“There are no grey areas, there is no nuance,” say columnists and politicians who fight the culture war daily

I encounter nuance at the school gate but a columnist on the radio tells me it doesn’t exist.

On the radio this morning, I heard two journalists doing a newspaper review in conversations with two breakfast show presenters. One of them opined that the problem these days — there’s always a problem and it’s always with “these days” — is that there is no nuance, no grey areas, that ‘everyone’ has been made to take positions along the ideological lines established during the 2016 Brexit referendum. It’s bollocks and here’s why:

The culture war is a product of a sclerotic establishment combined with a media environment where newspapers, radio stations and TV shows focused on current events have to frame everything in the most ‘exciting’ way possible. Politicians want attention from those shows and the approval of the media barons who control them, so they go along with and stoke the culture war cycle of story creation:

…find something, be offended by it, stir up other people to be ‘offended’, get a tame newspaper to report about how offensive it is, get a second day of coverage as the columnists pick it up and it moves onto talk radio and 24-hour news channels, find a new angle (this time probably based around people ‘attacking you’ over your initial opinion) and start the cycle all over again…

This is the strategy that keeps people like Dan Wootton, Darren Grimes, Julia Harley-Brewer and self-loathing conspiracy egg Toby Young in business. Despite the right having hold of the levers of state power, it’s important for it to act as though it is, in fact, weak. So it implies that culture is warped by the left — despite the left having no real power — and attacks institutions like the courts, the arts, the BBC and, incredibly under the current government, the Church of England. The aim is to suggest that the Conservative government is failing because it is undermined by Marxists messing things up rather than its ongoing commitment to corruption, greed, and incompetence.

If you look beyond talk radio and the newspapers with their increasingly foaming-at-the-mouth commentators, you find plenty of nuance and lots of grey areas. People are willing to have their minds changed and to listen to other people’s opinions. I have conversations with people at the school gate and in the pub, even now, that are friendly and capable of revealing areas of agreement where initially there only seemed to be difference.

But agreement and nuance are not what the newspapers in this age of decrepit media can make money from. Agreement is not the reason that several new ‘Fox News for Britain’ TV stations are on the cusp of launching, or why Talk Radio, Times Radio and LBC — among many others — spend every day finding the smallest issues to be offended about and forming them into a patchwork quilt of grievance, pettiness and shame.

When politicians and columnists tell you we have never been more divided, they omit a crucial part of the sentence. It should read — “We have never been more divided because conflict has never been more profitable or necessary for the elites of which I am a member.” It is in the interests of these special interest groups to suggest that we all hate each other and that the most shark-like instincts of capitalism make the most sense: “Trust no one, except me, the columnist who tells you that everyone else is a prick and that you and I are the ones who are right and true.”

Of course, there are a few voices who say something different within the papers that push these messages, but Noam Chomsky nailed that in Manufacturing Consent:

“The beauty of the system, however, is that such dissent and inconvenient information are kept within bounds and at the margins so that while their presence shows that the system is not monolithic, they are not large enough to interfere unduly with the domination of the official agenda.”

Rupert Murdoch doesn’t want you to be happy. How could he sell you gambling, cut-price bingo, and shit holidays to places he’d never visit in a million years if you were?

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Writer, editor and internet arguer.

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