I realise there has been little activity on my blog for a number of weeks. This is because I have been very busy with other things. I won’t go into detail but these things have taken a great deal of my time and demanded my utmost attnetion. It’s also likely that my blog output will be patchy over the coming weeks, though I expect to do some blogging closer to the General Election.
I’ve resisted the temptation to comment on Russell Brand because he has been covered from all different angles by all manner of people. Brand’s associations with Laurence Easeman have been the subject of considerable discussion since last October, when his book launch was cancelled after Easeman’s anti-Semitism and fascism were revealed. Under the circumstances, Brand did the right thing by cancelling the launch. At least Brand turns his back on fash and racists. Daniel ‘Anglosphere’ Hannan, on the other hand, airbrushes the latter.
Brand’s appearance on the national political stage has got tongues wagging on the Left and as for the Right? Well, they aren’t taking this at all well. Why? Because they’re in the firing line and they know it. I found this blog from Hannan that attempts to paint Brand as a wannabe dictator.
Russell Brand describes himself as a “comedian and campaigner”. While we might wonder at the first epithet, we can’t argue with the second. The man has built up a huge following among the angry teenage Lefties who dominate Twitter. His theme is that all politics is corrupt, all MPs are plutocrats’ stooges, and all rich people – except him, naturally – are part of a racket.
Bitchy and bitter. “Twitter” Hannan opines, is dominated by “angry teenage Lefties”. Really? That’s news to me. I’ve found many lefties on Twitter but equally, I’ve encountered plenty of vile right-wingers whose idea of free speech begins and ends at insult. They’re also rather fond of the kind of racist and sexist language that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from John Tyndall (deceased) or the bully boys (and girl) of Britain First.
Think about that for a moment. Russell Brand’s quarrel isn’t with the people who have more courage than him; it’s with parliamentary democracy itself. A chap might be making an honest living as, say, a “comedian and campaigner”; but the very fact of bothering to ask his countrymen for their votes would turn him into a shyster.
I love the way The Lyin’ King opens this paragraph with the word “Think”. Thinking isn’t something that either he or his brethren do very well. They react and they presume. Hannan, a Conservative MEP for the South-east, spends his time attacking the European Union, while taking his not-too-insubstantial salary from it. His position on the EU doesn’t differ that much from the Kippers. He is a very part of the corrupt system that Brand stands against.
OK, Russell, so if you don’t like representative democracy, what’s your alternative? Anarchy? Fascism? Monarchical absolutism? An Islamic Caliphate? Because you can’t have a functioning democracy without politicians; and politicians, in every parliament, tend to group themselves officially or unofficially into parties.
More bitchiness. Let’s get something straight: anarchism is a political philosophy; anarchy is a state in which there is chaos and disorder… which is what would happen if we lived in the kind of Randian world that Dan and his buddy Carswell dream about. Most right-wingers can’t tell the difference between anarchism and anarchy and if you attempt to point out the differences, they put their fingers in their ears. Hannan squeals “you can’t have a functioning democracy without politicians”. Well, that depends on what you mean by “democracy” and it also depends on what you mean by the word “politicians”. I suspect Hannan is only thinking of professional politicians that are drawn, as they currently are, from the ranks of the bourgeoisie and the grand bourgeoisie; the scions of the aristocracy, landed gentry and the so-called captains of industry. The very same people Hannan went to school with: in other words, those who believe it is their right to govern by dint of their circumstances of birth. We also see how the political world is explained to us on television by members of the same class as the politicians themselves, who coincidentally attended the same educational institutions. Nick Robinson? James Landale? Tom Bradby?
You might think that Brand’s contention is so puerile as not to merit serious refutation. The chap is, if nothing else, brilliant at promoting his book by courting controversy. But, listen to the ululations of the studio audience when he speaks; read the ecstasy of his Twitter followers. Russell Brand may be cynically boosting his sales, but there are millions out there who take him seriously, parroting his line about parliamentary government being a scam.
Yawn. Someone’s jealous they’re not getting enough attention. Dan? Is that you? Daft question. Hannan is rather good at promoting his dismal books too (like How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters). In fact, he’s a well-versed in the art of self-publicity to such an extent that when he farts, Fox News is on hand to cover the event. Let’s have a look at the last phrase about parliamentary government. Hannan clearly believes there is nothing wrong and that it doesn’t need to be fixed. Parliamentary politics, as they are currently constituted, is a political dead end. Neoliberalism dominates the thinking of most of Westminster’s politicians and they countenance nothing else. “The market” we are told, “is moral” and the best we’re ever likely to get. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a tyranny – albeit an elected one. Welcome to the dystopia, leave your dreams, hopes and desires at the door.
I remember hearing the same remarks in South America during the 1990s. Democracy is a sham, all politicians are crooks, voting only encourages them, blah blah. Such disillusionment was the prelude to the populist authoritarianism than has since spread across the continent, knocking aside parliamentary rule in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and elsewhere. The new caudillos aren’t exactly dictators: they were more or less fairly elected. But, once in office, they set about destroying every check on their power, from opposition media to independent courts, justifying every power-grab as a way of getting even with the old elites.
There’s only one problem with Hannan’s thesis and it’s the kind of people who were running these South American countries: the oligarchs and bootlickers who were in thrall to Washington. They were displaced through a combination of popular suffrage and education; two of the things that were denied to ordinary people during the rule of the caudillos. No doubt The Lyin’ King would like to see a return to the days of Operation Condor when people knew their place and those who didn’t were crushed under the military’s jackboot. How dare you question capitalism’s evident limits and fallibilities?
Could something similar happen in Europe? Well, look at what has already happened. In 2011, Brussels imposed civilian juntas on Italy and Greece, toppling elected governments in favour of Eurocrats. What was the justification for these Euro-coups? Pretty much the same as Russell Brand’s: that democracy had failed. As the then President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durrão Barroso, had put it a few months earlier: “Governments are not always right. If governments were right, we wouldn’t have the situation we have today. Decisions taken by the most democratic decisions in the world are very often wrong”.
Hannan’s reasoning here is sloppy, confused and relies heavily on two things: his antithesis to the EU and his love of laissez-faire capitalism. If you hate the EU so much, Dan, you could always stop taking a salary from it. Just a thought, eh? The idea that you’re fighting an ‘evil’ entity from the inside just doesn’t ring true.
Let me put the question again: what is the alternative? Dislike of party politics has been the justification for every autocrat in history: Cromwell, Bonaparte, Lenin, Mussolini, Franco. And it always starts in the same way, with the arguments now being put forward by Russell Brand.
Scaremongering and histrionics. You will notice how Pinochet is absent from his list of autocrats. Presumably, he was the right kind of autocrat. Pinochet, after all, was bolstered by the Chicago Boys, a group of Friedmanite economists who privatized everything in sight and provided the template for Thatcher and Reagan’s assault on the working class. Hannan is an admirer of Thatcher and the notion that markets will provide [for the rich]. For Hannan, all that matters is the idea of growth but it’s the kind of growth that most ordinary folk can’t see in their wage packets. It’s the kind of growth that only benefits the rich and powerful, who continue to increase rents and prices. In fact, Hannan has written a panegyric to the supposed economic growth in the 1930s in another blog. I shall carve that up in due course.