Coal, Coups and Conspiracies

As the Troll from Trondheim brings some unheard-of seasonality to December, the year ends with a new surge of weirdness. Whether it’s the spectacle of the Tories championing new coal in 2022; or the Reichsbürger movement: the German conspiracy theorists who make America’s QAnon look like level-headed moderates; or the sight of Kanye West discussing Scotland with Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right group the Proud Boys, it’s a strange end to a strange year.

McInnes described our country as “the most woke country in the world”, adding: “It’s like Berkeley and Portland times a thousand”. This utopian descriptor may not immediately chime with all of you, but it was nice to be noticed. But if the far-right Proud Boys have comedy value in their homo-erotic dress code, the rise and rise of Christian Nationalism is no joke, whether it’s in Putin’s Russia or Biden’s America.

It’s not getting better, it’s not going away.

Alex Jones, Kanye West, Nick Fuentes, Ali Alexander

Trump has been dining with neo–Nazi Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West (aka ‘Ye’) and the amount of cash-power behind these individuals is quietly terrifying. Kanye is estimated to be worth $6.6 billion. It’s fashionable to mock or ignore Kanye and his hangers-on, either because you might suspect he is mentally ill or because he’s just a stupid pop star, but his fusion of antisemitism and extreme christian nationalism should be taken seriously.

In exchanges between Fuentes, West and McInnes Kanye explains:

“We need a government of Christians. We need a conservative movement, a nationalist movement, led by Christians that obey the Bible and obey God and serve Jesus Christ.” He continues: “If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you are wrong. And anyone that doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ should not be in control or any influence to anything that America produces.”

It may well be that, as the New Yorkers had it ‘Trumps 2024 campaign so far is an epic act of self-sabotage’ – but the social forces that put him in office haven’t gone away and the idea that Trumps’s first term was some kind of aberration is liberal wishful thinking. The forces of liberal failure and naivete, a collapse of social norms, an inability of mainstream capitalism to provide and cope with its own failing logic, the pathology of wild conspiracism and the far-right’s ability to speak simplistic truths all still exist, arguably more so in 2023 / 2024.

Nor do I agree with the logic of the New Yorker that: “The official campaign for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination is barely three weeks old, but there is one clear takeaway so far: Donald Trump is running against himself—and losing.” They argue that he is ‘courting controversy’, but ‘controversy’ is the oxygen that Trumpism and MAGA thrives on. The Overton Window of what is acceptable in US politics (and here) has been moved so far to the right it’s unbelievable. It’s not that nobody cares that Trump courts a holocaust denier, or that as just last week, he suggested jettisoning the Constitution so he could be reinstated to the office he was thrown out of by the voters in 2020 – it’s that the wrong people care.  None of this matters because nothing matters anymore. If you can look at the scientific data and attend COPs 26 and 7 and then say with a straight face “lets open a new coalmine” you are so though the looking glass, you are beyond redemption.

Those really complicit in embracing the ‘post-truth’ era aren’t the confused MAGA conspiracists they’re the British government ministers approving new coal and new oil fields in 2022. As the American academic Timothy Snyder wrote a week after Trump’s election first time around: “Post-truth is pre-fascism,” he warns, and “to abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”

So here we are. Trump’s behaviour is more erratic and more extreme than ever before, and it makes no difference. Trump retains the support of more than forty per cent of the G.O.P. electorate in recent surveys—more than enough to win the Republican nomination in a crowded field. The reality bite for many of the liberal commentariat is this: Trump was and still is the Republican front-runner for 2024.

As we observe our own bizarre political landscape it’s important to avoid being too smug about all of this. The fusion of post-truthism and the petri-dish of paranoia, Anglo-British nationalism and Conservatives ascendancy is a toxic prospect. Britain has more than its fair share of libertarians, far-right bigots, and wild conspiracy theorists bubbling under the surface. And the dividing line between left and right is getting hazier (just witness Russell Brand’s platforming of Jordan Peterson and others “hello there you six million awakening wonders”). Who is to say that this brand couldn’t fuse with the plethora of right-wing media platforms into something far more sinister? We have to be grateful that Britain’s hard-right libertarianism is currently led by Neil Oliver, Right Said Fred and Claire Fox. But while there’s a hairs-breath between the Antivaxxer movement and MAGA we still have Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak in charge. The former is presiding over the most draconian immigration policies ever witnessed while the latter is gearing up for the sort of attacks on workers’ rights that would have made Thatcher blush.

As we laugh at climate activists and watch as the Tories gear-up a new round of anti-trade union laws it would be worth avoiding being too haughty about the extremes of Trump’s culture war who may sweep aside ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden’s ineffectual Democrats. If we laugh too at the Reichsbürger movement ask yourself this: how far away is the state of mind of those who believe the German state is an artificial construct that illegitimately replaced the “Deutsche Reich” of the Nazi era and the predominant mindset that harks back to a glorious Britain that straddled the world and that defends Empire and imperial conquest? The pantomime of Harry and Meghan and the revelations about Lady Hussey shows a Britain peeping out from beneath the bunting that isn’t a pretty sight.

