Feeling a bit knackered today so I probably won’t write a huge amount. I will, however, post the above cartoon because it’s another of those that I wouldn’t get published anywhere else. It’s one that either works for you or it doesn’t. I could explain why I think it works (the incongruity, the cruelty, the mixing of the high/low, cold/warm) but, again, knackered. I should also probably stop posting these cartoons otherwise I won’t have a book at the end of it. I want to be able to say at least half the book has never been seen before…
I’m also still feeling a bit peeved about the Churchill story yesterday. My Twitter feed is still filled with people retweeting Martin Rowson’s tweets where he went on to explain that the story was probably right but not the detail. I know much of this has to do with the natural allure of celebrity. People have this tendency to latch onto these big figures in our culture and promote them more than is perhaps wise or reasonable. I do it myself. I got into this hunt for the facts was because I read Martin’s tweets every day and the moment I read his tweet I was ready to retweet it myself. If I hadn’t been a little more circumspect, it would have become one of those useful little anecdotes that I would carry around with me forever. I just wanted to be sure it was correct. Now I’m fairly convinced it wasn’t.
This is a gnarly dilemma with our politics and our culture. I’m exhausted after spending a day hunting down just one of the “facts” I’d read on Twitter. If we all did that for every bit of trivia that came our way, we’d get nothing done. Yet the alternative is tweeting out rubbish that has no basis in facts. People put words into the mouths of others who never said them. People read those words and their sympathy for/hostility towards those people increases. The result is that we create a reality that conforms to our biases. If you disliked Churchill at the beginning, you’ll despise him at the end. If you thought Hitler misjudged, you’ll be celebrating by the time the revisionists have finished.
It’s crude and reductive. We should also realise how dangerous it could be yet we see it everywhere, often going unchallenged. I notice, for example, that Nigel Farage was on breakfast TV this morning, pontificating on stuff he doesn’t know about. I’m not sure what makes him an expert on Black Lives Matter except, of course, he has been trying to inject himself into the story. So, there he was, on TV before an impressionable nation who lack the critical facilities to examine what he says seriously. Do you think people will research his views? Or will they simply repeat them in the pub tonight to further their prejudices?
He threw the “Marxist” label at the Black Lives Matter movement without evidence that it is indeed a Marxist organisation. Then again, I doubt if he knows what a Marxist organisation would look like or could explain the “problems” of Marxism. It’s become one of those labels which sound so damning but amount to a gesture towards totalitarianism and Soviet-era repression, although, I’m not sure it even means as much as that. These words have lost all meaning and simply denote “bad” like those other tags such as “globalist”, “unpatriotic”, “liberal”, “progressive”, and, Boris’s favourite, “Trot”.
The irony in this is that most people are, in some way, Marxists. You can’t escape his influence in the way you think about economies and social classes. Everybody knows that Donald Trump’s father left him a fortune and that gave Trump enough leverage in society to become President of the United States. Marx wouldn’t have been surprised but nor are we. It’s just that Marx got his name attached to this realisation that capital remains locked into social groups and the rest of us are forced to sell our labour. Was he wrong? I don’t think so. The mistake, of course, is when you try to establish a new kind of society that avoids these pitfalls. The dangers revealed by that project are really what people assume to be “Marxist”. That, however, is the nature of words. They’re prone to slippage.
I said I wasn’t going to write a lot but I’m already up to 700 words and I’ve barely started for the day. Now I’ve woken up and my fingers are flying around the keyboard, I might try to do something productive.