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Has being called a playground insult by a 478 pixel-wide internet meme ever convinced you of anything?

Another meme criticism. Social media political philosophers now think that they can identify the needs of several million people, establish that they might have voted for a party that doesn’t advocate for these needs, then think that the best approach to this would be to call this cohort by a playground insult. The effort might have been better had their political analysis had the juvenility of the insult and their insult the vaulting ambition of their analysis.

Don’t accuse me of going for low-hanging fruit: this one was shared on my network and it currently has more than ten thousand shares. For my American audience, ‘Tory’ is slang for members of the Conservative party in Britain – a party that is generally but not fundamentally against social programmes and public spending.


First of all, I have to mea culpa here: I have many times called people who disagree with me by bad words (never to their faces, of course – that would be ungallant). The point is, this is something that I’m trying to quit doing, because it doesn’t achieve anything and definitely makes things worse.

Ultimately, political differences have to be subordinated to actually getting on with each other and forming bonds. Id est, Tories are not nobs, they are neighbours.

Even worse, the meme can’t hope to actually achieve its stated goals. Has being called a playground insult by a 478 pixel-wide internet meme ever convinced you of anything? Rather, it seems the real purpose of this image is to give people who are against the Tories a warm fuzzy feeling.

Please find richer ways to entertain yourselves – at least, when lampooning people, have the common decency to be clear about your desires or even go full attack-comedy rather than hiding behind a thin political point. This meme is the equivalent of reality television: plenty of angst but no catharsis or redemption.

Don’t Vote Against Your Own Interest?

Did the person behind this meme honestly claim to understand the interests of millions of working class Tories? Each individual Conservative – and millions of them, collectively – has less reasoning power than an internet memelord who doesn’t know when ‘Tory’ should be capitalised?

I’m not saying that people make good political judgements, per se, and, as Christopher Hitchens said, a correct opinion beats a majority any day. However, the meme isn’t actually claiming that the Tory platform is wrong, rather that it doesn’t suit the needs of individual working class Tories – they do not have enough information to make this claim.

Voting in your own interest is, at best, neutral. However, to ascend a rung on the ethical ladder, one must vote for what is right, regardless of whether it is in one’s interest. So – putting actual political platforms aside for a moment – the meme is scorning people for performing a set of actions which includes the superior way to vote.

Looking forward, voting solely according to one’s interest is probably the cause of a lot of our issues. Rather than standing on ethical platforms based on different philosophies, parties are now the visible part of massive special interest machines that deliver advantages specific groups of people.

The Working Class Believes What They Read in the Papers?

This is something for which I’m currently seeking more information and numbers – can any one with good sources point me in the right direction? At this time however, I do have information on endorsements of political parties by newspapers, from a survey as reported by the Guardian:

It should be noted that the character of The Daily Herald and then The Sun was much less right wing than before Rupert Murdoch took over in 1969. What should be interesting here is the prodigal Sun supported Labour three times since Thatcher was in power and, during the 2001 election, The Times and Express supported Labour, too, leaving only the Daily Mail and the Telegraph supporting the Conservatives.

I think it’s likely that people believe what they read in the papers. As to whether any particular people are worse for this than others, I haven’t yet got the stats. However, we do know that the landscape is rather subtler than the meme seems to be implying – there are significant times when papers are, almost en masse, telling us to vote Labour.

To add two more data points, focusing on a single issue: two governments advanced the partnership rights of gays in the UK, Labour via creating civil partnerships, the Tory-dominated coalition with the Liberal Democrats via gay marriage – The Sun backed both during the elections that brought them into power. Hopefully this unsettles the landscape a little more.

N.B., for the record, I’ve never voted Tory and am neutral regarding gay marriage.

So, to summarise. 1. Don’t pretend to care – if you want to mock people, do so openly and, preferably, do so well (see Doug Stanhope). If possible, move beyond this sort of behaviour entirely: it’s mental junk-food. 2. Don’t attribute to yourself knowledge that you don’t have – we might guess at what the macro effect of given policies are, but you don’t have enough information to tell individuals what’s good for them. Don’t act like voting in your own interest is anything of which to be proud. 3. Check with the data first to see if everyone is actually out to get you.

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