Is Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite? Was Boris Johnson being racist when he mentioned Obama’s Kenyan heritage in that Sun article? I’m not convinced about either case. To be honest, I wasn’t even outraged by that infamous poster of refugees that Nigel Farage unveiled during the referendum campaign. Maybe my antennae are getting blunt. Or maybe I’m tired of the way people on social media love to pounce on miscreants. (Yes, I’ve done it too.) Brendan O’Neill seems to feel the same way. I don’t agree with him about Theresa May being an example of a Westminster automaton, but that’s not the point:
[W]e seem increasingly incapable of simply saying ‘I disagree with you’. In these feverish, always-on, politically tribalised times, ‘I think you’re wrong’ has been replaced with ‘OMG. I can’t even. WHAT IS THIS RUBBISH’. The former nurtures debate, the latter destroys it. In the sneerocracy, whose kingdom is Twitter, whose heroes are the snider newspaper commentators (no names!), and whose weapons are Photoshop and arch 140-character putdowns, politicians are never wrong or misguided: they’re ridiculous or pathetic or evil, creatures to be sneered at rather than engaged with.
The sneerocrats never say ‘You’re wrong to say that’ — they say ‘You can’t say that’. And in the process they freeze debate, make politicians more cautious, shrink the parameters of acceptable thought… Dreading being Twitch-hunted, politicians keep their more experimental or eccentric ideas to themselves. Fearing the wrath of a snidey commentariat, politicians play it safe.