The Meaningless Political Cliches Drinking Game!

Recently I penned an article about how clichés used in political discourse harm the way we think and damage our methods of persuasion as certain phrases/maxims lose their impact due to overuse.

After posting the article this issue has been troubling me for some time, but not due to the ethics of how we should use language but just out of sheer irritation* at the frequency of the linguistic-seizures foaming out of politician/journalist/pundit’s mouths. Certain phrases used in talk-shows, speeches are either so overused, meaningless or incoherent that it has infected the way I think. It’s very difficult not to use a cliché because there are so many – so many that I have created a list…or rather: a drinking game.

Thus a good measure of how poisoned politics has become with clichés is to see how quickly one can get drunk via sipping alcohol accordingly to when the maxims and words listed below are used in a speech or a discussion-show (i.e. Question Time or Newsnight).

Behold, The Meaningless Political Clichés Drinking Game…

Nigel Farage holding a pint of beer

Nigel Farage holding a pint of beer

PHRASES – 1 SIP OF DRINK

  1. “Hardworking Families”
  2. “Tough Decisions”
  3. “The War on **insert cultural phenomenon to which current government is having an ideological battle against**
  4. “The something for nothing culture”
  5. “The us and them mentality”
  6. “A tough love approach to…”
  7. “We’re cracking down on…” (Crime, drugs, extremism, benefit fraudsters, tax-dodging etc)
  8. “Frontline services”
  9. “Communities” (especially “vibrant” ones)
  10. “Diversity”
  11. “Inclusivity”
  12. “Change”
  13. “Dreams”
  14. “Aspirations”
  15. “Goals”
  16. “British values” (when used with this strange – and arrogant – assumption that British people are the only people in the world who have representative democracy, trial by jury, who queue in shops, who use sarcasm, or who eat fish and chips)
  17. “Democracy” (the word itself being used as a piece of persuasive rhetoric/a political buzzword to attack the opposing side…i.e. “this isn’t democratic”, “this policy goes against democratic values”)
  18. “This is the 21st century” (Saying this condescending phrase as an attack against someone with socially-conservative/traditionalist values)
  19. “Draconian”/“Medieval”/“Ice age” (Using a word/phrase which implies/states the concept of ‘the past’ to criticise a policy – “the bedroom tax is something you’d see in medieval times”, “these draconian measures…”)
  20. “Party politics”
  21. “Political point scoring”
  22. “Benefit scroungers/spongers/thieves”
  23. “This is the worst….since….” (i.e. “This is the worst economic situation since Wall Street”, “This is the worst crime rate since 1987”…)
  24. “Raising awareness”
  25. “We’ve all seen the images” (in reference to a famine/war which is obviously not in a 1st world country because said person loves being all judgemental and assumes everyone in middle-eastern countries a cannibalistic barbarian because they’ve “never heard of democracy”)
  26. “Broken Britain”
  27. “We’re all in this together”
  28. “United we stand”
  29. “Change for the better”/”Change we can all believe in”
  30. Adding a word before the noun “Britain” to apply it with an ideological attribute: “alarm clock Britain”, “multicultural Britain”
  31. “Yes we can”
  32. “It’s the economy, stupid”
  33. “The International Community”
  34. The portmanteaus “Europhile” and “Eurosceptic”
  35. “The Westminster Bubble”
  36. “A New Politics” (in particular reference to the idea that this speech is about changing political culture, specifically ending political corruption)
  37. “Educated at Cambridge/Harrow/**insert wealthy educational establishment here**” (Randomly referencing – usually a Tory – politician’s educational history to suggest that they’re not representative of the majority of the people)
  38. “The Liberal Elite”
  39. “The Metropolitan Elite”
  40. The suffix “-gate” used to describe a political scandal (i.e. “Plebgate”, “Bigotgate”, “Cablegate”, “Watergate”…)
  41. “The mainstream media…” (Randomly mentioning the “mainstream media” to criticise political bias to divert attention from your own mistakes and thus criticise the way you/your party has been represented as opposed to the actions of you/your party)
  42. “Will you let me finish”/“I let you speak, you’ll let me speak”/“As I was saying” (Phrases used in political interviews/debates/discussions where specific panel members are “rudely interrupted” and thus have to start their point ALL OVER AGAIN)
  43. “Look…” (Starting a sentence with the word “Look” with a brief pause and a pointless hand-gesture to signal the fact that you’re going to say something which probably involves a difficult time in the future due to “tough decisions” having to be made)
  44. “At the end of the day…”
  45. “Let’s deal with some HARD facts”
  46. “The West” (Using this pointless generalised phrase when all you really mean is just “America”)
  47. “The East” (Using this pointless generalised phrase because you assume that all middle-eastern Muslim countries aren’t as civilised as us Westerners – generally said in a very patronising tone)
  48. Using the word “deeply” for extra impact (usually in reference to a scandal where a media-personality/politician has said the N-word for example… “this was a deeply offensive thing to say”, “this has deeply offended the XYZ community”)
  49. Just the word “offensive”
  50. The words “inappropriate” or “unprofessional” used when stronger words would do (usually used to describe a media-personality/politician saying something “offensive”… “his comments were deeply inappropriate considering his high-position. A total misjudgement and totally unprofessional”)
  51. “We need to get out of Europe!” (A meaningless phrase which what they really meant to say was: “We need to leave the EU”)
  52. “Boom and bust”
  53. “The squeezed middle”

