Saturday, 5 August 2017

The beguiling ways of Trumpty Dumpty

Sometimes something I've written before seems to resonate with what's going on at the moment. Here's a piece (here) that appeared in April 2012 and was originally prompted by events at the time and the duplicitous nature of the principles involved. I've edited it just a little to remove some now obscure references but see how much of this applies to the present occupant of the White House.

I know it’s hard to believe but sometimes governments and politicians do stupid, even bad, things. When they do, their colleagues, government officials and sympathisers inevitably try to defend their conduct, even when those

actions are clearly wrong and/or obviously counterproductive. There’s a word for this and it’s called being an "apologist," although people who do this rarely apologise for much of anything. After all, a sincere apology means an admittance of guilt and few politicians would ever want us to think that they are less than infallible.

All of us need to be able to spot the rhetorical ploys that governments, politicians and their acolytes use to justify their own misconduct. To help you through the labyrinthine lexicology of ‘apologist-speak’ I have compiled ‘Humpty/Trumpty Dumpty’s Guide to Defending the Indefensible’. There are obvious connections to recent events in the UK but such practices are commonplace in many, many countries and, indeed, widely practiced by non-politicians as well. So, ladies and gentlemen, here is what to look out for when the whitewash and bull***t need to be applied. Select which approach is likely to most successful to the task in hand, be it local or international.

1. We didn't do it! (Denials usually don't work, but it's worth a try).
2. We know you think we did it but we aren't admitting anything.
3. Actually, maybe we did do something but not what we are accused of doing.
4. Ok, we did it but it wasn't that bad ("waterboarding isn't really torture, you know. It’s just a little uncomfortable").
5. Well, maybe it was pretty bad but it was justified or necessary. (“We only torture terrorists, or suspected terrorists, or people who might know a terrorist or people who look like terrorists")
6. What we did was really quite restrained, when you consider how powerful we really are. We could have done something even worse.
7. Besides, what we did was technically legal under some interpretations of international law (or at least as our lawyers interpret the law as it applies to us.)
8. Don't forget: the other side is much worse. In fact, they're evil. Really, really evil. As evil as evil can be.
9. Anyway, they started it.
10. And remember: we are the good guys. We are not morally equivalent to the bad guys no matter what we did. Only morally suspect, misguided critics could fail to see this fundamental distinction between Them and Us.
11. The results may have been imperfect, but our intentions were noble. (Invading Iraq and Afghanistan may have resulted in tens of thousands of dead and wounded and millions of refugees, but we meant well).
12. We have to do things like this to maintain our credibility. You don't want to encourage those other bad guys, do you?
13. Especially because the only language the other side understands is force.
14. In fact, it was imperative to teach them a lesson – again.
15. If we hadn't done this to them they would undoubtedly have done something even worse to us. Well, maybe not. But who could take that chance?
16. In fact, no responsible government could have acted otherwise in the face of such provocation.
17. Plus, we had no choice. What we did may have been awful but all other policy options had failed and/or nothing else would have worked.
18. It's a tough world out there and Serious People understand that sometimes you have to do these things. Only ignorant idealists, terrorist sympathisers, craven appeasers and/or treasonous socialists would question our actions.
19. In fact, whatever we did will be worth it eventually, and someday you’ll thank us for it.
20. We are the victims of a double-standard. Other people/countries do the same things (or worse) and nobody complains about them.

I don’t claim that the list is exhaustive but it’s a good start. Bear it in mind when next you watch the news and have fun spotting the tactic being deployed. There are some masterful Humpty Dumptyists at work the world over and personal integrity is no bar to the Apologist. They really do think we are stupid. In fact, an alternative title for this blog could be ‘DNP’s Guide to Having Your Intelligence Insulted’ but that’s a story for another day……!

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