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Monthly Archives: December 2019

I have argued that it would shame and humiliate Ireland to have it accepted that Irish war crimes and war criminals be celebrated. Perhaps they could be forgotten or be quietly swept under the carpet as most countries do but celebration would be a stain on the nation.* Unfortunately, this is not what’s happening. Instead there is a normalisation struggle going on right now and our status as a civilised people is at stake.

I have, moreover, argued that this is one of a tiny number of viewpoints that should be categorised as “morally repugnant” with a view to treating them and their supporters differently.**

Here’s the position in summary:

Coverage of Sinn Féin must always mention their desire to celebrate war crimes

This is not about the past.

It’s about a party’s plans right now and for the future of our country.

1. Morally repugnant viewpoints

While racism may be the only one widely acknowledged now, there is a short list of morally repugnant viewpoints worthy of special treatment.

Always prevent the supporter of a morally repugnant viewpoint appearing normal

Morally repugnant viewpoints are normalised by allowing those who hold them present themselves as normal. They usually succeed by talking about things other than the morally repugnant viewpoint they or their organisation holds. The person and the viewpoint must be firmly tied together in condemnation.

To prevent the normalisation of the repugnant viewpoint, the activist/supporter can never be allowed to present themselves as normal.

Should they make a public statement on any matter, the publisher, platform operator or presenter should point to their unstated repugnant viewpoint.***

2. Media coverage of the view that war crimes be celebrated

In all conflicts combatants select targets.

When combatants target civilians – by gun or public bomb – an unambiguous war crime is committed.

When years later activists/supporters seek to commemorate/celebrate war crimes/war criminals, they propagate a repugnant viewpoint.

To prevent the normalisation of this repugnant viewpoint, the activist/supporter can never be allowed to present themselves as normal.

When they make a public statement on any matter, a publisher, platform operator or presenter should point to their unstated support for the celebration of war crimes.

________________

* https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2019/03/19/the-dignity-of-the-nation-requires-that-irish-war-crimes-be-commemorated-as-such/

and

https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/reality-must-intrude-on-myth-making/

** https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/morally-repugnant-views-and-morally-repugnant-people-calls-to-silence-racism-etc-misunderstand-the-process-of-normalisation/

*** Surprisingly, this is an approach recently adopted by Facebook. Jim Corr has had an anti-vaxer label permanently attached to his posts.

Here’s a provocative suggestion for political activists/campaigners:

Let’s find out what pushes a person’s buttons and lie that voting our way will deliver for them.”

Yes, that’s outrageous in a democracy. However, it’s happened and there are now very late attempts to control information and social media but there’s far more to it.

Dominic Cummings who is credited with winning the Brexit referendum has been very open about how it was done. Simply stated, Cummings and company had access to personal data gathered without permission from citizens’ on-line activity. This enabled them to identify gullible people and their concerns. These people were then targeted and told that a vote for Brexit would address their concerns. Though a thinking person might find it hard to believe, the example of the polar bears is true: having identified concerns over polar bears, the lie was told that the bears’ future would be better in the event of Brexit.

When this campaigning methodology became the subject of public controversy, concern was directed in a very peculiar direction. There was of course concern over extreme lies but the main concern was over surreptitious gathering of information about people on-line and its availability to rich political campaigners. Little or no concern was raised over the basic campaigning tactic of telling people that their “issue” could or would be addressed by voting in a certain way.

Here’s a question: if the issue were nothing as large or as bizarre as the likes of polar bears and the personal data had been obtained legitimately, would it be acceptable to direct lies at people, telling them that their issue would be resolved by voting in a particular way? Well, regardless of the answer, it is commonplace during election campaigns to exploit local knowledge (data) about the concerns of gullible voters. A typical case might be a housing estate in which residents oppose a planning application. Aware of this, an enterprising candidate might exploit the data by aiming a message at gullible voters: a very local leaflet, telling voters that a vote for the candidate would take care of their issue. The point is that data are being used specifically to target gullible voters and they are being told a lie. The difference between this and Cummings/Cambridge Analytica is scale and the use of legally obtained data.

Directing large numbers of very local messages would be expensive. However, there is a less costly and familiar approach, and taking a look at election leaflets is revealing. It is routine to find them directed at a town or suburb. Data is collected about local “issues” and leaflets are prepared suggesting to gullible people that their vote can deliver a favourable outcome.

Let’s not be deluded that Dominic Cummings is a great campaign innovator or a uniquely bad enemy of democracy. He’s a cynic who based his methods on old, well-worn, tried and tested, anti-democratic campaigning. His opponents don’t condemn his methods; they are worried about unfair advantage (his data are not cheap) and surreptitious gathering of data.

The dreadful reality is that there’s a large number of gullible citizens waiting to be told that their vote offers the chance of deliverance from what ails or irks them. However, there are other quite different citizens who want to be treated with respect, who can deal with complexity, who want truth and reason. When there is talk of representation in parliament, the latter are seldom if ever considered. In practice it’s as if they don’t exist.