RHETORICAL METHODS – 3 SIPS OF DRINK

  1. Meaningless hand gestures
  2. A specific word/phrase/sentence said 3 times for rhetorical impact
  3. Stating a statistic but using it entirely out of context, thus warping the statistic to fit your own point/argument
  4. Taking a longer than usual sip of water (provided by the BBC taxpayer) just so you can think of a point
  5. “Doing a Michael Howard” – i.e. not answering the question at all and instead resorting to saying (and indeed repeating) a meaningless sentence over and over again to divert attention from your/the party’s own mistakes/actions/decisions
  6. Comparing a politician to a previous infamous one – i.e. Margaret Thatcher, Enoch Powell
  7. Comparing a politician to a famous dictator (usually Hitler because that was the first fucking dictator that came into said person’s tiny brain)
  8. Confusing Communism and Stalinism/saying that North Korea is a “communist/socialist country” (and any other versions of the same mistake)
  9. Linking UKIP to extremist parties like Golden Dawn and Front Nationale (or just saying general crap like “Nigel Farage is doing exactly what the Nazis did”)
  10. Using “liberal” and “left” interchangeably, or just saying “liberal left”
  11. Confusing “multiculturalism” with “multiracialism” (and vice versa)
  12. Saying bizarre phrases to mock left-wingers: “guardian reading, Godless, beret-wearing, tree-hugging socialists” (etc)
  13. Saying bizarre phrases to mock right-wingers: “daily mail reading, ultra-Christian, white-supremacist, bigots” (etc)
  14. Mocking the media-image of a politician as opposed to their policies/ideology/what they stand for (i.e. laughing at Ed Miliband for looking like a very famous children’s stop-moton character, and being substantially poor at consuming a bacon-butty)
  15. Using the metaphor/image of a door, a gate or a bridge to describe issues surrounding immigration
  16. Journalists who use nasally intonation on specific words for theatrical effect (journalists include Jeremy Vine and Nick Robinson)
  17. Inserting a word in front of an ideology or party-name to imply that the party has “moved on” from its old ways…i.e. “One Nation Labour”, “New Labour”, “Compassionate Conservatism”…etc
  18. Making a politicians name into an adjective/or another word form, i.e. “Thatcherite”, “Neo-thatcherism”, “Blairite”, “Milibandism”

REALLY CRAP JOKES AND CHEAP GIMICKS – FIVE SIPS

  1. Politicians trying to be funny
  2. Journalists trying to be funny
  3. Awful play on words-gags such as turning “Blair” into “Bliar” or combining the names of the political parties to represent your view towards them “I CONDEM the conservative and the liberal democrats (maybe even phrases similar and including “Clegg-mania”)
  4. Journalists ending a report with a play on words which references the theme/topic of the video…i.e. if it’s about sport “Britain is going to have run the extra-mile/jump a few more hurdles if it really wants to stand a chance at gaining gold in terms of the quality of PE lessons”
  5. Silly over-the-top graphics employed to demonstrate a point, i.e. to show that the economy is rising, present a bar-chart increasing but the bar in the bar chart is replaced by lots of gold coins stacking onto one another

 

*The following drinking game is probably too harsh/pedantic in certain points

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Rise of the Nazis that Actually Aren’t Nazis

A rant about the analysis of the United Kingdom Independent Party.

If Politics is intrinsically linked to words, then you’d assume that people would choose their words with great care and precision. Unfortunately this isn’t the case.

I have been observing the language and the political discourse used by seemingly everyone (emphasis on seemingly). It is distressing to see terms such as “racist” and “homophobic” being so lazily used. I think such words have to be used with great caution, because more often than not the person criticised with such words is either just insensitive, misinformed, idiotic or Jeremy Clarkson.

