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Opinion

When the dog whistle is replaced by a bull horn

08 Oct 2023 4 minute read
Home Secretary, Suella Braverman delivers her keynote speech to the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester – Image: Stefan Rousseau

Ben Wildsmith

One of the defining features of truly dreadful people is that that they are blissfully unaware of their repugnance. If you do or say something socially unacceptable, your senses alert you to adverse responses, however polite or subtle they may be.

Embarrassment is a unique emotion in that it doesn’t fade over time. Decades on from saying something that threatened your acceptability to a social group, the mere memory of the event will induce the authentic, gut-wrenching horror that you experienced at the time.

This is humanity at its base level. Underneath our intellect, and regardless of the individuality we’ve imagined we possess since the Enlightenment, lies the pack mentality that kept us alive when resources were scarce, and predators proliferated.

Back in the day, it was no good claiming to be a ‘disruptor’ if you’d snuck off from bear-guarding duties to record an edgy podcast about trading crypto arrowheads. You were out of the tribe and at the mercy of nature.

Fear of ostracism is the most powerful deterrent we have to keep us honest. Laws and penalties vary from place to place and over time. The turning away of a society from an individual, though, is the bedrock of our application of justice.

Whether you’ve been sent out of class for blowing raspberries, or to the Hague for committing war crimes, the process is the same and the implication identical: do this and you threaten the common good.

Embarrassment

Imagine, then, what it must be like not to feel embarrassment. If things are going well, it would be liberating to be unconstrained by a continual emotional response to your social performance.

‘I don’t care what other people think,’ we often lie as we transgress just a teensy-weensy bit so that we can poke our heads above the crowd and experience the sunlight of personal recognition.

We do, though.

Remember the last whispered joke you shared with your best friend; one that had you both breathless at its thrilling wrongness. Now picture yourself at an elderly relative’s birthday party telling the same joke in earshot of Aunt Gwen, who still sends you an Airfix kit every Christmas.

You care what people think alright.

Which is why you’re not going to make it as a politician.

Baying delight

When Suella Braverman made her sniggering speech this week, in which the traditional dog whistle was replaced by a bull horn, it was with disregard for the mores of most of the population.

To the baying delight of her audience in the hall, she dismissed those who disagreed as a ‘privileged elite’. Listening to the speech in my car outside Lidl, I learned that compassion for refugees was a ‘luxury belief’ which would be tolerated no longer.

Later in the week, I heard a journalist from Led By Donkeys recount telling Ms. Braverman that Rwanda, her proposed destination for refugees, had shot dead 12 asylum seekers in 2018. Initially unaware of the incident, she quickly rationalised it in non-luxury terms.

‘That was five years ago. It’s 2023 now.’

The Conservatives remain over 20 points behind Labour in the polls.

Disgust

To thrive in modern politics, a candidate has to navigate not only the scrutiny of the press and the ballot box, but the ‘hurricane’, as Braverman might style it, of internet abuse that blows in the face of anybody who mounts a soap box.

The quantitative deficit between people who were willing to post a letter and those who will lob an abusive comment on social media is so great that it is throwing up mutant politicians.

Whilst a thick skin was always required in that game, the 21st century variant rewards those with no finer feelings to protect.

However the next election goes, you will be hearing from Braverman until either she or you is reading the great opinion column in the sky.

If not in power, she’ll be in opposition, and if that goes south, she’ll be in the media agitating for her own reemergence.

The mountains of disgust she will produce are a monetizable product for which you, one way or another, will be paying the bill.

It’s embarrassing, isn’t it?


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Dafydd Huw
Dafydd Huw
8 months ago

She is a truly awful person.

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
8 months ago
Reply to  Dafydd Huw

And so must be those who voted for her, and Sunak for supporting her. Truly ugly cruel people who heartIly deserve condemnation! What sort of people would support these disgusting ideas?

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
8 months ago

Suella Braverman is a repugnant, heartless embarrassment to all women, 2nd generation immigrants and human beings everywhere.
Pretty typical for right wing politicians in 2023 though.
Since BJ’s bonfire of all the talents in 2019, the last of the decent Tories were ousted. And the intellectual vacuum this left was filled by intellectually vacant ideological monstrosities. Of which Braverman and Badenoch are amongst the very very worst (against stiff competition from pretty much every other Tory)

Last edited 8 months ago by Sarah Good
Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
8 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

Cranial voids is my description for them, I’ve told the Tories to take my address off their database as they will never get a vote out of my household but still I get their lie pamphlets. Cranial voids.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
8 months ago

Not once have I ever heard the Welsh Conservatives or Andrew RT Davies criticise Home Secretary Suella Braverman for her inflammatory racist rhetoric. Not once. There’s been some characters as Home Secretary in the past, but Suella Braverman is the most repugnant vulgar politician ever to hold high office. She not only is a hypocrite seeing both parents were economic migrants from Kenya & Mauritius. And to throw her word back down her stinking throat, both could have easily sought sanctuary in the nearest safe country but chose to settle thousands of miles away in England. I really do despise… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
8 months ago

Its blatant now. But don’t forget Sunak put her back in post after serious security issue as a minister. 30p still in the party, Farage at the conference.

Cap’n Stop the boats tubthumping on her behalf in Wales is a supporter don’t forget. ARTD is the dog whistle bull horn on call for them.

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago

This should be where the whole of Wales points the finger for Labour to pay attention. For the hard of hearing in the Labour party, not once since the inception of democracy in the previous iteration of the UK has Wales ever given a majority to the Tories – that is now getting on for 170 years! Labour has enjoyed Welsh majorities for a century yet in that time, we have been governed by the Tories the majority of the time. An entirely undemocratic state of affairs and the price to be paid for Labour’s unreformed Unionism. So to Labour… Read more »

Gareth Thomas
Gareth Thomas
8 months ago

Good words.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
8 months ago

Gwaith dda eto Ben. I’ve made this point before. If you do not possess the concepts of embarrassment, shame and humility, (GB News and Talk TV would not exist if they knew the meanings of these words) then you are lost. I think maybe three times in my life, I have heard someone say ‘I don’t give an eff what people think of me’. Those people did not figure in my life beyond that moment. You cannot have such people in your life nor should you tolerate such disrespect. I would just ask them when they are friendless and desperate… Read more »

Harri
Harri
7 months ago

She seems OK to me

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