Yesterday, the media was all-a-kerfuffle with the resurgence of #Traingate and whether or not Jeremy Corbyn lied about being on an overcrowded train last year (for the record, he didn’t, because that would be a f*cking weird thing to lie about.)
A few days ago, MPs across Britain publicly mourned the fact that Big Ben won’t bong for another 4 years, because apparently a quiet clock is more of a cause for concern than oh, I don’t know, Brexit, or poverty, or the rise of the far right, or the demise of the NHS or LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE.
Every few days, Donald Trump tweets something about the Fake Media (read: literally anyone that doesn’t believe his blatant lies) instead of offering any kind of real or heartfelt statement about the many atrocities that are happening in his country.
“It’s the political equivalent of a magician’s sleight of hand.”
In fact, across the Western world right now, MPs and representatives seem more concerned with seemingly vacuous and irrelevant events than with the very real and very terrifying things that are happening. Whether it’s Donald Trump’s weird obsession with lying about the size of crowds, or Theresa May’s bizarre stories about running through fields of wheat, world leaders–and subsequently, the media–are intent on filling our minds with pointless stories, while behind the scenes vulnerable people suffer.
It is, if we’re honest, the political equivalent of a magician’s sleight of hand–except without the cute bunnies and awe-inspiring illusions.
Donald Trump quietly drafts healthcare bills that will murder innocent people, but distracts us all with tweets about covfefe. Theresa May quietly sells arms to Saudi Arabia, but fills our papers with red buses and prosecco parties. Mitt Romney (betcha thought he’d disappeared for good, didn’t you) calls for Trump to apologise for his Charlottesville comments, in the hopes that we’ll all forget his abhorrent 2012 campaign.
Unfortunately for us–the average Josephine–it’s all too easy to get swept up in these magic tricks. It’s easy to rant and rave about #Traingate and forget that, as we speak, nurses are visiting food banks. It’s easy to turn Trump into a meme and ignore the repeated examples of police brutality. It’s easy to joke about the ridiculous and forget about the reality.
“As long as we’re happy to go along with the media circus, politicians are going to keep getting away with murder.”
This is, obviously, not new. Whataboutery–the tactic of dismissing your critics by yelling ‘WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER GUY AND ALL THE TERRIBLE THINGS THEY’VE DONE?’–is as old as politics itself, and was particularly prominent in the Soviet Union. But in the age of social media–the age of the 24/7 news cycle–it’s easier than ever to get caught up in it all; to let otherwise important news stories slip from our mind and replace them with tales of wheat fields.
Of course, not everything politicians do is an attempt to distract us from the big stuff. MPs aren’t necessarily feigning incredulity over Big Ben in the hopes that we’ll forget about their expenses. Donald Trump almost certainly isn’t treating each tweet as a strategic political move. But as long as we’re happy to go along with the media circus, politicians are going to keep getting away with murder.
Quite literally, in some cases.