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An Uncanny Valley At The Cenotaph
On peculiar unreality of British Political life.
The somewhat modestly named “Behavioral Insights Team” carry this passage on their website in which they “face up to the challenges” of climate action:
Prioritizing actions. Some behavioral barriers will be tougher to address than others. In one project, we found that encouraging people to change their home heating habits was too big of an ask. Instead, providing residents with totally new, sustainable thermostats was the better option. Officials should assess who will need to change their behaviors and how difficult that behavior change will be, so they can prioritize climate actions that will work in practice, not just in theory.
Elsewhere on their website, the Behavioural Insights Team tells us that simplistic messaging results in more people “acting correctly” by virtue of those messages being more easily digestible. It is common knowledge that the British state uses these techniques to “modify” the thinking and behaviour of the public. Perhaps the most famous example was the “Don’t Look Back In Anger” PR campaign that followed the Manchester Arena bloodbath. The aim of what is collectively called the “Nudge Units” in common parlance is creating what Jacques Ellul called “Psychological crystallization”.
It is worth noting that modifying the behaviour of the public is not always sinister in intent. For example, one campaign in Darlington had small animal footprints painted on the ground leading to rubbish bins. Littering was subsequently reduced by 15%. Very few people would object to a little paternalistic encouragement with regard to littering and keeping parks clean. However, if cutesy painted paws leading to bins are at one end of the nudging spectrum, then at the other end would be the obscenity of the Covid-19 fearmongering — or for that matter, whatever happens to be the current thing.
The psychological insight teams and behavioural tinkerers are forever at work in Britain. There is always another outcome to be striven for, another path to be cleared before a new policy can be implemented successfully. It is for this reason that much of public life in the UK resembles an infant school, complete with soft, cartoonish messaging and signage. The mind benders discovered long ago that such infantilizing and simplistic imagery is easier to understand and therefore more efficient in achieving its outcomes. This, in turn, gradually removes agency from the subject and instead creates a malleable lump of play-dough in place of an adult making their own decisions.
Low-carbon cars, such as battery-powered ones, pose a challenge for the nudgers because they’re correctly viewed as too expensive and inefficient. However, the nudgers have decided that if such car registration plates are adorned with a little green rectangle then something new comes into play — status.
Such manipulation, and knowing it exists and can be easily found on flashy websites, begs a few questions about the degree to which the British people act according to their Free Will. Or to put it another way, where does the manipulation end and authenticity begin?
The British Government has been confronted with a rather sticky geopolitical situation for the last month: the people who care the most about Middle Eastern politics disagree with the geopolitical stance of the Government. The left and the Islamic community have taken to the streets in opposition to Israel’s highly questionable “war” in Gaza. They’re fully energized and, for once, seem to have a genuine cause to rally behind. The long-suffering masses from Middle England, ignored and bullied for decades, had seemingly checked out of politics and given up. Or perhaps, for whatever reason, they just didn’t care about either Israel or Palestine. The situation for the government was uncomfortable. They supported what increasingly seemed like severe human rights abuses and perhaps even genocide, but without any vocal base of support.
At least, such was the situation until the left and their Islamic allies decided to continue their protest marches during Remembrance Day. Finally, Douglas Murray was able to fight on behalf of the Israeli Government on the home front. Finally, the silent majority was being offended and their history disrespected. Suddenly, the interests of patriotic Brits aligned perfectly with Zionist interests and the two had common enemies — just like magic.
You could be forgiven for thinking that common sense and the British Government’s usual scant regard for free speech would result in the pro-Palestine march simply being banned yet, as of writing, the Government is allowing it to proceed. Which is to say, they’re creating a situation wherein a patriotic counter-protest is guaranteed.
I spent much of the week pondering how amazingly convenient this was for the staunchly pro-Israel Tory Party. Was this an operation? At the same time, the replies to my skeptical utterances on social media were full of such sentiments as “At the end of the day we can’t just be shat on forever without even protesting about it”. That is a fair point.
The question, fundamentally, is whether patriotic British sentiment is being manipulated purposefully or whether such casual disrespect and indifference to our hallowed days of remembrance is merely part and parcel of living in a vibrant and enriching multicultural society. Yet, we know the Government engages in nudging and cajoling and “Behavioural Modification” to achieve desired outcomes.
We live in a sort of unreality, within a paradigm wherein it is almost impossible to know whether an event or crisis is organic and authentic or entirely fabricated and manufactured. Every event has attached to it an angle, catch, or con. We exist as if within The Truman Show. Each time we decide to leave the island we discover a bridge has collapsed or a power station has blown up that blocks our way out. We find a camera in an odd place and 10 minutes later our buddy shows up at the door with a six-pack to distract us.
At least we can be grateful that there are no figureheads on hand to lead the lads at the Cenotaph into what could result in carnage and mass arrests. Oh, what’s that, Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins just so happen to be reinstated on Xitter and they’re leading the charge against the Muslims and Left on Remembrance Day.
Here of course I open myself up to being labelled a do-nothing cynic who casts aspersions on anyone or anything that stands up for what is right, and in this case, it happens to be protecting days of national and historical significance. It will be claimed that the government will do nothing, and so the footie fans and the veterans will have to do it themselves, by which they mean turn up as a show of force. However, the government will be active in using facial recognition technology to monitor the crowds for hate speech and they will have ready access to iPhones containing bank details and personal tracking technology. They can do that, if not ban disrespectful protest because of some curiously new-found libertarian principles.
But I do understand the rage, all too well. I too think that “enough is enough” and that “something has to be done”. It’s just that I can’t help but notice the cute painted little paw prints on the ground guiding me or the general uncanny valley, slightly “off” appearance of it all. The best case scenario would be for the government to ban the pro-Palestine march, but that would deflate the situation and leave them with not much more than dead babies in Gaza and vast hostile demographics that they imported. And we can’t have that, can we…