Tag Archive: populism

My hiatus meant that significant and generation changing matters such as Brexit in the UK and the election and defeat of Donald Trump in the US and it might reasonably be assumed I have an opinion on these matters!  I conflate the two things for good reason because I see them as coming from much the same area of ourselves and our societies.

The idea of debunking certain long-held tenets is not in itself a bad thing, in fact often quite the contrary, from such little acorns so the oak trees that can topple repressive regimes might grow.  The difficulty here is that for me to point out where the problem comes is in itself marking out a perhaps slightly patrician way of looking at the world and people in it.  The reason being that I see the movements that have led to both Trump and Brexit as being manipulation of the disenfranchised for the good of an already elite few rather than for the amelioration of the people actually being mobilised on the streets around these ideals.  I’m not saying that Brexit and Trump did not garner huge swathes of popular support, they undoubtedly have done, in a way almost unprecedented in modern times because in both case they have almost split the population of a significant Western country in binary opposition to one another. I would also not want to make out that I do not think the people in their anger and frustration do not have many reasons for feeling so, had they not they would have been impossible to galvanise into such a force.  The working classes of both Britain and the US have been left behind for so long that the gap widening between richer and poorer is entrenched in the system from top to bottom.  What worries me is that they should listen to people who have so obviously benefitted from the system as it stands as being the ones who will lead them from its darkness.

Whilst I am not one for national politics and consider myself both Irish and European I was not intrinsically against Britain leaving the European Union as part of a move to decentralise power and move it to a more local basis, that as a principle is something I can see might have merit, I would have been very interested to discuss certain aspects of how it would mechanically work but I would not be opposed to exploring the principle.  The Left in fact have long since had a fairly antagonistic relationship with the EU as an organ.  I was however considerably more opposed to the Brexit voted for in 2016 because this was so clearly not about a localisation of power but a recentralisation in a different centre that was itself less accountable, namely the British Establishment.  The protagonists claiming to want sovereignty back soon revealed their true colours when the national legal sovereignty flexed its muscles as the Supreme Court ruled certain actions, such as the prorogation of Parliament to have been unlawful, at this point the vitriol was so severe that the judges were in fact branded traitors by the Murdoch media.  These commentators and politicians clearly did not want the British people to have greater power they wanted themselves and their cronies to have greater power over the British people and the ability to make unfettered profits at their expense.  Murdoch himself coined it when he said that ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.’ (He has since denied it and claimed he has never asked a Prime Minister to do anything but his denial came later and at a specific time he was looking for approval from politicians on a Sky News takeover so one could be forgiven for cynicism here).  To me Murdoch’s opposition to the EU was one of the great feathers in its cap but his papers and that of the Daily Mail’s campaigning over 40 years to influence the British public is one of the most disgraceful pieces of sustained misinformation of the modern era such was its breath, lack of substance and its mendaciousness. 

I understand to a degree why Americans en masse voted for Trump, there was precedent here long before Brexit, Boris Johnson indeed garnered many non-traditional supporters when he stood for mayor of London, people buying into the bumbling buffoon act he so often puts on much in the same way people have bought into Trump’s facade of successful businessman.  Both are fallacious, Johnson uses this persona in order to not seem like just another conniving privileged Tory bastard whilst Trump who inherited more money than most of us could hope to earn in several lifetimes has lost more than he has made and therefore is a net failure which is certainly not the success story he would have you believe.  This might have certain people casting their minds back over history for other such ‘failed’ figures that have held sway, the failed Austrian painter etc. etc. there will be parallels with many a dictator leader of course but I think the similarities between Trump and Johnson stretch to a great deal more than just curious conglomerations of blonde mop because they are very much 21st Century demagogues.

When you have an ill-educated and ill-informed electorate single-issue politics is very persuasive and this is not a 21st century phenomenon.  Give people binary instruction and tagline that are easy to understand without suggesting anything as to the mechanics of the process.  ‘Get Brexit Done‘ and ‘Make America Great Again‘ are prime examples of this just as the ‘stab in the back‘ theory (Dolchstoßlegende) was used in Weimar Germany to galvanise the German people into suspicion of the Establishment and the belief that politicians had betrayed the German army in WWI.  There is no actual substance to any of these proposals and that is crucial, it makes it consequently difficult to know by what indicator you would be measuring the success (or failure) of the endeavours. Whilst the Brexit slogan may seem to have a defined end point it is not clear what form of Brexit is to be ‘done’ by it and whether it would be the ‘no deal’ Brexit favoured only by the most cavalier, not to mention explicitly voted against by Parliament – the very body sovereignty is supposed to be coming back to following withdrawal from the EU.  Make America Great Again is yet more wooly, it doesn’t even have the idea of what greatness would or did look like nor whether anyone would have an idea when it had been achieved.  It is in fact rather like a ‘War on Terror‘ where no one truly knows when that noun can be seen to have been defeated!