Do you think Jeremy Clarkson is a racist? I imagine a large proportion of you might think so. Let me rephrase this: do you think Jeremy Clarkson actively despises black people, and anyone else who isn’t white? Do you think Jeremy Clarkson views a person of white skin colour in more regard than someone of non-white skin colour? I imagine you’re doubting such questions already. It is interesting how terms of such power have lost their meaning because they are bandied about and shoddily flung at people to win an argument or to gain an applause. It’s disturbing to, because it actually demeans what these terms used to mean, or rather: what they should mean.

There is a fundamental difference between someone who lazily uses the N-word without thinking and someone who actually doesn’t like black people. Please reread the previous sentence, I think it’s vital that you do.

Let me move this on to something more current. Do you think UKIP is a racist party? I imagine there is a niggling feeling inside of you that says ‘yes’ (if not, I’m sorry for being a presumptuous arse). Let me rephrase this: having read UKIP’s policies, do you think that such policies have a disturbing racial hatred lurking behind them?

I think you can tell by now that I don’t think UKIP or Jeremy Clarkson are racist, just mad.

But, I hear you ask: what about all the racist/sexist/homophobic/bigoted members? True. I cannot argue with the ‘rotten apple’ argument. But I said party, not members. You dig deep enough, you’ll find that lurking amidst lib/lab/con there are some views amongst its members which you’ll find disconcerting – just, the media seem to be attacking UKIP, because like lib/lab/con it is violently evident, that they do not want them to have any ounce of power, so rather than actually having a proper political debate, what we instead have is words which used to have such intense emotion, history and meaning behind them being used again and again so that progressively we observe their meaning slowly suck away. So what is my point? Well, I think it’s important that we draw distinctions and carefully analyse political parties and their policies. There is a fundamental difference between a party having a racist policy and a party having racist members – and the fact that apparently nowadays there is no difference between the two, I find just uncomfortably distressing. Again, I’ll repeat what I said earlier: sexism, homophobia, racism (et al) are now words with no meaning, they are semantically defunct.

But don’t UKIP hate immigrants, isn’t that racist? Again, it is disturbing how much I’m going to have to repeat the mantra about how words have lost their meaning, but they really have. Race and Nationality are separate issues. If you believe that UKIP dislikes people from other countries, then at least use the correct terms of phrase: xenophobe, xenophobia, xenophobic, and so forth. It is vital that we draw distinctions. If we just lazily brand a party with casual insults, without actually looking into their policies, and actually label them with the wrong insult, then there is a profound problem with political discourse at the present time. How do we expect society to change if we cannot have a proper discussion? This idea being intensified if you consider that ‘democracy’ is brought about via debate and converse.

I think the most annoying and frustrating comparison I keep seeing over and over again is the fact that UKIP are being compared to the German Nazi Party led by that infamous man with the infamous name, Adolf Hitler. I find this comparison actually disgusting. “Oh, but if you look at their rise to power and the fact that one of them used the N-word and the fact that they’re relying on a culture of ‘blaming the other’ then obviously Nigel Farage is like so ‘the new Hitler’…” I think the best way to actually answer this is via inquiring people who come out with such statements to look at the actions of the Nazi Party and then the actions of UKIP, then, more importantly, look at the ideological values of the Nazi Party, and then look at UKIP, and then just for added rhetorical emphasis ask people who grovel out populist statements of a scare-mongering and a moral-panic-creating nature the following questions:

Do you think Nigel Farage wants to overtake and conquer the globe? Do you think Nigel Farage wants to make groups across the country devoted to the brainwashing of children with UKIP propaganda, presumably called the “Anti-Euro Youth” (shortened to “AEY”)? Do you think UKIP wants to gas and exterminate blacks, Jews, homosexuals, anarchists, lesbians, Jehovah’s witnesses, the disabled and pacifists (etc)? My last point, you may think extreme – but isn’t comparing Nigel Farage/UKIP to Adolf Hitler/German Nazism? If you compare UKIP to such a party, then what else do you expect other than somebody to bring up such elements of history? Furthermore, lets look at UKIP’s economic policy: they want a flat-rate tax and they are ‘fans’ of privatisation. Did you know that Nazi stands for National Socialism? Yes, that’s right, it’s got the word ‘socialism’ in it. Economically the Nazi Party were of the left and socially they were of the right (this is a generalisation, but I feel it more a specific broad sweep than comparing Nigel Farage to a tooth-brush-moustache-carrying dictator). Thus, do you think concepts such as privatisation are socialist ideas? I’ll answer it for you: they’re not.

