Politics full of flags and spin, fake climate action and a war of feminism – Susan Dalgety

Greta Thunberg sits with a placard reading 'school strike for climate' outside the World Economic Forum's meeting in Davos in January (Picture: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
Greta Thunberg sits with a placard reading 'school strike for climate' outside the World Economic Forum's meeting in Davos in January (Picture: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
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Hope is hard to find amid misogyny of some on the left, a lack of effective action on global warming, and the rebranding of Boris Johnson as ‘the People’s Prime Minister’, writes Susan Dalgety.

Wading through the memes, gifs, photo-shopped images and presidential tweets that pass for political campaigning these days, it is becoming impossible to separate hard truths from fake news.

If you caught a glimpse of the Liberal Democrats’ campaign bus in the early days of the election campaign, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Jo Swinson was about to become Prime Minister. This morning, she is an unemployed mum of two.

There was even a (very) fleeting moment, around 8pm last Thursday, when Jeremy Corbyn looked electable. This morning he is, hopefully, back in his allotment where he belongs.

But there were several images this week that told the unvarnished, unpalatable truth about the state of our politics, and our country and our world. Let’s start with Nicola Sturgeon.

For the last few weeks she has toured TV studios the length and breadth of the UK, impressing commentators and citizens alike with her superficially reasoned arguments and grown-up demeanour.

“Why can’t we have politicians like Sturgeon?” shrieked more than one English liberal pundit. “Let’s all go and live in Scotland,” wept broken-hearted Corbynistas on my Facebook feed.

Then at 3.51am on Friday morning, as news broke of Jo Swinson’s defeat, Ms Sturgeon showed her true colours. Dressed in Thatcher blue, she cackled with manic delight, fists clenched in partisan celebration, as she celebrated the loss of a sister party leader.

READ MORE: I love Jo Swinson like a sister and she was unfairly treated – Alex Cole-Hamilton

READ MORE: Climate change: When people are struggling to breathe, it’s time to get serious – Joyce McMillan

Her carefully crafted persona as a 21st-century feminist role model, one that won her accolades from UN Women only a few months ago, disappeared as her true feelings erupted live on screen. Sturgeon is not an inclusive feminist. She is a partisan nationalist.

Another polished media performer exposed himself this week. Owen Jones, the self-appointed guru of the luxury communists who have, temporarily, taken over the Labour Party, gleefully snapped a selfie of himself grinning next to a young woman wearing a T-shirt that boasted she offered sex acts “for socialism”.

“Fact” tweeted Jones, as he sent the picture to his many thousands of adoring followers.

But the fact that he had just unwittingly revealed is that he, like many of the boys on the hard left, is a misogynist.

‘A war against feminism’

Some brothers-in-arms cheerfully champion prostitution as a positive career choice for young women.

They argue that being female is a lifestyle choice, not a biological fact, and by doing so erase the very existence of women and girls.

And they celebrate the insidious porn culture that spawned images of female climate campaigners marching through the streets of Sydney earlier this week with placards suggesting dangerous sex games are preferable to carbon emissions.

Little wonder that leading feminist campaigner and writer, Julie Bindel, wrote recently, “there is a war against feminism and the so-called progressives are the ones throwing the grenades”. Or in Jones’ case, tweeting the artillery.

But perhaps the most distasteful image of all was the one directed by the former King of Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein.

The man who produced Oscar-winning films such as Shakespeare in Love used all his creative talents to put on a show this week as he headed into court to re-negotiate his bail conditions. He stands trial next month on rape and sexual assault charges, which he denies.

Weinstein seeking sympathy

The disgraced movie mogul, who used to strut the red carpet with all the subtlety of a rutting stag, appeared a broken man. He was dressed in a jacket three sizes too big, his shirt collar askew, and he hung on to a flimsy walking frame that looked as if it had been found in his neighbourhood charity shop.

“He has got a bad back,” explained his lawyers. He may well have an injured spine. He is also facing a lifetime in jail if convicted, and he has just had to offer up the last of his fortune to settle a civil lawsuit brought by dozens of other women accusing him of sexual harassment and assault.

Weinstein, who spawned the #MeToo movement, needs to garner the sympathy vote, and what better way to do that than give the appearance of being a crippled old man who wouldn’t harm a fly, let alone rape an intern. Never underestimate the cunning of a once-powerful man facing disgrace.

So it was with some relief that I turned to the image of the year. A 16-year-old girl, dressed in a pink hoodie, her waist-length hair blowing gently in the wind as she stares out to sea. No make-up. No pouting. No artifice.

The cover shot of Greta Thunberg as Time magazine’s Person of the Year was as downbeat as she sometimes seems, and as powerful as she so clearly has now become.

Fake climate action

Speaking at the Madrid climate change summit on Wednesday, in the wake of the desperate news that Greenland’s ice is melting much faster than scientists predicted, she warned that the biggest danger to our planet is not inaction by politicians.

“…the real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR,” she said quietly.

Greta is no stranger to PR herself. Her retort to Donald Trump, the so-called leader of the free world, who told her a few days ago to “work on her anger management problem” was to incorporate his ridiculous demand into her Twitter profile. A masterful stroke, worthy of any spin doctor.

She ended her speech on a hopeful note, saying that the next decade will define our future.

“The people who have been unaware are now starting to wake up, and once we become aware we change… people are ready for change… and that is the hope, because we have democracy.”

On Thursday our democracy, aided by some very creative PR, gave us Boris Johnson as the People’s Prime Minister, and wrapped us all tightly in flags.

The next decade will not only decide whether our planet survives, it will define our country, its borders, its values, our future. Truth will be optional. Those who create the most compelling images and tell the most appealing stories will prevail.

I wish I was more hopeful.