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  • Wed, 2, Sep, 2020 - 5:00:AM

Stop giving outrage parties free publicity

A few weeks ago, I wrote about coming across a political hoarding that read: NO GENDER IDEOLOGY. I wrote at the time: “It took me a while to even register what that meant: for a second or two, I thought they were of the far-left ‘abolish gender’ persuasion.”

Then I realised it was a New Conservative hoarding, and that NO GENDER IDEOLOGY referred to all manner of (imo) reactionary bullshit. Google confirmed that NO GENDER IDEOLOGY, per the New Conservatives, meant recognising two genders only, withdrawing all taxpayer funding of gender reassignment surgery, and removing the teaching of so-called gender ideology from schools.

I also wrote at the time that “some options ran through my mind. I could graffiti the thing. I could, in the middle of the night, spray those big block letters in midnight black. Or I could steal it. Break up the GIB board and use it for kindling.”

And also that “I didn’t do any of that. I’m far too chicken, and I knew they would only bring more attention to the dumb thing.”

I still believe this was the correct choice.

Since then, the policy page on the New Conservatives website has gone viral several times over, and for obvious reason. The statements on there are incendiary, and include making “street prostitution” (their phrasing) a criminal offense, enforcing abstinence-based sex education in schools, and moving abortion back to the Crimes Act.

When I say that these statements are incendiary, I don’t think that will come as a shock to the people who wrote them. I believe statements like that are written with full knowledge that they will stoke outrage. In fact, I believe they are written with that precise intention.

Here’s the thing: a political party could hope for nothing more than for the policy page on their official website to go viral. What could be better? It’s probably even better than your merch going viral (did you snaffle up the Chlöe jumper before they ran out?).

When the New Conservative policy screenshots started going viral a few weeks ago, I saw them being shared everywhere. Someone in a feminist Facebook group I’m part of said something like “everyone needs to share this!!”, and I remember thinking – why?

I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t in the mood for an argument, but I truly didn’t get it. Sharing something with nothing more to say than this is bad!! does very little. It doesn’t offer a call to action (who should I vote for instead?) and it doesn’t offer a solution.

What it does is it exposes the thing to hundreds of potentially susceptible voters. For every person who outrage shares something like that, there will be one person who reads it and thinks hey that makes sense to me. It exposes the thing to people who may be getting fed up with their usual political alliance (say, National) and who may be looking for something new.        

Since their policy page has gone viral, the New Conservatives have risen in the polls.

It’s a hard edge to balance, because incendiary statements also need to be debunked. But sharing with nothing more to add than this is bad! is almost worse than doing nothing.

Much better, I think, to share the policies of an organisation that you like. Here are several that I’m quite fond of. 

Much better, I always think, to be for something than against. Especially when it comes to elections. To take the example overseas, I believe that one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest electoral mistakes in 2016 was focussing on being “better than Trump”. That, obviously, is a very low bar to clear, and, in my opinion, she would have been better to focus on her own vision.

It’s a lesson I try to apply to my everyday life.

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Abigail
Johnson

Regular Contributor All Articles