Langrant*

I’ve been reading numerous articles about the consequences of two recent elections – the EU referendum in the UK, and the presidential election in the US – and I’m struck by how quickly the commentariat have settled into a simple narrative. Poor white men, the story goes, have been ‘left behind’ by globalisation and ignored by the ‘liberal elite’, creating a political vacuum ripe for filling by right-wing nationalist and/or ‘populist’ extremists. Apparently, this ‘liberal elite’ were too busy being ‘politically correct’ by promoting equality and diversity to notice the concerns of the ‘silent majority’.

This is, as George Orwell so presciently warned, really about how language and politics collide, and how reason gets crushed under the resulting rubble. To give just one example, as I understand it ‘equality’ means the same for everyone. Equality for gay people does not in any way mean inequality for straight people. Equality for ethnic minorities – you get the point. How quickly Newspeak like ‘Brexit’ has become a handy tool for obscuring xenophobic suspicion. How easily ‘Trump’ has been invested with a near-holy authority by the far right, and, worse, how quickly that was normalised by others, who wish to sidle away from association with the ‘liberal elite’ and claim some ‘populist’ kudos (by the way, as you may have heard, Trump lost the popular vote).

Now, there are few sentences that don’t put ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trump’ in close proximity. Why don’t we just move straight to ‘Brump’ and have done with it? Or are we waiting for the increasingly touted (read: feared) victory of the extreme right National Front in France? Brumpen, anyone? Brumplepen, then. And so on.

The purpose is simple. It obscures the policies these movements promote. It affords them an effective disguise as they go about trying to undo a consensus on democracy and diversity and basic human decency that has slowly, painfully established institutions – flawed, no doubt – to try and rein in the violence of flag-waving realpolitikers while edging us towards a view of a single human race living on and preserving a single planet sufficiently well to ensure its existence for generations to come. How f*$&ing elitist is that?

Meanwhile, here’s a voice from the archives to cheer us up. Remember Whoops Apocalypse, the Cold War satire that ran for six episodes in 1982? It featured the election of an unlikely US president with only a tenuous grip on politics surrounded by ‘advisors’ of very dubious intent. Sound familiar? Allow me to share a few lines from one of President Johnny Cyclops’ campaign videos…

Sixty-three years ago, in small-town Pocatello, Idaho, a young baby was born. The humblest son of a Methodist preacher, he soon began to grow up, as only a child can. Today that man is Johnny Cyclops, President of the United States and Guardian of the Free World. He may not know exactly where Denmark is, or be completely sure whether or not Romania is a communist country, but he does care. He cares deeply about America. About every one of its fifty states, and not merely the ones he can name. Wyoming and Omaha, for instance, have nothing to fear in this context…

Oh how we laughed…

*Langrant (Newspeak, noun; to rant about the use of language as a beard for political ugliness)

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