Definition of decisive in English:
adjective1. Settling an issue; producing a definite result: ‘the archers played a decisive part in the victory’, ‘a decisive battle’2. Having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively: ‘she had an image of being tough and decisive‘; ‘he handled the situation in a calm, decisive way’
Saturday 22 November 2014, at 6pm, marked the beginning of a new phenomenon in British politics as the hashtag #CameronMustGo took off into UK’s twitter. I doubt that either Jon Swindon or Jenny Howarth imagined what would happen next. Usually twitter events that trend do so for a few hours or a couple of days before the energy abates and other issues move in to take top billing. At the beginning, #CameronMustGo trended within the hour – a result counted as a ‘win’ for creators even when its trending is brief – but this time something different occurred; 24 hours later it was still trending… 36 hours… 48 hours… 72 hours… . By this time, it became clear #CameronMustGo was doing something very different. Now at the time of writing, two weeks later, #CameronMustGo has yet to leave UK’s twitter trends. In truth, no-one could have predicted this – to the best of my knowledge, this is unprecedented in UK twitter history.
The mainstream media only began its reporting around the hashtag following outrage from some, mainly Tories, over Jack Monroe‘s tweet (below), even though the point had been made before by others long before she posted hers (My thanks to Vox Political for covering this in detail).
It is worth noting that, as far as the mainstream media was concerned, the phenomenon of the hashtag itself became secondary to reporting establishment fury towards this outspoken lesbian single mother who has actually achieved, by dint of her own efforts, something the Tories claim all benefit ‘scroungers’ should be doing – getting herself successfully off benefits and creating a new job for herself. As an observer of this twitter ‘row’, it would seem that even this achievement is conditional on the individual silencing their opinions of their social ‘betters’ and when they fail to do this, to expect reprisals, like the attempts that were made to get her sacked from the achievements she had already earned. The conditions being placed upon the socially excluded when it comes to entering ‘mainstream’ society need to be noted because they become relevant later on.
It took 5 days of trending for before the #CameronMustGo hashtag began to be reported.
The first detailed response from UK broadsheets came from the Telegraph. There are a lot of problems with this piece, not least that it is filed under Women/Women’s Politics and is written by a woman of colour. For a start, it seemed to me that its author, Radhika Sanghani, had been set up to take any flak the piece received over a problem that had clearly been created by white men. David Cameron’s government has been consistently dominated by rich white men and it’s behaviour is deeply unfriendly to both women and people of colour. Placing a woman of colour in the vanguard of defending the white male establishment against the twitter charges emerging in #CameronMustGo is highly suspect and smacks of the same kind of psychological avoidance suggested by Jack Monroe’s tweet on disability.
Notwithstanding the above, the content of the piece is ‘enlightening’:
‘The hashtag is not linked to anything that our Prime Minister David Cameron has done lately. It isn’t tagged to any particular news story. Nor has it died a slow death since it kicked off on Saturday. Rather unusually for social media trends, it is stubbornly sticking around and just won’t go away….’‘Is this an honest representation of the UK electorate – suggesting that Cameron has some major issues if he wants to win the General Election – or is just the work of angry left-wing activists who want to take down the PM?…’‘I can’t help but think that this hashtag isn’t a genuine representation of the British population’s beliefs – it’s something created by left-wing activists who are hoping to use the power of social media to get rid of the Prime Minister. As they said, they wanted it to “go viral”…’‘…most of the tweets seem to be from people who know each other and they’re all about the same issues such as majority are about cuts to the poorest people in society, large cuts to the NHS, the increasing reliance on food banks, and the increase in the cost of living….’‘…says Ian Dunt, editor of politics.co.uk. “Twitter is usually made up of young people, students. That hashtag is the instinctive kick against the dominance of the print media [which is typically more right-wing]. It reflects the way Twitter has a much more left-wing centre of gravity than the written press.”…’‘“If it was about something then maybe,” says Dunt. “But nothing’s actually happened. The list [of complaints people are sharing] is pretty standard left-wing complaints – they’re all legitimate but they’re not new….’‘The problem with this hashtag is that it says more about Twitter, and the way we use it, rather than Cameron or the voters. As Dunt says, the social media site does seem to have more left-leaning tendencies, and in this case, it has been hijacked by activists….’‘It’s not an example of the public getting really involved in politics – if anything it’s the same people using the same hashtag repeatedly to try and get their point across. They’re obviously entitled to do this, but the problem is that all other voices are drowned out….’‘That’s why this hashtag is nothing more than a mob attack on the Prime Minister – rather than a genuine collection of legitimate concerns by real people with no vested interests.‘
So, after an unprecedented 5 days of trending on twitter, those tweeting on the #CameronMustGo hashtag become a mob of young left-wing student activists with vested interests who, despite ‘legitimate’ complaints, offer nothing new or authentically genuine regarding the concerns of real people. Much like the response to Jack Monroe, the overall tone suggests #CameronMustGo supporters should know their place, shut up and go away because they are irrelevant.
