David Cameron’s remarks about “a bunch of migrants”.
We can despair or rage that the Prime Minister of the country should descend to language which denigrates people like this. Whatever you think about refuges/asylum seekers/economic migrants in Calais – and there are representatives of all three groups – it is fine to have a policy say of not admitting them. But to use this extremely disparaging and dehumanising language is another matter.
But this is a calculated piece of populism. So there is no point really either despairing or raging.
It has come to this. The Prime Minister of one of the world’s leading nations reads a prepared script which uses horrible and demeaning language about people
This site has discussed emotional journalism and emotional politics. These are trends in contemporary society which derive from psychotherapy. There is also emotional education. And emotional advertising. The trend towards pitching everything onto the emotional plane is a tactic of power. It disarms people. Softens them. Averts criticism and challenge. The shift to the emotional plane can be presented both as ‘supportive’ and populist at the same time. (People are ‘supported’ by their ASBO for example; no matter that giving young people jail terms for breaching a civil order related to bad behavior may on occasion precipitate a suicide).
Another trend is how giving (as in charitable giving) has been hijacked by marketing forces. (An example of this is how supermarkets may, for example, make a ‘donation’ on your behalf to a charity based on a percentage of your shopping spend. ‘Giving’ is thus linked to spending and is necessarily devalued. We really only give as a side-effect of consuming and enjoying ourselves. A precise negation of the idea of giving as self-sacrifice).
Now the government is getting in on the act.
This is emotional manipulation. An attempt not to reduce the suffering of ‘Syrian children’ but to insert government into peoples’ emotions. To make the government seem caring and at the same time with the people. It is emotional government.
It blurs the boundaries between private giving and the government’s foreign aid budget. As Peter Oborne has analysed so well in his book