« (Secularist) reasons to be cheerful? | Main | The phantom meanace of ageing issues - baby boomers »

March 26, 2007



If you're going to have a go at the press for being lazy then please don't use boo-word combinations like "right-wing neo-con narratives". Insofar as neo-conservatism as a philosophy has had anything at all to do with domestic policy it's been characterized by a greater acceptance of welfare spending than traditional conservatism---so it's doubly inappropriate to use the term "neo-con" in this case.

The Labour Humanist

mr pootergeek, err, not sure I accept your point about "accepting" welfare spending. US conservatives have been targeting what they call "social security" for quite some time. There has been a narrative that began sometime in the 1980s developed by people like kotlikoff that has tried to get a narrative of inter-generational conflict going in order to get a more permissive public opinion environment for slashing social security. A key part of this strategy is to portray baby boomers as being less worthy of state spending than older people today. So, yes, J'accuse this piece in the observer for falling, probably unwittingly, into this narrative.

If they have failed, it is not for want of trying.



Thanks for the podcast recommendation - enjoyed it.

Anyway, what's this about tygerland not being on your blogroll, eh?

The Labour Humanist


oh go on then, you're on...


"US conservatives have been targeting what they call "social security" for quite some time."

That might be true, but what has that got to do with neo-conservatism? Most US conservatives aren't neo-cons.

This is like saying that most UK socialists have been against the Iraq war for quite some time and using that to claim that the British anti-war movement supports "a Left-wing Blairite narrative". It's gibberish.

The Labour Humanist

You seem to be very animated about the tautology of the word "neo-con".

I used the phrase as a handy shorthand for the newer more radical strains in conservative thought since the 80s - as do thousands of other writers.

But we get the picture, you don't like it. (I feel the temptation to use the phrase more often from now on). But in the process, you have ignored all the substantive points of the post.


Why thank you.


There are, as far as I can tell, two substantive points in this post: you object to the Observer article's lazy presentation of the issues---and, in turn, I object to yours---and you object to the article's conclusions.

I happen to disagree with you on the latter as well, especially when you use the phrase "ordinary people" to imply that the "ordinary elderly" or "ordinary baby-boomers" aren't, on the whole, doing very well nicely or haven't, on the whole, become extraordinarily powerful. Both of these things are easily demonstrated, though you are right to point out that a picture of Diane Keaton doesn't exactly make a compelling case.

Over eighty percent of the wealth of this country is in the hands of people over 50. The main reason younger voters are ignored by the main parties is that there simply aren't very many of them. I don't have time to run through more detailed statistics, but here's a recent article, from the not notably "Right-wing neo-con" *New Statesman*:


that makes the general case.

Just because the Observer pads out a Sunday piece with a bunch of celeb crap, and just because there's some overlap between its conclusions and those of a bunch of ranting Right-wingers who want to smash the welfare state doesn't mean there isn't at heart some truth it it and doesn't excuse being similarly sloppy in attempting to counter that truth---indeed, apart from spotting one apparent statistical inconsistency from the piece, you don't offer a single piece of evidence to support your own position.

Concluding by saying that something appears not to be "left-wing" despite appearing in a supposedly Left-wing newspaper isn't an argument at all; it's just name-calling---like slinging the phrase "neo-con" without knowing what it means.

The Labour Humanist

Please enligthen us to what you know about neo-cons and its vernacular use that others don't. I don't really care, but it is clearly dear to your heart.

As for boomers and the generational conflict nonsense - a new post on this subject is about to go up.


I'm not "animated about the tautology of the word 'neo-con'"---did you mean 'etymology'?---nor is the its "vernacular use close to my heart"; I just think that if you are going to criticise others for writing things that are "irrelevant" and for "exaggerating" then you shouldn't do the same things yourself. It fatally undermines your case (such as it is).

More generally, I recommend that you avoid using words you don't know the meaning of. Implying that lots of other people make the same mistake is no excuse. Thousands of people misuse the word "racist" every day. Like the word "neo-con" they usually apply it, apparently at random, to things they don't agree with. The result is that when it is truly needed to describe real evils its power has been diluted.

