We’ve been Trumped

 

I haven’t posted anything on Blood and Porridge for a while.  Partly this is because I’ve been on holiday.  And partly it’s because I’m still trying to get my head around the result of the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.  In the referendum, held on June 23rd, a majority voted to leave the EU.  Hence, ‘Brexit’ has been instigated.

 

Brexit was achieved by an unholy alliance of buffoonish but ruthless Conservatives, i.e. Boris Johnson, boorish but ruthless Ukippers, i.e. Nigel Farage, and a quartet of millionaire / billionaire newspaper magnates whose main purpose in life is to avoid paying tax, i.e. Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere, Richard Desmond and the Barclay Brothers.  (All right, that’s actually a quintet).  Channelling the hatred and pig-ignorance of Britain’s far-right organisations like the English Defence League and the British National Party, this lot managed to convince enough voters in the less well-off parts of England and Wales that their current financial and social insecurities weren’t caused by the winner-takes-all market forces that’ve been increasingly out-of-control since the days of Margaret Thatcher, but were caused by that reliable old scapegoat, Johnny Foreigner.

 

Untrustworthy Johnny Foreigner, as Boris, Nigel and co. would have you believe, comes in two guises.  One guise is those meddling bureaucrats of the EU that Britain’s right-wing press loves to wail about (though funnily enough, over the years, they’ve kept shtum about all the EU subsidies pouring into the parts of England and Wales who’ve just voted to quit).  The other guise is those beastly immigrants, ‘coming over here and taking our jobs’.

 

I’m afraid those folk who voted ‘leave’ in order to put an end to immigration are in for a nasty shock, very, very soon.  Because the only way you can abolish immigration is by abolishing capitalism, which I assume isn’t on the cards yet in the UK.

 

Since then, of course, the knives have been out as the instigators of Brexit have tried to get into pole position for leadership of the Conservative Party and the keys of Number 10, Downing Street.  Johnson, who by opting to spearhead the ‘leave’ campaign had already stabbed his supposed friends David Cameron and George Osborne in the backs, was in turn stabbed by his weasel-faced partner in crime, Michael Gove, who very publicly questioned Johnson’s abilities and announced he was standing for the leadership himself.  But it looks increasingly like Gove’s leadership bid will be squashed by the gimlet-eyed Theresa May, who’s cannily kept herself aloof from the political dogfighting and bloodletting until now.  I suppose it’s indicative of the culture gap that’s opened up between Britain and the rest of Europe that the best thing the British newspapers could find to compare this mayhem to was Game of Thrones; whereas the equivalent newspapers in continental Europe likened it to Shakespeare.

 

Still, there was at least one good consequence of the Brexit fiasco.  Amid the massive hee-haw going on during the day after the vote, June 24th, the potential-next-president-of-the-USA Donald Trump flew into Scotland to officially open his new golf course at Turnberry in Ayrshire.  And guess what?  Hardly anybody noticed.  The media’s attention was elsewhere.  Brexit left ‘the Donald’ gasping for the oxygen of publicity, probably for the first time ever.

 

Actually, Blood and Porridge can reveal something that the media failed to pick up at all.  On the evening of June 24th, after opening his new golf course in Ayrshire, Donald Trump was big-hearted enough to travel across to my Scottish hometown of Peebles; where, as part of the town’s annual summer Beltane Festival, he kindly offered to lead a Friday-evening parade of floats and fancy dress.

 

What’s that?  You don’t believe me?  Well, here’s some hard photographic evidence.  Yes, it’s Donald Trump leading the Peebles Beltane parade and possibly making the first factually-correct statement of his presidential campaign so far.

 

 

There were two people leading the Beltane parade, by the way.  The other person was Boris Johnson.  Well, he has a lot more free time on his hands now.

 

 

The Great British horror show

 

(c) International Business Times

 

I’m a big fan of horror movies but I can’t say I’ve been enjoying this new horror movie that stars the entire population of Britain and that’s been playing endlessly since last Thursday morning.  What’s it called again?  I Know What EU Did Last SummerThe BrexorcistHalloween 4: The Return of Michael Gove?

 

Actually, these past days of epic-scale tragedy and farce, which have followed Britain’s decision in the referendum-vote of June 23rd to leave the European Union, put me in mind of several horror films.  These are the films I’m reminded of and why.

