Radio: Hard right or hard left, a pox on both your houses
This week, on Inside Culture (Radio 1, Mon 10pm), writer and academic Angela Nagle did something that is depressingly uncommon in all media. She talked about social and political shifts to the right in a way that was objective, reasoned, informed, informative, authoritative.
That is rare, isn't it? Normally, when anything related to the alt-right is discussed, it's some clueless clown like me they get on, who knows feck all about feck all but is more than willing to sound off his pet opinions.
Nagle, on the other hand, has just brought out a book - Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Donald Trump and the Alt-Right - the result of years of work. She has researched the new right and the social media which enabled its rise. She has studied this stuff. She knows it. Ergo, she's informed, informative, etc, etc.
Her interview with Fionn Davenport was fascinating - a word I never expected to use about politics - and educational: for instance, I hadn't quite grasped, until Nagle explained it, the important difference between hard-core right-wingers and the so-called alt-lite.
The former are extremely unpleasant, "racial bloodlines must be preserved" nutters. The latter are basically liberals, or libertarians I guess, not racist but often flirting with right-wing imagery; all very ironic and slippery.
But of course, as Nagle pointed out - this, perhaps, her most crucial point - many left-wingers, including us idiots in the media, love to conflate the disparate groups. So anyone at all to the right of centre is labelled a Nazi, a fascist, a racist.
This is an incredibly stupid way to view the world: lumping everyone from Brexit voters and mild conservatives to actual, self-confessed Nazis into one group. On the most basic level of analysis, it's incredibly stupid.
A child could tell you that. And it is, in fact, childish - as are all ideologies. It denies the messy complexities of life for simple "truths".
Worst of all, it damages the very cause it hopes to further. As Nagle said, not allowing people to be curious or dissenting - hammering down on them with censorship and no-platforming and cries of "hate speech" and libellous accusations of racism - just drives them towards someone like Donald Trump.
Is that what you wanted, folks? Because that's what you've achieved. If self-styled progressives are looking for someone to "blame" for the rise of right-wing politics, they can start by looking in the mirror.
And yeah, I do think the two sides seem to be as bad as each other (though there are, of course, significant degrees of extremism). For every right-wing moron, there's a left-wing equivalent. For every literal Nazi or white supremacist, there's an Islamist fascist.
They're all so divorced from reality - from the huge mass of normal, somewhere-in-the-middle humans - that they're almost a different species of being. A pox on both your houses.
On a much nicer note, Another Way (Newstalk, Sat 10pm) was a lovely documentary about a singular community and way of life: that of some 250 people on Inis Oírr, the smallest of the three Aran Islands.
Patricia Baker travelled to the island for an impending currach race. "Rowing," she observed in voiceover near the end, is "in the islanders' blood. It is part of who they are: a community steeped in tradition, who live in the moment."
What a wonderful attitude to take to life; what a sensible, open-minded, free and happy way to see the world and your place in it. Respect for your traditions but being present at the same time: it's hard to think of a finer rebuttal to the dead hand of ideology.