Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 22:08 on 10-04-2013, Adrienne
Dan, what you're talking about is actually a semi-well-known idea in political theory, called the Overton window.
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at 13:03 on 10-04-2013, Arthur B
Yep, and to be fair for the most part that isn't the form it's taking - Ed Milliband claims he's going to be highlighting to MPs where Thatcherism went wrong, whether or not he has the balls to actually do this at the special session of Parliament they've convened for the political eulogy remains to be seen but at least some of his MPs are making a point of boycotting the session.

I know the conversation's been concentrating more on the celebrations but that's because the celebrations are deeply, deeply problematic.

Steve Bell's having fun though.
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at 12:58 on 10-04-2013, Andy G
(Not that Thatcher-hate *necessarily* has to take the form of celebration)
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at 12:54 on 10-04-2013, Andy G
Her death is obviously only of symbolic rather than practical importance by this stage, but I think that much of the Thatcher-hate has involved explicit acknowledgement of her ongoing legacy and has attempted to channel anger against it. At the very least, it's a way of rejecting the attempt by supporters of ongoing Thatcherite policies to marshal Thatcher-love in support of their cause.
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at 08:32 on 10-04-2013, Shimmin
I'm from the North, and I don't think I met anyone who approved of Thatcher until I went to Uni. It's not even a mining area. The effects of that time are still very obvious everywhere I grew up, though some things have improved, and the continuing political influence of ideas from that period are still baffling slash depressing slash enraging. Of course, not all of the problems were down to Thatcherism, it was a complicated period.

But that was over twenty years ago, and whatever contempt I have for her policies, and however much I wish she'd never got into power, I don't see anything to celebrate in her death (let alone she's got friends and family mourning her, and having to deal with that). The time for that was twenty-two years ago when she lost power; or if we ever manage to shake off all those terrible ideas. Given they're privatising the NHS and leaving the regions to rot again, I am not exactly hopeful. It strikes me that the Thatcher-hate just distracts from the ongoing repeat performance.
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at 08:05 on 10-04-2013, Arthur B
Reagan was treated cultishly by Republicans even before he died, though, which is kind of my point: I don't think his death changed anyone's mind about him, I don't think Thatcher's death is going to change anyone's mind about her.
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at 06:20 on 10-04-2013, Cammalot
Richard Nixon spent his last couple of decades trying to rehabilitate his public image and mostly succeeding in taking on this sort of elder statesman role, to the point where Clinton and others said nice things at his funeral and it was all very respectful. He's still mainly associated with Watergate.


Reagan, on the other hand, has a big f*cking monument and an airport renamed after him, and is a high arching and honorable conservative figure. I don't know how comparable that is -- conservatism in Britain and conservativism in the U.S. are rather differfent animals, but it does worry me.
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at 17:19 on 09-04-2013, Arthur B
The more people there are out there advocating extreme versions of your political ideology, the more reasonable your political ideology sounds in comparison.

Only if they don't make you look like an idiot by association.

It would be interesting to do a study to see if WBC protests actually succeed at all in hardening the general public's attitudes towards gay rights or if it does in fact make people more sceptical of the anti-gay position. I can imagine someone trying to push a homophobic agenda by trying to present a very-slightly-less-psychotic version of what the WBC say, but if people listen to you speak and think "You know, I've seen this guy's talking points on those fluorescent signs the WBC wave about" then the benefit is dubious.

The most recent example I can think of where politicians have tried to present a slightly more reasonable version of something an extremist group was saying and trying to present themselves as the safe, sane alternative to it was the US presidential election, where Mitt Romney's candidacy was based on him being not an obvious danger to himself and others to the same extent as his rivals in the primaries were but his policies pandered to the Tea Party's vision of an America where the poor starve in the streets without directly enunciating it. Notably, it didn't work.

If you climb into an ideological pigsty with a crowd of rioting pigs, then it doesn't matter if you stand in clean corner of the sty and try to behave sensibly; you're still going to be covered in pigshit, you will still smell of pigshit, people will notice the close correlation between you and pigshit and draw their own conclusions.

