The Top 10: Cues to Disregard an Opinion

From neoliberal via hard left to Bilderberg: the tell-tale words and phrases that say, ‘You can ignore this’

Click to follow
The Independent Online

This list of words and phrases that are almost always indicators of a closed worldview was suggested by Nick Hyde, who proposed the first three. 

1. Neoliberal. If anything it refers to liberal economics but with the “neo” borrowed from neocon to make it sound sinister and right-wing. No one claims to be a neoliberal, so it just means “someone who wants less state intervention in markets than me”. 

2. Overton Window. Named after Joseph P Overton, a free-market think-tanker who described in 2001-02 how public opinion defined the acceptable range of policy options. Now a vogue phrase used by people who argue that if political leaders argue for very left-wing policies it will push the range of acceptable policies to the left. It usually has the opposite effect.

3. MSM: mainstream media. Another phrase that gained traction on the right (in the mid-1980s) but that has now been adopted by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. 

4. It’s all about turnout. Unerring indicator of vacuity. It is like saying “it’s all about votes”. (Except in American presidential elections, which are all about the electoral college.) 

5. A mainly northern pastime. The giveaway for rugby league supporters, according to Michael O’Hare.

6. Hard left. Controversial nomination from Stephen Eadon, but I think he has a point. Some ideas advocated by Jeremy Corbyn are sensible, others less so. 

7. Bilderberg. Jonathan Law. One of a long supplementary list of clanging alarm bells that signal conspiracy theories. Sheeple, shill and false flag are others. (Lawrence Freedman points out that “false flag” is also usually misused to mean a decoy when it originally meant a ruse to close in on an enemy when pretending to be a friend.) The Bilderberg Group is a European-American talking shop of politicians, officials and business leaders, named after the hotel in the Netherlands where it first met in 1954. 

8. Trickle-down economics. “Inevitably a straw-man argument, advocated by approximately no one,” as James Farrar pointed out. 

9. Progressive alliance. Jamie Thunder nominated the persistent idea that if only Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens got together they would win elections. Which overlooks the result of the last election, in which the Conservatives and Ukip together won 51 per cent of the vote in Great Britain. James Counsell also pointed out that anyone who talks about a mass movement (or a social movement) is likely to be barking up the wrong tree. 

10. Relationship between the individual and the state. Long experience tells me that any article containing this phrase can safely be ignored. 

Next week: British towns known worldwide for just one thing (such as Sandhurst, Eccles)

Coming soon: Narcissistic, self-congratulatory, humblebraggy, sick-making ballads (such as “Imagine”, “Grandad”)

Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top Tens, From Politics to Pop, is available as an e-book for £3.79. Your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, in the comments please, or to me on Twitter, or by email to