There’s a lot of anger about at the moment. ‘Dominic Cummings has undermined the Government’s key messaging, and people will die’. That’s the gist of the populist line, and yes, the sublime irony is noted.
How about an alternative perspective: ‘The Government has ballsed up their strategy, policy, and messaging for the coronavirus response’.
I certainly believe that we’d dredge up a whole armada of facts and cogent arguments as rocket fuel for that one. In fact, you don’t really need to start plumbing the depths at all – it’s all there in plain sight. Now there’s a good basis on which to construct a stinging critique of Boris, Cummings, and the whole cabal. The failure to shield the vulnerable and the asphyxiation of the economy have led to unnecessary deaths and our emergence into a wasteland. Start lifting up those stones, and we’re cooking on gas.
But few have got down among those weeds. Our journalist friends are shrieking about numbers, which is akin to your crap colleague incessantly moaning that ‘it’s all crap’, rather than sharing insight into the how and why. Holding to people to account (which is the journo-mantra) necessitates a complex understanding of situations, their mechanics, and viable alternatives.
Just repetition of obviously perturbing numbers simply allows the governmental door to open on ‘inevitability’. ‘Look around the world, everybody’s in the same boat.’ Our journalists have largely failed to articulate why we are where we are and most crucially, where we ought to be and why. If they were able to manage that, we’d all be in a better and safer place. Though of course, dry facts don’t sell. Strong cases furthermore require expertise. You can see why account-holding doesn’t fly.
Lamentably for us, we’re placing our trust and confidence in the media more so than ever. During this crisis, our opposition parties have gone AWOL, to the extent that even redundant Church of England opportunists have now weighed in with a flaccid punt for congregation numbers. The British public has been abandoned to its fate, or at least the capabilities for the chosen few.
So, the only way for journalism to slide is via an indolent route 1 and a crucifixion of a symbol of government failure. And for a Brucie Bonus, he’s only the architect of Brexit as well. Kill two birds with one stone and harness the fury of the nation to deliver the prize. That’s going to see them all quids in.
But, if this is the worst dirt they can get on the guy, he really doesn’t deserve his Machiavellian moniker as some kind of evil genius. He’s not hijacking nuclear warheads and whizzing round on a monorail in a hollowed-out volcano.
If you’re incandescent at ‘law-breaking’, at ‘one rule for some’ etc, and at blatant two-finger salutes at us all, who can blame you? But none of that has happened – that’s the narrative that has been whipped up for our consumption and had been embedded before the chap had settled down for his first words in the rose garden.
Many have swallowed that hook-line-and-sinker, but others are angry at themselves as the majority who voted in this gang on the back of an ‘anything but Corbyn and Swinson’ mentality. They shouldn’t be too hard on themselves. Had either of those bandits got in, the Government response would have been either a series of megaphone-powered rallies or a sea of sarcastic pseudo-feminist memes.
Pandemic afoot, the least competent political class for generations cobbled together a law that is piecemeal and failed to cover what they wanted to achieve. So, they carried on and blustered through with their spoofed-up ‘guidance’ and unenforceable ‘instructions’. Psychologically buttressed grey became the new black that they hoped you’d follow as a substitute for the clarity they could never hope to get off the ground.
And follow it, most of us did. With enough fear of the unknown and perilous risk floated out there, most were always going to play it safe. Grow enough collective responsibility, and moral indignation at transgressions will police the nation.
Badda-bing, badda-boom. And Neanderthal obstinacy aside, it’s generally worked in terms of adherence.
Of course, we all had to take a call at some stage on what merited a ‘reasonable excuse’, and that is what tips one into illegality or keeps one in the clear. If DC had been tugged at the time, the Old Bill would have considered it and taken a view, either allowing him on his way with a ticket, some advice, or a cheery smile. One of those three. That’s how policing works in the community.
So, is it all really worth all this time and effort retrospectively to examine that test of reasonableness 6-8 weeks down the line in relation to one person, whatever the findings? And does this trump current public health and economic concerns? Is it truly in the public interest? He may or may not have misjudged ‘reasonable’. I would hazard a guess that millions did make errors though the messaging worked because the vast majority played it absolutely safe.
The law places the responsibility for exercising that judgement with the individual. When it came to make a choice and interpreting what the guidance or ‘reasonable excuse’ meant, they made their choice. As long as they are content with their reasoning, well done. Whether Cummings was right or wrong is not their concern at all. Many will have exercised their discretion during the lockdown in order to address emergencies or effectively manage the peculiarities of their own circumstances. In doing so, one man’s meat will be another man’s poison.
Over and above the anger of those who have swallowed the spin will be the anger of those who failed to act because they were not prepared to exercise their judgement. For some, this will have been at significant personal cost.
In summary, we could choose to act or to not act.
But to project any hindsight-powered anger onto an easy target demeans us. Don’t be the person who gets a speeding ticket and then blames the cops. Blame the Government for the shoddy policies and laws or blame yourselves for your own reticence. You can even blame Mr Cummings for some of it but do so for the right reasons. The current post-fact witch hunt is unedifying.
Yes, more people will die because the essence of the Stay At Home message has been undermined, but that’s not the fault of Cummings. That’s down to the propagation of a fake narrative by our media, by our Church and by every other charlatan opportunist and manipulator of the communication channels who have hitched onto the Easy Street gravy train. They jumped in with shrill accounts of ‘law-breaking’ and ‘rule-breaking’ without ascertaining the key facts. And these were always going to hinge on a ‘reasonable excuse’ or interpretation of guidance, which in turn could be judged only on the individual’s own account. Which of course, none of the posse knew.
So, why not just report it to the police? Well somebody did, but the police didn’t deliver the scalp they were seeking. And therein lies the real shame of all this. The full-Gestapo clamour for mobile phone records and CCTV, not to mention the real-time car registration buffs. All this low-level, murky activity was always going to be on the cards.
The bottom line is as ever about selling papers, gaining viewers, and followers, and Brexit. We still haven’t got over that. Interestingly, some of the pro-Brexit gang joined the ruck too. Well, they’ve jumped on the virtue-signalling bandwagon, particularly the journalists among them who specialise in falling whichever way the wind blows. Some just don’t like him personally or are jealous of his unelected proximity to power.
So, I don’t deny the damage this affair has caused, but it’s all by those stoking the fire.
These so-called reporters could all have been focusing on the strategy, on the policy, and all the more so during the last week or so. Plans are underway to release the lockdown, and there is a risk of a second wave. It’s the most critical time to be focusing on the facts and everybody is burning through invaluable time spent on a side-show while the strategy that’s costing lives trundles on.
This isn’t holding the Government to account. It’s lazy, incompetent, tribalism and opportunism.
Today, the hashtag #scummedia is trending.
They can wear that badge with pride.