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Kathy Gyngell: The rise of social media is no excuse for dumbing down


Mrs Whitehouse, the champion of traditional values and scourge of the BBC, has been vindicated by history. So says the centarion liberal QC whose satire proved such a lethal weapon in destroying the values she stood for.

For the years of her lifetime, the liberal luvvie elite treated Mary Whitehouse with disdain and derision. “If she had been ignored for the last 30 years, the world would have been a better place” the broadcaster Ned Sherrin sneered.

It has taken the advent of today’s social media’s ‘post moral’ madness to bring on these reflections. Mary Whitehouse might have had a point, her old foe finally concedes. The world might have been a better place had she been listened to, not sneered at: ‘Perhaps morals have become a bit too loose with exposure to pornography and violence and computer games’.

Sarah Vine agrees with him: ‘Today, when we look around and see a society so free of restraint that it barely merits to be called civil, it sometimes seems as though we are living in a post-moral age’, an age from which she believes there is, depressingly, no turning back.

Even if Mary were alive in 2016, what could she do? ‘How would she even begin to repair the fabric of civilisation, so soiled by the expression of all our most base desires?…a world where every dark corner of the human psyche is just a few clicks away and television watersheds are meaningless’?

Thinking that today’s technology makes this inevitable is not just defeatist, Sarah, it is misguided. It is the excuse that abdicates us from our own responsibility in the matter.

Social media is a monster of our own making. It is a window into our lazy values and bad behaviour, not the creator of them.

Let’s face it. Most liberal opinion formers would still agree with Ned Sherrin’s damning assessment of Whitehouse.

Few yet question, for example, the BBC’s (our leading cultural arbiter) broad cultural mission since the 1960s which has been to broaden the limits of acceptability in art and comment; to transgress whatever taboos in the name of progress and to challenge propriety and decency;  forever in the vanguard of modern thought as in its current irresponsible transgender normalising obsession.

Except for websites like this,  this agenda largely goes unchallenged.

Anyone who thinks the original aims of the grand old moralist of the BBC, Lord Reith, to educate the masses not corrupt them, lives on, is kidding himself.

Reith’s desire to inform the public of higher, not lower values; to give them: “All that is best in every department of human knowledge, endeavor and achievement” is long lost.

The very idea of preserving of the ‘high moral tone’ he knew to be ‘obviously of paramount importance’ became a matter of parody well before the BBC became a haven for the likes of Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.

Neither is the BBC the standard bearer of the Queen’s English any longer. BBC spoken English often lapses to levels of near incomprehensibility – as a matter of (equality and diversity) principle.

“Language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts” (George Orwell – Politics and the English Language).

That, I fear, is the cultural context the new social media thrives in for which we and we alone are responsible.

Technology is neither an explanation nor an excuse for the collapse in values it radiates.

Did the printing revolution, which undoubtedly facilitated a wider circulation of information and ideas than ever before, cause a sudden outbreak of aggressive sexuality and porngraphy back in 1440? Did new readers of Gutenberg’s bible descend into their own Sodom and Gomorrahs?

What happened when those other two revolutionary mediums of communication were invented – the phone and the radio? Did a moral chaos erupt? No. The iPhone, the internet and their content are a reflection of our cultural times not a cause of them.

Social media is used how people want to use it, with great effect today to bully and shame people, just as Mary Whitehouse’s QC so effectively did to her. But it is only a medium still. People are still the source of these obscenities. However much it appears to license abuse, it is abuse we ourselves sanction if only by default.

Sarah Vine forgets that we are still free agents and we can exercise our free will. Or we can be lazy. After all we have a choice as how we use, abuse, or not use, social and or any other media.

The bottom line is that without the rules and restraint that Mary Whitehouse advocated, which women’s libbers and other progressives encouraged us to abandon, society has fallen prey to ever more debasement and degradation.

Parents, after all, do have the power to decide whether or not to buy their children mobile phones. Schools do have the power to ban them from their premises. The government could take the power to prohibit them for under 16s – like cigarettes and alcohol. We could all decide to make the effort required to stop ceding the vast amount of power we have to children. We could decide to set our own behavioural example instead of delegating parenting duties.

If we continue to lazily let things slide, then expect more such ‘acknowledgments’ as the QC’s in coming years. Most of social conservative positions derided today will be seen to have been right. Even Lady Barbara Judge may come to see that it was The Conservative Woman’s judgement, not hers, that was right; that babies’ needs for their mothers was always more important than the so called gender pay gap or female empowerment. That happy babies are the best starting point for a kind and healthy society.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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