Friday, January 05, 2007

Building religious pressure??

According to some reports various other religious groups are jumping on the bandwagon to derail the Sexual Orientation regulations (see also report here). I must say that this issue is creating very strange bedfellows, where extremist Christians and Muslims find a way of declaring a common purpose, whereas they normally spend their time attacking each other.

We shouldn't be so sure though - media reports create an inflated sense of reality and ought not to be trusted unless coroborrated.

There is a method to all of this. It consists of hyping something up; developing a sense of being persecuted (intolerable burdens being imposed) and your identity being under threat and then getting a 'Daily Mail' bandwagon going.

If successful all sorts of people throw caution to the wind and jump aboard (even otherwise sensible people).

Various recent bandwagons have included the BA Cross affair, the exclusion of Christian Unions from Universities and of the course the Sexual Orientation regulations themselves.

This is intentional - it isn't an accident and it's now the mainstay of conservative cultural politics.

The method seems to be as follows - either exaggerate, be careless with the facts or frankly just make something up (ordinarily this might worry religious believers, but when you are possessed of the Truth itself minor details aren't so important - as journalists often say "yeah, sure the story was poorly sourced and factually incorrect but even though the pictures are fakes the story is essentially true").

Factual truth tends to beget a moderate response - a letter to a minsiter seeking reassurances, questions in Parliament and so on. If you want your followers to go nuts you need to scare people about the imminent end of civilisation.

Exaggerated claims (or lies) generate panic, anxiety and fanaticism. Always have, always will. That's why people use this tactic - it works. You need a panic stations approach to get the sort of massive response that MP's and ministers are getting at the moment.

One example is the very early story that, according to the Church of England, the sexual orientation regulations will oblige churches to bless Civil Partnerships. This was never true in any sense i.e. the regulations were never going to require this and the Church of England never said it. And yet it still gets thrown in to Daily Mail news stories - they never correct the errors.

When 'exaggerations' start acting as the 'carrier' of the story no amount of denial or clarification will work. Because it's not an honest mistake but a 'message' that's part of a strategy at work.

It worked with the BA Cross 'affair' because BA was quite vulnerable to the actions of Dail Mail readers. It may have less success with the Government as the Daily Mail issues cast quantities of such exaggerations and the world of a Daily Mail reader is a very dark and sombre one where the sexual orientation regulations are the least of people's problems. It isn't going to hit the Government that hard because it only replaces a similar news story about immigration, Council Tax, deaths in hospitals and so on, and so on (reading the Daily Mail for a week is most instructive).

Also because MP's are (hopefully) much better informed and have access to accurate information in the form of written questions and open debate which tends to dissipate the worst of such myths.

The only way to defeat this is by fisking - for a definition see here, see also this site devoted to fisking.

An ideal candidate for fisking is anything on the websites of the Christian Institute or Lawyers Christian Fellowship - particularly on this topic, which consist of a catalogue of errors an example can be seen here

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