So while I have studiously avoided the debate thus far over the #TurnArdern campaign – whereby diehard Nats flipped magazines, or at least claimed to, in newsagents over the Christmas holidays – I was no more than faintly bemused by the whole exercise. In any event, it’s about as gentle as civic protests get.
The online reaction to the effort, however, was something else altogether: vitriolic, disproportionate and counterproductive. Particularly loathsome were attempts to demonise the instigator of the campaign, by revealing his hitherto concealed identity, exposing his address and phone number, belittling his occupation and trawling his social media history to attack him as, among other things, “racist”, “sexist”, “misogynistic” and “transphobic”.
Yep he was doxed.
No doubt Ardern’s inner circle would have preferred it if #TurnArdern had simply run out of puff over the course of a couple of news cycles. But strategically wise silence is hard to pull off in the age of social media, with its perverse and damaging incentives. Instead, the PM’s self-appointed cheerleaders took rapaciously to Twitter, drumming up likes and retweets by dialling the spiteful rhetoric to eleventy-stupid. …
Given the season, I briefly wondered whether these Twitter “activists” carry over their favoured modus operandi of “dismiss, demean and disparage” to face-to-face interactions. But of course they don’t – unless they want to be shunned from any future Christmas get-togethers. Conversations have few places to go when you scream “transphobic” at your 80-year-old in-laws.
Some of them might!
But, on the Left, casting our adversaries as stupid bigots strikes me as obviously misguided. Likewise, our tendency to lord it over others with a hyper-abundance of certainty in our superior virtue is obnoxious; our refusal to contemplate the possibility of good faith among those with whom we disagree, alienating. Liberal condescension, paired with an unforgiving approach to ideological purity, risks sending perfectly well-meaning people into the arms of our adversaries or to retreat from politics altogether.
The recently shellacked Jeremy Corbyn offered himself as a case-study in Left-wing hubris when he recently claimed Boris Johnson may have won the British election, but Labour “won the argument”. In one soundbite, he managed to convey staggering arrogance, self-delusion, insufferable smugness and, ultimately, defeatism. It’s a recipe for electoral irrelevance that too many seem eager to replicate.
Corbyn did a year end message to his supporters listing everything they had achieved and he didn’t even mention the biggest election loss since 1935.