Monday, March 05, 2007

Another Blair-related post. (Oh dear, am I starting to sound obsessed?)

Picked up an anti-war leaflet in Gloucester Road on Saturday. I'm strongly opposed to war (well, this one, anyway), so I should have found myself nodding in agreement, as I read. But, in fact, the writer managed to lose my sympathy in the opening sentence - by referring to the prime minister as "BLIAR".

Don't misunderstand me; my contempt for Tony Blair, in his role as the USA's staunch warrior ally, is bottomless. And I don't have much time for those quibbling arguments about whether or not knowingly using dodgy evidence to support the case for war actually amounted to lying. (In fact, with Mr Blair, I pretty much go along with that old anti-politician gag: "How can you tell when they're lying? Just look and see if their lips are moving.")

But, while it's a happy accident that his surname very nearly accuses him of mendacity, that doesn't make BLIAR an effective piece of persuasive writing.

What's wrong with it? The obvious answer is that it sounds like a playground insult - and, as such, it trivialises the writer's case. With hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, those of us who believe the war was both illegal and a foreseeable catastrophe, surely have a duty to argue our case powerfully, soberly and without descending to the level of "your mum's a fat slag, and your dad's a pooftah".

But it isn't just a matter of taste. What I really object to about BLIAR is that it won't change a single mind. Insults never do. They may give a warm feeling to others who feel as outraged or angry or fearful as the writer; but they will usually have precisely the opposite effect on anyone a little less certain what they think or feel about the subject in question.

When you're really angry, icy cool courtesy is your only chance of winning the argument.

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