I’ve not been on social media over the past week. Took a break as part of that running battle we all have against those often annoying and occasionally horrifying Monday morning screen-time notifications. Reset boundaries, form good habits, all those present-day clichés. But this blog isn’t about my habits or me.
This week we also, more importantly, got some sad news. A woman of 96 years, who also happened to be our queen, unfortunately passed away peacefully with her family. I formulate it that way deliberately.
Everything else aside, remember: a woman has lost her life, and relatives are grieving. Anyone who has been through that process knows how difficult and heart wrenching it is, even if the person in question had a ‘good innings’ or happened to be head of state.
But the screenshots started trickling through immediately from friends and family on WhatsApp.
Cue ‘Al-Pacino-Just-When-I-Thought-I-Was-Out’ gif.
Alright, I thought, let me take a moment to see what’s going on then, Twitter.
Cue ‘dumpster fire’ gif.
Snide and indignant comments about how King Charles asked an aide to remove an ink well in a small clip. Trevor Sinclair making what appeared to be at the very least divisive, if not borderline racist comments. A university professor wishing the Queen an ‘excruciating death’. Utter madness.
I am not a pearl clutching reactionary. The public discourse is no-holds barred, and anyone who is in that realm must take their licks, it is all ultimately all fair game. So this is me not questioning anyone’s right to say whatever they feel. But, man, the left really knows how to pick a bad moment for a fight.
Now granted, like most people, most of the time, there is little to no consideration to what they’re doing or saying, in the same way there is little to no thought when a toddler cries bloody murder in the middle of Tesco. We all know those fully grown toddlers with a Twitter or Instagram account, those bleeding heart Helen Lovejoy figures or casual contrarians who can’t resist those self-indulging, inflammatory posts. You can’t account for these people.
My real issue is with the thought process of those who should know better, with those who should have some thought or strategy. Even elements of the organised left are taking this opportunity to take pot shots. For example, Owen Jones, at time of publication, is about to have what seems like an ‘abolish the monarchy’ show.
I’m left-wing. I’m also of Irish heritage. Put mildly, I have at least a small degree of sympathy with critiques of the monarchy as an institution. But I won’t even engage the substance of those arguments right now. Because I would also like to win an election at some point in my voting life.
The time is ripe for the left-wing to win. Truss is probably the weakest politician I have seen in my lifetime to become PM, and after over a decade in power, the Conservatives are a mess. They aren’t fit for office. It’s a fight we can win. But the left simply cannot resist an own goal.
The country overwhelmingly supports monarchy. The late Queen was even more popular with almost 9 in 10 people saying she did a good job. And she’s just died. We’ve discarded many of our old British reserve, formality, and sentimentality in recent years, but one thing most of the public do cling to is not to speak ill of the dead, especially when they have just died. And rightly so, it’s indecent and unedifying. It’s not the time for the ‘Just remember…’ or ‘Whatabout’ tweet.
So it’s not a fight you can win. Not right now at least. Keep your toys in your pram and take that social media break if you must. If the leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland can stomach decency, you should to be able to as well. And not only can’t you win, it’s counterproductive. Stop giving the Daily Mail and Jeremy Clarkson ammunition. You’re only hurting yourself.
Strategy and calculation should not be dirty words for the left. For example, Rosa Parks was not the first black woman to refuse to move on a bus when the segregation laws were in place. There were at least four cases before her, including a young teen called Claudette Colvin. Parks was chosen to be a representative of that fight because the NAACP knew that was a fight they could win, that she was a sympathetic figure. Having a degree of strategy and reserve means that you pick fights you can win.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that the right will use ‘decency’ selectively and are often total hypocrites in the same way the selfish boss will use professionalism as a stick to beat you with when you’re late by two minutes, but conveniently forget about professionalism when he repeatedly asks you to work passed your contracted hours. So, naturally, there are moments when the left must stand up and disregard the fig leaf of ‘decency’ when it is being used hypocritically.
This isn’t one. And in the same way defecating all over your desk at work is hardly going to convince a third-party your boss is the unprofessional one, speaking ill of the most popular British figure in recent history isn’t going to win any more people to the whatever cause your promoting.
This is a terrible time to be taking shots against the monarchy or the Queen. Now might be the time for that social media break your mental health has been itching for. So, have a day off.