Selective hearing is the new political affliction | Daniel Clark

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Selective hearing is not, as some may think, a state of physiological deafness. It is actually a state of pure ignorance whereupon the individual hears the words being said but – because it does not align with their designated narrative – discard the actual knowledge being imparted to them. Sounds rather like modern politics, does it not?

Just think about, for example, Donald Trump. As we all know by now, the President has signed an Executive Order which banned inhabitants of seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States. This included refugees and (bizarrely) green card holders. How was this greeted, I hear you ask? The modern approach to things we don’t like: hysteria and selective hearing.

#MuslimBan swept across the Twittersphere like a plague. The Independent encouraged people to read their take on the ‘Donald Trump Muslim immigration Ban’ and the New York Times declared that ‘Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban is Cowardly and Dangerous’. A Martian would be forgiven for thinking that Donald Trump had suddenly banned all members of a religion from entering the country. ‘How many times does the Order specify Muslims?’ an unusually articulate Martian may ask, to which one would have to reply with ‘Never’. ‘What about Islam then?’ our Martian friend would ask to which, once again, we would have to reply in the negative.

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In this age of political laziness, people only hear what they want to hear. The anti-Trump brigade seize upon the word ‘Muslim’ in the phrase ‘Muslim-majority countries’ and declare a protest march against their common enemy. They ignore, rather conveniently one may argue, that their hero Barack Obama banned Iraqis from entering America for six months back in 2011, which was supported by the then Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton. They also ignore that Israelis cannot enter six of the seven countries whose citizens have been banned from entering the U.S.

It’s not just one side of the political spectrum that has a problem with selective hearing. Back here in England Tim Farron cites the petition that was launched with the intention of halting Donald Trump’s visit to the U.K. Farron hears the cries of the 1.8 million who don’t want Trump’s state visit to the country, but conveniently lost his hearing when 17.4 million voted to leave the European Union. People will, of course, be listened to – but only if they hold the ‘right’ opinion.

How about, to take yet another example, the SNP MP Alex Salmond? Unfortunately for Mr Salmond, nobody has actually voted the way that he wants them to (apart from at the General Election, of course) and so is struggling to keep his morale up. An appearance at Question Time on Thursday 26th January should have done the trick but, alas, it did not. He inaccurately (and purposefully, a cynic might say) suggested that a White Paper and a Bill are the same thing and – to prove an unclear point – waved around the 670-page White Paper that the SNP published during the Scottish Independence referendum. Mr Salmond has attacked the Leave campaign for promoting mistruths and lies during the debates surrounding Brexit, which makes his unfaltering loyalty to the aforementioned white paper perplexing to say the least when one considers how many lies it contained.

It is inevitable that, in politics, there will be manipulation of the facts in order to fit a narrative. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, ideologically poles apart, clash at the dispatch box every Wednesday about facts that are neither true nor false; they have simply been interpreted with an ideology in mind. This new political trend, though, of a constant disregard for the truth, is outrageous and – far more importantly – damaging.

MPs, it has been decided, will launch a parliamentary inquiry into the ‘growing phenomenon of fake news’ despite it being – to be precise – none of their business. It is journalists and commentators who must take up the mantle, and correct falsehoods before they become folk lore. Politicians have no business in interfering with the free press, regardless of how frustrating it is, when they are just as guilty of exacerbating complete lies. Instead of launching a witch hunt they should examine themselves and, whilst they’re otherwise occupied, it is about time that journalists do the same. 

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