Whatever the ‘élites’ might be doing Behind Your Back, they can always rely on the many publics in the West to display mass maudlin grief about any and every catastrophe or atrocity: it is a faux ‘human solidarity’ that must give them a warm feeling in the trousers as they orchestrate it – as they occasionally do.
I’ve no idea what the ‘Je suis’ is going to be this time, but the candlelit vigils are already visible from outer space. So too (with remarkable efficiency) embassies everywhere managed to put on tricouleur displays of striking consistency. US football teams came out bearing French flags….minus only the sub-head ‘Cheese-eating Surrender-Monkeys no more’. The Marseillaise will be played at all Liga 1 Italian football games today. And of course ‘World leaders unite in revulsion at horrors of Paris attack’. Yesterday evening I watched as one cynical, two-faced and dissembling politician after another, on every media channel available, expressed revulsion, horror, shock, horror, revulsion….and a rejection of this attack upon their moral value system that must be answered with, um, something. Borders, bombs, more security, invasions and God knows what.
And yet the vast majority of people reading this post today will dub me tasteless, cycnical and lacking in sensitivity. In point of fact, I am very sensitive on the issue of having my pc attacked 30 seconds after posting last night’s piece…for the seventh time in under three years. Some minutes later, I put this up at Twitter:
Calmer this morning and given time to sift all the evidence available to date, I can give my view on who was definitely involved in the latest Paris attacks, and who might have had a hand in it….but not assertions or cast-iron conclusions. Because in this, the Age of Uncertainty, such is no longer possible. Other considerations have to be considered which, along with time, might point a finger more accurately – but probably won’t. But first, we need to assess the effects of uncertainty, and try to sort out the chickens from the eggs.
I posted last week about the rise and rise of SSRI anti-depressant consumption, especially in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ world. Half a century ago, tranquilisers like valium were dished out to patients before it was fully realised that these are themselves depressant in nature; but depression is usually closely linked to anxiety (conscious or otherwise) and so most contemporary SSRIs have an anxiolitic in them – a tranquilising element that is, thankfully, not addictive.
Since the 2008 can-kicking jamboree, most people who think about anything more than the next meal or TV talent show have struggled to be optimistic. This is not a generalisation; I spent part of Fridday afternoon trawling through confidence indices about business, debt, life in general and the future in particular over the last decade. Most people when asked are anything from neutral to pessimistic on all those dimensions; in particular, they worry about how their kids will cope in the world we are insouciantly creating for ourselves.
However, I would contend that, within all this uncertainty, there is one thing I find the most worrying aspect of all. This is the friction caused in most Western societies between massive uncertainty – about almost every element of life – rubbing against a growing desire of citizens to form themselves into tribes, membership of which demands total belief. I suspect that the latter may well be a reaction to the former….but either way, the inability to debate is fracturing our culture, and close to destroying our civilisation. The Paris attacks represent the worst kind of catalyst for this accelerating process.
Why is there uncertainty?
The simple answer here is lying, naivety and the internet – with all three feeding off the other like an eternal triangle.
In one of his best-ever routines, the satirical comedian George Carlin said “I have a simple rule when dealing with the Government – I don’t believe a word they say….not one f**kin’ word”. Harsh but fair, I think. It was one of Dick Nixon’s aides (Haldeman as I recall) who came up with the term ‘plausible deniability’ – a classic case of US corporate euphemism with, between the lines, “Only lie when you think you can get away with it”.
But that was 44 years ago when Americans still had BS detectors factory-fitted. Today – most notably when it comes to ClubMed austerity in the EU, the UK’s economy and US ‘recovery’ – the average politician holds electorates in such low regard, the plausibility element is simply dropped. Jeremy Hunt – “I have done nothing wrong” – David Cameron – “If I can’t bring back the EU reform package we need, I will campaign for us to leave” and Wolfgang Schäuble – “Only today we receive news that Portugal is out of recession and Greece is bouncing back” – are among the worst offenders. So devalued is the public pledge today, nobody can be assured that the statement is either true or genuine; the majority, indeed, assume the opposite.Thus there is uncertainty.
