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Cynicism: Destroying democracy in Britain?

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posted on Jun, 24 2007 @ 03:24 PM
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I was glancing over the New York Times website earlier today and came across an article by A. A. Gill, a newspaper columnist who writes for the Sunday Times.

You can read the full thing here.

I strongly suggest you read through the entire thing before posting (it's about two pages, so not a major read) because he brings up some very interesting and thought-provoking points.

From his article, though, he basically suggests that it doesn't matter which political party is in power - the electorate will hate them anyway after a few years. They forget all the good things and focus on the bad. Churchill won the Second World War and yet was kicked out of office before Japan was defeated. Attlee, despite creating the NHS, only managed to stay in government for a single term.

He also goes on to compare the UK to the US, and how it would be pretty unlikely that you'd ever see a British version of the West Wing over here. And it's not as if the US hasn't had its share of politicians involved in scandals and dubious activities... Franklin Roosevelt requiring a wheelchair but concealing this from the public, Nixon and Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair with Reagan and Clinton with Lewinsky. And yet somehow we take a very different view of our leaders and politicians.

Is cynicism causing big problems in Britain? Should we be naturally cynical about our politicians?



posted on Jun, 25 2007 @ 11:57 AM
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I think that article is pretty accurate about it all but I also would say that a little detachment and time gives a better perspective.

Given the UK's post WW2 history (particularly our economic history) I'm fairly sure that the view of TB will be much different in a few years.

Despite the widespread 'hurt' endured by the public in the Thatcher years it seems that around maybe 25yrs on she'll be regarded more fondly
(& cynically no doubt her death will do wonders for her rehabilitation amongst the wider public).
TB not having caused anything like so much 'hurt' to the British people won't have to wait that long IMO.

The contrast with the Brown years will be stark tho; this is something the article hints at.
TB was great for all that 'vision thing' stuff and conveying the ideas to the public he was less good at follow-up and detail (but then that's hardly much of a failing as it's what you have Ministers & other people around you for).
Gordon Brown is less of the glitz and PR and much more of an attender to detail (and holding people to account for the things they said they would do).

It's going to be an interesting contrast.

I agree that they all leave office having come up short (if only against their own plans & expectations......there's always so much more they'll feel they could have done 'if only.....').

Of course TB & the recent history is - perhaps uniquely for a modern British PM - caught on a couple of UK favourites that the 'cold war' had previously helped to hide.
1) pretending that when 'we' cooperate with the USA in military and foreign affairs that 'we' are much else besides being the USA's junior partner (whilst refusing to consider a joint European role in the same) and
2) resenting taking any action along side the USA as said junior partner (with all the 'wanting it both ways' complaining when it comes to that geo-political alliance stuff).

Without Iraq I'm pretty sure TB could have been PM for a couple more terms if he had wanted but I wouldn't be so sure he would have wanted that anyways.
Sooner or later it has to end and as they say better to go out at the time of your own choosing & with everything going reasonably well than forced out by your own party á la Thatcher in 1990.



posted on Jun, 26 2007 @ 12:35 AM
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Unfortunately you’re article needs a subscription.

But let’s see; in the past ten years we’ve had: Limits on public protests within 1 km of parliament, terrorist legislation being used to search protesters, big expansion of M15 (double edged in what that can do!!), compulsory biometric I.D cards due, there’s literally thousands of new police powers, and the right to trial by jury has been curtailed.
There’s a Conservative opposition which would have done literally everything this government has done foreign policy wise.
The ability to spin the truth, and bury bad news on 9/11 has been greatly perfected to a fine art. But really the opposition is just jealous that can’t deceive us as well as the government does.

We’ve (long had) a mass media controlled by private individuals like Rupert Murdoch, who get invited to downing street, because they (way beyond anyone else) get to determine the prime ministers and his policies support (through totally legal deception and bias).

Aren’t these the really troubling facts?
And forgive me if I'm wrong but how exactly does cynicism destroy democracy?
I was taught it defends it, because overall it’ll always points one way: To kick out the current government (whoever that is). This creates competition; i.e. government listening.



posted on Jun, 26 2007 @ 04:45 AM
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Originally posted by Liberal1984
Unfortunately you’re article needs a subscription.


It doesn't... I don't have a subscription to the NYT and never have. Try searching the site if the link doesn't work.

But it's interesting nonetheless... Liberal1984's points are sort of proving what the article says is true. Notice he goes solely for the bad points, and not the good (of both the Labour government and the Conservative opposition... and why not mention the Lib Dems who opposed the war from the very start?).

Cynicism itself isn't destroying democracy. It's an essential ingredient, in fact. But excessive cynicism, which seems to be rife in the UK, is the big problem. People find the word 'balance' a difficult concept to accept, and it's not a modern thing either. Look at Thatcher, who was reviled by many in the 1980s despite some of the things that she did which were necessary. Take Harold Wilson, who kept us out of Vietnam and gave us the Open University... people tend to remember him for economic difficulties and the beginning of 'spin' (giving the Beatles honours, for example).



posted on Jun, 27 2007 @ 11:42 PM
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The fact people remember bad things more than good things is about as old as the human brain. E.g: Nobody remembers all the days when the electricity worked, just the few when it didn’t.
I still don’t understand why “excessive” cynicism is supposed to be destroying democracy. How exactly does giving politicians a through reviewing = bad democracy, or bad schools and hospitals?

Also remember what happens when politicians don’t face “excessive” cynicism. My understanding is the less cynicism they face the more they’ll promise things they cannot deliver. Also if one strain of thought is being too cynical you need only challenge a debate on it!! This is happening over whether or not Iran is developing a nuclear bomb, most people may believe Iran is up to no good, the fact they don’t want a war to “deal” with Iran is a lot besides cynicism.



posted on Jun, 28 2007 @ 08:12 AM
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Originally posted by Ste2652
It doesn't.


- Nor for me, works fine.


Originally posted by Ste2652
Cynicism itself isn't destroying democracy. It's an essential ingredient, in fact. But excessive cynicism, which seems to be rife in the UK, is the big problem.


- I agree if by "excessive cycnicism" you mean a wholly selective and one-dimensional view of events that is only prepared to use every negative point available and willfully ignore all and any of the positive - and/or use glorious 20/20 hindsight to paint every decision ever made as 100% knowingly & utterly wrong; or even better 'evil'.



posted on Jun, 29 2007 @ 04:13 AM
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Originally posted by Sminkeypinky
I agree if by "excessive cycnicism" you mean a wholly selective and one-dimensional view of events that is only prepared to use every negative point available and willfully ignore all and any of the positive –


It’s called propaganda. Whilst it doesn’t do much good for democracy in itself it can do whenever both sides play at it simultaneously. In fact this can be one of the best ways of finding the truth and unknowns, this applies to historians as much as someone lucky enough to read two politically opposed newspapers in one day. Propaganda is about as old as literature, the traditional way of dealing with it is to let people make up their own minds and hope it will balance out.



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