You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging over these past few days. I haven’t even been reading blogs — at all. Just in preparation for my last exam tomorrow, then I will start up again.
I had been completely missing the whole Bob Piper hoo-ha that was going on over the weekend. The only reason I know about it now was because James Higham emailed me to tell me about his latest Blogfocus, and I decided to take a look. When I worked out that it was about Bob Piper, I became very interested. I don’t know if James Higham knows about my previous run-ins with Mr Piper, but the recent storm has rung a few bells.
Needless to say, I was interested to see exactly what the fuss was all about. Bob Piper in racism row? Sounds explosive. It turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Here is the offending image which was originally uploaded by Unity and then featured on Bob Piper’s blog. I think it should be obvious to anybody with an ounce of sense that the image does not intend to say anything about black people. It is clearly an attack on David Cameron and nothing more.
Labour politicians in the West Midlands must be very reluctant to try and show a sense of humour from now on! First it was Tom Watson’s ‘yoof’ page which was lambasted by many. Then it was Siôn Simon’s misfiring spoof of Webcameron. And now this from Bob Piper.
From my perspective, the storm was manufactured by some Conservative bloggers who are a little bit too desperate to become the next big things in the blogosphere. It is quite telling that the genuine big players in the conservative blogosphere had a rather lukewarm response to the whole thing.
Guido Fawkes sympathises with Bob Piper. Tim Worstall thinks it is a fuss over nothing. Meanwhile, Iain Dale — who I am sure once said that he reads Bob Piper’s blog every day, although I can’t find the quote right now — took two days to mention it at all. Either he didn’t read Bob Piper’s blog on Friday or Saturday (possible), he did read it and took two days to find it potentially offensive, or he didn’t find it potentially offensive at all and has just reluctantly joined the bandwagon.
Once the initial posts by nonentities such as Praguetory had been written, that should probably have been the end of it. But two things happened. The first one I have covered — some Tory bloggers got a little bit too excited and tried to out a Labour politician as a racist, which clearly is not true.
The second thing that happened is more interesting to me though. Bob Piper began to get involved in a debate. And that usually means trouble. Mr Piper tends to see things through a purely ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. I know from personal experience that Bob Piper likes to play the man without even pretending that the ball existed. It does not take him long to resort to personal attacks rather than actually discussing the issue at hand.
When the attacks become so personal, and often downright insulting, the stakes are raised and tempers run high. No longer is it a simple political discussion. It becomes an issue of personal pride.
Iain Dale says, “I believe him to be a thoroughly decent bloke.” He must have corresponded to a different Bob Piper to the one the rest of us have corresponded with!
I recall that the thing that always infuriated my about Bob Piper was the way that he constantly tried to make out that voting for anybody other than Labour meant that you were voting for the Conservatives or even the BNP by proxy. It’s Labour’s old “letting the Tories in by the back door” argument. Unfortunately, it’s totally nonsense. Besideswhich, voting for the Conservatives isn’t as eeevil as voting for Labour if you ask me — but that’s by the by.
For reference, here are some links to Bob Piper in action in the comments here. And, from roughly the same time, at Longrider’s blog including the priceless moment when he accused me of being “tired and emotional” when I said that I prefered the Conservatives to Labour — presumably because only people who are mentally incapable could possibly prefer the evil Tories to golden boy Blair. This is what Jawbox said at the time.
There was also this strange sentence:
I just like winding up DoctorVee with his passion for all things Lib Dem. It works too, his lights start flashing straight away… three bells… jackpot!
That “passion” for all things Lib Dem passes most people by, because it isn’t a passion. I usually vote for them because I see them as by far the least-worst option. Probably, in Bob’s mind, I must be a “passionate” Lib Dem because I, like most other sensible people, oppose the Labour Past the Post voting system which currently gives Labour its thumping majority with only roughly 20% of the electorate supporting it.
You have to wonder about somebody who “likes winding up” people like me though. What a sad life he must have to have concentrated on me so much! Maybe saying that sort of thing is just part of his master debating technique though. You have to take everything he says with a pinch of salt.
After that whole incident I stopped reading Bob Piper’s blog. I had dismissed him as somebody who had plenty to say, but none of it was substantial or interesting. In short, he was a loud mouth who just ranted from his corner. Reading somebody like that is just a waste of time.
I will admit that I was sometimes rude to Bob Piper when we were debating. But in the sort of atmosphere that Mr Piper brings to a debate, it is usually the only place you can go. If you are being insulted you can either sit down and take it. Or you can respond. And most people will respond. Like I said, pride is at stake.
As I said, I didn’t follow this latest drama from the start. But it does seem as though Bob Piper played dirty in the comments once again, and that is what kept the story going through the blogosphere for so long.
For instance, you can see for youself Bob Piper attempting to “out” a blogger by using his real name, which is a breach of netiquette (see The Devil’s Kitchen, if the post ever comes back up, for more on that). James Higham, commenting on Mr Eugenides’ very sensible post, said that he had read one comment of Bob Piper’s that was “OTT. This is probably what kept it rolling as an issue.” I find that very easy to believe.
A salient point is this idea coming from some conservative bloggers, particularly Dizzy:
For me the biggest issue is that if someone from the right had produced the same “satire” the reaction would’ve been total outrage from the Left with accusations of racism. There is something worrying with this intellectual position that many on the Left have which asserts they are not capable of racism because of their ideological purity. It’s bollocks.
That is true. The left can often be unbearable when they claim that they must be correct because they’re on the left and the left couldn’t possibly be wrong. This also chimes with Bob Piper’s regular stance of, ‘It’s Labour so it must be right’. Although, as Dr Doom in the comments at Iain Dale’s points out:
It’s interesting that you die hard Conservatives are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. How thoroughly decent of you.
Which times were you wrong and where did you say so and apologise?
If somebody on the right were a victim of this witch-hunt, they would undoubtedly cry “political correctness gone mad” and tell everybody to get a sense of humour. I think that is what John at The England Project is alluding to here:
From Bob’s perspective there was a lack of judgement and no racist intent. It’s a crazy world and I for one would not like to see Bob become a victim of that craziness.
All-in-all, I think this incident reflects badly on a lot of people. And, as Mr Eugenides points out, a few people are even (considering) quitting blogging as a result of it. But that’s what happens in these high stakes games that Bob Piper likes to play. As the cliche goes, an eye for an eye makes the world go blind. Now everybody has run away to lick their wounds. Hopefully this can serve as a reminder to us all that we should play nicely in the comments.