Dear Deplorable, Love Libtard

Dear Deplorable,

Sometimes, when I am in the mood to expand my worldview, I follow people on Twitter whose views diverge from my own. It’s an attempt to get outside of my big, fat, liberal media bubble.

I thought you might appreciate that. But I was wrong.

You see, when your profile popped up on my timeline the other day, I thought: here’s someone whose thoughts I don’t hear at dinner parties very often. Your bio read:

“Voted for President Trump! Am NOT PC so if your feelings get hurt easy to (sic) bad. It’s why I block cry-baby liberals.”

The picture that goes with your account is of a middle-aged white woman with blonde hair. You’re smiling, but not in an unconditional, friendliness-for-all, Socialist kind of way. Definitely not like that.

Hmm, I thought. I wonder what kinds of experiences you have had and how they have shaped you into the non-cry-baby, un-PC, Trump-lover you are today. What, I wonder, would your bio have read before the era of Trump? And, also, are you a Russian bot?

I hit follow.

Not long afterwards, you wrote me this succinct note, and blocked me before I could reply.

deplorable

 

If you had allowed me a few moments of grace, I would have asked you to clarify what you meant by:

“Go in your country” – back you mean? Go back to my country? To Ireland from Germany? Hmm, well, I could I suppose. But the thing is, the European Union has this thing called Freedom of Movement, which makes it legal to live and work in other EU countries. Kind of the way you’re free to move from one American state to another, except in our case, we can cross national borders legally. Crazy, huh?

Or maybe you were under the impression that I live in the United States? I don’t. I’ve visited a few times, but that’s it. So don’t worry. I’m not planning any type of liberal invasion. Phew! You can sleep easy!

“We just had another terrorist attack.” I think you were referring to the terrible attack in New York on Halloween, which left eight people dead. But there were many other terrifying incidents of recent gun violence you could be referring to. Perhaps terrorism is less scary for you when the attacker has the same background and skin color as you do? It would have been nice of you to clarify.

“Yes, enjoy your Muzzies.” – What are “Muzzies?” Is it slang for muzzles? An ironic comment on being muzzled by the politically-correct fake news media? Or are you actually referring to Muslim people? If so, I don’t really know what you mean when you say enjoy. Perhaps I might have found out if you’d let me follow you. Alas though, I’ve been Muzzied from doing so.

Anyway, I’d better get back to my bubble. It was a silly idea to try and break out.

Have a nice day!

Lots of love,

Libtard

xxx

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Why our politicians’ private lives matter

At the G20 summit last November, Obama and then French president, Sarkozy, were having a chat. The Israeli Prime Minister came up in conversation.

“I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar”, said Sarkozy, to which Obama replied, “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day!”

The problem with the conversation was that their mikes were on. A couple of journalists heard the whole thing. Instead of rushing to their editor with their enormous scoop, they stayed quiet in the belief that this was a private conversation which would be damaging to report.

Nothing was said for a few days until the French website Arret sur Images published their remarks. As soon as international journalists got wind of the interchange, it went global and the mainstream French media reported it too.

image source: privateinvestigations.blogspot.at

The media treatment of the exchange triggered an important discussion: what matters to the public and what doesn’t and how entwined are the public and private lives of our politicians?

In all walks of life, the idea that our private and professional selves are separate entities is a myth. Our behaviour might differ from one situation to another but our values do not.

Research suggests that people vote for politicians based more on their personalities than on their policies. They do so in the reasonable belief that the two are unlikely to be widely removed from each other.

Political decisions, like any other are made on the spur of the moment, and under the influence of powerful personalities. If your leader is more eager to be liked than to do what’s right, it matters. If they are impulsive or inexpressive or icy, it will affect their governance. Personality counts.

Since it’s the first responsibility of a politician to act on their values, their behaviour outside of work cannot be logically divorced from the decisions they make on the job.

Take for example Dominique Strauss Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund. Notwithstanding the allegations of sexual harassment against him, which have been well-documented by the media, he’s admitted to several affairs and to attending lavish parties featuring naked girls, who may or may not have been prostitutes. Strauss Kahn chose the institution of marriage and failed to live up to its requirements. Assuming that values do not change fundamentally from one situation to the other, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to question his commitment to other institutions, such as the IMF and the state of France, to which he also pledged allegiance.