If anyone else is interested they can just look up 'neo-con'---as you could have done:


"As for boomers and the generational conflict nonsense - a new post on this subject is about to go up."

I look forward to reading something of substance on the subject and to having my views challenged.

The Labour Humanist

my goodness, you hold yourself in high regard.

thanks for the wiki
"The prefix neo- refers to two ways in which neoconservatism was new. First, many of the movement's founders, originally liberals, Democrats or from socialist backgrounds, were new to conservatism."



"my goodness, you hold yourself in high regard."

I suppose if you've lost an argument then resorting to a personal insult can be comforting---even if you have no evidence to back your abuse up with either. You should have called me a neo-con as well.

My blog is all about what a loser I am. Even my online CV devotes its introduction to pointing out that I am superfluous, ignorant, and under-qualified. (I'm not a bad photographer though.) It's exactly because I am so uncertain of my own knowledge that I always refer to a dictionary before I criticise other people's use of language.

And the quotation you cite is, depressingly, completely irrelevant to your original, and still inaccurate, use of "neo-con".

I don't understand why so many bloggers who've slipped up don't just say "It's a fair cop, guv" and move on to something more interesting. I do it when I make a mistake. So does Tim Worstall. It doesn't make your genitals any smaller and it can be genuinely educational. I've learned a lot from being wrong. Mostly I've discovered:

1) how little I know, and

2) how easy it is to look things up and avoid later embarrassment.

The Labour Humanist

You come on here, You condescend, You admonish, you attempt to patronise and be ever so sarcastic, you receive the mildest rebuke and start resorting to references about genitals.

The original post argues there is a narrative developing that seeks to turn public opinion against baby boomers in order to justify reductions in social provision for older people in the future.

Now are you interested in debate or just coming here to heckle and knock down aunt sally?

The Labour Humanist

I regret the tone of this exchange. Think I've let myself slip a little bit, and I apologise. I've had some recent experience of various invdividuals who have come here with the intent to personally abuse.

I think it may be time to have a policy on this one. Something like the following...

I know that some blogs thrive on vitriolic exchange and personal abuse and insults. If people want that sort of thing they probably know where they can find it. However, this is my blog and it's nice to get comments and debate. And subjects around politics and religion are bound to raise strong feelings, but it is possible to have strongly held views, indeed hate certain policies or beliefs, get involved in political banter, without resorting to personal abuse with anyone who comments - or posts - in support of something you don't like.

Let's keep it as friendly and constructive as possible.

Make no bitchy assumptions about the personal qualities of anyone you are debating with, stick to the issues.

Tackle hard, but play the ball not the man. If anyone crosses the line of debating the issue into digging, trolling and stalking another person who is commenting - or posting - then you will be suspended or banned, No complaints, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime!

If you don't like certain types of post and are incapable of debating and discussing the points therein contained without crossing the line from issue to person, then STAY AWAY from those posts.

Any insults based on personal discriminations will be deleted.


Apology accepted.

Yes, my "doesn't make your genitals any smaller" remark was flippant. I suppose I thought this discussion could have done with being a bit more lighthearted. Sorry about that. And, even if it seemed that way, nothing else I've written here was intended sarcastically, so I'm sorry if it came across that way.

The Labour Humanist

Thanks. Happy to move on.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About this Blog

  • From the folks who brought you the weekend, a sometimes happy human blogging from the left of centre and keeping it sceptical, freethinking, secular and humanist. Because every reasonable human being should be a moderate socialist – or drinker – or preferably both. “It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan.

About Labour

  • ‘The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few. Where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe. And where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.’

The Labour Humanist Group

  • A Labour Humanist Group exists to spread awareness of humanism and humanists within the Labour Party and to promote humanist and Labour values. Membership of the Group is open to any person, who agrees with the aims of the group and is a member or supporter of the Labour Party, or a member of a group officially affiliated to the Labour Party. To find out more visit Labour Humanist Group

What is Humanism

  • Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good.

NSS What The Papers Say

Humanist blogs of other political leanings

Picture Post

  • Do Your Bit to Help Free Kareem
  • Jack Straw attacks worship in schools
  • Church of England in steep decline
  • Could Bush style faith based welfare really be coming to the UK?
  • Barack Obama - getting the policy right?

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz