The Hostility of Frankie Boyle

This is a guest post by Mitnaged

The Guardian, it seems, did it again.

It gave fulsome coverage and its own inimitable spin to the Frankie Boyle incident, after which the BBC grudgingly apologised for the offence Boyle gave, as if the BBC was wrong to do so.

Boyle is no stranger to controversy.  He has come to grief before for making tasteless jokes about Downs Syndrome and insulting the Queen.  He called the Downs Syndrome episode “the most excruciating moment of my career” but he is young yet and given the current climate, where mindless opening of mouth before engaging what passes for brain is commonplace and the results are so easily confused with “satire”, he will probably feel much more able to offend more and more people before he retires and then complain when he is taken to task about those too.

Robin Shepherd explored the BBC’s reaction to Boyle and in particular set out what I suppose passes for Boyle’s reasoning for his sympathy for the Palestinians.   It is very reminiscent of the sort of uninformed guff posted above and below the line on CiF, and you can read Boyle’s reasons at the blog itself.   However, I was more taken with a question posed below the line on the thread:

“… Jerry Says:
May 2nd, 2010 at 3:07 pm

“My guess is that Mr. Boyle has never been to Israel.

“One of my interests is how people hold irrational ideas in the face of contravening facts. In most cases it comes down to what information people leave out of their arguments or how people fill in the empty spaces in their theories. The ability to be exhaustive in one’s considerations is limited in the humans. That is why we require “theories…….”

CiF is bursting at the seams with authors and posters who hold irrational ideas in the face of contravening facts. I have written elsewhere about one psychological process which I believe explains this.  There are others, among them the concept of “hostility” as set out by George Kelly, the founder of the psychology of personal constructs.   Personal construct theory starts from an acceptance that people construe the world in countless different ways, and that this affects their perceptions, reasoning, thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Hostility, as personal construct theory defines it, does not necessary mean violence or argumentativeness, although it can certainly lead to them. Rather it can be more appropriately defined firstly as a rigid refusal to accept reality in terms of the consequences of events or one’s part in them particularly if they do not turn out well, and secondly (and more importantly as it is played out in the Guardian and the western media in regard to Israel) an attempt to manipulate that reality in order for it to confirm one’s rigidly held beliefs.   Everyone can be prey hostility of this sort, but it seems to be a life position of certain people.
In his Presidental address to the Clinical Division of the American Psychological Association in 1957, Kelly summarised the essential features of hostility thus:

1. A person construes human nature in his own way.

2. He makes social predictions on the basis of these constructions.

3. To set the stage they must be crucial predictions; that is to say, he must have wagered more on them than he can afford to lose – more of his construct system, that is.

4. He turns up invalidating evidence. It is clear that he was wrong about people. He can no longer ignore the fact.

5. Moreover, he was overwhelmingly wrong – basically wrong.

6. In the face of the harsh facts he can, of course, revise his outlook. But the revision would shake him so deeply that he is reluctant to undertake it.

7. Alternatively, he could let matters ride – say to himself, “So I just don’t understand people very well.” But this too is an alternative he is reluctant to choose.

8. Finally, he can close his eyes to reality and attempt to make people fit the construct bed his system provides. This is the hostile choice.

The above can easily be adapted to the aficionados of the “opinions as facts” brigade about Israel, from the Boyles of this world, to the media, and to the benighted politicians and political candidates who want to bash Israel in order to win elections, as well as to the commenters and writers above and below the line on CiF.   Although Kelly refers to social predictions above, they can also be political predictions and both can be used either to inform or rigidify opinions about anything.

Note that Kelly says that they must be crucial predictions. One might ask how belief in the inherent evil of Israel and that it should not exist can be crucial in the wider scheme of things, but nevertheless such belief is all consuming for some.   So Ben White or Seth Freedman or Tony Lerman some other “informed” author on CiF will declaim with a certainty he/she has no right to possess that such and such a fact (or more often opinion) points to Israel’s evil.   They go to print saying so.  In Kelly’s terms, they wager more than they can afford to lose and they are almost pathologically allergic to being shown to be in error.   To lose and to acknowledge that loss will mean that these people will have to drastically alter their construct system about Israel as the only villain in the Middle East and they are reluctant and/or unable to do that.

Therefore, in the face of the evidence that they ARE wrong, rather than revise their outlook to include the new information, they entrench still further behind the old outlook.  (The point is that these people often cannot acknowledge even to themselves that they are wrong.  They merely feel great discomfort in the face of opposition to their views, and the instinctive reaction to that is to lash out at those who disagree with them).   We see this in some of Seth Freedman’s replies to his critics and in many below the line comments on CiF whenever the arguments of anti-Israel posters are dissected and shown to be blatantly untrue or ill-founded.

