I remember when the TV series Grange Hill hit UK TV screens in 1978. The series caused controversy for its true-to-life, gritty portrayal of UK comprehensive school life, which differed from the idealised depictions of earlier such programmes.
It got a right caning, and people wanted it banned and canned, but it stayed the course for 30 years, raising a whole gamut of predicaments that would otherwise have remained taboo.
42 years later, and UK society needs to get back to school. Far from getting stuck into the toughest of clusterfudges, we seem to have developed a penchant for closing down debates at the earliest opportunity.
We’ve gone from Grange Hill to Cringe Hell. I’m wincing at the truly nasty stuff around the corner.
Take these examples that illustrate the point.
In recent weeks, the recorded interviews of the broadcaster, David Icke, have been taken down from YouTube. Now, Icke is an ‘out there’ conspiracy theorist who claims that humongous, blood-guzzling, shape-shifting, reptilian humanoids from the Alpha Draconis star system, secreted in underground bases, are the leaders of a conspiracy against humanity. He also propagates the theory that 5g masts caused coronavirus among a shed load of other alternative takes on the world, but so what? That’s his opinion.
It’s furthermore pretty harsh to take down video posts – it’s hardly an intrusive medium. People can simply choose not to click on them. Even if they do so accidentally, there’s no vulgarity or offensive content. Just a guy with ideas being interviewed.
Now, the broadcaster Eamonn Holmes is being investigated by regulators for his coverage of the 5g theory. He’s been abundantly clear that he doesn’t believe it himself and has clearly stated that the nutters burning them down in acts of retribution (or salvation) are wholly in the wrong. He’s just criticising mainstream media for immediately slapping something down as not true when they’ve not set out the rationale that disproves it. And doubtless also because this kind of censorship contravenes freedom of speech. It’s clear that Icke’s material does not infringe the rights of others, so why not let them all make their cases and let people make up their own minds?
And therein lies the problem, which is what Mr Holmes is getting at. It’s elementary. When you have this type of censorship, anything can be pushed to one side. And at the moment, we have some really critical stuff going down.
So, back to our old bugbear, or bug-bearer, coronavirus
The author and broadcaster Peter Hitchens has for many weeks been asking the questions (and I paraphrase): Did we really need to lockdown and to kill the economy in order to address our bug issue? Where is the evidence-based rationale on which we based our plan?
His thoughts on this have been sidelined and when finally invited onto a TV news show, he was faced with some hectoring gob-on-a-stick and shouted down, while sharing a timeslot with 3 others who themselves were pushing the mainstream discourse. Now, that’s what I call marginalisation.
Last week, a Twitter user asked whether ‘NHS worship is going to be even more insufferable once this is done than it was before’. Now you can agree or disagree (over 3,100 ‘liked it’), but the tweeter copped a bucket-load. He was labelled ‘reprehensible’ and ‘disgusting’.
Yet his comments might just denote an opinion that the clapfornhs frenzy reflects groupthink bandwagon-jumping and a desire to be seen to be virtuous rather than expressing heartfelt gratitude. Whether you agree or not, it’s a valid alternative opinion.
In our post-fact world, you won’t be forgiven for deviating from the popular, party line and trying to cast a wider net for more data or fresh perspectives. Stifling debate will however ensure that lives will still be flushing down the tubes long after the virus has skipped town. That’s what abject poverty and eviscerated mental health do for you.
You’re in all probability familiar with the tendency in the business world to look down the wrong end of the telescope. The omnipotent, sub-psychotic CFO rants about essential and immediate cost-cutting which becomes the gospel. He’ll go straight to the cost line because that’s his bag. And then, with stomachs full of knee-jerky, everybody sleepwalks into an operation that is so cut to the bone that it cannot deliver essential services. And that’s the start of the beef that will take you down. Meanwhile, the CFO is screaming himself into an apoplectic rage that his staff can’t milk the cow that’s already been stun-bolted on his own orders.
Fast-forward to the Government scratching its collective head over the pulverised economy in a few months’ time. You’ll be hearing the terms ‘inevitable’ and ‘unavoidable’ a whole heap, but never was that less true.
Long-term, sustainable success gets cranked out from process-driven solutions – not through blunt intervention based on emotion, preference, and tunnel vision.
The lesson is that the only way out of coronachaos will be a return to the facts and some open minds.
Before the bell goes.