Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Hijack and Chill

Let's say there's a disagreement between housemates about whether or not to get rid of the house television. A date is set for the final decision (June 23rd) and then the housemates set about discussing the issue, prior to decision day.  

When the discussion begins it seems that the relevant issues are the quality of content that is accessible via the TV (is it worth it for that content?), the financial cost of the TV, the space it takes up and time spent watching it just because it's there, time that could be spent doing other things.  As time goes on the debate gets hijacked somewhat by a particularly domineering and perpetually angry housemate.

This housemate wants rid of the TV because he sees it as something which attracts outsiders to the house to watch football, to watch Eurovision or to Netflix and chill.  This housemate hates this and for this reason he wants the TV gone. 

This housemate is domineering and somewhat charismatic, moreover, his argument plays on certain anxieties some of his other housemates are susceptible to. He mentions that those visiting to watch football are likely violent and might well attack him and his fellow housemates. He throws in certain unpleasant, bigoted and homophobic, scare stories about the sort of people who watch Eurovision. He talks of outsiders chilling for free after exploiting 'his' Netflix subscription. The outsiders are freeloaders. 

These fear stories seem to gain traction. Some of the housemates point out that there has been no trouble when football was viewed, that the Eurovision night was universally acclaimed as fun and that was due in large part to the presence of the visitors. One or two confess that it's not only the visitors that gain enjoyment from the post-Netflix chilling.  It's also pointed out that the monthly cost of Netflix subscription is cancelled out by the first bottle of wine brought round by a guest each month, if one insists on seeing this purely in financial terms.  

It then transpires that some of those identified as outsiders coming in to the house for the football, are housemates themselves and have been for sometime, it's just they rarely make an appearance unless there is football on the TV, or Eurovision. Of course, they weren't always housemates, and it's true that they became housemates after the arrival of the TV, but they are housemates all the same and any warrant for seeing them otherwise is simply illegitimate. 

Some of the housemates then point out that the process of discussing the merits of the TV has now become something else, it has been hijacked in the pursuit of a bigoted agenda. This changes the nature of the decision on the 23rd. A decision to get rid of the television will have obvious impacts beyond the presence of the TV in the living room. It will make visitors less likely and unwelcome. It will make those branded as visitors, though actually housemates, feel unwelcome. It will embolden the bigoted fear-mongering housemate and serve to frame future discussions of house policy. It will make the house less fun and less welcoming. It will be a decision based on irrational and un-evidenced, though populist, fears about outsiders, not about rational, evidenced facts about the role of the television in the life of the house. It will transform the culture of the house, to one of suspicion and hostility to outsiders. None of these things were on the agenda when the future of the TV was mooted but they have become precisely what the decision is now about. 

I would insist on keeping the TV, even if I had no intention of watching it.

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