Am I a coward for having fled from it all? Here in reactionary Sweden – reactionary in the sense of still clinging on to progressive ideas – almost all the news from Britain and the USA is alarming.
The demonstration the other day in London against coronavirus restrictions – by all accounts including a fair number of the ‘tinfoil hat’ brigade, and following a similar demo in Berlin, and shoot-outs, even, in America – makes one fear for the collective sanity of whole nations. Of course, even the largest demonstration isn’t necessarily representative, and there may be a good case to be made for letting the virus run wild amongst us oldies in the interests of ‘herd immunity’ (is that right?); but it can’t be altogether sane, can it, if David Icke, Jeremy Corbyn’s iffy brother and the American Evangelical lobby (‘Jesus will protect us’) are among the marchers. Then there’s all the overt racism springing up after we thought we had educated it out of people; the sheer madness of Brexit; and this latest scheme by Murdoch and others to set up a ‘Fox News’-type TV channel in Britain (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/aug/29/rivals-plan-fox-news-style-opinionated-tv-station-in-uk) to counter the ‘left-wing’ bias (!) of the BBC.
Having recently re-watched the latest BBC documentary series on Murdoch’s ‘rise, fall and rise again’, currently being shown on Swedish TV, I shudder at the implications of that. TV simply to entertain, with the easiest way of entertaining being to shock: that was the formula that drove the earliest capitalist profit-seeking tabloid newspaper barons in Britain around 1900 (John Field knows about that), to the whole nation’s detriment since. A tabloid TV channel in Britain would set the seal on that descent into the sort of media hell that brought Trump to the White House in 2016, and might even revive the justly derided Boris’s fortunes in No. 10. What chance for the Left, and for rationality, and even for the world (cue climate change), in that case?
Corbyn might have stopped it; or, rather, a Labour government with Corbyn’s policies but with a leader less easily demonised by the tabloid press. The alliance between rich tax-dodging media-owning capitalists, the ‘Israel Lobby’ (‘Israel’, not ‘Jewish’), and those clever computer nerds in Cambridge Analytica, acting on people’s fears and prejudices, turned out to be too much for us in 2019; and will be for the future, if we don’t find a better way of combatting them. It’s a huge task, involving radical political, economic, moral and social reform, which it’s hard to see coming soon. Even if this present incompetent government self-destructs, it’s difficult to see an acceptable alternative arising. A more charismatic leader might help; but in a society that bestows ‘charisma’ on clowns like Boris and Nigel Farage that’s not exactly promising. What we probably need is a revolution. But that isn’t Britain’s way, is it?
I feel guilty for hiding away from it all; but of course the news still reaches me across the North Sea, and strikes at me as much as it would back in Hull. I couldn’t do any more there than I can from here. I’m no good at organising, a poor public speaker, and too lame even to go pamphleting. My next two publications – a new edition of an old work, and a collection of past essays: really I’m living off my fat just now – both have chapters excoriating the present madness, but they won’t gather anything like the same readership as books on similar themes by snake-oil celebrities like Johnson and Rees-Mogg. I can’t write the sort of stuff that would get me into the tabloids, or on Fox TV-UK. If we did have a revolution – and if it were the right sort, not a ‘populist’ putsch – I’d fly over straight away and hobble to the barricades. But that won’t happen, will it?
Gosh I miss those few days of naïve hope last December! Hope is the worst thing to be taken from us. OK, my fault, I know.