Arguably the most important point above, however, is the final one.  Kelly describes how such people close their eyes to reality and also attempt to distort it to fit their own interpretations of it.  This is hostility as Kelly means it, and we see it in Hamas’ out and out lies to its people and on the world stage about Israel’s alleged brutality.   We see this hostility to reality in the “thoughts as facts” articles about Israel almost daily.   We see it in the reiterative burbling of the below the line haters on CiF.  We see it in the speeches of political candidates in the UK General Election, who no doubt cannot think beyond the hope that this will earn them more Muslim votes.

(Perhaps I do these latter a disservice, however.   Perhaps they are genuinely ignorant and ill-informed.  Perhaps they have not taken the trouble to research properly into every aspect of the Middle East conflict before they open their mouths to try to impress or appeal to emotion simply to get votes).

The most pernicious aspect of this hostility to reality about the Middle East conflict is the manipulativeness engaged in by Hamas, as it tries to coerce events to conform with its faulty construing.   It sees itself as victim therefore it goaded Israel for over eight years until Cast Lead, when Hamas took delight in its people’s victimhood, and, where it could not, in setting up scenarios to fool the media that they alone were the victims.

Hamas has ample support from its useful (and equally hostile) idiots around the world in this endeavour.

As Jerry, above and on the Robin Shepherd blog, says, his guess is that Frankie Boyle has never been to Israel.  He should be invited there as a guest of the Israeli government.   I would like nothing better than to be a fly on the wall (or inside what passes for his mind) as he travels around and speaks to Israelis themselves, and then to interview him afterwards to assess the extent of his hostility to the reality of what Israel represents after such a visit, which would, I hope, have fundamentally challenged his construing.
ADDENDUM:  Personal Construct Hostility – a case study from CiF:
CiF is an incubator for personal construct hostility, particularly of the anti-Israel sort, because of the nature of its skewed moderation policy which enables the “all or nothing” ways in which detractors of Israel express themselves, which in turn leaves them wide open to having their extreme views publicly undermined and contradicted (where, that is, the moderators do not remove the contradicting arguments).
The following exchange between Scriptor and Arkasha shows Arkasha’s behaviour to be a example of Kelly’s hostility construct in that he becomes hostile in a literal sense when he is faced with an incontrovertible truth which fatally undermines his argument. There is no real attempt to manipulate the readers into believing him, however,  except his rather lame and petulant accusation that Scriptor is lying (which implies that his account is truthful) but Arkasha does not follow that through.   As we can see Arkasha’s posts evidence the reiterative nature of the  person who shows personal construct hostility and who steadfastly ignores the evidence before him:


13 Apr 2009, 12:09PM

roachclip: “…must say I’m looking forward to the day when there is a Christian, Moslem or Athiest Prime Minister of Israel…”

Happy to oblige:

In February 2007 Israeli Druze MK Majallie Whbee briefly served as the country’s President, when acting President Dalia Itzik travelled to America . This is a historic day because it is the first time that a person from the minorities has become the President of Israel said Whbee. The important thing for us is that it shows that we can be counterparts, citizens who have duties and rights, and that we are actually a democratic country…. My appointment is the answer to those who accuse Israel of being an apartheid state. Minorities have equal rights and we are part of the government, the state and the parliament….


I know there aren’t any Jews in the Palestinian West Bank or in Gaza, but there are Christians. Can you tell me whether Hamas or the West Bank PA have Christians in their governments?

And note Arkasha’s answer, as an example of the hostility I have written about:


13 Apr 2009, 12:17PM

scriptor – what makes you think a president ( “the position is largely a ceremonial figurehead role, with executive real power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister’) will substitute for a PM?

You are being disingenuous here – shame on you.

To which Scriptor then replies:


13 Apr 2009, 12:29PM

Arkasha – and shame on you for trying to argue that the appointment of an Israeli Druze as acting President of an allegedly “apartheid state” means absolutely nothing.

The message it sent out was obviously lost on someone like you and your reaction to my post evidences a lot about your own rigid mindset.

You have lost whatever credibility you thought you possessed.

Arkasha’s personal construct (and probably literal) hostility in reaction to the disproving of  his rigid view of Israel = apartheid state is evidenced above and  further evidenced and underlined by his subsequent rejoinder to Scriptor.  Arkasha has wagered much and publicly upon carrying his tendentious argument and reacts in a hostile way when he is proven to be wrong:


13 Apr 2009, 3:53PM

Don’t try to unload your crap all over me, Scriptor. You claimed to show that non-Jews could be PMs, and the best you could pull out is some Druze who was “president” for a day or so – and you tried to sell it as if the two positions are equivalent.

You got caught weaving a lie. Says a lot about your mindset, such as it is.

Scriptor, having carried his point, very wisely leaves him to stew in his hostility.

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