Around the same time, the BBC finally reported on the hashtag. Their take looked like this:
‘…People using the slogan have also been targeting The Guardian and BBC Trending to try to get media coverage for the trend – and so boost its popularity further.
So could this be the beginning of a new phase of British ‘hashtag politics’? No, according to Andrew Walker, co-founder of social media analytics company, Tweetminster. “I give it two weeks,” he tells BBC Trending.
He says hashtags can quickly become popular on Twitter, but it’s difficult to keep a campaign rolling, as new catchphrases are coined and catch on. And while social media is effective at influencing local politics, it’s less effective at making a big impact on national politics, where voting behaviour is hard to shift…’
Unfortunately for the mainstream media’s ‘establishment’, the hashtag has continued to trend consistently since then and will meet Tweetminster’s predicted two week deadline today. Given that #CameronMustGo has not done what it was told to do and ‘go away’, how has the media dealt with it since?
There was a fact-checking piece from the Spectator which accurately challenged some of the images being used but here’s the thing about twitter. In my experience, twitter is remarkably self-correcting. Point out that information or images are, in fact, incorrect and the twitter I follow changes its behaviour. I’ve seen far fewer pictures of House of Common’s attendance on the #CameronMustGo hashtag since Isabel Hardman‘s piece was posted which, in my opinion, is a very good thing. If the hashtag is to continue, let it be as factually accurate as possible, and let’s be grateful to Hardman for raising the issue without insulting those tweeting on it. The same cannot be said for others.
Yesterday, to mark the hashtag’s fourteen days in the twitter trends, the Daily Mirror – the tabloid that supports the Labour Party – posted this:’Why #CameronMustGo MUST GO – We fact-checked the hashtag that has been clogging up your Twitter feed’. The piece leads with a blog from a journalist with Lib-Dem leanings who finds the hashtag difficult to fathom. The Mirror then goes on to fact-check only 12 of the issues being raised and finds that only 4 are accurate. It fails to suggest that tweeps use twitter’s ‘mute’ function to clear this ‘clog’ from their TL – a simple enough remedy for those with objections.
Given that the hashtag has been covering a multitude of issues, the fact that the piece cherry-picks only twelve points is highly informative. Given that firefighters, police, doctors, civil servants, disabled, people in poverty, poverty campaigners, etc etc have been tweeting accurate facts on it for two weeks is completely ignored. Based on these 12 points alone, the Mirror concludes that the hashtag itself must go. To be honest, I lost my temper when I read it – it was as insulting a piece as that produced by any Tory paper towards those tweeting the direct experiences of the now lethal consequences of Cameron’s government.
The last criticism I saw yesterday came from Guido Fawkes (never let it be said that this blog censors!) who claimed that because #CameronMustGo failed to register in polls, no-one cared about it. I’ll return to this point but first; with such overwhelming all-party consensus from the UK ‘establishment’, how does anyone arrive at a balanced opinion on the matter?
This is how I do it.
To begin with, no-one is perfect – no-one! We all make mistakes no matter how hard we might try not to and #CameronMustGo is no exception. The measures I use acknowledge mistakes but focus more on how it is dealt with it once the mistake has been identified. The self-correcting nature of those I follow on twitter – you will have to make up your own mind about yours – means I’m willing to allow for error but I unfollow or block those who persist in knowingly tweeting misinformation. For those who make a lot of mistakes, I use a 50% tolerance measure – to allow for our imperfect reality as people – although the vast majority don’t require this. It is for this reason, I fully support #CameronMustGo, even with factual errors, because the accuracy of the information I see on my timeline falls well within that 50% margin.
When it comes to David Cameron’s government, the Westminster establishment and the mainstream media, however, the balance looks very different. Indeed, the levels of misinformation, manipulation, propaganda and barefaced lies emanating from these sources has become so bad during this government that its hard to know who to believe. Here are a very few examples (believe me, there is a veritable mountain range of factual evidence):
The Westminster establishment’s margin of error is so high and tests my tolerance so deeply that I have ceased watching television, listening to the radio and trusting our established media unless or until their information has been cross-checked by more reliable sources. That Westminster now routinely and unethically manipulates what information is available to ‘real people’ is firmly established in fact.
As someone who does my best to stick to facts, the choice between those who, although they make mistakes, are willing to correct/self-correct and those who believe it is perfectly acceptable to persistently lie, mislead and manipulate presents no difficulties at all. For all its inevitable faults, #CameronMustGo points to the possibility that I am far from alone in my choice of who to believe.