Set against that majority, however, are the passive acceptors: Duane Tattoo and his partner Shirl Talent in Walsall, alongside Darryl and Abbi Dunwell in the Southern Counties. By nature apathetic and apolitical respectively, they just want things to remain as a sufficiency at the bottom and getting better in the middle. This is already not the case, but they are easily persuaded by the authorities….or, failing that, believe things will get better once Labour’s back in. The lying breeds the naivity, and naivity breeds acceptance.
Sooner rather than later, the blasé expressions of confidence from on High prove to have been anything from spin via misrepresentation to obfuscation…and so in order for them not to appear as what they were – lies – extenuating facts, denials, and looking at it from another angle are thrown in – just as the Opposition points out that the objective was wrong in the first place, and when it comes to that real objective – equality, employment, lower reoffending rates and so on – we’re in a worse position than we were three years ago.
The desired confusion is now complete, but just to be on the safe side two biased sets of media mud-throwers wade into the anarchy. All is unknown, and nothing is real….except near-universal confusion. And confusion breeds uncertainty.
This was bad enough before IT in general and internet blogging came into our lives. But now they’re here, a million vindictive genies formerly locked harmlessly in attics are out there and yelling their deranged heads off: about paedophiles, about Madeleine McCAnn, about UKIP, about Anna Raccoon, about Obama’s nationality and, well, pretty much everything about which they know nothing but claim everything.
Not only does this add to the uncertainty and solidify the tribalism (Are you a warmist or a denier?) it also gives a copper-plated coating to the politician’s already brass neck on the subject of personal liberty. Without the current crop of anti Masonic, Semitic, Common Purpose, Russia, Israel, Men crusaders out there, David Cameron and Theresa May would not have been able to get their brazenly authoritarian NVE ‘legislation’ through – and the old scallywag McAlpine would have been unable to pull off his quite astonishing perversion of justice two years ago….a manipulation that has seen the BBC on the defensive since, and helped the Newscorp CEO Rebekah Brooks get off.
From uncertainty comes the natural human retreat behind the stockade, from which to lob bigotry of increasingly homoaeopathic content. But the final dimension – and here it is sowing anxiety primarily among the more watchful and balanced observer of events – is the somewhat unfortunate fact that some at first sight utterly loopy-loo conspiracy theories involving those ill-defined but self-defined ‘élites’ turn out to be rock-solid fact. Worse still, the lunatics – who by and large had nothing whatever to do with revealing these genuine plots – cite them as further reasons to believe their ideas about a repitilian master race. But then, when you’re mad, this is called ‘joining up the dots’.
The manipulation of gold’s tracker price and the libor rate – the latter blessed by no less a mendacious mélange than the arsenic and old lace in Threadneedle Street – were first emitted by the blogosphere: but the bloggers concerned had technical knowledge and skilled experience upon which to draw. Also there were no little boys, BBC DJs and pop stars involved, so the effect was, as always, marginalised. Today, no more than – at the most – ten per cent of electorates in the West understand enough to even speculate about why gold is being repressed, pointless QE is still practised, Zirp continued ad nauseam, and austerity forced upon the luckless citizens of ClubMed.
For that group, the fear/frustration/uncertainty siren is now at full volume, but for the rest it is just as impenetrable as that perfect oxymoron ‘financial services” always was. “It’s all Greek to me” they sigh. And sadly, so do the Greeks.
Spin, Naivety, Apathy, Frenzy and Uncertainty, as it happens spell SNAFU. The history of the last few years from Ukraine via the euro to bombings and migrant disasters would indeed suggest that Snafu is what happens when those enjoying life at the Top think they have no need to listen to the citizenry. But the real, ultimate bottom line here is this: none of us can ever be sure of the Truth.
After lunch today, I’ll be posting Part II of this overview, in which I hope to suggest some balanced likelihoods in relation to the who and why of the latest Paris attacks. My core criteria will be winners, motives, crisis aperture, and policy acceptance . Stay tuned.