Monday, January 10, 2011

Bile, vitriol and politics

click photo to enlarge
A lot of the comment that I have read in the U.K. and U.S. press surrounding the recent shooting of an American Congress woman and her supporters has concentrated on the language that now pervades political discourse in that country, and the way in which, following the rise of the "Tea Party", it has become increasingly aggressive, vitriolic and abusive. Too often honest disagreement has, apparently, been replaced by hate, and the metaphors and imagery used in "debate" are frequently militaristic, violent or intimidatory. Opponents are to be "eradicated" rather than beaten in the polls. Sarah Palin's phrase, "Don't retreat, reload", and the use on her website of what appear to the cross-hairs of a rifle's telescopic sight aimed at political constituencies have been especially singled out for condemnation. One can only deplore this degeneration of politics into vicious, verbal brawling. When it spawns actual violence it needs vigorous, considered action and one hopes that the response of the American people and politicians will be more than a temporary moderation of the flow of invective. From a British perspective, we do not want this kind of savagery to descend on us - we have quite enough problems with our politics already.

What has received less comment in connection with the recent events is the link between the increasing prevalence of vitriolic language in politics and the rise of the internet as a speedy and often anonymous medium of communication and dissemination. For many years I have been concerned about the readiness of people to verbally abuse others on forums and message boards from the safety of an anonymous "handle". This even spread into phototography forums, arenas that aren't the obvious place for vituperation, to the extent that I now rarely visit them. The internet also provides the capacity for widely spread, like-minded individuals to organise, and spread their influence, again often anonymously. This is positive and fine when it involves, say, genealogy, but less so when it helps those who think the state is an enemy to be attacked by all means possible. It's probably true that "talk radio" and the so-called "shock jocks" got there first in this regard, but for me the internet has exacerbated the trend considerably.

What has this to do with a photograph of Tower Bridge, London, reflected in a window of the Assembly building. Not a great deal. Though I suppose I could say that this fractured and warped view of the world is analagous to the distorted view of some of the people discussed above - but I won't!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: 6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On