08 Mar 2017

Whispering in Our Ears a Warning

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Investiture of Prince Philip, “The Crown,” Netflix TV Series.

Hugo Rifkind (a liberal) at the Spectator takes a different view of the meaning of recent events. What if he’s right?

People talk a lot of rot. Ideas spread, and sometimes they gain common currency despite being simply nonsense. One such idea, now almost universally believed, is that the ‘political class’ is today more estranged from the public at large than ever before. Historically speaking, however, that just can’t be true. Watch The Crown, for God’s sake. Look at that world of wing collars and waistcoats and country houses, and then look at Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing, and tell me this gulf has grown — and I’m sorry, but you’ll just be talking nonsense.

In truth, it is not estrangement which has grown but familiarity, and that familiarity, in good ways as well as bad, has bred contempt. No longer do people look at power and see a tribe wholly different to their own. Rather, they see people exactly like them who appear, through no obvious or evident virtue, to have won a lottery. And so, rather than forgoing control with a forelock–tugging shrug, they take it back, because they can.

For now, granted, I’m not wholly convinced they’re doing anything particularly wise with it. But that’s the process, isn’t it? Momentum, Scottish Nationalism, Brexit, Trump, all that crazy nonsense; these are the baby steps of a truly mass political engagement, brought about by technology that suddenly makes truly mass political engagement possible. Sure, they might not exactly be steps in a great direction, but the printing press also spread pogroms and mass broadcast technology also spread fascism, so thus far perhaps we’re getting off pretty damn lightly.

In the end, if either Trump or Brexit are even half as disastrous as I fear they could be, then perhaps the masses who voted for them will have learned a valuable lesson about the way that (as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben put it) with great power comes great responsibility. And if they aren’t, as people keep telling me they won’t be, then I suppose we don’t really have anything to worry about anyway. So, chin up and happy Christmas. I’m taking a few days off. Might paint the ceiling.

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2 Feedbacks on "Whispering in Our Ears a Warning"

Seattle Sam

No matter how disastrous the Trump administration turns out to be, it cannot possibly be a rationale for re-entrusting the country to people like John Kerry — the epitome of “no obvious or evident virtue”.



bob sykes

Both Trump and Brexit are likely to be hugely successful and lead to a vastly improved UK and US.



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