservative party as a whole – begins and ends with their domestic policies. People have died after being deemed “fit for work”. Old, sick, disabled, injured people are denied care and security, while £350 billion pounds is spent on a machine for setting the world on fire.
Any argument based on the assumed morality of power structures is illogical, an example of what they call the Divine Fallacy or the argument to incredulity. An argument based on the morality of this Tory government? That is nothing short of absurd.
Her vaguely directed bile would carry more weight (maybe) if she could at least demonstrate she had even the slightest idea what she was talking about:
Social media is littered with amateur “truthers” who once watched a YouTube video about Noam Chomsky’s theory of false flags, and now see conspiracies lurking under every bed.
I’m not sure what a “professional” truther would be, aren’t all people naturally inclined to want to know the truth? That said, even the most cursory of google searches would have taught her that Noam Chomsky’s “theory of false flags” is that “they don’t really happen and even if they do who cares”.
I realise that, as a journalist, Ms Hinsliff is imbued with a natural contempt for the truth, and I understand that writing a column without researching your ideas is much, much easier, but it’s hardly right she should flaunt it. At least a passing a veneer of competence would make the Guardian’s (increasingly desperate) pleas for money so much more effective.
Bizarrely, she is so incredibly bad at making her argument, she accidentally makes the opposite case:
It’s not unreasonable to think an election fought in the shadow of a terrorist threat could help the traditional party of law and order, and the state did collude with paramilitaries in Northern Ireland; besides, the government’s emergency Cobra committee meets in secret, so can anyone outside the room really know what happened?
This paragraph is just delightfully odd, it seems to be heading towards a “BUT” that never arrives. Hinsliff lays out all the (perfectly reasonable) logic behind suspecting government involvement, and then just leaves an ellipsis on the end, hoping we can come to the “right” conclusions all on our own.
The equivalent of a defense attorney, at a murder trial, beginning his final statement to the jury with:
“Yes, obviously, my client had every reason in the world to want the victim dead, and yes, he has undeniably killed people before. And, true, he can’t account for his whereabouts on the night in question.”
…and then just sitting down without another word.
Apparently, when Hinsliff writes about “reversing the burden of proof”, she means she’s going to start proving herself wrong and saving everybody else the trouble. Very considerate of her.
“But where is all this going?”, you might ask. What, indeed, is her point?
Like mushrooms, conspiracy theories grow in the dark. But mushrooms also need manure, which is where social media comes in.
There it is. Beneath all the rambling about Diana, and the Moon Landings, and Noah Pozner, what we have here is yet another attack on the internet, and the ability of people who lack the “journalistic and regulatory processes” of the mainstream media to say things with which Ms Hinsliff (and her colleagues) are paid to disagree.
The internet’s magical power – that by expanding social circles to millions worldwide it allows the like-minded to find each other, however esoteric their interests – is also its sickness. There is no belief so repellent that it cannot find an echo somewhere online, and feel normalised….Paedophiles are emboldened to learn just how many others secretly fantasise about sex with children, leading one another on to ever more violent obscenities.
This not-so-subtle concomitance of paedohilia and anti-establishment political ideals aside, this is at last an honest expression of a justly held fear. The internet is a threat – as an open network of person-to-person communication, it really sticks in the media’s collective craw. As such, it is blamed and bad mouthed at every corner.
That’s not to say that Rufus Hound was right or wrong. I’m not writing in defence of conspiracy theories per se. Maybe every conspiracy theory is wrong. Maybe Oswald was guilty as hell and physics stopped working on 9/11. Or maybe John Lennon is still alive and Stanley Kubrick directed the moon landings. It’s immaterial. This goes beyond that. This is about free speech, and the right to be wrong.
Unless we stand up for each other’s right to hold, and express opinions – even wrong opinions – then no opinions will ever be safe. Because when they clamp-down on the internet, it won’t be truth that decides what stays and what goes, but political convenience, and unless we defend all of it, none of it is safe.
In the past few months the internet’s lack of regulation has been blamed for Clinton’s loss of the election, for Russia’s “spreading influence” and for the proliferation of “fake news”.
In the past week alone, the Guardian have been running articles on Facebook’s lack of moderation. How they promote child abuse, misogyny and holocaust denial. Already Theresa May has called on tech companies to “do more” to combat online extremism.
They blame it for paedophilia, terrorism, sexism, racism. Drugs are dealt, threats are issued, abuse hurled. The internet is a playground, as David Thorne said, but apparently it’s one of those rusty, graffiti-ridden playgrounds where nice kids shouldn’t go. Tear it down. Pave it over.
Cure society’s ills by making it smaller, more isolated and much, much easier to control.
Maybe I’m just getting middle-aged. But there are weeks when [arguing with conspiracy theorists] seems an inordinately high price to pay for a convenient means of swapping gossip and cat videos.
Isn’t free speech difficult? Isn’t it all just so much hassle? Wouldn’t it be SO much easier if we could just stomp it all out? Yes, obviously, fewer cat videos would be a shame, but think of the benefits – a nice safe world, full of nice safe pre-approved thoughts. That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
This sentence does more than give us a fleeting glimpse at the author’s complete lack of imagination, it shows…again…where the establishment’s crosshairs are trained. And it’s on us. At OffGuardian and the hundreds of sites like us. At the minor celebrities tweeting reasonable (but forbidden) thoughts to groups of followers “more than double the circulation of a national broadsheet newspaper”. We’re all talking to each to other now, bypassing the established and approved lines of communication.
And it’s causing no end of trouble.