The homophobic rhetoric in the States is deeply alarming right now but I don't think it's a result of the nastiest homophobes being emboldened by the WBC so much as it's a matter of them genuinely believing the shit they are spewing; most moderate figures on the right (including an ever-increasing trickle of Republican national figures) are now declaring support for gay marriage because they figure that's the way the wind is blowing.

Thatcher is quite a good example here. If it weren't for the street parties, then the spectrum of public opinion would run from "a controversial figure" to (as the Mail headline would have it) "the woman who saved Britain." This naturally settles down into a historical consensus of "well respected and a broadly positive influence".

Only if you specifically and deliberately ignore people who are saying "her premiership was a disaster" without tacking on the "ha ha she's fucking dead". Sinn Fein, in fact, are doing precisely that whilst specifically saying that street parties to celebrate someone's death aren't cool.

As far as historical consensus goes, I think your position is correct for people who die very suddenly and unexpectedly (Diana, Kennedy, Lincoln) but let's face it, that ain't the case here. Richard Nixon spent his last couple of decades trying to rehabilitate his public image and mostly succeeding in taking on this sort of elder statesman role, to the point where Clinton and others said nice things at his funeral and it was all very respectful. He's still mainly associated with Watergate.
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at 16:22 on 09-04-2013, Dan H
The legend of Xenu is a slightly different thing, and a parody on a TV show is not the same thing as extremists openly espousing a political position.

The more people there are out there advocating extreme versions of your political ideology, the more reasonable your political ideology sounds in comparison.

Thatcher is quite a good example here. If it weren't for the street parties, then the spectrum of public opinion would run from "a controversial figure" to (as the Mail headline would have it) "the woman who saved Britain." This naturally settles down into a historical consensus of "well respected and a broadly positive influence".
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at 15:32 on 09-04-2013, Arthur B
With my very, very cynical hat on, I might suggest that the Westboro Baptist church does a fair amount of good for the Christian Right, by getting the most extreme ideas into the public consciousness while at the same time allowing only-slightly-less-reprehensible people to say "hey, we're being perfectly reasonable, look at those guys."

I dunno, sometimes injecting extreme ideas into the public consciousness doesn't prompt the public to accept those ideas, it just makes the public point fingers and go "wow, those people are wacky".

I mean, the story of Xenu is extreme but the South Park episode which featured the myth didn't lead to a surge of recruits for Scientology.
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at 14:53 on 09-04-2013, Dan H
With my very, very cynical hat on, I might suggest that the Westboro Baptist church does a fair amount of good for the Christian Right, by getting the most extreme ideas into the public consciousness while at the same time allowing only-slightly-less-reprehensible people to say "hey, we're being perfectly reasonable, look at those guys."

So part of me is quite glad that I can simultaneously score cheap liberalism points by clicking my tongue at the extreme left while *also* resting safe in the knowledge that Thatcher will be remembered as somebody whose death was celebrated with street parties.
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at 14:44 on 09-04-2013, Arthur B
That's certainly true, it just seems that a better way to achieve that end is to present a sober assessment of what her legacy meant (which, to be fair, most critics are doing) rather than going "ding dong, the witch is dead" (which a number of people are doing and which can only hurt what the former group are trying to accomplish because seriously, street parties? That's only a step or two away from Westboro Baptist nonsense).
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at 14:26 on 09-04-2013, Dan H
I expect that part of it is that the days and weeks after a person's death are often very important in establishing their legacy (the Diana we remember today is the one from the funeral, not the one from the weeks before it) so I think a lot of the hooha is about trying to control the discourse and to try to avoid the "whatever you thought of her politics..." nonsense Andy talks about.
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at 13:15 on 09-04-2013, Arthur B
I can tell you that the radical left in London, at least, has exploded at the news, and while I can see where people are coming from, I'm just not feeling it - and some of the more gleeful reactions make me a bit queasy.

