One day in the life of a blogger

January 1, 2015

My feelings about this matter are rather more mixed than some other bloggers’ have been.

On the one hand, yes, I condemn entirely those who resorted to threats and abuse in response to Sue Jones’ essay about the Green Party. The reasons why I condemn them are so obvious that they should not even need listing. (It’s worth mentioning the stupidity of the threats, mind you, as the thuggishness they imply only lends credence to some of the shakier points that Sue was trying to make.)

But on the other hand, Sue really should not have published that article. It may have been worded in a roundabout-enough way for her to claim deniability, but it really did amount to a hatchet-job. While you can say that she put supporting evidence in for her claims, that’s only a half-truth; there were some insinuations of a ‘guilt-by-association’ type that had no supporting evidence at all, especially when the article effectively tried to identify the modern Green Party with the Right. Sue denies she did this, but look again and you can see that she did so all-too-clearly; there were points when the supposed association was made quite jeering and explicit e.g. accusing the Greens of, in effect, cosying up to the Tories and LibDems on local Councils.

And even where it wasn’t explicit, there were still implicit and baseless insinuations that bordered on subject-changing irrelevance. Why, for instance, did Sue even mention Thomas Malthus, or Social Darwinism, neither of which have had any links whatever to the Green Party’s policy platform? She demonstrates no link, and she demonstrates no particular reason why such philosophies should have any place in an essay whose very title announces a specific critique of the Green Party. At best, she is pointing to environmentalist ideas, which somewhat resemble Green Party ideas, being used by the Nazis, but you can play that game with any political party e.g. “Old Labour must be like the Nazis because they believe the economy should answer to the state” or some other such silly ‘any-point-of-resemblance-means-it’s-identical’ false-equivalence fallacy.

If Sue can demonstrate no real link, the descriptions of Malthus and Social Darwinism should not even be in there. END OF. She must have realised that she was treading on dangerous ground there, and that she was being unfair, but she put them in anyway, thus giving the reader no choice but to look upon the Green Party through a distorting lens of obsolete, eugenics-related ideology.

Now let’s just be honest for a moment and not pretend that there wasn’t a very notable subtext to the essay. Putting those descriptions in while arguing that environmentalism stems from the same root strongly insinuates that the Greens are Social Darwinists. (As does the fact that *all* of the pictures pasted into the page were pictures about Far-Right/Tory/Eugenics ideas. Not one of the pictures Sue put in were from a Green Party source, or even about the Green Party, which again shows that this article was not sticking it to its titled subject-matter particularly.) You can argue, “But that’s not what she said!” and word-for-word, no she didn’t. But as I say, there is such a thing as subtext, and the simple fact is that it does insinuate it, and indeed the way the article was written as a whole makes it very difficult to view it in any other way. If Sue really didn’t want the readers to look at it like that, she shouldn’t have written it like that.

In fact, I’ll go further; she *wouldn’t* have written it like that. The only reason I can see for including it at all was that she wanted to cast the Green Party in a right-wing-extremist light, and that is simply not on. It may be insinuating rather than outright name-calling, but it was still tantamount to triggering Godwin’s Law as the opening gambit of a debate, and is not all that far removed from the Daily Mail’s smear-job on Ralph Miliband last year.

As for Sue’s claims that she is trying to put environmentalism in an historical context, well, that’s not really true either. Putting things in context means making sure that every important and relevant condition is known before making an assessment. But Malthusian ideas and Social Darwinism are *not *relevant to the Green Party, and trying to crow-bar mentions of them into an analysis of the Greens is therefore not putting things in an historical context – it is simply putting them in a *wrong* context. As I say, they just shouldn’t have been put in the essay at all, and Sue was inviting trouble by including them. (In fact, it’s tempting to wonder whether she was actively looking for a fight by writing it; she would have to be incredibly naive not to have realised that there would be an angry backlash against what was quite a crude insult.)

If Sue wants to complain about the Greens misrepresenting Labour policy, then focusing on that should be enough. If she wants to complain about Green supporters splitting the Labour vote, then focusing on that should be enough. But none of that has anything to do with Malthusian ideas or possible Nazi resemblances, and dragging such notions into the discussion are surely not required if vote-splitting or Greens lying about Labour policy are the big issues she feels they are.

Even if playing the Nazi card in an oblique way wasn’t Sue’s intention (and I’m sorry, but the general pattern and tone of the article suggests to me that it genuinely was), the way the essay was written makes it almost impossible for the reader to see any separation. In that regard, whatever Sue’s real intentions were, she has no one to blame but herself that many in the Green Party got so angry with her. It doesn’t justify their responses, or make the responses look any less thuggish or feeble-minded, but they are at least understandable; some people just don’t have a big enough vocabulary to convey their objections coherently (a failing they are foolish to draw attention to, it must be said), and such faculties are further hindered when they feel they are being unduly bad-mouthed. I get angry myself when I get accused of being a ‘Stalinist’ just because I’m a socialist, but I’d get even angrier if someone weasel-worded me as a Fascist.

I’m afraid that that my conclusion, for what it is worth, is that this is precisely what Sue Jones has done to the Green Party – found a weasel-words way of making them sound Fascistical. A lot of people owe her an apology for the way they responded, that is beyond doubt. But there are a few people out there that she owes an apology to herself, and whether it was intentional or otherwise, she really needs to acknowledge that.

I like Sue Jones, and I admire a lot of the work on her blog, which I follow regularly. But I feel she was out-of-line writing this article, and I find her protestations that she didn’t say the things she seemingly hoped readers would think, to be a little disingenuous.

Politics and Insights

Recently I wrote an article about Green ideology, and in particular, I explored the tension between environmentalism, human rights, equality and social justice. This is an important issue, because how ideologies are translated into policy often has profound and far-reaching social consequences.

I discussed the environmentalism and “blood and soil” philosophy underpinning the Volk and Nazi movements, the Nazis being an exemplar of the issues I raised. I also discussed Malthus, and his ideas on population growth and the finite nature of resources. I linked some of the Green philosophy and policies with Malthus’s ideas. My point was that it is not the ideas in themselves that are problematic: it is the context, the application, the way those ideas are translated via policy and the consequences that warrants some discussion.

Malthus’s ideas both informed and were informed by a context of Social Darwinism, eugenics, laissez faire capitalism, competitive individualism…

View original post 2,168 more words

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