You have reached the headquarters of the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ campaign. I’m sorry we can’t take your call right now; please leave your death threat after the tone.
I’m pleased to report that yesterday’s ‘New European’ was much more sensible than last week’s extended vitriol from Will Self. The letters page shows some readers agree with me and I have heard from at least one reader of this blog who considers it a ‘self-indulgent rant.’
But this week sees a return to form, with intelligent contributions including a page by Mitch Benn in which he channels Spooner by coining the word ‘fustercluck’ and other contributions on various aspects of our daily deepening hell-hole. The cover shows a detumescent Big Ben and several searing cartoons express satisfactorily the anger and despair most of us are feeling right now. I would of course order my Bollocks to Brexit mug, t-shirt, coaster and front-of-house banner, but for the fact that such things are deeply divisive and likely to provoke little except ire. For the same reason I have not signed the petition for a second referendum (or to revoke article 50 or whatever it was) because, much as I would love a second referendum, it would prove horribly divisive and lead to millions of leave voters feeling utterly betrayed.
I can’t remember a time when we as a nation were so divided. During the Thatcher years it was sometimes hard to talk to people on the other side; but that was a walk in the park compared to this. And there’s no solution in sight…
I don’t know how much this has to do with social media: certainly the ‘echo chambers’ everyone talks about seem real enough to me (at any rate I have very few friends on Facebook who are not politically on the left) and unquestionably what passes for debate on there consists of people lining up on one side and slagging the other side off. I’ve been off Facebook for six months now: I honestly thought I’d never make it this far, imagining that when the original month was up I’d be champing at the bit and rushing to log on again. But no. The more time goes by the less I feel the pull of its blue pages and the more acutely I become aware of the effect it was having on me.
Basically to scroll the news feed is to experience whirlpools of emotion; one image, one story after another all demanding React! React! React! Here’s a variety of emoticons you can use if words fail you! React! What with angry political items and heartwarming photos of cats it’s like being alternately slapped around the face and offered chocolate. There’s very little genuine interaction (less and less all the time in my experience) even with people I know in real life, so that the reason for ‘doing Facebook’ in the first place, ie to have some social intercourse in what is essentially the solitary life of a writer, has gone. I guess I’ll have to resort to meeting real people in actual cafes now…