Saturday, 6 September 2014

FARAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: UKIP VS GOVERNMENT BY PR

I shall suppose… some evil genius… has employed all his energies in deceiving me.

René Descartes, Meditations


The defection of Clacton MP Douglas Carswell from the Conservative Party to UKIP actually took place, no matter how much Tory high command tried to smother the news with the antics of IS, the latest Frankenstein’s monster of the Western governing class. Carswell is intelligent (see his The Plan with Daniel Hannan) and appears principled, although he was caught out in the expenses scandal. Nigel Farage will have much to learn from the arriviste.

The closing of mainstream media (MSM) ranks in their treatment of UKIP has only, as you might expect, been noted outside the MSM. Whatever the destiny of the party branded (a word we will return to) by Cameron as one of ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’, they and their talismanic leader Nigel Farage have already had a curious and powerful effect on Westminster; they have introduced the concept of the real.

This is not to say that Farage or his people are real in the sense that you or I might use the word. It may be that Farage’s image-makers have a more intuitive grasp of what ordinary people see as ordinary, and produce that quasi-visual effect on the blank canvas of their man. Politicians resemble those city pubs which do not look like pubs to the seasoned drinker, but have been designed by branding gurus to appeal to the tourist and their preconceived, televisual image of what a British pub ought to look like. They are Potemkin pubs just as much of our political class are Potemkin people.

On a related subject, pubs, beer and cigarettes have played a curious supporting role in the current political mummer’s play, paraded as they are as props denoting the real. The elites are bound to have a paradoxical relationship with fags and booze. On the one hand they denounce them as health hazards and A&E fillers, while the other hand trousers the vast tax sums they generate. But as the synecdoche of the ‘ordinary bloke’, cigarettes and beer – along with ubiquitous football - hold an authoritative position. Synecdoche is the representation of the whole by the part. Outside of language, in the realm of visual symbolism, it occurs when for example the monarchy is represented by an image of a crown, or the sign for a restaurant on a map is shown as a set of cutlery. For the Westminster PR, smoke-and-mirrors image couturiers, nothing says ‘average chap, just like you are’, as well as a snout and a bevy. A shame, then, that the elites elected to take on Farage on what is apparently home turf.

Cameron and Clegg pictured together in a boozer looked as comfortable as two dowagers at a rave. As for Ed Miliband, a photo of him supping a pint looked like a man being forced to drink paint. Farage is clearly at home in a pub. What’s interesting is the response of the elites and their make-up artists. And Cameron himself had this to say;

I don’t really accept this thing. He is a consummate politician. We have seen that with his expenses and wife on the payroll and everything else. So I don’t really accept that he’s a normal bloke down the pub thing.”

Forget the near-illiteracy of this statement from a serving Prime Minister, or the tacit admission that a ‘consummate politician’ is a corrupt one, or the attempt at matey language (the repeated use of ‘thing’). What is interesting is not that Cameron rejects Farage’s image because it is false and produced. He does not. He rejects it because it might be real, and reality is not within the rules of the neo-Socialist Westminster game.

Even if Farage is one day unmasked as the creation of a ruthless spin ‘n’ SpAd machine, even if the beer and the fags and the ordinary bloke routine is as scripted as are the facades of the other party leaders, the rise of UKIP will still have told us much about the political elite and their courtiers in the media. In a way, it doesn’t matter whether Farage’s image is real or not. The simple fact that people believe it is has shocked and frightened the ruling class. Being real, being unspun, is just not playing the game.

Nick Clegg – possibly the most egregiously manufactured politico of our three ‘main’ leaders – could barely disguise his contempt for Farage as he lost both his debates against him. Of course, Clegg did not admit defeat because his client media told him he won. It was only real people (another despised category for Clegg) who noticed Farage’s dominance.

Cameron, of course, famously branded UKIP a party of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists. We note in passing that it was a standard gesture under Stalin to question the sanity of your opponent. Contemporary Britain is increasingly resembling Stalinist Russia without the gulags.

Farage, unfortunately, has joined a world (he was a City broker) of illusion and cannot be completely free of the image-building mechanism of the mainstream media (MSM). Thus, we find documentary film maker Martin Durkin, who shadowed Farage to shoot a film about him, apparently feigning astonishment that Farage is so normal, the perception of normality being the grail of the Westminster PR machine. Durkin had the following to say;

“There isn't a hidden side behind the bloke with the pint. He is as he was as a boy, bolshie and perverse.”

The Daily Express liked that quote so much they made it a pull-quote, that short, pithy sentence or two you see in a larger font and designed to get you to read the whole piece. ‘Bolshy’ and ‘perverse’ certainly fit Farage. So much so, in fact, that in his autobiography, Flying Free, we read;

“I was an alarmingly normal, cricket-loving Kentish boy – albeit a bolshy, argumentative and perverse one.” Objective journalism by Durkin, or book marketing?

Let him who is without spin cast the first stone.

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