We need to rethink personal attacks in politics

While we scoff at Cameron’s digs to poor old Corbs, we fail to draw parallels to our own behaviour


The recent bouts of ‘ya mum’ jokes and raucous football chants in the House of Commons were this week’s Facebook gold.

Lad culture (sorry I’ll shut up about it one day), year 8 jibes and posh boys behaving badly. The perfect share to show our Facebook friends just how much disdain we hold for contemporary politics.

Every one of our newsfeeds would suggest most people don’t like mudslinging in politics, so why do we mudsling at each other?

david cameron piggate

It may not seem an obvious link, but this is a laddish, hyperbolised image of something that happens in Cambridge all the time

It won’t be your shitty geography teacher suit or lack of patriotism under fire, but your moral/intellectual capacity may well be under attack if you try enter into debate.

Weaponising your opponent’s integrity to silence them is all too common a tactic in Cambridge chat whenever things get socio-political. Make a cheap shot at someone’s character when they say something you don’t agree with and they’ll probably shut up.

So while we scoff at Cameron’s digs to poor old Corbs, we fail to draw parallels to our own behaviour. We’re constantly attacking people and not ideas. I’m not saying the misdirected anger of well-intentioned, politicised students is the same as Cameron’s theatrics, but it’s about as useful. There is a need and a space for emotion and anger in politics, but it’s not productive to direct this at individuals.

You might have found yourself backpacking in South East Asia on your gap yah, or learnt everything you need to know ever on a feminist tumblr post, but none of us have actually met moral objectivity yet. Let people’s ideas grow and develop. By all means try to shape and educate each other’s understandings, but don’t attack them for the one’s they hold now.

It’s a new brand of arrogance to shut down or dismiss someone totally when their understanding of the world doesn’t match yours.

I used to think scraping my hair into a combover made me look the absolute titties, I’d hate for anyone to hold that against my person.

People change, and you have to give them room to do so.

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Don’t judge

Intersectionality, appropriation and heteronormativity are terms a lot of us learnt in Michaelmas. Not everyone had the same access to discussion you did.

Throwing terms like “racist” or “homophobe” or “transphobe” at people really isn’t very helpful and they won’t actually learn a lot from it. By all means explain why what they’ve said might be offensive, but don’t label their person. You make some fundamentally classist assumptions in attacking people for not understanding often deeply intellectualised social grievances which just aren’t discussed outside certain circles.

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That stands for Black Vernacular English by the way guys, I didn’t know either

This isn’t about intellectual superiority, but it is about accessibility. I’m not making excuses for hatefulness, but I do think there should be an awareness that students, particularly those from outside progressive, typically middle class backgrounds, are being branded ignorant and shut out of debate.

Stop writing off people’s characters. It’s divisive and stops people learning from one another.

Let’s talk politics, not people.