Ipso Fact, Oh
Twin outlooks of British nationalism were given full exposure this week as flag hysteria broke out. Having noticed something dreadful, dire and calamitous (that they hadn’t noticed in a decade) the Daily Mail – surrounded by a wave of exultant Union Jack enthusiasts – wailed about the terrible nationalists depriving poor Queeny of her red white and blue rag as she visits us… because this is what is really important in the Britain of 2018. Then it turned out to be absolute bollocks. But, as the Red Baron himself explains:
“The reason the story about Nicola Sturgeon & the Union flag was believed is because it is so believable just as was the French Ambassador story.”
This is Truthiness* gone mad but also a wholesale exposure of not just the weakness of the propaganda model in a porous information-rich society, but also the emptiness of the British nationalist case.
Writing in the Scotsman Tom Peterkin attempted to pin the whole thing on the First Minister writing:
“These are people who will see this flag row as another SNP attempt to undermine Britishness and will regard this whole thing with total dismay.”
The other aspect of Tory worldview given exposure this week was the statement from Michael Portillo on BBC This Week:
“The people you see on the streets now are wearing shoes.”
— BBC This Week (@bbcthisweek) January 26, 2018
As one writer has put it:
“Homelessness – the well-predicted result of housing benefit and other benefit cuts – becomes politically dangerous when destitution floods onto the streets for all to see. Famously the last Tory government had their own MPs complaining about having to step over sleeping bags when they came out of the opera house in Covent Garden. Foreign film crews piled into Waterloo’s cardboard city as the perfect symbol of Thatcherism. Food banks and rough sleeping are now the public face of this Tory era, that will end as changing public attitudes show rising concern at so much deliberately induced destitution.”
These twin stories need to be told simultaneouly by those spinning a yarn.
The history of Britain, of empire and exploitation and colonialism needs to be cleansed and whitewashed and fabricated. At the same time the notion of progress and capitalism and Britain as a benign and liberal place needs to be propped up and explained in the face of stark reality.
Portillo’s defense of Shoe Capitalism is desperate and he is in difficult territory (rough sleeping in England has reached record levels – with figures published on Thursday showing an annual rise of 15%, representing a 169% increase since 2010.)
His views on technology and childhood obesity are bizarre.
Only a few weeks ago a homeless man froze to death outside a glitzy new designer shopping centre in Birmingham. The Sun called him a ‘drug user’.
Recent figures claim that there are up to 10,000 homeless people currently in Birmingham alone.
These two stories, how capitalism is bringing everybody up and how British imperial history is something to be immensely proud of interact. As the credibility of the former diminishes and becomes more difficult to sustain, the latter will be pushed more incessantly.
The newspapers who peddled this ridiculous story about flegs should of course retract, as IPSO is forcing them to, but so too should the many cheerleaders who ran in behind them desperate to perpetuate the myth of the Scottish Government as some kind of wildly radical republican bloc.
Is your local beggar wearing shoes this morning? Tell them to be grateful, and proud.
* Truthiness is the belief or assertion that a particular statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions. The concept of truthiness has emerged as a major subject of discussion surrounding U.S. politics during the 1990s and 2000s because of the perception among some observers of a rise in propaganda and a growing hostility toward factual reporting and fact-based discussion.