Tonight I’m going to write about something that rather depresses me about human nature – some people’s complete inability to engage with the concept of objectivity.
We can see this in things as unimportant (in terms of world events) as supporting a football club, where any action by said team – no matter how insane – needs to be defended, and any triumph of a rival – no matter how well-earned – is to be vilified.
We see it in the rather tragic realm of videogame console fanboyism, where mistakes by the manufacturer that such people “support” (who, incidentally, couldn’t give a stuff about them) are glossed over, whereas perceived shortcomings in its rivals are shouted about at preposterous length.
Both above examples are annoying, but probably the ugliest form of an inability to think objectivity manifests itself when it comes to political discourse.
There was a case in point today, when Tony Blair’s office announced that he would be donating the profits from his forthcoming memoirs (a reported £4.6 million advance plus eventual royalties) to the Royal British Legion’s Battle Back campaign, which aims to provide a new centre for injured soldiers to rehabilitate and engage in sporting activity. A worthy cause indeed.
But come the donation, come the shitstorm. Blair’s act of apparent philanthropy saw the usual suspects all twisting it to fit their own agendas. And that’s the impact of an inability to think objectively – facts go out of the window faster than a Hollywood stuntman in an 80s action flick. The facts are twisted to fit the existing decision. So, today we’ve had the pronouncements that Blair’s only doing it to assuage his own guilt, that it’s his way of saying sorry, that it’s a tacit admission that he was wrong, that he’s an evil sonofabitch who’s attempting to get away with an illegal war by way of a bribe using blood money…
Whoa, whoa, whoa! How can anyone automatically assume any of the above? Blair hasn’t spoken on the matter, for one thing. No matter which way you look at it, the donation is a generous gesture. Could he really not just be proud of our armed forces and want to give something back? Could he not feel guilty over the lives that have been lost, not because he believes he was wrong in the decisions he took, but because so many of the deaths occurred on his watch? Not to equate Blair with Churchill in any way (seriously: no), but I have to ask this: did Churchill sleep soundly in his bed every night having given orders that led to millions of people dying, just because he knew it had to be done in order to save Britain and Europe from the Nazi blitzkrieg? I strongly doubt it.
The fact is that Blair couldn’t win. When he gives away money, he gets castigated for it. If he didn’t, and earned millions from the memoirs, you can absolutely put your house on it that the exact same people would be screaming he didn’t even bloody care enough to donate any money to the services. Talk about Kobayashi Maru. Blair could walk stark bollock-naked through Trafalgar Square wearing a sandwich board saying “I woz rong,” and some would rather criticise his grammar than listen to the message, or say that he didn’t write it big enough, or that it doesn’t matter anyway because had he really meant it he wouldn’t have taken the decision to go to war in the first place. And so on, and so on…
Now, I fully believe that we weren’t told the whole truth over Iraq before the invasion started. I believe that the so-called ‘dodgy dossier’ was sexed up, but whether that was a Government directive or just the intelligence services assuming that the case had to be artificially made stronger, I wouldn’t presume to say. I believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing, and that had this been the stated aim without the whole WMD excuse – with full and frank reasons given as to why his removal would be good for Iraq and the world – then I believe the public might well have been been happy to go along with it.
But here’s the difference – I’m fully prepared to have my mind changed on any of this, based on evidence that comes to light. I won’t automatically assume that Blair is trying to wriggle out of something by donating money, or that if the Chilcott Inquiry doesn’t deliver a damning report into the Iraq War then it’s been a toothless waste of time, or even that Bristol Rovers supporters are a bunch of eejits. Even though they are.
The trouble is that some people have already made up their minds, locked into one decision, and no matter what evidence is produced in the past, present or future, they aren’t going to change their views. And that is the ugly side of an inability to think objectively. It’s the mob mentality. The rabble. And I really wish those folk would be quiet for a change.