There’s not much that’s more entertaining than to cast your eye over Facebook each morning and come across the latest spate of drama that’s kicking off between local councillors and their followers.
Pretty much every day, you can guarantee that somewhere on your newsfeed there will be one side or another posting opaque, and sometimes not so opaques digs at the other side. You can read the comments over a cup of tea, and note how much more extreme each post gets. The more extreme, the more comments. The more comments, the more entertainment. I’m assuming that’s the point? Entertainment?
In general terms, you’ve got yer “right”, and you’ve got yer “left”. Diametrically opposed, extremely angry, and doing a great job of winding each other right up.
The trouble with this, is that the idea of what constitutes right and left is clearly pretty skewed. There is the left column, supportive of all things considered left and progressive. There is the right column, supporters of all things considered conservative. Dare step out of your column, and the lions will eat you, lions from both sides.
There is an episode of South Park where Strong Woman takes part in the Strong Woman contest as reigning champion. Her ex-boyfriend, full of revenge, enters the contest, having identified two weeks earlier as a woman, calling himself Heather. Strong Woman accepts this. She has to. She’s the partner of PC Principal, and mother of the PC babies. She’s as PC as you can possibly get. Heather is moustached, muscular, and dressed as cowboy. He kicks the unholy crap out of the other contestants, lifts heavier weights. Is faster, stronger, bigger. Invariably he wins the contest, and Strong Woman is relegated to second place, which she accepts, because suddenly, she finds she’s painted herself into a bit of a corner. The episode concludes with both she and PC Principal accepting that there are nuances and there is no way that a one size fits all opinion can possibly be in any way sensible.
Nuance. Remember that? Two sides to every coin. Remember that? Respect. Remember that?
Social media has made it possible for people to press buttons and offend people. It’s become the new barrier, like a car, when a driver cuts you up and you swear almighty abuse at them, but if the same person accidentally walked into you in the street, you’d both apologise in a friendly, apologetic way. Online, you can find anyone, call anyone, watch anyone, and have opinions about anyone, which you can post freely online for everyone to see. Your whole personality, all your beliefs, all nuances of thought, everything, is on display for people to have an opinion about. If you veer from your column, you will get the shit kicked out of you by the “other side”.
I remember when Paul Dowson was running for councillor. We were chuffed. A normal person running for council? Great stuff. It doesn’t take much digging, or even any digging, to come across supportive messages to him from people who have now become his arch enemy. Dowson was one of those old faces that was always around. He’s rough around the edges, he says what he thinks. That’s why people were excited when he announced his candidacy. Somewhere along the line he’s lost his way. Maybe it’s the pressure of the job itself; once elected, it all becomes very boring, I’m sure.
Josh Beynon and his tiktok videos have also come under scrutiny. A funny one that. The people up in arms about those videos, calling them disgusting, are probably quite happy to watch young female popstars reveal themselves in much worse ways, but I take their point that when you’re a councillor, you should probably be a little more subtle in your public persona. It was a private account, but when you have enemies, you know that anything you do is going to come under scrutiny. And it’s probably better to keep your head down a a bit and be a bit less brazen. I’m pretty sure that most of the complaints about these videos are to do with homophobia, but there is such a thing as playing into the hands of your enemies.
I don’t want to offend either Josh or Paul. They are local boys that got involved in something that has now grown into a monster, and has certainly got way out of hand. This is how wars begin. You have two strong leaders, and you have followers. The followers will defend everything their leader does out of loyalty, and even when something isn’t quite right, you’ve already nailed your colours to the mast, and backtracking becomes difficult. It’s escalated into threats, on both sides. Unwanted phone calls and messages, on both sides. Threats, chaos, drama…. Endless complaints to police and the ombudsman, and everyone who is in the middle watching both sides, will be too afraid to say anything, and keep a respectable silence.
Paul stated on his Facebook last night that public office isn’t for the faint hearted. Tell me about it. Try being the Wales officer for Galloway’s party, a man so full of nuance that he manages to offend everyone, while at the same time gaining support from people who understand the nuances that he references. But what I see unfolding in Pembs right now doesn’t seem to be anything to do with public office, more to do with each side doing everything the can to wind the other side up. I’m sure that they both have supporters that have acted in ways that they don’t like, but as they have split into two very clear teams, then everyone has to keep their mouths shut and allow the situation to escalate.
Both these guys are products of their time. Dowson is the ubiquitous Pembs 80s geezer. Jokes about women and gays, because that’s the culture in which he grew up. It’s prevalent locally among a certain age group who grew up on comedy that was not PC, A world of where Jim Davidson was considered funny. It’s all changed very recently. Frankie Boyle wasn’t that long ago.
