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5 June 2018updated 01 Jul 2021 12:15pm

The spycops scandal deserves better than to be reduced to an argument about social media

In order to sharpen your argument, you need to know what people are actually angry about.

By Stephen Bush

James Ball has written a very disappointing take on the backlash to his tweets about Lush, the soap company that has been attacked for its poster campaign about the spycops scandal.

James writes:

“To me, Lush’s efforts seemed likely to provoke a sharp backlash. It would be too easy to frame as against all policing rather than this specific scandal, and I tweeted along those lines. This was soon vindicated by huge political backlash, and a Daily Mail front page.”

Except that isn’t why people were angered by James’s tweets. What James actually tweeted was “I think a cosmetics company using the #spycops scandals is pretty fucking appalling tbh”, before adding as a “postscript for anyone who thinks it’s not just a cynical stunt” that Lush had donated £30,000 to the campaign of Martyn Underhill, a former police officer turned police and crime commissioner who has been at the forefront of police modernisation and reform.

No one but James can honestly say what he meant by those tweets, but it is hard to stand up the claim that his criticism was that Lush’s campaign was heavy-handed. His criticism was that Lush was uninterested in the campaign, other than to sell bath bombs, and his evidence to support that betrayed a lack of familiarity with the issues and players around police reform, further angering a lot of people.

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It is, as I say, disappointing for several reasons. The first is that the spycops scandal deserves better than to be treated as a footnote in an argument about discourse. The second is that James is right to say that dissent is an important part of sharpening your own conclusions, which is why I am saddened that he doesn’t appear to have listened or engaged with the criticism of his tweets, instead preferring to engage with a strawman attack on a very different argument to the one he actually made at the time.

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