Whether or not such speculation is justified, the more we learn about the kinds of people our politicians are outside of work, the more sophisticated our interpretations of their motivations and performance become.

While some might suggest that such a hunger for private lives only encourages the cultivation of a “public” personality, to assume that this wasn’t already the case would be naive. Furthermore, the challenge for journalists is to convey the personality of a politician as it is, not necessarily as he or she would like it to be.

The media have a choice to make between objectifying and subjectifying. Objectifying is talking about Hillary Clinton’s bum, while subjectifying is telling us how her mouth twitched when her daughter failed a maths test.

The future of journalism is uncertain: the overwhelming speed at which news now travels has eliminated much of what the job used to entail.

There is a new opportunity though and it requires us to slow down, to reflect and to write with insight rather than haste.

Demanding of our journalists to be emotionally astute as well as politically sharp will lead to a more complex picture of what is anything but a straightforward job: making decisions that affect millions of lives and the future of our planet.

Journalism may sustain its integrity into the future by maintaining a fine balance between the personal and the political. When it comes to reporting from the private realm, it must replace sensationalism with psychological realism.

It’s what’s missing in the constantly updated, hyper-evolving virtual media landscape.

Unless we begin to privilege the mundane everyday, politicians will stay “out of touch” with it, and the public will continue to see them as little more than worn out political machines; inanimate and inept.

So if Enda Kenny announces that he’s turned vegan, Eamonn Gilmore squabbles with his neighbour about the position of a garden fence or Joan Burton runs off with her secretary, I want to hear about it.

Enda’s National Address goes down a storm

Curled up in a blanket with a cup of camomile tea at 9.30 to watch Enda address the nation. Nice and cosy. The anticipation was killing me during the weather. I usually love watching Jean Byrne talk about unsettled conditions but it wasn’t her place today. Talk about stealing Enda’s thunder.

Got the three-day summary anyway and then – hurray – grim-faced Enda appeared in his red tie. He looked tiny in front of those enormous flags. Wonder how it feels to be on a wooden chair with the weight of the nation’s deficit upon you. Did anyone notice the upside-down glass? Talk about half empty. Not a drop. You’d think he’d have got thirsty addressing the nation for that long, but these are the times we’re living in. Silver quill on the desk made it all very official didn’t it? I swear he was looking me in the eye the whole time though. Wonder if everyone got that. Might be a Mona Lisa trick they teach you in the Dáil.

Anyway, he was very fluent. Don’t care if he had it all on a screen because he was looking me in the eye. Told me I wasn’t responsible for the crisis. Relieved. We’re spending 16 billion more than we’re taking in though. Not so good. Liked the way he said “Eamonn Gilmore and I” – best of friends. Said they’d imposed losses on some bondholders. He forgot to say which. Ah well, there was a lot to be said.

And then, last thing I expected, he thanked me! For my “courage, character and sense of responsibility”. Ah Jaysus Enda. It’s the least I can do. Any time. You’re doing fairly well yourself, with all your kite flying and addresses to the nation.

Might be because I’m an English teacher now but really noticed the Taoiseach’s emphatic ‘B’s and ‘P’s. The way he said that lower rate of interest on “Bborrowings” will save “ten Bbillion” in time and that we have to “Bbuild on those first steps” and how “Ppublic sector Ppay”’s been cut. Kind of charming.

Said a few times he wished he didn’t have to say this but he does. Ah, Enda.

In fairness, he didn’t shy away from the serious stuff. It’ll take years to recover, we remain fragile, change won’t come quickly enough for many people out of work.

And after all that, still with steely blue eyes directed at me he says: “I am VERY OPTIMISTIC”. He wants to make Ireland the best small country to do business, to raise a family and to grow old”. Good on ya, Endo. Yes we can. But rather you than me.

Oiche mhaith now, Taoiseach. And for God’s sake, have a sip of water. You must be parched.

For Enda’s back story, click here.

Enda's red (ad)dress

The Real Body Politic

24 August 2011-08-24

While rebels shoot victory bullets at artwork in Gadafffi’s compound, an exhausted doctor in Libya’s state hospital stitches a man’s head back together.

In America, Dominique Strauss Kahn’s lawyer reminds the world that the distinction between “inappropriate behaviour” and “crime” lies in the employment of physical force.

In London and its environs, the post-riot cleanup continues.