I know, I know, people are frightened or worried about UKIP. That’s fine. You have the right to not be ashamed of your own emotions and thoughts. You have the right to like, dislike and be concerned about ideologies/political parties. But if you’re concerned about an ideology or political party, please criticise properly, fairly and don’t steep to defaming certain words to the extent that they might as well be non-existent.

 

 

The Age of Cynicism

A theory concerning the rise of Nigel Farage’s Euro-sceptic party. Feel free to disagree…

The media seems to be bizarrely surprised that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) have gained 24 MEPs. As expected, pundits and everyone surrounding me have offered their opinions to explain this violent surge in UKIP coming first in the UK’s European Elections: the leadership of Nick Clegg, the leadership of Ed Miliband, a protest-vote against the mould of lib/lab/con, a disliking for the ‘open door’ immigration policy, the rise in Euro-scepticism, and even the fact that Nigel Farage promises to do what most parties won’t even talk about, that’s right: legalising cannabis and bringing back the smoking room in pubs.

Nigel Farage smiling whilst looking confused...

Nigel Farage smiling whilst looking confused…

Everywhere I go, there is a strange anti-authority feeling in the air. A weird mist of pseudo-anarchist thinking, what I can only really describe as “political existentialism”: not just despair with politicians but the foundations of the system as a whole. I think what we have witnessed is much much more than people disliking Ed Miliband’s leadership style or Euro-scepticism. I think the pressures of discontent have been building up and up and up. You only have to look at history:

9/11. The Iraq War. The Afghanistan War. The “Dodgy Dossier”. David Kelly’s death. Guantanamo Bay. Abu Ghraib. The NSA/GCHQ. The worldwide economic crisis. The MPs’ expenses scandal. The phone-hacking scandal. The paedophilia cases in The Catholic Church/Catholic Schools (bitterly termed by some as “Paedogate”). New Labour’s betrayal of the Old Left. The “Broken Promises”. The increase in University Tuition Fees. The rise in popular-phrases such as “Broken Britain”. The blurring of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ and the abandonment of Political Ideology. The dislike and backlash against the cultural-concept that is “political correctness”. WikiLeaks’ ‘Iraq/Afgan War Logs’. The ‘Collateral Murder’ video. Everywhere I go, I seem to be breathing in a strange atmosphere where everyone in power – or associated with it – is either incompetent, corrupt or a rapist.

A strange feeling of political disillusionment has been steadily rising over the years, occasionally there will be a violent peak in the steady increase due to the odd scandal or due to an event not being resolved properly or quickly enough – and the events and scandals don’t go away, but instead, remain firmly seated in the minds and hearts of the public consciousness and the political zeitgeist.

It is said that each era has a feeling (i.e. “The Roaring Twenties”, “The Rebellious Sixties”). I used to disagree with this theory, but now I believe there is something to it. What are we in now, other than a disturbing and bizarre “Age of Cynicism”? There isn’t trust: there is only contempt, criticism, fear and hatred – and if there is praise, it is simply lost. I do not wish to answer questions of whether this cynicism is fair, logical or even intelligent – but it is simply an observation.

Don't get too intoxicated on this

Don’t get too intoxicated on this

I know that this theory that I have proposed sounds broad in scope, but I do think there’s something to it. Of course, there has always been a general pessimism surrounding the reputation of politicians and bankers, I am not denying this, but have we ever seen dislike for people in positions of power so widespread and so lacerating in nature?

I am not saying that The Iraq War or 9/11 or The London Riots are directly responsible for the rise (and indeed, European Election Success) of UKIP, that would simply be ludicrous. What I am saying is that these events of the past are simply “another moment” in history which provides reasons for people to dislike the political elite, and indeed the world which they are part of. Each event adds up, of course.

I think it vital to point out that all of this hasn’t just been climaxing and climaxing, until eventually, we witness UKIP’s European Election success! No, far from it. The rising popularity of UKIP is just, in my view, merely a symptom of the age, the symptom of the events which all add up to form a generation that is perhaps united by some strange pessimism. And if there are more of these ‘scandals’ and unsettling political events to come, combined with increasingly cynical news-stories (as opposed to positive ones), then expect more symptoms of our age to come.

These symptoms produced by such a unique time to live in (UKIP’s rise being one of them) will, in my view, increase. The future symptoms/events which await us in the future could either be more bizarre, more unsettling, more fascinating or more important than the rise and success of Nigel Farage and his Euro-sceptic Party.