The social conditions that have created the new right aren’t going away. The utter failure of the liberal centrist political elite and the abject failure of the capitalist economy to protect its citizenry from social and ecological collapse continues to play out. As we enter Britain’s Winter of Discontent the need for radical alternatives becomes more urgent as the Arctic storm bites and the reality of the ‘cost of living’ hits home.

Comments (12)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    I think the recent Channel 4 documentary Young, Black and Right-Wing is well-crafted enought to tie together a lot of these interests (social media influencers, GB News crew, entrepreneurs, reactionary Christian authoritarian hypocrites, all apparently tied together by royalism in the UK) and get its targets to spout out some of their more heinous and inconsistent beliefs (only 2 days left on All4):
    In the context of recognizing fascism, a theme of the article, I was reminded of something during Lucy Worsley’s recent exposition on Agatha Christie, whose detective character Miss Marple talks about the potential for wisdom that comes with age, not ‘feminine intuition’ but essentially pattern recognition. We can see these patterns in history. We don’t need to know too much about the latest crypto-currency to recognize a Ponzi (pyramid) scheme, for example. And fascism now has its digital stormtroopers.

    I entirely agree that social and ecological — or ecological and social — collapse should be our political priorities. Status quo politics have been direly ineffectual, in Scotland as elsewhere. I have been thinking about political literacy. Unlock democracy had an interesting post, and I have yet to look at Scottish government resources. But true political literacy is not about recognizing the official organs of the modern state and civic society, but about these deep, recurring, adaptive patterns that we must perceive and understand to chart a course into any sane future.

  2. Squigglypen says:

    Any free seats going to Mars?

  3. Niemand says:

    Yeah, a sound article with many good points.

    One thing though re this new coal mine. A bloke on the radio was saying he has applied for a job there and said that the coal it is mining is in fact coke mainly for steel making and not for domestic fuel or any kind of fuel in that sense. He said you cannot make high strength steel without this stuff and the world needs this kind of steel. Wind turbines are made out of steel. British steel firms won’t be buying the coke as they do not make that kind of steel, apparently.

    I am not sure how accurate all that is but there surely must be a decent amount of truth in it, so are we saying we don’t want a new mine here because it is crime against the earth but are happy to use steel to, for example, make wind turbines from coke minded in another country?

    1. 85% of its being exported Niemand.

      The use of fossil fuels is incompatible with our survival.

    2. JP58 says:

      I would suggest you watch interview on Newsnight with Lord Debden (John Gummer) and local Tory MP.
      Debden, like myself, was genuinely at a loss of the benefits of opening this coal mine to anyone.
      As Mike has said this is primarily for export therefore just an unnecessary additional mine.
      I think it was opened to stick two fingers up to environmentalists as a sop to ERG who are mainly opposed to virtually all environmental legislation. It really exposes how weak Rishi Sunak is now.
      The only upside is that I would imagine there is a skill shortage in mining now in UK and I don’t see many 60+ ex miners joining up.

      1. Niemand says:

        I’m not getting the export argument (and I pointed in my post anyway that it will not be bought by British steel makers so knew this anyway).

        The coke will be used to make steel. We will import the steel so is this just out of sight, out of mind? Regardless of this mine, we will still import steel that uses fossil fuels to make it. What I did read was that there is no shortage of coke and there are moves to convert steel making to not need it but I suspect the latter is much easier said than done. So there are good arguments there but this is a more complex issue than being made out.

        1. I think the trick is to imagine the world very differently not as it is now.

          We need to start from the idea of what we need to do to be below 1.5 degrees. What does that mean, what does that look like?

          Instead, we are starting from ‘well we’ve always used coal to make steel’.

          Imagining a post-plastic world is a similar challenge.

          1. Niemand says:

            Yes agree with that Mike.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Editor, indeed. A common approach in philosophy is to start from first principles or assumptions, here including what we can agree on regarding climate science and human society, and work from there to deduce what measures will be required for a given goal. Lynton K Caldwell writes:
            “The argument for biocracy rests upon the proposition that a viable future depends upon adherence to the basic principles derived from the life sciences, as mediated by human values, and tested for their real-life consequences.” p106
            noting, somewhat sceptically, that:
            “Attempts have been made to deduce theories of ethics and governance from biologic principles and processes”. p99
            in Biocracy: Public Policy and the Life Sciences. However, much work has been done since, just has much more harm has been done to the living planet, and more global agreement reached within the life sciences on what we shouldn’t be doing, and by inference, what we should.

          3. JP says:

            The other issue I think we need to consider is who are financing the mine and without sounding too much like a conspiracy theorist what if any is their connection to Conservative Party. In other words follow the money.
            This was raised in an article in Guardian.

  4. Alvin Vertigo says:

    Most Scots are libertarians now: socialising in large groups, indoors, during a pandemic, maskless- and accepting that the behaviour leads to the death of 40-100 fellow Scots EVERY SINGLE WEEK, and doing it anyway, can only be described as Libertarianism. There is no other word for it. There is no other way of looking at it. And not looking at it at all is textbook libertarianism.

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