21 September 2006

Tonge tired or Lack of Education?

I hadn't intended to blog on the comments of Baroness Tonge, but two issues occurred to me: words and education.

By words, I mean the primary medium which politicians can communicate by. A mechanic has his toolbox of wrenches, an engineer has a toolbox of screwdrivers and assorted equipment, etc, but a politician only has words and how he or she uses them determines their career and livelihood.

As a result politicians tend or at least try to use words in a more pointed and occasionally precise way than the rest of us (excluding barristers, lawyers, journalists and associated jobs, which politicians often do as well).

As words and the choice of them are of utter importance to a politician, particularly when composing a speech for a meeting at party conference. The politician will consider and measure the impact of the words in his or her speech: are they appropriate for the audience? Do they convey the right message? Are they too extreme? What point is being made? Can the speech be misconstrued?

And so it is with Baroness Tonge's comments at the Liberal Democratic Party fringe meeting on Palestine, in Brighton. Baroness Tonge has been a politician for some 25 years, starting as a local councillor and finally acquiring ermine in 2005. She is not a political novice.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that she knew what she was saying and the impact that it would have.

Turning to education, Baroness Tonge is not, as many people might suppose, ill educated. Far from it, she is a Doctor and has a degree from University College (although biographical details on the Web seem a bit scant at the moment).

In Baroness Tonge, we have essentially an educated career politician and that seeks to conjure up or inadvertently uses borderline antisemitic imagery: Jews controlling finance/banks.

I am at a loss to understand why Baroness chose to say the words that she did, I can only assume that she is undereducated in terms of antisemitic myths or imagery.

Which brings me to the final point, I think that across the political spectrum there are a wide range of people who are barely conscious of the creeping antisemitism which is entering the mainstream discourse, highlighted by the recent Parliamentary report.

I am unsure as to whether this is intentional or not, but I think there is a need for a concerted campaign to cover 3000 years of antisemitic myths and explain them in detail to all types of people, supposedly educated or not.

Politicians and political activists will be reluctant to ever admit that they don't know something and certainly antisemitism is a topic which falls into that area.

Many of them would probably be able to give a summary of the most overt Nazi antisemitic myths, but how would they fare when trying to discern the subtler manifestations and demonisation which regularly takes place in the media?

So, my contribution to the topic is to recommend that Baroness Tonge and many others read Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred by Robert S. Wistrich, ISBN: 041365320X, before they have another Mel Gibson "moment".


Charles Barton said...

It struck me that Baroness Tonge might be manifesting an early stage of dementia. Just a guess. I have witnessed two people up close who were in the process of developing dementia. The signs of mental decline are there.

ModernityBlog said...

Mel Gibson type dementia, humm, I agree, certainly possible!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right, only loonies could possibly dislike Jews-- not.

One day in another dimension of time a Jew will write an honest book which asks why so many different people, in so many different times and places, wind up disliking Jews. It's a hell of a coincidence.

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