How ironic that at the very moment Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party reflects the working man’s experiences, it’s about to embark on a policy of disinformation and fantasy.
Labour’s relevant right now. The majority of the population understand a dysfunctional, listless organisation, riven by confusion and internal contradictions, led by a cabal of cocksure fools promoted beyond their abilities, who absorbed by self-interest, refuse to submit to evidence that points to their inefficacy.
Today’s Labour is Britain’s councils, large companies and universities. It’s never been more representative. But the public want heroes not sad reflections of their own miserable lives, and consequently, Corbyn, the man who trumped meritocracy, thanks to the political illiteracy of the man and woman in the street (“cunts” according to Sid Vicious, who claimed to have met them), has turned to Trump to trump the meritocratic principle once again.
Last week we learned that Corbyn’s echo chamber have planned a re-launch under the banner, “Let Corbyn be Corbyn”. This will reposition Corbyn as a populist champion, using the same tactics successfully employed by condescending prole scoop, Donald Trump – “a relaxed approach to message discipline“.
Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, that did to politics what Katie Price did to literature, has been watched closely by desolate Labour tacticians. Support for the Corbyn revolution remains stubbornly static, below 30%. Psephologists have crunched the numbers and prophesised doom. The old Labour left, that reads an empty glass as an intent to fill, has read these runes and concluded, as they must, that it’s a hostile mind controlling media, not them, that’s to blame.
Donald Trump may represent the opposite of what Corbyn says he believes in, but on the media they are one. Both believe that mainstream outlets (or as we used to think of them, legitimate news gathering organisations), are a cancer that’s eating them alive. If the public trust journalists, with their irritating propensity to ask questions, corroborate stories, report on matters deemed to be in the public interest, like hypocrisy and intellectual incoherence, constructing a narrative that runs counter to party propaganda or individual spin, then they’re sunk.
Trump and Corbyn don’t want to be interrogated or scrutinised, because it makes them look like a couple of preening amateurs. But whereas Jeremy has yet to find a formula that will free him from this tyranny of inquiry, America’s President-elect found a temporary workaround, and with it, hope for Labour’s current leader – an animate boil on Tony Benn’s putrefied dick.
Trump’s braintrust realised the trap for their village idiot with an inheritance, was engaging with the media on its own terms, because that gave their methodology and analysis legitimacy. Whereas previous political leaders in Western Democracies took it as red that journalistic inquiry was a necessary evil and feature of public life, and that mediating one’s message was a test of skill, as one could expect to have one’s pronouncements examined in detail and challenged, Team Trump saw the rise of fanatic-led alt-right websites as a model for capitalising on convenient strands of received wisdom; the cab driver and pub chat school of thought that’s kept Sid Vicious’s cunts happy in their ignorance for generations. The truism of choice? That you can’t trust the press, and that its agenda is to misinform and manipulate, rather than inform and educate.
You see, because some journalism is lazy, prurient and reactionary, it follows that all long-standing, well-funded media organisations are corrupt and self-serving. Just as it’s impossible to imagine a non-racist police officer or a grounded Hollywood actor, there’s really no such thing as professional journalism. Indeed, now the Internet’s democratised writing, with idiots free to unaccountably ramble on about any subject they like as I’m doing now, unburdened by old fashioned nonsense like checking facts, it can’t be of any value, can it?
The tenets of professional journalism – speaking truth to power, informed opinion, the public interest – these are but affectations, proffered by the privileged few; an elite who can’t believe their fucking luck at earning a crust doing this instead of real work, so must always maintain the illusion of utility and importance. The oldest lie after God.
Trump’s retinue understood there was a whole media underclass out there; millions of Americans who didn’t care for quality journalism or its presumed values, but nevertheless felt it patronised them, despite not consuming any of it. These people didn’t trust reporters. Hacks had an orthodoxy, whatever that is, that threatened age old assumptions about community, work and class. By disavowing the outlets that had alienated society’s discontents, and impugning their honesty and integrity, Trump played to a prejudice that made him immune from the media’s informed hostility.
