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Monday, April 18, 2016 

Contrary McContraryface.

God, it must be tiring being a professional contrarian.  The world is in such flux it's hard enough remaining consistent as it is, let alone when your entire raison d'etre is to be against whatever the current trend or movement is.  Should you be cheering on Donald Trump because he's upsetting so many people, or now that it seems he's finally hit the buffers should you be abandoning him also?  Equally, judging by how it's been standard right-wing practice for the last 40 years to be against whatever students are currently up to, shouldn't you in fact be on the side of those few demanding safe spaces, insisting on trigger warnings and counting all the micro-aggressions they suffer on a daily basis?  Or would that in fact be too contrary by half, and lose you vital cred with your other contrarians, huffing and blowing about young people being young and stupid?

Brendan O'Neill's Spectator piece on how terrible the whole Boaty McBoatface thing is an absolute classic of the contrarian genre.  The best contrarians you might have noticed always contradict themselves, and never for a moment recognise they are guilty of the same crimes they are ascribing to others.  In one single paragraph O'Neill manages to be a magnificent hypocrite three times over, and still ploughs on regardless.

The problem with over 100,000 people voting to name a boat Boaty McBoatface then, rather than something more serious like Condoleeza Rice or Thrusting Organ or Sir Ron Micklethwaite or John Whittingdale or Brendan O'Neill isn't public opinion, but a "shallow, sneery culture taking hold in certain sections of the internet".  Heaven forfend that many of those people will have voted to name it that not because they were led by the hand by some minor Twitter celeb, but because they thought it funny.  Brendan, all but needless to say, doesn't find it funny, although his piece is so suffused with irony while not being ironic that it's difficult to be certain whether or not he does find it at least somewhat amusing or like those people he says deserved to be bullied for being able to recite whole episodes of Filthy, Rich and Catflap.  Irony alert!  He doesn't really mean anyone deserves to be bullied!  Or does he?  Who knows?

See, O'Neill and the whole Spiked lot are very keen on democracy and public opinion so long as it reflects their own views on how stupid everyone who isn't in their little clique is.  When then so many people do something so daft, the blame has to be assigned not to them but to those who drove them to it.  Hence this sneery culture gets in the neck, as directed by a media that loves nothing more than "than writing news stories based on some spat Stephen Fry had or a YouTube video".  No doubt it's all part of the onion-like layers of irony contained in O'Neill's piece that Spiked currently really does have a piece on why Stephen Fry was right to call out self-pity.

It's at this point that an editor ought to come in and say to O'Neill that "hey, dingleberry, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE DOING, AND YOU'RE SNEERING AT THEM TO BOOT."  Only there aren't editors any more, just freelancers sending in their work to the content aggregators that O'Neill is complaining about and contributing to AT THE SAME GODDAMN TIME.  Still, there is one serious argument left, or at least seems to be: is it not true that the Boaty McBoatfacers are of "a new po-mo generation that has absolutely no sense of history or depth or meaning?"

Well, no.  O'Neill's band of anti-po-moers have been going on about how terrible post-modernism is since the early 90s, forever slapping each other on the back, whether it be for tearing apart Jean Baudillard for his the Gulf War Did Not Take Place essays or over the Sokal affair.  If this is a whole new po-mo generation, then his group and all the other anti-po-moers have rather failed, haven't they?

It's a good thing then there isn't a new po-mo generation with no sense of history or depth or meaning, as this is the same generation that is in fact acutely aware of history etc.  We know this because this is the same generation O'Neill etc so detest precisely because of all their trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and so forth, who at the same time are apparently incapable of taking anything seriously, except for racism, transphobia, etc, and who love the "flippant, camp purveyors of 140-character gags and 90-second videos of some comedian ‘ABSOLUTELY DEMOLISHING DONALD TRUMP' served up by Buzzfeed et al.

Yep, O'Neill is right, taking things seriously is a real downer these days.  Or at least it is if you take O'Neill and his pals seriously.  Which I seem to have done.  Oops.

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