There is a reason I have lumped the Brexit slogan in with Trump’s and that is because despite Brexit having in some way the framework for conclusion in terms of the conditions of Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome it is not that which was the reason for using it. Rather it was the vacuousness of the slogan itself and this I feel is best evidenced by the fact that Johnson attempted to use the phrase again when it came to the pandemic, though he quickly dropped it when it became clear that to link himself to something this nebulous which was potentially never going to go away was folly. Indeed his strategy was so much of a one-trick pony that it was soon followed to the waste bin of history by the very Chief Strategist Dominic Cummins – ‘Getting COVID Done’ requires a very different approach because you’ve not got the ire of the masses and the invective of the Daily Mail to fail back on. The people are looking for leadership, protection of their loved ones, reassurances for health and economic reasons, the enemy is unseen and cannot be vilified in a way that guarantees blind obedience.  The UK government has been typified throughout by it’s failure to decisively act and rather reaction to circumstances and this I would assert explains why the proportionate death rate due to Covid-19 in the UK is one of the highest in the world.

Trump’s reaction to Covid has been even worse than Johnson’s, he looked utterly out of his depth and that’s because he was.  Boris Johnson had several other cronies around him all flustering and floundering whilst Trump had the now infamous arse-clenching, legs-closing incident of one of his chief medical advisors in response to one of his more outlandish claims.  I don’t wish to make out that I presume politicians should have an immediate handle on a global pandemic, there is no shame in being all at sea, especially in the early days, we are all stumbling rather in the dark throughout our daily lives but the difference is in such circumstances you are best coming clean and leaving it to the clinical experts.  Trump instead employed a strategy of inventing or parroting spurious and at times dangerous claims about light and disinfectant amongst others in an attempt to somehow get himself back into the news agenda as the big shot again.  The principle difference between Trump and Johnson on this is that Johnson is the secondary school prefect caught with his trousers down in the boy’s dorm and whilst he won’t admit it has a degree of guilt written across his face and a knowledge that he hasn’t done very well whilst Trump hasn’t yet made it past primary level and looks as if he has been told that he can’t play in the sandpit today, what’s written on his face suggests utter ambivalence at the fact that he was the one responsible for the deposited faeces that rendered the sandpit off limits!

The analysis and studying matters because to quote a wise man ‘those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it‘ and in both Trump and Johnson what is clear is that our capacity to learn doesn’t seem to last very long before the very same things that worked to hoodwink people before are used successfully again – ‘fool me once, shame on… shame on you, fool me…….., can’t get fooled again‘ as a far less wise man once said in Tennessee! 

Song Of The Day ~ Biig Piig – Sunny

It’s rare these days to get a salvo fired across the bows, sadly even rarer to get one with any substance. I shall leave any readers to judge what they will of Clive’s offering left on the Cyber Neo-Fascism entry.

“Oh great, Thought this blog was going to be someting diferent with more than the usual lefty bush bashing and hatred of anyone whos views are even slightly right of centre. But anyway if that email compelled you to make such an enlightened and wise response i to feel compelled to reply. well yes your knowledge on the historical foreign origin of british language and subculture seems well informed, but what about a contemporary view?i meen modern british culture is still british, regardless of foreign origins. the email you reply to sounds extreem ish but his/her views are no diferent to a lot of other peoples.why can a muslim girl wear a burka to school but alas, a christian cannot were a cross under his shirt?in your onslaught of criticism regarding the article you fail to adress why it has been written or the authors point of view regarding its writing thus not providing any form of balanced opinion meerly the type of leftist, neo communist crap most other blogers spout in the name of liberty and freedom of speech.which is in reality bullying and brutalising. earn yourself respect, balance your opinions instead of launching into “communist gulag opinion bashing mode”, ask yourself why it was made, then maybe, just maybe you might realise that not everyone except yourself and your admirers is a Nazi”

I’m not entirely sure what gives Clive the impression that I have an abject hatred of anyone whose views are slightly right of centre. I detest the right-wing bully boys and the neo-nazis etc. but I see most centre-right people to be at worst a little selfish and at best rather misguided, hate would be far too strong a word.