By positioning himself as an honest Don, swimming against disinformation’s tide, he created a parallel reality. Grab ‘em by the pussy? No problem. Just frivolous talk. Allegations he’s Putin’s stooge? Mischief making by warmongers. Caught in a hotel, drenched in urine, kneeling over the dead body of a slain prostitute? Looking for the bathroom. Though there’s a dead girl in there too.
But as effective a strategy as it’s been, it’s not enough for Trump to allege media corruption and bias. To embed the idea, it’s necessary to sloganize it for the intended audience of deep thinkers, who, despite subjecting everything they see and hear to forensic analysis, nevertheless have a thing for catch-all terms that neatly summarise the phenomena they’ve carefully considered. Thus DJT has appropriated the buzz phrase of the moment, employed by journalists to describe their unaccountable and ill-informed opposite, “fake news”.
Labelling any story you don’t like as fake news is a great wheeze because it disobliges you from having to account for your actions. What a let off just to cry “fake news” in a crowded press gallery, and walk out, swigging an escort’s piss as you go.
Jeremy Corbyn must have spent his quiet autumn of 2016 watching Trump, while recalling the horrors of the anti-Semitism row, questions about his leadership, rumours of a deselection purge, and his alleged attempts at sabotaging Labour’s EU remain campaign, and felt nothing but envy. He loathed the media, the inquisitive shits, yet he lived in a political culture where he was expected to engage with it and acknowledge its role as a legitimate scrutineer. Trump, arguably a true outsider, as he’d never been a politician, just an establishment mainstay, simply brushed it off and met the press pack’s questions with belligerence. His supporters lapped it up. Like fresh piss.
So “Let Corbyn be Corbyn” will experiment with Jeremy doing the same thing, with the result that a terrible opposition will become a fantasy one. Worse, a fantasy opposition with a contempt for the inquiring minds of the electorate.
Corbyn began his career as the people’s politician by trying to bypass the media altogether; refusing to talk to them on the move, cancelling interviews. It was so successful that it was reversed within months when Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s weasel-in-chief, realised that the wider public saw this as a form of incompetence. Labour’s next Prime Minister, in a parallel universe where the government’s been outed as a paedophile ring with slave owning interests in third world countries, looked to Joe and Jacinda Public like a sneering, self-important arsehole, who was too good to answer the questions put to him on the people’s behalf.
Times have changed since attempts to refashion a Labour Leader to meet Middle England’s expectations resulted in disaster. Not least the assumption that what Middle England thinks matters. Corbyn isn’t in the same boat as David Hare’s Kinnock proxy in The Absence of War. He’s tried being unaffected (within certain professionalising media managed limits) and the result’s been a damaging consensus that he’s a student politician in a pensioner’s body; both detached from and disinterested in economic reality. This is why Trump’s methodology is so attractive. By crying “fake news” whenever unhelpful facts come to light, prompting uncomfortable questions, Corbyn can help Britain to become what Trump’s piloting in the US – a country where half the population see its media as a psychological abuser, tethered to special interests, attempting to destabilise the people’s chosen one.
All political parties spin. They have to. Policy formation and implementation is complicated; there are winners and losers from every proposed reform. The problem with making Trump the inspiration for his revival, aside from proving that Corbyn is no different from any other Atlanticist at Westminster, eager to copy the socially divisive mistakes of our American cousins, is that it’s a tacit acknowledgement that Labour’s thinking is intellectually wanting.
Any opposition that doesn’t trust the electorate to immerse itself in the debate on its policies and reach a favourable conclusion is not to be trusted. “Trumping” the operation means bypassing journalists to appeal directly to voters who have neither the time, political education or curiosity to coherently critique the populist promises that are about to be sprayed into their eyes. This gerrymandering of opinion; untested opposition; is an act of cynical desperation that has the potential to retard the political discourse for a generation.
A divided government of intellectual lightweights will press on with Brexit, one of the most complicated, far-reaching changes in Britain’s status for decades, while the official opposition embarks on a three-year daydream, hoping the politically ignorant will choose escapism over ugly reality. For “Make American Great Again” substitute “Straight Talking Honest Politics”. For hope substitute emigration. Norway, anyone?