Thursday, August 6, 2015

QUICK!! Fix the Ugly!!

Well, I promised this post ages ago but got busy and finally found the time to come back to it.

Over the years, I've been an advocate for thinking for yourself and questioning why certain things happen - especially things that are newsworthy.  I'm a chess player and whenever my opponent makes a move of any kind, I always ask myself: "Why that piece and that square?"  It helps me to see what they are planning, and to defend against it.

It helps me to think more critically and to accept fewer things at their face value.  The ability to think analytically is a key to success and a necessary skill which I will advocate for again and again.

And so I watched with amusement in the months that preceded the general election here in the UK.

There was one news story that kept popping up more and more frequently and which refused to fade into the memory of the general populace - though it assuredly has now.

There was this T-shirt that said "This is what a feminist looks like."  It was a dull gray and looked as though it had been written on by sharpie.

Why was this so noteworthy?  Well, primarily because Ed Miliband had worn it, and so had Nick Clegg.  But David Cameron apparently refused to do so - reportedly 5 times.

Well, of course the media outlets ran the story.  And why not?  It was directly relevant to half the population in the UK and suggested that perhaps a bias against that half existed by the current Prime Minister.  You can read a bit more about what was being said here:

Momentum began to built and the story appeared again and again.

It wouldn't go away.

This was the sort of thing that couldn't be ignored and I mentioned this to my wife over the paper one day, suggesting that this could be a serious problem for the PM - one that would need to be addressed.
If Cameron capitulated and wore the shirt, he'd look weak.  If he refused, he'd look like he didn't support women's rights.

At the time, I mused that the only way out would be to find a way to turn the issue toxic -  then Cameron would look like a genius for not associating with it, while Miliband and Clegg would look like rubes simply seeking a photo opportunity.

How to turn this brand toxic was an interesting problem to consider and putting my strategic "chess thinking cap" on, I mused on ways that this could be done.

The best answer I could come up with would have been to suggest searching for a financing scandal within the charity linked to the T-shirts, perhaps one that made it look as though the money they raised didn't go to the intended recipients. It is an allegation that one frequently hears about charities in general and would have muddled the issue raised by the newspapers, undermining the credibility of the questions they posed.

I wasn't surprised, therefore, when the whole thing did indeed turn toxic - clearly the PM needed a respite - though I admire the sheer devious cunning of the solution.


The Mail on Sunday reported that these T-shirts were being made by people working in sweatshops for less than an pound an hour.  And subsequently sold with a price tag of £45.

The article is here:

The charity behind the T-shirts denied the allegations, but true or not, the damage was done.  The issue was decided in the eyes of the public and what was once a clear cut case of right and wrong swung heavily in one direction.

Consider it: A man refusing to wear a feminist T-shirt may or may not indicate a bias against women.  But women and children being paid terrible wages to produce the T-shirts?  If true, this could clearly be labelled reprehensible, and the attitude was "If it is in the papers, it is most likely true."

The mere allegation was enough to put the issue to bed.

So why the blog post?

Again, I'm just encouraging you to think for yourself and to try to ask yourself why things like this happen.

Why was Cameron's refusal to wear the shirt noteworthy?  Who wanted him to wear it?  Why did the other two party leaders wear them?  What would their motivations have been?  Why was it reported and who gained from those reports?


Why on earth would someone look at where these T-shirts came from?  What would their motivations have been?  What would have driven that curiosity?  And what would they have hoped to find?  What was their motivation in publishing their findings?  And what parties benefited from that report?

So often, people form their opinions based upon what they read RATHER than what they think.

You've got a brain!  Use it!  Question everything!

I find it interesting that you can see a report in a paper and completely forget - due to the medium in which you discovered the information - that there is a real person out there somewhere who wrote those words.  And real people have real opinions.  And they seep through into what they do and how they live.

I talk so often about thinking critically, but I don't think I've ever explicitly stated why I think it is so important.  Here is why:

If you can begin to see how the world works, you can successfully navigate your way through it and can position yourself to live the type of life that you want to.

I think that's worth the effort.



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