F*ck it off: 'Civility' will not change politics or the media

Politeness policing and hand-wringing are signs of an establishment in crisis, not of how lovely they are.

Pictured: Me writing a newsletter edition.

Nice people made the best Nazis.

Or so I have been told. My mother was born in Munich in 1934, and spent her childhood in Nazi Germany surrounded by nice people who refused to make waves. When things got ugly, the people my mother lived alongside chose not to focus on “politics,” instead busying themselves with happier things. They were lovely, kind people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away.

Naomi Shulman

Okay, so I Godwinned myself by choosing that quote to begin this newsletter edition but I don’t rightly care. It’s a good representation of how I feel. In the past 20 years of British history — probably longer but let’s stick to that window —there has been a growth in the notion that politics and the press along with it should be ‘civil’ and ‘polite’, that the aim should be ‘compromise’. But actually the civility is demanded of the left and the poor. It’s not required of the rich and the white.

Columnists can attack whole groups of people — see Clare Foges writing Der Sturmer-style vilifications of travellers and Romany people — and paint a picture of a mirror world where the left rules with an iron fist — Brendan ‘fifty-head’ O’Neill — with impunity. There is nothing polite or civil about targeting individuals and whole groups of people to be denied rights (hi, Janice Turner) but yet these talking heads spinning Exorcist-style to spew piss, vinegar and bile, see themselves as the reasonable ones standing against the ‘trolls’. I would choose 100 of the British shit-post Left over every columnist writing in the British media. They are more honest and, behind their justified anger and necessary comedy, far, far kinder.

I fully believe we are living under the rule of an authoritarian government wearing the thin tattered rags of a democracy that is materially useless to most people in the country. To have no stake and to be screamed at to be civil and to #bekind by people who backed the Iraq War, backed brutal cuts to public services, stood by as Food Bank usage rocketed, and continue to get aroused at the very thought of Big Daddy Blair coming back to fix everything with some right-wing social policies and some big bombs to drop on the brown people they fear so much is vomit-inducing.

Since I started this newsletter… no, fuck that… since I started writing at all, I have been told that I should be more polite, more civil, more ‘reasonable’. But I don’t want to do that. I want to be fair and I want to be kind where kindness is required, but I also don’t want to lie to you, as a reader, or myself.

I say what I see in front of me and try to provide an analysis that I feel is legitimate. Sometimes you’re not going to agree, sometimes I’ll get it very wrong, but I am fucked if I’m going to change my mind just to be polite. Politeness and the smug silence that can come with it is killing us all; a 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony stamping on a human face forever.

I know this is a short and not-sweet edition but subscribers will receive a further paid email later today. Subscribe yourself up to get it: