The Right grow their memes organically,… …,the Left are only making artificial clones
Preface: this is an open question. I don’t know the answer but I’m going to make some guesses. This is also based almost entirely on my personal observations and speculation so should not be taken as gospel by any means (not that I expect you to do that anyway)
So originally I didn’t think I was going to be able to write a post this week. Not ready. However, the UK general election happened last night and it was a resounding victory for the Conservative party. The left wing Labour party had their worst result since 1935, apparently. And staunch remainers, the Liberal Democrats, lost their leader.
This was not a result that I was hoping for, I will be honest, but I was not surprised. It is this lack of suprise that inspired me to write this post (or can I call it an article? Who knows?).
Pre election polling suggested it would be a close call and Conservative leader Boris Johnson was certainly not lacking in controversy. But despite all this for a reason I cannot describe, I knew he would still win.
This is not the first time this has happened. I made a similar prediction during the 2016 presidential election. I can’t remember what I thought about Brexit at the time but it was such a confusing campaign I don’t think anything would have surprised me.
So, I as a very sciency, scientific person take these two correct predictions (alongside guessing the villain of Sleepy Hollow in 30sec of screen time) as evidence that I have some skills in premonition and can see the future. That does seem to be the only logical conclusion given that I can’t really describe why I felt this way, it was just a gut feeling after all.
Now, I am fully aware these predictions are quite possibly flukes and that cognitive bias has lead me to remember times I was right and forget when I got things wrong. I do however think it is worth considering what it was that lead me to these guesses because I don’t think they came from nowhere.
In my opinion, I don’t think Trump or BoJo should be in charge of their respective countries. Both have been on record saying numerous bigoted and sexist things. Neither hold a commendable position on climate change, Trump being a skeptic all together and Johnson’s party having the least ambitious goals of any mainstream British party besides the Brexit Party. I do think they are good at diverting blame to their opponents and the flaws of said opponents and I think they are skilled at rhetorical tactics that appeal to cultural anxieties and optimism. But I’m not hear to talk about what tactics they may or may not be using, there are plenty of journalists and YouTubers talking about that already (if you are interested, Innuendo Studios’ series “the alt-right playbook” is a fascinating description of some of the things that can happen with this”). I’m here to talk about the weakness of the left wing opposition and their failure to combat or seemingly even notice what’s going on.
I’m going to start with Clinton. This was clearly a case of complacency. Nobody believed Trump could win. She took her eye off the ball.
I can barely remember anything from her campaign, and that which I can remember was negative and probably shared by an opponent mocking her “let’s Pokémon go to the polls” was probably the worst phrase spoken in political history. I could tell she was doing the “right” thing. All the theory checked out, but she lost touch with actual people. They resented her for being part of the elite, she was too connected to power already, nobody “normal” could trust her. Her “qualifications” were probably one of her greatest weaknesses.
Another thing is that the Right aren’t wrong when they say the Left can’t meme. The majority of the time, the ideas just don’t lend themselves to that sort of short form delivery and it’s costly. When we do try it usually feels fake, forced and out of touch. I always get a similar vibe to corporate memes and I think that is because ultimately that’s what they are. Old people in political parties who are aware enough that they know memes are important but don’t really understand how they are formed. They then try and produce them themselves. The Right grow their memes organically, with real youngish (idk he age) people on social media, the Left are only making artificial clones.
I don’t know what the solution is to this meme problem but one needs to be found. One thing I extremely happy about is the news that Spitting Image is returning. While definitely not partisan it should hopefully make politics accessible to everyone again in a way I feel Right-Wing memes are only doing for Right-Wing people.
So onto Corbyn and the British Left-Wing. Jeremy Corbyn has suffered horrifically from bad press and there is constant talk of his Labour Party drowning in anti-Semitism. I don’t know if this is an accurate depiction or smear, I don’t much care and I don’t think it matters. What is important is that it is a common enough narrative that people believe it or at the very least might joke about it in passing. It is part of the current political climate. It doesn’t matter whether or not Boris Johnson is islamaphobic or whether the anti-Semitism is real or blown out of proportion. What I’ve been trying to get at, is that it doesn’t matter what the truth is, it only matters what seems to be the case. You don’t even have to believe it but after you hear it enough one wonders just enough to sow a seed of doubt and that’s enough.
This blight on the Labour Party meant that there was always going to be division of left wing. While the Brexit party was in competition with the Tories, they came to an agreement and ultimately there was unity on the blue side of the aisle. Labour, the LibDems, and basically every other party were fighting individual battles and in a first past the post system that was always going to be a disadvantage.
The worst is that this lack of unity was present within the Labour Party itself. Labour was never very explicit about their stance on Brexit, to resist it would be “undemocratic” and to embrace it certainly wasn’t on the agenda of many of the MPs (I’ll do a full Brexit post another time), this indecisiveness rightly garnered criticism. In this election they thought they had a solution in compromise but unfortunately any position that isn’t pro-brexit is ultimately a lose lose situation. Personally I support a second referendum or even to revoke article 50 but again more on that some other time. The issue is that this line maybe Labour still seem lacking in direction and purpose. This was worsened by the fact Corbyn took an entire televised debate and the time between to come up with an answer to which side he would campaign for during the second referendum. I liked the answer he gave but I also appreciate the doubt it cast, and not answering it, so blatantly during the ITV debate was a fatal mistake. He should have prepared for that question and he came out of the debate looking weak because of it.
As I said, anything not pro-brexit is lose lose. If you campaign for a second referendum, those that voted leave feel betrayed and don’t feel like you can be trusted to get a good deal, and those that want to remain might prefer a harder stance although it would likely satisfy most ultimately you will only ever be losing people from both sides of the argument. Campaigning to revoke all together will always be seen as undemocratic and that is not a precedent anyone wants to set, also approximately half the population is entirely alienated. This doesn’t mean that I think going ahead with Brexit is the right thing to do but just I think it’s virtually impossible to campaign for a way out.
While this is an inherently Brexity post I will talk more about my thoughts in another post. This is not the place for it.
So in conclusion I’m really not sure what the solution is, I don’t have an inspiring message. I’ve always been much better at pointing out what’s wrong with things than offering a solution, hence the name, I just want to get people thinking and hopefully someone with better proactive thinking skills than me can come up with a solution. Thank you for reading, it’s been fun writing. Hopefully I’ll see you next week or on Instagram.