Beynon is young. He grew up in the modern world of social media. He does TikTok vids because they’re his culture. It’s easy to look on as an old ‘un and feel that what he’s doing isn’t his finest hour, but most of the rest of the council think tiktok is the sound an old clock makes. It’s a different world.
A friend’s daughter told her dad the other day that the kids in her year are all “coming out” as various things, bisexual, pansexual, trans, etc. These kids are 13 years old. That freaks me out a bit. One, they’re too young to be thinking such things, to my mind. And secondly, it seems that this is merely becoming a fashion, and goes no way to addressing the real problems of people who are genuinely trans or bisexual or whatever. What happened to these things being personal? What liberal hell is this? But as I often come across as someone who is the in the “left” column, if I dare to state these opinions I will be lynched by people I’ve known for years telling me that they’re “disappointed” in me for thinking such things. Like their disappointment means I have been a bad citizen.. that I am suddenly a right-wing devil, negating everything I have ever stood for that they agreed with me about. This is the problem when you insist on living in columns, attacking anyone who dares to step outside the box.
The elections are in May. There is nothing stopping anyone running as a candidate. But remember, if you get in, the point is to work for your ward, and serve the people. It’s about being discreet and respectful. It’s about understanding nuance, and accepting that being in a responsible position is just that. It doesn’t mean that you have to become a saint. It doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to a term of keeping your mouth shut. People usually get voted in because they have things to say, and people want those things to be said. People are looking for champions, for leaders, for guidance, for help making their lives better. Just because Josh made some videos, doesn’t mean he’s all the vile things that he gets called. He’s a young lad who does good stuff for his community with energy. I also remember when Dowsy started all this council stuff. He was dead keen. It was all about bins and helping his crew. What happened?
I had to write this as a blog, otherwise I’d have been too tempted to comment on one of the many crazy posts I’ve seen, which is fruitless, because it takes something this long to discuss the nuance, otherwise people assume you mean something, and they pile on. I’m trying not to add to the hysteria, some will read this, and some won’t. It’s a choice. It won’t be pushed into someone’s eyeline for anyone to knee jerk against. And if you’ve got this far without losing patience, then fair play. I lose my patience all the time when I see stuff online, and sometimes I’m as guilty as others at making what I think is a reasonable enough remark and then having people tear it to pieces, either through lack of nuance, or because they plain old disagree.
Without social media, we’d still be relying on the mainstream press to bring us news, and we all know how unreliable that is. But social media also brings out the worst in people. It’s a fabulous tool. Essentially useful mainly for entertainment, and at the sharing of info to help each other. Why has it become a big bashing ground? Is that just human nature? To fight? Or is it just that’s it’s too entertaining to watch the car crashes and not be able to ignore the drama that’s going on, because it’s gossipy, because it’s fun for onlookers. That’s all very well, but it’s all very on-show, I think people can forget that. Talk about airing your dirty laundry in public.
Instead of the service social media could provide of all joining together as an oppressed mass of workers who have been taxed to death, held out the housing market, furloughed, hired and refired, forced into self employment, lost pensions, lied to by government, left to die on hospital beds, spent hours on doctor’s phone lines, had assets stripped by unscrupulous banks, lost business due to monopoly capitalism, cars taken away, homes repossessed, freedoms assaulted, free speech supressed, we argue the toss about distractions instead, and that’s just what the ruling class want. Why do you think they allow it to continue? They don’t want you knowing truths, but they know truths are hidden by cancel culture and culture wars. They know how the people will react. They know facts will get buried and people will become confused, scared and argumentative. They know the left, when arguing against fascism, will unironically want certain figures to be cancelled for their opinions. They know the people will use the resource to destroy each other. It’s working well.
There used to be signs up during the war – Careless talk costs lives. Chatter was kept to a minimum. No one wanted the enemy to know the thoughts of the campaign. Our enemy now is the ruling class, that keep us all chained to our places in society, allowing some to progress and others to not. Like a field full of horses – if there’s plenty of grass, the horses are chilled, amiable and happy. When there’s no grass and resources are limited and to be fought over, tensions occur. Tis is what’s happening. We are not each-others’ enemies. We are herd mates. There’s just not enough grass to go round. People can get pushed into becoming antagonistic when threatened. It’s human nature to pile onto a fight it seems. And it’s human nature to want to be entertained. Bread and circuses. They’ve provided this behaviour with the perfect habitat to exist. Social media. They knew what they were doing. And while we all spend our time with our popcorn watching, or with our vitriol, commenting – the ruling class are doing whatever they like to do, unnoticed, silently, and easily, because the truth has been lost, and no-one is watching.