For all the pen-pushing, market speculating, fashion-conscious, nasal-gazing tendencies of modern politics, the source of power lies – and always has – in physical force. From the uprisings in the middle-east and the rioting in London, we recognise the cycle of destruction and re-construction that seems to be the driving force behind progress and reform.

In a civilised society, it’s easy to underestimate the extent to which stability relies on a combination of physical restraint and the threat of physical force. When things are running smoothly, the majority isn’t motivated to engage in violence, and those that are must consider that the authorities outnumber them in physical strength. The thief who underwent a citizen’s arrest in Grafton Street last Friday, had weighed up the options, and decided he would try to outrun his enemies. When they caught up with him, and employed considerable force to pin him down, he remembered that respect for physical boundaries is enshrined in our society’s moral make-up. With this in mind, he took his chances and yelled “ASSAULT, ASSAULT, ASSAULT”.

Some time ago I was researching phobias online. I stumbled across a forum of people who shared a fear of being physically attacked. Most of the advice pooled on the forum was rational but unhelpful: the chances of being the victim of an assault are slimmer than you imagine, always carry your keys in your hand and pretend to be on your mobile phone when walking home late etc One piece of advice struck a chord though. It said that no matter how terrifying your ordeal and no matter how bad the prospect of physical pain and psychological scarring, the chances are that you will survive it and the mere knowledge that you will prevail will alleviate the fear.

In Libya, with tanks and shells pelting through the streets, the prospects of survival are not so great. The wounded rebels, with blood streaming down their faces believe so much in a society ultimately governed by physical restraint and the threat of force that they are willing to sacrifice their own body for its cause.

Money affairs: DSK’s third wife spends day thinking.

Imagine you are Anne Sinclair, third wife of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. You’re sitting in a leather armchair in your Washington mansion, twiddling your thumbs. There’s nothing to do. Normally, in this situation, you’d write your blog Deux ou Trois choses vues d’Amerique. But, malheuresement, along with the rest of your activities, you wound that up too last May. Pity, you think. It had made the list of top 12 Political blogs in France. No mean feat, when you consider the myriad hopeful commentators polluting the blogosphere.

Sigh. You take out your ipad and find yourself googling Dominique. You read again his resignation statement -there’s sure to be a hard copy around somewhere – but let’s face it: such is the world we live in that it’s faster to find your husband’s press release online than in the hand-carved oak filing cabinet upstairs. You smile wryly when you get to the bit where he writes “I think at this time first of my wife—whom I love more than anything—of my children, of my family, of my friends.”

Men are like primitive women, you think. So impulsive, so fragile, so loveable. All the same, really. Well, the successful ones at least. You log into youtube and search for yourself this time. The top results: heartbreaking. You’ve gone from being a superstar journalist to a stoic wife. That’s what a few minutes of misdemeanour with a hotel maid can do to a thirteen-year career in television.

ABC News has compiled a clumsy profile of you– the facts swiped, you suspect, straight from your wikipedia page – and now two uninformed presenters are describing your marriage as that of a “Power couple”. Very original. Bloody Americans. The headline is pathetic too – you’re described as “the woman standing by her man”. They even get a French lady to say with pitiable enthusiasm “she was the number one journalist in France for a very long time”. Wonderful, insightful. That last part makes you just a little bit sad though, the ‘was’. Still, all good things come to an end.
And that bit about the French preferring you to Carla as first lady. That is true. The Telegraph report of the February poll opened “The former supermodel was heavily beaten by glamorous TV presenter Anne Sinclair”. So much for emancipation.

Such is mass media though- it condenses years to minutes in seconds. And don’t you, of all people know it. Still, it’s not like your career is everything. Didn’t you give it all up in 1997 anyway, when Dominique became finance minister and you quit TF1 to avoid conflict of interest?

Ha, conflict of interest. The stuff of affairs. Never have been too bothered by Dominique’s straying. He’s like a dog – always comes back, and there’s a comfortable power in knowing that he couldn’t live without you. Embarrassing though, always. Not personally embarrassing of course– your self-esteem is higher than that – but it’s a bother playing supportive wife all the time. You’re a lot more. You’re his best friend, and a best-selling author. And you won the Sept d’Or.

Besides, when it comes to scandals, you’ve seen it all before. The 500 odd people of note you’ve interviewed over the years have had their own remarkable scandals: Bill and Hillary Clinton – you spoke to them separately of course- the very image of successful marriage in spite of transgression. Madonna, Mitterand, Sarcozy, Gorbachev, Kohl, Schroeder… the list goes on. And of course – how could you forget – Prince Charles; the least likely of seducers but one of the more refreshing to interview, with his hoity Britishness and attempts at polished French.

