What insult are the police investigating?
The insult,which someone aimed at Jess Phillips MP, is the the latest in a series from the same source. Some people have aimed threats as well as insults of the lowest kind at Diane Abbott, Luciana Berger and several others. I hope they do not back down in any way and let the bad guys win.
Who do they love to insult?
Most of the worst attacks are on women and especially women from minority ethnic or other groups. On the whole, the trolls seem to target female remainers and female Labour MPs more than Brexiters and right-wingers, but not exclusively. The tabloids have been attacking climate-change protesters, although they have been more moderate in their language than the trolls.
How do they like to insult them?
They seem to insult or otherwise attack the person rather than their policies or ideas. It is as if they can find nothing to defeat the argument, but they merely insult whoever they disagree with. I notice that nobody has attacked David Attenborough for his views on climate change. Is it because he is a national treasure? Pity about Chris Packham.
Where’s the wit in the insult?
I have noticed a lack of humour in the typical insult today. Don’t our politicians give us enough ammunition? Most of the trolls must have no imagination, or else they are just lazy and go for the easiest option. A good, memorable insult should contain humour and should make a sharp enough point to be effective, but nobody should merely state the obvious.
Look at the history of the insult.
Some of our most famous writers and politicians in the past used words effectively, without sinking to the lowest forms of personal attack.
I remember a time when some people suggested the two main parties should agree to limit the depths to which they would sink in the forthcoming election. Harold Wilson responded, “All right: if the Tories stop telling lies about us, we won’t tell the truth about them”.
Here are a few examples from Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881).
- He caught the Whigs bathing and walked off with their clothes.
- A Conservative government is an organised hypocrisy.
- Behold a range of exhausted volcanoes. (Ministers of the government).
- A sophisticated rhetorician inebriated with an exuberance of his own verbosity. (Gladstone).
- The Arch-mediocrity who presided, rather than ruled, over this cabinet of mediocrities.
- He was distinguished for ignorance, for he had only one idea and that was wrong.
- If a traveller were informed that such a man was Leader of the House of Commons, he may well begin to comprehend how the ancient Egyptians worshipped an insect.
Here’s one from Andrew Lang (1844-1912).
He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts: for support rather than illumination.
And one from Lord Westbury (1800 – 1873).
You will turn it over once more in what you are pleased to call your mind.
It is time to improve the insult.
Let’s aim at the right targets (policies not personalities, corruption not ethnicity) and use wit to elevate political and other argument from the depths to which it has sunk.