Saturday 18 April 2020

Scoundrels and fridges

Trump’s standard response to any problem is firstly to deny that it’s a problem and then to blame someone else and deny that he ever said anything different even when that is clearly a matter of public record. It’s not exactly subtle but it seems to work with his own base support, many of whom seem to believe every word he utters. He also believes that he should be immune to scrutiny and criticism; faced with difficult questions, he simply attacks the questioner. Again, his base seems to lap it up.
In fairness to the UK Government, they are at least a bit more subtle about it. The way the English establishment operates, it’s more about gentle private pressure behind the scenes than an outright assault on the media, pressure to which fellow members of the establishment are generally happy to defer. But the underlying demand is much the same – in a ‘national’ emergency, people should avoid criticism and rally round the government. It’s the false patriotism which Johnson (Samuel, not Boris) denounced as the “last refuge of a scoundrel” (the current Johnson generally seems to prefer fridges as a place of refuge), and it’s being deployed in an attempt to avoid too much attention being devoted to the utter incompetence which the government has displayed from the outset. Some opposition politicians are even falling for it, arguing that the questions can be left until ‘later’ (presumably via a lengthy and expensive public enquiry which reports long after the culpable have departed the scene and produces recommendations which can quietly be filed on one of those long and dusty shelves of which Whitehall has a significant over-provision).
They’re more than happy to deploy the symbols of what they fondly imagine to be a shared concept of what ‘Britishness’ is, or perhaps more accurately, what they think the plebs believe Britishness is all about. Mrs Windsor herself was put into the field of battle on their behalf a week or so ago, and royal sycophants are currently busy calling on us all to unite by singing happy birthday to her. Her family are also rallying around, with reports that her granddaughter is planning an even bigger and more extravagant wedding next year to cheer us all up, having had to cancel this year’s planned extravaganza due to the pandemic. I’m sure that there are millions of people who will be absolutely delighted to join in next week’s singing and enjoy next year’s circus, but the assumption that we all fit into that category belongs to a different age.
Unthinking patriotism may underpin the English nationalism which gave us Brexit and Johnson but it is a feeling no longer as widely shared as it was in the past. Any true patriot would prefer to help his or her country be right rather than blindly supporting the government of the day when it’s wrong. As Chesterton put it, “‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying”. Modern-day scoundrels should stick to fridges.


Anonymous said...

Great Stuff!

dafis said...

We've known from pre-Day One that Trump is a compulsive liar with huge narcissistic streak. Grade A psychopath. The only good thing he ever did was prevent the equally toxic Hilary from getting the presidency. That done he should have just dropped dead, or walked off the stage! Sadly the world is stuck with him. Just be grateful we don't have him running this shower in the UK.

As for the UK it too seems to be playing catch-up in the misrepresentation,fibbing and downright lying game. The parade of transparently dodgy ministers that have stood in for Boris just serve to reinforce that point. They don't get too deeply into real facts,particularly anything quantified or quantifiable,and are especially adept at trotting out a bland mix of repetitive cliches and platitudes. Indeed it appears that this is now the template for ministerial conduct - the new norm ! 1