Dominic Cummings, political culture and the hypocrisy of outrage.
'Men are better at seeing and deciding about other people's affairs than their own,' said Terence. Doesn't that just sum up the whole Dominic Cummings debacle.
Imagine if Cummings was fired and a series of big corporates came out with statements saying that they want to stand in solidarity with the people who had enforced this moral decision. These corporates would tell us they thought that Cummings did was disgraceful. And they deplore his hypocrisy. As a result, they are going to fire anyone on their staff who they think has broken the guidance.
Would all the people baying for blood be happy with this?
Mostly, people are taking their usual positions. The Boris and Brexit haters are against Cummings. The Tory MPs who don't like Boris and who don't like bad publicity are against Cummings.
I don't know why everyone is so angry. No-one got hurt. I do know that the way the people on his street are behaving is far, far worse than anything he did.
How would we respond to this rationally, that is without emotional fervor?
Rob Wiblin said this:
When you sack a government COVID-19 advisor for leaving the home or illegal parking or jaywalking or copyright infringement, or whatever, those who really get punished are the extra people who die because the country's policy response is now less intelligent or organised...
Obviously all the people who are already against Cummings & Co politically will say his policy is not intelligent etc. That prior belief is why they want him to go now. And there's that false story about Cummings leading the herd immunity policy for them to fall back on.
Here are some points I think we need to bear in mind:
The guidance is fairly broad and has some loopholes in.
This is not the most important thing happening right now but it dominates media coverage.
People are paying much more attention to Cummings' demeanour at press conference than anything else.
Without Cummings this government is significantly less effective.
For many people it's easy and reassuring to take a black and white supposedly moral position on this issue without considering it in a wider context. If Cummings goes we have a weaker government. OK, tell me that's justified, tell me all the reasons why that's "the right thing'. Now is not the time to make an issue of this magnitude that important.
It all reminds me of those episodes when some cabinet minster gets caught fucking someone s/he isn't married to and it gets blow up into a scandal. I think that might be because everyone can sound intelligent and ethical about that. Tying to do that about actual policy and the real difficult questions of government is a bigger ask.
The Emily Maitlis editorial that everyone is arguing about is a case in point. Disinterested journalism about COVID is hard work. Angry sermons about Cummings are not. And they get way better ratings.
So go ahead, castigate the bad man. Justify it any way you want. You are probably right. But what sort of political culture are you part of now? What are you helping all those second rate journalists and mouth piece politicians to create? Democracy makes you responsible for this stuff too. We all cry for a hunt and then lament the fact that politics has become a blood sport.
And how far are you going to take these iron clad ethics? Should we fire doctors and teachers who broke the guidance? What about private sector employees? If we're concerned about one law for everyone then by definition we are concerned about one punishment too. All of the people who are chanting on the streets about breaking the rules have presumably been staying away from each other in the park.
That's the thing about outrage. It's so temporary that no-one thinks about what a hypocrite they are just by getting this worked up.
So tell me, all you angry, righteous, non-hypocrites — who else shall we fire once Cummings has gone?