Of course, over the years some of your intimate friends tentatively suggested leaving Dominique, especially after the affair with Piroska Nagy. But they don’t understand. You are no fool. You knew the man you married. You were his third wife; he your second husband. Sexual fidelity was not high on your list of priorities. He seduced you like he seduced the others. You’re not naïve enough to think otherwise but the respect he has for you is not corporal – he respects your mind, and he knows that your loyalty makes its own demands.

Still, you cannot bear to think of her, that maid. You’ve seen her desperate interview, how could you not have? The bit that makes you shiver is near the beginning. It’s when she says “he come to me and cup my breasts no you don’t have to be sorry”. You can see it, vividly. Your husband. And that maid.

Her broken English, “he won’t say nothing”, “I never see him before”, “they gonna kill me before someone knows what happened to me”. They ring in your ears, those words. First you feel rage, then contempt and finally immense, unbearable guilt, as you look around your expansive, ornate surroundings.

You can’t help being surprised though – in your capacity as a journalist – that more isn’t being made of the occurrence of the sexual encounter in the first place, which is undisputed. Sure, in France the media is liberated from petty feminist cries. But maybe now the rest of the world has woken up to it too: marital fidelity plays no part in public affairs.

Something has triggered a quotation in your mind though. An unpleasant neural connection has occurred. What rushes to mind just now is something your husband said in the “Inside Job” TV documentary about the financial crisis last year. Just the little, unarguable fact that “At the end of the day, the poorest – as always – pay the most”. Nothing more.

She doesn’t have a hope in hell- that immigrant who has been intimate with your husband. But she has inflicted upon you the gravest injury of all – the indignity of being pitied. You close down your ipad, and rise stiffly from your leather chair to make yourself, and Dominique a cup of tea. You’re getting too old for this.

The Which Blair Project

 In matters of business and politics I share the bewilderment of E.M. Forster’s character Mrs Wilcox, who asks, “Why do people who have enough money try to get more money?” and claims that she is “sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.”

Mrs Wilcox’s desire to understand motivation and personal responsibility in business and politics is less naïve and unsophisticated than is suggested by the author of Howards End. As Tony Blair releases his aptly-named “A Journey”, the spotlight is cast firmly toward the mind and away from the body politic.

As if Tony Blair’s premiership has retrospectively been subjected to a magnifying glass of the mundane, the rubber gloves of the Queen and half bottle of wine before bed, as well as the bickering with Brown become intimately linked to revelations about WMD, sexed up dossiers and the ban on fox hunting.  

The documentation of conflict between the public and private self has existed for centuries if not millennia and semblance of their successful co-existence remains the hallmark of a media savvy politician. President Obama courted the idea of a blurred distinction between public and private as he invited the world to accompany him in his choice of the perfect puppy to install in the White House and his wife as she watered the patches of her organic vegetable garden. The habit of familiarity backfired however when he referred in an interview to his bowling skills as akin to those of competitors in the Special Olympics. It was a particularly poignant moment for those of us who had believed that Obama struck a rare balance between the public and the private. But oh how we relish the untoward entry of private mumblings into the public sphere! When a stressed Gordan Brown entered into his car during the election trail and muttered that a supporter he had just encountered was a “bigoted woman”, reporters on the scene became breathless with excitement.

While Blair succeeds in couching his public performance in a language of (albeit formal) familiarity, Brown, whom Blair accuses of having “zero” emotional intelligence does not. Emotional intelligence should not however be mistaken for empathy; particularly not in a political context. One suspects that when David Cameron lost a child, Brown’s move to cancel Prime Minister’s Questions  was motivated by no more than the indiscriminate sympathy of one who has endured a tragedy for another that now encounters it. Empathy is unbridled; emotional intelligence stores up for release the cleverly latent bi-product of self-preservation. Blair’s memoirs are an expression of emotional intelligence. Battling against his branding as war criminal, he fights for his name by supplying details of intimate conversations and personal weaknesses. 

Curiosity has got the better of me and though I share Mrs Wilcox’s self-consciously confused conclusions about the world, I should not mind taking a gander to Easons with her this Saturday to catch a single glimpse of the man’s many faces.