It's just completely nonsensical. Thatcher lived to a ripe old age and died whilst staying at the most luxurious hotel in London. Where, exactly, is the space for schadenfreude there?
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at 12:24 on 09-04-2013, Axiomatic
I just keep hearing people on the net say she was a "great" person, and they always use that precise term. Great.

I keep thinking the wave that hit Fukushima was great, too.
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at 12:16 on 09-04-2013, Andy G
It's long been portrayed as a day that her enemies would celebrate, but in fact it's been more of a heyday for her supporters because they get a chance to moralise about people celebrating her death and to mythologise her and her legacy. I haven't switched on the news since it happened. My Facebook feed is bad enough. I think the most common phrase I'm reading is: "Regardless of what you think of her politics, you have to agree she was a great/principled/admirable person" (and if you disagree, all hell breaks loose). Still, I expect it's going to be nothing compared to what will happen when the Queen dies.
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at 12:15 on 09-04-2013, Robinson L
Coming from the US, I'm in a similar position to Arthur in that I was never personally affected by Thatcher's rule, and neither, to my knowledge, was anyone I'm close to. I'm firmly against her politics, but I don't see that her death has any serious political ramifications at this point.

the wall-to-wall media coverage is bloody tedious.

Tell me about it. I'm also given to understand there's already a propaganda war raging over how she'll be remembered, which I find understandable but also quite tiresome.

I can tell you that the radical left in London, at least, has exploded at the news, and while I can see where people are coming from, I'm just not feeling it - and some of the more gleeful reactions make me a bit queasy. As Arthur says, maybe I'd feel differently if I was from a Yorkshire mining family, or from the Falklands - but on the other hand, I don't see how having empathy and solidarity for Thatcher's victims precludes my having empathy for Thatcher, too. (I'm actually in the midst of a running argument on this topic with one of my friends, sigh.)

All of which said, I've seen some suggestions that her state funeral should be privatized, and I would dearly like to see that happen.
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at 10:19 on 09-04-2013, Arthur B
Admittedly my family wasn't utterly disrupted from top to bottom during her time in office, which puts me in a privileged position in this respect. (In fact, she had several big fans on my Dad's side of the family; when Geoffrey Howe made his resignation speech which prompted her downfall my gran sent him 30 pieces of silver.) So, obvious caveat is that I might have felt differently had I been the son of a Yorkshire mining family.

On balance, I'm with Dan on this one. I don't like the direction the country went under her leadership, but that was several political generations ago and her death isn't going to meaningfully change the political trajectory we're on right now. I also think people who are declaring they're going to throw a party to celebrate her death are being spectacularly crass, and in a way which only gives the right ammunition. There's been this really ugly tendency in some loudmouthed quarters to look forward to her death (see Margaret On the Guillotine, see Tramp the Dirt Down) and whilst I get that she did have a genuinely devastating effect on a lot of people's lives, the same is true of a great many other PMs who didn't inspire a death cult.

That said, the wall-to-wall media coverage is bloody tedious.
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at 08:49 on 09-04-2013, Dan H
At the risk of making a totally inappropriate comparison, I feel much the same way I did when Osama bin Laden was killed. Which is to say, entirely neutral.

Thatcher did some pretty awful things to this country, but her death won't change that.
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at 06:43 on 09-04-2013, Adrienne
So i hadn't seen any news all day, meaning i just now noticed about Thatcher being dead. Thoughts from the UK contingent? It seems a momentous thing.
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at 00:05 on 09-04-2013, Melissa G.
I watched some of those. They're pretty fun. Nothing special, but entertaining.
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at 15:15 on 08-04-2013, Shimmin
ZOMG there is a series of films about a secret order of librarians! WANT.
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at 13:59 on 07-04-2013, Shimmin
Lost in Witcher. Send mutagens.
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at 10:30 on 05-04-2013, Robinson L
Getting back to "Oz, the Great and Terrible Powerful Terrible" for a minute, I'm mostly in agreement with this article, except that it makes the plot sound a lot more competent and suspenseful than it actually was, and didn't really do justice to how thoroughly unlikable the protagonist was.
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