I am not quite sure what Clive means by taking a contemporary view of the “language and subculture” rather than the historical one which I mentioned and he does not dispute. Is this the sort of “contemporary” view that simply disregards any historical precedent? Modern British culture may well be British but one has to take that in its entirety and remember that many of the factors that make that culture up come from relatively contemporary immigrant sources like the West Indies, India, Pakistan, China, Ireland and now it will be Eastern Europe. Therefore the people who bring and enrich this culture are as much intertwined with Britain and the British as their lexical inluences, cuisine and clothing etc. As I have said culture just as language is not a fixed thing but a constantly evolving entity if you really want to put it in a box then go ahead, be a dinosaur, but don’t expect me to live my life that way.

Clive’s example of the Muslim children being allowed to go to school in burkhas whilst Christian children are not being allowed to wear crosses is not anchored with any evidence. I do not know of a specific case of this happening in this country, it is common to the sort of urban myths that the right are usually happy to propagate. I am aware of a ban restricting the wearing of the hijab in French schools, I do not know if this ban extends to Christian iconography, if not then it surely must to avoid inconsistency and discrimination. In my opinion there are only two ways to solve the matter. The first is to say there will be nothing of any religious significance worn in schools or offices for fear of causing offence, of course at this point people will start talking about an infringement of their human rights and perhaps they have a point, I’m not religious so what do I care?!!! (For non-regular readers I must point out that this was a joke!) The second solution is to say that there will be no restriction on the wearing of items that constitute ones of religious significance, regardless of what that may entail. There is no middle ground from what I can see it is just a varied level of discrimination.

As for why the author has written this email, oh I know exactly why they have written it. It is the same Christian White Supremecist krypto-fascist bullshit that the far-right has used for years. Pressing all the right emotive buttons to make out that there is always someone to blame for your life not going the way you want. It is full of easy no-thought answers none of which actually stand up to scrutiny if deconstructed, which is why I deconstructed it.

If there are so many bloggers out there spouting neo Communist ideals then I cannot help but be rather pleased though I’m sure that is not the intention of Clive’s point. I do not think my argument was bullying nor do I feel it was brutalising, I think I simply took the points in turn and refuted the argument that was being offered using actual historical fact rather than emotion-grabbing hyperbole.

The email was written to provoke mistrust and hatred, to ferment the idea that the multiculturalism which we have seen for centuries is somehow a new thing that is rending the fabric of “British” society assunder. Like all of the views of the far-right this does not stand up to scrutiny, but of course the far-right are not looking for people to do their research. However the politically correct lobby are wholly to blame for giving the right this ammunition, their ill-informed and crass attempts to create some form of homogeneity is as ridiculous as the right’s attempts to do the same by different means. Do not, however assume that the political correctness lobby is in any way affiliated to left-wing politics, it is the politics of the control-seeking middle classes who use the well-meaning but not very bright to carry out their work.

Whilst I firmly believe that the origin of the original email is seriously right-wing I do not feel that many who will be taken in by it are. Many people dissolutioned and disenfranchised will not have the time or the motivation to delve into the root causes of societal malaise. However I would be grossly derelict in my duty were I not to point out from my perspective what I feel is wrong and misleading. I try to be reasonably balanced and rational where possible but ultimately with the current media and popular bias severely to the right of me I do not feel it is really my job to show 2 sides of the coin, I am a left-winger that is the nature of the opinions I espouse and I make no secret of that. If you want the view from the right there is no dearth of places where you can find it. To water down my argument in some effort to provide balance would be a ridiculous dilution for no apparent purpose. Finally in the case of responding to racist bigoted nonsense why on Earth would I want to hold back, the world especially politically is so full of homogenised passionless cronies, I like to think that agree or disagree with my politics there is no ambiguity about what I feel.

Song Of The Day ~ The Duke Spirit – Cuts Across The World

Original Comments:

Mark Ellott made this comment,
Frankly, I wouldn’t have dignified the original SPAM letter with a response – kudos to you for taking the time. Perhaps the strongest argument against these SPAM chain letters is that they not only press all the emotive buttons, but that they rely on myth rather than fact. Clive falls into the same trap – where, exactly can children not wear a cross under their shirts? Evidence, please. The bans in France apply to all religious symbols. France is a secular state and religion has no place in the state’s business; in this case, schools. But that is France, not Britain. I am not aware of any cases in Britain where people are not allowed to wear crosses.
comment added :: 23rd January 2006, 18:10 GMT+01 :: http://longrider.blog-city.com
Pimme made this comment,
I just ignore the inflammatory stuff these days…a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still…
comment added :: 24th January 2006, 02:14 GMT+01 :: http://pimme.blog-city.com