Nigel Farage and UKIP have, for the past 10 years or more, cast themselves as anti-elite and anti-establishment. The mass media, for the most part, has accepted this without question and have even referred to UKIP and the politics they represent as “anti-politics”. This is a curious formulation that has been coined by the mass media to describe a form of political expression that supposedly opposes mainstream politics. Yet it overlooks the fact that politics is more than stuffed shirts speaking in soundbites and platitudes in the Daily Politics studio. It takes place in everyday life and can be encapsulated in the maxim “The personal is political”.
Guy Debord (1957) observed that the mass media refuses to allow any space to contradictory or marginalized ideas. This almost always means that left-wing ideas are effectively excluded or are otherwise ridiculed. The mass media has thus constructed a simulation of anti-establishment politics in place of genuine anti-establishment politics. The anti-EU ranting of Farage, Evans, Nuttall, et al is seen somehow as having greater legitimacy than the Nordic-style social democracy that is proposed by the Corbynite faction of the Labour Party, which is characterized by the media, The Tories, UKIP and the Labour Right as “dangerous”. The only danger posed by Corbyn’s Labour is to the establishment that has shoved neoliberalism down our throats for the last 35 years.
As I pointed out in this blog from 2014, UKIP’s anti-elite and anti-establishment credentials are entirely bogus. This is a party that is led by former Tories, billionaires, City traders and other bourgeois types.
UKIP and parties like it provide a receptacle for voters’ grievances against the establishment. They divert their energies to the dead-ends of xenophobia, bigotry and hatred of the Other, rather than towards the structural problems that have been created by the establishment that keep people in their place or otherwise divide them. At the risk of contravening Godwin’s Law, even Hitler and his Nazi Party cast themselves as anti-establishment and anti-elite by appearing to oppose moneyed interests. We know how that ended.
Debord, G. (1957). Report on the Construction of Situations. Available at: http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/report.htm accessed 7 March 2010