The second issue that informs me is that of emotional intelligence (EI), which seems to be profoundly lacking within the Westminster establishment. No-one cares about #CameronMustGo, claims Guido Fawkes. In EI terms, nothing could be further from the truth. To grasp all the infinite strands of information now woven into the hashtag by over a million tweets is a vast intellectual exercise, each subject requiring its own trail of evidence. The intellect has to divide, separate and exclude in order to grasp any particular subject. As a function of human expression, intellect is quite unable to comprehend the whole and, as individuals in a national political setting, we have to rely upon wiser others to fill the information gaps we ourselves have been unable to fully understand. Nevertheless, humanity also functions at a feeling level. We have feelings about being lied to or misled. We have feelings about those who steal from or harm the vulnerable. Our emotions inform us about our vulnerability to abusers and abuse, both in the short-term – like a single-issue hashtag – but also in the longer term if that abuse is repeated over and over and over again. It is our emotional intelligence that is capable of embracing the entirety of the problem when our intellect fails to grasp its enormity.
It is emotional intelligence that underpins the success of #CameronMustGo, just as it informs the black communities in America about their relationship with the police; just as it informs the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled about government attitudes towards them. It informs public sector workers whose jobs provide for society’s needs. It informs women particularly because we are the socially nominated custodians of emotional health and well-being for both present and future. It is also emotional intelligence that is most feared and derided by those who function solely from their intellect.
Emotional intelligence is concerned with relationship – how we relate to ourselves, to others and to the planet we live with. EI says clearly that how we relate is vital to our survival and when we fail to relate, something or someone living dies as a result. Lastly, emotional intelligence enables us to differentiate between those who are anti-ethical to ‘feeling’ from those who are not.
#CameronMustGo is an emotionally-intelligent hashtag. It’s big enough to embrace ALL the social issues created by the Coalition, together with all the preceding governments who were enablers of what has already been done to the ‘real public’ under this parliament. It is inclusive where single-issue hashtags are not. It is heart-felt intelligence in the face of intellectual heartlessness. Those who participate in the wisdom of EI fully understand what is occurring when the establishment tries to dismiss the hashtag, even if they might not grasp it intellectually to begin with. The value of #CameronMustGo over the last fortnight is that when tweeps don’t quite ‘get’ what is being shared, they can ask and become informed. The hashtag has been a valuable educator because it has provided a ‘one-stop-shop’ of detailed factual information for those who want it and a tremendous enabler of much-needed emotional expression for people living under a government that seeks to repress anything and everything that fails to make a profit for their corporate friends or themselves.
So when Guido Fawkes claims no-one cares about #CameronMustGo, he could not be more in error; when Radhika Sanghani claims the hashtag does not represent real people, she could not be more mistaken; and when the Daily Mirror says all it does is clog up your timelines, they prove they haven’t the faintest idea about what they are seeing. #CameronMustGo is the reasoned, tolerant and emotionally intelligent response to an establishment that clearly despises all those it places outside its very narrow version of rich white male social acceptance. The levels of publicly expressed disdain, dismissal and class bigotry have been quite extraordinary and alarming.
From an emotional intelligence perspective, #CameronMustGo has been a social media confrontation with the UK establishment over its long-term abuse of the British public. The establishment’s arrogant and high-handed response points to a remarkable absence of self-awareness, regret or – dare I suggest it – repentance. This is the tolerant interpretation. There is a far darker message that needs to be drawn, in my opinion.
If any of those actively trying to shut the hashtag down do appreciate the points I’m making here and still think they are perfectly entitled to do so, then the real people of my country are in very serious trouble because we are dealing with active abusers intent on further harm because they believe they are perfectly entitled to whatever it is they intend to take from us by force.
As any survivor of domestic abuse will tell you, maybe they won’t kill you when you try to change or end such abuse, but the chances are they will. At present, the levels of political abuse inflicted by the establishment upon ordinary people is killing us by the thousands. With the intellectual divide-and-rule control of Westminster over the mainstream media, there has not been an outlet that enabled a sustained coherent collective response from real people about what has been done to us, let alone what they plan to do next. Perhaps it was an issue of timing. Nevertheless, and probably quite by accident, Jon and Jenny stumbled upon the perfectly-imperfect, frequently accurate and often passionate hashtag #CameronMustGo and enabled all of us to bring our voices together and send a message to government that we have had enough of their lies.
Look at what we have achieved on twitter in the last fortnight, against all the odds, and maybe together we can start to appreciate how amazing we really are when we’re listening to each other and not what the elite would like us to believe.