 

(c) Daily Telegraph

(c) British Lion Films

 

When I see Nigel Farage and his supporters in those rural provinces of the UK that voted to quit the EU despite them being heavily dependent on EU subsidies, I think of The Wicker Man (1973).  In this, a posh aristocrat convinces his simple-minded countryside followers that the bountifulness of their harvests and the richness of their coffers depends, not very logically, on them occasionally sacrificing a virgin.  In Farage’s case, he persuaded them to sacrifice their EU membership.  The film ends with the latest sacrifice, played by Edward Woodward, predicting that the next time the harvests fail and the coffers are empty, the countryside folk will be sticking the aristocrat himself into a wicker man and setting it alight.  So if this analogy holds, things may end unhappily for Nigel (but happily for the rest of us).

 

(c) Warner Brothers / Transatlantic Pictures

 

When I see Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, I think of Alfred’s Hitchcock’s dark psychological thriller Rope (1948).  This begins with two vain aesthetes, Brandon and Phillip, committing a murder to show their intellectual superiority.  Then they spend the rest of the film unravelling through guilt at what they’ve done and fear of being found out.  Since the referendum result, our very own Brandon and Philip have been looking increasingly sweaty and twitchy while, no doubt, the thought “Oh my God, what the f**k have we done?” grows ever shriller in their heads,

 

When I don’t see George Osbourne – he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth since the vote, despite the fact that he’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and despite the fact that the pound and markets generally have gone into freefall – I obviously think of The Invisible Man (1933).

 

(c) Universal Pictures

 

When I see the Labour Party currently tearing itself apart over the issue of the leadership, or non-leadership, of Jeremy Corbyn during the referendum campaign – the last time I’d checked, there’d been eleven resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet – I think of the virus in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) that instantly transforms its victims into red-eyed, slavering, vomiting, hyperactive and very bitey zombies.  Though if the somnolent Corbyn himself got infected he’d probably just dribble a little bit onto his cardigan.

 

When I see Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and the only leader in the past few days to actually display qualities of leadership, I think of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens (1986).  From her base in Edinburgh, peering south towards the madness that’s engulfed Westminster, Sturgeon must feel like Weaver in her spaceship while it circles the space-colony planet where hideous and slimy things have happened.  (Though ‘nuking them from orbit’ isn’t an option here.)

 

When I see close-ups of Michael Gove’s face, I think of the baby in David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977).

 

(c) Daily Telegraph

(c) Libra Films International

 

Whereas when I see Boris Johnson, I think of the midget blonde monsters spawned by Samantha Eggar in David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1980).

 

(c) Evening Standard

(c) New World Pictures

 

Mind you, that’s when I’m not thinking of the creepy kids in Village of the Damned (1960).

 

(c) MGM

 

And when I see the whole sorry mess, with the triumphant leaders of the Brexit campaign now admitting that – duh! – they didn’t actually have a plan about what to do in the event of them winning, I think of the Final Destination series.  In those movies, it’s never quite clear what the final destination is.  But you have a pretty good idea that everyone involved is going to die horribly.

 

The best and worst of Britain

 

(c) BBC

(c) The Guardian

 

I suspect every British person with access to the Internet is currently typing out and posting their tuppence-worth about the murder of Jo Cox, the Labour Party MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire and a pro-European politician with a track record in helping refugees and victims of oppression.  I’m not in the UK at the moment, but I still have a British passport and I have access to the Internet.  So here’s my tuppence-worth.

 

I’m suspicious when people talk about cause and effect.  Events definitely have reasons and actions definitely have consequences, but to my mind the patterns of causes that contribute to something happening and the patterns of effects that emanate from it happening are too complex to be fully understood.  It’s more complicated than the model of a row of dominoes simply knocking each other down, which seems to be the common assumption when folk engage in discussions, debates and arguments.  A didn’t just cause B, thanks to which C happened.  More likely, A-L caused M, thanks to which N-Z happened.

 

More importantly, I’m wary of the concept of cause and effect because if you treat actions only in terms of their consequences, you rob those actions of their own intrinsic worth.

 

So I’m not going to say that Cox’s murder, at the hands of a man with a history of mental illness and links to at least one white supremacist organisation, was the result of anything in particular.  Not even the result of the belligerent, poisonous atmosphere that’s been evident in Britain recently as campaigning has heated and attitudes have hardened in the lead-up to the referendum on June 23rd about whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union.  Not even the result of the anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner rhetoric that’s been amped up by the ‘Leave’ side, particularly by Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party, who shortly before Cox’s murder unveiled a new campaign poster bearing the words BREAKING POINT and a picture of a long, dense crowd of refugees receding into the distance.

