Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The NHS versus Sick Filth

Currently, the most popular e-petition on the Government's "ask the people" web site calls on the government to drop its Health and Social Care Bill (if you decide to click though and add your name, thanks). I can imagine what sort of person would want to sign this; anybody worried about the potential breakup and privatisation of the National Health Service. It's a big issue, and I can see why it matters to a lot of people.

Here's a very different on-line petition. Any idea why the undersigned are getting so hot and bothered about the following issue?

Well, the controlling minds behind this petition may be astute enough to be doing bit of diversionary trolling - I'll link once more to the Flying Rodent's excellent piece on noisy little squabbles as political camouflage:
There are hundreds of thousands of aggrieved, unhappy people out there, and lots of them have years of experience in stoking popular resentment over slights, both real and imagined...

Let battle commence!  Why not have an argument over who gets custody of the Nazis?  Abortion is literally genocide!  And don't go reading any headlines today about how the government is tanking the economy, thanks.

What sort of emotional hot buttons are the people behind this petition trying to press? This arresting image and caption combo from the Daily Mail (via) might give us a clue:

It's an interesting peek into the mind of the sort of person the Mail thinks might get hot under the collar about this issue. You've got an prominent picture of a couple of happy lasses in bridal veils enjoying a kiss, accompanied by an urgent warning about the national disaster that will follow if we don't Act Now to Ban This Sick Filth.

There's some serious psycho-sexual turmoil going on here, with readers being simultaneously lashed with stern warnings about moral degeneracy and titillated with images of girls getting off with one another, just to make sure that readers can clearly picture the orgy of sapphic snogging that could ensue. Could it be that some of the people getting worked up about this are getting a furtive kick from fantasising about what other people might be getting up to? There are few temptations with the emotional power of unacknowledged, illicit desires. Credit where it's due, the people at the Mail clearly know the power of guilty pleasures to hook people and draw them in to a story.

And, talking of illicit desires, it's not just prurient straight males, inflamed by the thought of all that sinful girl-on-girl action, who might be feeling some guilty stirrings in the undergrowth. Remember Pastor Ted Haggard, the homophobic American conservative Christian pastor with an embarrassing fondness for methamphetamine and male prostitutes? Well, he's got a meme all of his very own now:
Haggard’s Law: the likelihood of someone’s being gay increases in proportion to the force of that person’s public objections to homosexuality.

 Hat tip

To paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws, we're gonna need a bigger closet.

I think this is why social conservatives sometimes seem immune to rational argument. It's not about reason. They recognise something that their more thoughtful critics don't quite get - the seething power of repressed emotion and desire. Try and contain the messy, ambiguous, changeable, subtle thing called human nature inside the rigid pressure vessel of a cast-iron, repressive, authoritarian code of behaviour and you've bottled up something more powerful than you can possibly imagine. The power of all that pent-up feeling can sweep away any amount of patiently thought out, rational argument in a tsunami of incoherent pain and rage.

So if it's not about minds, there may not be much we can do to change minds on this one, but if we can't beat 'em we can at least support the people they want to exclude and show solidarity with Peter Tatchell's campaign to stop discriminating against gay people who think enough of the institution of marriage to want to be part of it. There's a link to the Equal Love petition, here.