THE TRIUMPH OF IGNORANCE

How interesting that an intelligent right winger like Peter Oborne has such an accurate view of the myriad shortcomings of latest Tory Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.[1] Sadly, everything that’s wrong about Johnson and his bellowing, incompetent parliamentary enablers only represents the severe tip of a very big and murky iceberg. We can forget politics of the old style, the right vs. left bun fights we last saw when David ‘prick in a pig’ Cameron received his own promised toy from Eton – the steering wheel of UK plc in 2010. There were dark forces gathering over that horizon bearing a distinct whiff of the fate of Weimar in the 1930s. Those forces are now pulling all the strings and their UK stage manager is a man who claims not to be a Tory – Dominic Cummings.

It may outrage the few of us remaining who still have a fading interest in politics to have to endure the daily litany of lies, obfuscation and bile spewed from the front benches. It may further outrage us that Labour leader Keir Starmer’s erudite and forensic questioning of Johnson is met only by meaningless bluster and cacophonous insult. Johnson, Hancock, Raab and Patel (not to mention such calamities as Chris Grayling) are today’s voices delivering nothing less than a malodourous equivalent of farts in a colander. Peter Oborne seems to think that behind the façade of these hedge fund charlatans some form of valid political efficiency still exists. If it does, it doesn’t stand the chance of a California squirrel in a forest fire. To get a handle on what is really happening on a global scale, much of it emanating from the White House, we need to go down into the darkness of the political engine room and see who’s oiling the pistons of power.

Here’s a quote to open the inspection: “Darkness is good: Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.[2]” Step forward the defrocked Breitbart lieutenant and all-purpose antichrist, Steve Bannon. Our own pound shop Goebbels, Dominic Cummings, Machiavellian though he seems, is admired by Bannon. To get a grip on what drives ‘Sloppy Steve’ (as Trump describes him) we have to dig deep to find out where his warped plan for our world comes from.

He is influenced by Fourth Turning theory, outlined in Neil Howe’s and William Strauss’s [RB1] The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy[3] The Strauss–Howe generational theory, postulates that “historical events are associated with recurring generational personas (archetypes). Each generational persona unleashes a new era (called a turning) lasting around 20–22 years, in which a new social, political, and economic climate exists. succeeding generational archetypes attack and weaken institutions in the name of autonomy and individualism, which ultimately creates a tumultuous political environment that ripens conditions for another crisis. [4]

Crisis. Something we’re experiencing every day now. A simplified view is that any kind of moral or social progress which makes a headway during a generation can change back into something more barren. An example could be holocaust denial and the rise of the conspiracy theory. What was thought to be fair, reasoned and progressive – facts, truth, for example, can be wiped off the board leaving clear territory for darker ideas and schemes, many of which have historically been tried and tested. Such as fascism. Thus Isaac Asimov’s quote of four decades ago now has grim veracity:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. The advance of ignorance has as its infantry in the UK the Daily Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph.

Some of Dominic Cummings’s earlier pre-Brexit quotes, where he suggested that the EU would engender the rise of right wing zealotry seem opposite to Bannon’s, but today he’s the Prince of populism to Bannon’s King. Bannon told journalist Michael Lewis in February 2018, “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall. This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.” He added, “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.[5]” The Observer reported in 2018 that Bannon said Cummings was “a brilliant guy… I think Cummings is very smart where he puts his efforts. What I like about him is he has the ability to focus on the main things.” He said that Johnson and Cummings had been “very important” to the drive to get the UK out of the EU, which he backed. Bannon has also suggested that by propagating continuous chaos, lies, falsehoods, that this will cause such confusion amongst the electorate that they’ll eventually vote for anyone we tell them to vote for. As Goebbels remarked, “You can’t change the masses. They will always be the same: dumb, gluttonous and forgetful.”

So whatever Peter Orborne worries over, it’s all too late. History will repeat itself, and men like Dominic Cummings will ride triumphant over the bones of democracy. And the much vaunted ‘Rule of Law’? Johnson has already started dismantling that one. And look at this list of Trump acolytes, most of whom are either released or in line for a pardon”

Rick Gates: Convicted.

Paul Manafort: Convicted.

George Papadopoulos: Convicted.

Mike Flynn: Convicted.

Michael Cohen: Convicted.

Roger Stone: Convicted.

Steve Bannon: Arrested.

Donald Trump: Impeached.

Bannon doesn’t seem to figure much in the smudgy ink of the right wing UK media. But he’s there at Cummings’s shoulder. He seeks to unify populist forces in the “Judeao-Christian west”. He thinks Tommy Robinson is the “backbone of Britain” loves European right-wingers Marine le Pen in France and Hungary’s Viktor Orban in Hungary. Bannon intends to become “the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement.[6]” His view of the UK’s departure from Europe matches Johnson and Cummings: “There is one choice: hard out, no deal. It won’t be disruptive. Boris will adapt his policies to become more populist over time”.

Had it existed in the 1930s, could even the global power of Rupert Murdoch have unseated Adolf Hitler? No. Whatever lies ahead for British politics and the electorate, complicated by the disaster of Covid 19, is a barren new order where day by day what we thought of as civility and fairness is blowtorched away by a mendacious  cabal of greed merchants and the nepotistic cream of Eton and Harrow. They may not be wearing jackboots, but they can goose-step with the right’s champions. I am glad to be 77 and not able to experience that grim future.


[1] https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/britain-boris-johnson-facing-national-crisis-it-needs-new-prime-minister

[2]  “Steve Bannon: Darkness is Good”. CNN Politics. November 19, 2016.

[3]  Howe, Neil. “Where did Steve Bannon get his worldview? From my book”. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 16, 2017.

[4] See Bannon’s Wikipedia page.

[5] Lewis, Michael (February 9, 2018). “Has Anyone Seen the President?”

[6] “Steve Bannon Is Done Wrecking the American Establishment. Now He Wants to Destroy Europe’s”. The New York Times. March 9, 2018.


 [RB1]

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