 

No, I’m not going to argue that Cox’s murder was the result of anything done by Farage and his anti-EU allies, despite the fact that I regard Farage as a ratbag opportunist of the highest order – forever peddling the shtick that he’s a man of the people and a crusader against the political, financial and business elites who’ve deprived ordinary citizens of power over their own lives, when in fact he’s a former public schoolboy (Dulwich College, alma mater of P.G. Wodehouse, Michael Powell, C.S. Forester and Dennis Wheatley) and a former commodity broker who’s worked for Drexel Burnham Lambert, Credit Lyonnais Rouse, Refco and Natexis Metals.  (In this respect he’s no better than that other populist denouncer of the ruling elite, Donald Trump, who’s so un-elite that he was worth $200,000 – the equivalent of about a million dollars today – when he graduated from college in 1968.)

 

That said, I don’t feel much sympathy for right-wing pro-leave commentators like James Delingpole, who’s been whinging about ‘journalists, PR men and politicians’ linking Cox’s murder with the alarmist tone of the Leave campaign.  “(D)o you genuinely, sincerely believe,” he lamented on www.breitbart.com, “that Thomas Mair, the suspected gunman who killed Jo Cox, is representative of the 50 percent or more of British people who believe that our country would be a better, freer, more prosperous, secure and democratically accountable place outside the EU?”  In fact, I feel no sympathy at all for Delingpole while he fulminates about his cause being framed within an unflattering narrative that he doesn’t like; because if there’s one thing that Delingpole and his chums in Britain’s mainly right-wing press are very good at doing, it’s taking causes they don’t like and framing them within unflattering narratives.

 

Hence, those people campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum were portrayed in Britain’s right-wing tabloids as extremists who said beastly things to J.K. Rowling on Twitter and flung eggs at Labour MP Jim Murphy.  The Murphy egg-chucking incident was reported with such horror that you’d have thought Scotland was about to undergo its own version of Kristallnacht; though in retrospect and after events on June 16th it seems pretty mild.  Sure, the ‘yes’ side had a few nutters on its fringes but so did the ‘no side’.  However, the newspapers ignored abuse and death-threats against leading lights on the independence side like Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Jim Sillars because they didn’t fit the desired narrative.

 

And I have no doubt that we’d be getting a major narrative rammed down our throats at the moment if on June 16th a mentally unstable Muslim man had shouted “ISIS!” and attacked and killed someone campaigning for a ‘leave’ vote.  Intriguingly, despite Thomas Mair name-checking a far-right organisation during the attack – he shouted “Britain First” while stabbing and shooting Cox to death – Britain’s newspapers have refrained from calling it a ‘terrorist’ incident and have emphasised the man’s psychiatric problems.  You’re allowed to do that under the British press rulebook if the perpetrator of an atrocity is a white bloke.

 

Instead, I’ll just ask you to make a comparison.  On the morning of June 16th, Farage launched his new BREAKING POINT campaign poster.  The people depicted in it, standing in their hundreds, extending back into the distance, are actually refugees who’ve fled the civil war in Syria and ended up in Croatia, which, it’s fair to say, isn’t that close to Britain.  I assume those refugees are frightened and traumatised by the experiences they’ve been through, but UKIP’s message is clear.  “These are scary people and they’re coming your way!  Be afraid, Britain, very afraid!  Vote to leave the EU or prepare to die!”  At least one child is visible in the picture, near the front of the queue and on the right.  And as people who’ve studied the original picture have pointed out, there’s actually a white guy at the very front.  But UKIP stuck a panel with the message “Leave the European Union on June 23rd” on the poster to hide his face, presumably because it wasn’t chillingly brown enough.

 

From breakingdownthenews.blogspot.com

 

It has also been pointed out that Farage’s poster bears an uncanny resemblance to a clip of old Nazi propaganda that rants about undesirables flooding “Europe’s cities after the last war… parasites, undermining their host countries.”  That’s the Nazis, you know.  Adolf Hitler, World War II and all that.  Didn’t we British fight against those Nazis, and their fascism and hatred of the other?  In doing so, didn’t we achieve our ‘finest hour’, to quote Winston Churchill, whom I understand is a bit of a hero in Nigel Farage’s house?

 

Compare the BREAKING POINT poster with the career of Jo Cox.  For seven years she was employed with the aid group Oxfam and her involvement in its humanitarian campaigns led to her working with oppressed people in Sudan and Afghanistan.  She was also an advisor to the anti-slavery charity, the Freedom Fund.  After she became an MP, she campaigned for the creation of civilian safe havens within Syria and she chaired the All Parties Friends of Syria group.  During her maiden speech in the House of Commons, she praised her constituents in Yorkshire, of all races and creeds, saying: “While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

 

So which of the two – that UKIP poster or the life of Jo Cox – do you think represents the best of Britain and which represents the worst?  And if you have to stop and think about that question…  Well, I can only say that I hope you and Nigel are very happy together.