Friday, 29 January 2016

Dog whistles and dead cats

In January 2016 David Cameron kicked up a storm of protest by describing refugees as "a bunch of migrants" in a snide, blatantly dishonest and evasive attack on Jeremy Corbyn who had asked him a question about the sweetheart deal with Google to allow them to pay a tax rate of below 3% on their corporate profits.

Dog whistles and dead cats

The "bunch of migrants" comment was read by many as a dog whistle to the kind of extreme-right xenophobe who follows Britain First. This argument has a lot of merit. It doesn't really seem to matter to right-wing xenophobes that David Cameron and Theresa May have overseen the biggest inflow of migrants into the UK ever recorded because they are typically immune to stuff like facts, information and logical analysis. The Tories know that what they want to hear is the kind of empty anti-immigrant rhetoric that fires up that burning sense of hatred that makes them write their barely literate hate-filled diatribes all over the Internet.

Others have argued that using dehumanising language to describe refugees on Holocaust Memorial Day was actually a "dead cat strategy" designed to distract public attention away from a number of other issues that the Tory party would rather not have people talking about.

The theory goes that if you throw a dead cat onto the table, people are unlikely to talk about any of the other stuff you've been up to.

The Independent outlined five issues that the Tories might have wanted to distract public attention away from with David Cameron's scripted dead cat evasion to Jeremy Corbyn's question about the sweetheart Google tax deal.

Cameron was obviously successful in distracting attention away from the sweetheart deal with Google, because the news focused on his misleading and inflammatory comments about refugees, rather than the fact that he completely evaded Jeremy Corbyn's question.

Other issues that were bumped down the news agenda by Cameron's dead cat tactics include:

  • Transparency international accusing the UK government for their 'extraordinarily inept' attempts to water down Freedom of Information laws and slamming the Tories for 'cosying up' to despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia and China. 
Evasive, misleading and downright snide

If we look at David Cameron's response to Jeremy Corbyn's question about the Google tax deal in more detail, it's easy to see how evasive, misleading and downright snide it is.

The first thing to note is that (as usual) Cameron completely evaded the question. He said nothing about how the Google tax deal was negotiated, nor any explanation of how a 3% rate of tax represents a "major success".

Instead he launched a bizarre diatribe against Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Cameron's first assertion was that Labour had met with trade unions to give them "flying pickets", which is a crude misrepresentation at absolute best. There is no evidence that Corbyn actually met unions to offer them the right to sympathy strikes (a right that was taken away from British workers in 1980 but still exists for workers in countries with less right-wing labour laws), in fact the accusation seemed to stem from Jeremy Corbyn expressing a personal opinion on the Andrew Marr show. In reality what Corbyn and McDonnell had been promoting that week was their pretty good syndicalist proposal that workers should have the right to buy their own companies.

Cameron's second assertion was that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell had "met with the Argentinians" and that they "gave them the Falkland Islands". Corbyn and McDonnell did not meet with any representatives of Mauricio Macri's right-wing Argentinian government, and as the shadow government they clearly don't have the power to give away the Falkland Islands either. Again, these comments are a desperately inaccurate misrepresentation of one of Jeremy Corbyn's personal views. I actually agree with Corbyn that it would make sense to negotiate some kind of settlement with the Argentinians to end the trade boycott that exists between the Falklands and the continent of South America. Corbyn was still spectacularly naive for raising the idea though, because there is clearly a lot more political capital for the Tories in stirring up anti-Argentine sentiments than there is for Labour proposing some kind of deal to end the trade embargo on the Falkland Islands.

The third assertion about the "bunch of migrants" is the dead cat that got the press talking, but very few people bothered to even point out the glaring inaccuracy of the accusation. In this case (unlike the two previous allegations) Jeremy Corbyn did actually meet with refugees in Calais, but David Cameron's interpretation of what happened there was a glaring lie. According to Cameron "They met with a bunch of migrants in Calais and said they could all come to Britain". What Corbyn actually said is that the UK should do more to help refugees with connections to the UK, but still, criticising what your debating opponent actually said, rather than slamming a straw-man misrepresentation clearly isn't in the debating rule book at Eton.

Cameron's conclusion that the only people Labour never stand up for is the British people and hard-working taxpayers" really takes the piss. Anyone with a few grains of sense knows that the Tory party are the class enemy of ordinary hard-working people, and their track record of overseeing the longest sustained decline in real wages since records began is proof of it. If we return to Cameron's first assertion about Corbyn and McDonnell's fictional meeting with "the unions", it's worth noting the obvious incompatibility with Cameron's conclusion. The only way that his conclusion that they never stand up for hard-working people could be true is if none of the 7 million people who are represented by trade unions are British working people!

It would be bad enough if any of this dishonest and fundamentally incoherent rubbish had been blurted out on the spur of the moment by a man under pressure, but everyone knows that David Cameron's answers are scripted and rote learned. The truth is that someone actually wrote this pathetic shit in the belief that a significant section of the British public are thick enough to imagine it chocolate cake.

The idiocracy

There is only one way that it makes sense for Cameron's scriptwriters to give him such dishonest and inherently contradictory drivel to read out. The only way it makes sense is if they believe that a big enough percentage of the population are idiotic enough not to see through such a snide bombardment of lies, misrepresentations and logical contradictions.

Cameron's scriptwriters are obviously extremely confident that the public will accept David Cameron's tactic of completely evading the question and replying with a load of dishonest and fundamentally incoherent tabloid style bluster.

The main reason that the 93% of kids who go to state schools get very little education in stuff like critical thinking, analytic philosophy, economics, debating techniques or logic. The Tories are confident that an education system that teaches kids that correct answers are handed down from authority is perfect for producing the kind of dullard who is smart enough to do what they're told by their boss, but stupid enough to rote learn their political opinions from drivel they read in the right-wing press and fail to subject David Cameron's shouty rhetoric to even the most rudimentary critical analysis.


The Tories believe that as long as the plebs are kept in their place, educated to be compliant and uncritical to authority, then drip-fed with right-wing propaganda, they'll always vote Tory.

The more people out there who actually read and think about things for themselves the better. It really doesn't take a lot of brainpower to see though David Cameron's bullshit and bluster, but unfortunately under our bizarrely unrepresentative electoral system it only takes 24% of the electorate to hand the Tories a majority government.

In order for this to change, some of the 11 million people who bought into David Cameron's lies and rhetoric need to be convinced to learn some critical thinking skills and actually subject what the Tories say to some kind of basic critical analysis.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Austerity is a con
Iain Duncan Smith's Reign of Terror
Theresa May's anti-immigrant rhetoric
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Problem Solving - with Iain Duncan Smith
The Tory ideological mission
Austerity and economic illiteracy


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