There are any number of things about Brexit & Co that should strike a reasonable person as odd.
The obvious lies in the pro Brexit campaign, the shifty, sketchy dissembling of Boris Johnson, and the invisible man routine of the “opposition” “led” by Jeremy Corbyn and the in your face feudalism of the upper echelons of the Tories all hang in the air like a dog’s balls on a man’s face.
But as the United Kingdom slides head first into a political guillotine, what stands out is that the whole sorry spectacle has a slow motion, out in the open, coup d’état feel to it.
It used to be both historically and in the popular imagination, that a coup was something done in the shadows; a clandestine operation of conspirators with a long pedigree reaching back to hushed whispers in a Shakespeare tragedy and recognizable style points borrowed from South American banana republics, or East European dudgeon kingdoms.
When conducted in so called Western democracies they were still recognizable because there was a sense that the bad guys – the coup plotters – were essentially an underground or insidious gang who, once exposed to daylight, would evaporate like vampires.
The free press, the open corridors of civil society and all the rest of the creaky machinery of a free people would ultimately, inevitably, prevail. And for examples see any number of Hitchcock thrillers where that’s exactly what happens.
But then, there’s Brexit.
The first indication that something was different was when David Cameron announced a referendum on staying in the EU or leaving.
In the United Kingdom, for better or for worse, Parliament is sovereign not the otherwise unruly mob.
The UK is not a direct democracy. You vote for x, who is of party y, and who goes to work on your behalf.
It’s a flawed system but then so are all the rest of them. As the Tory political spirit animal guide, Winston Churchill had it: Liberal democracy is the worst system of government ever invented. Except for all the others.
There were some the horse is out of the barn arguments about the sovereignty of parliament but – to mix metaphors – the pathogen had escaped containment.
Had Labour been led by an actual human instead of a sock puppet they would have made that the issue – referenda are fundamentally irrelevant. And politically dead on arrival in spite of previous ones about joining the Common Market.
But, there’s a loose cadre of irradiated faux Trotskyites, running Corbyn and it seems perfectly clear that they are all getting a political hard on at the prospect of massive social unrest following a no deal Brexit.
After all, who among them doesn’t wet dream of storming the Winter Palace while the crowd sings The Internationale.
Given the dire best case scenarios envisioned by the government in Operation Yellowhammer, (a name right out of a Marvel Movie) it is likely that there will be massive civil unrest; a state of emergency, riots, and plans to evacuate the Queen – to god knows where.
And while all of that is cause for a bad case of the jitters and shakes, the curious thing is, it’s all being discussed right out in the open in a mash up of Python and Colonel Blimp orders his men over the top and into the enemy machine guns for a few yards of mud and barbed wire.
It would be easy to call the whole thing quintessentially British, and there is something to be said for that given that it is, in fact, a British circular firing squad replete with BoJo and various oh so English class antagonisms, exemplified by the Mini Me of Oswald Mosely, Nigel Farage, and the Dickensian villainy of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who, as some caustic wit put several years ago, is the right honorable gentleman from the 18th century.
And yet, while the characters are in many respects, stock, and cliché versions of clichés, there is a curious, Postmodern quality to the entire production.
And that’s because it all appears to be out in the open with a nothing up my sleeve style in which the villains and the almost villains – because there are no good guys – appear to be completely honest in both their catastrophic stupidity and their radioactive mendacity.
They are, in a sense, perfectly aware of their own metafictional narratives.
Consider the 350 million a week for NHS bus routine.
In the age of the internet claims like that are not difficult to refute or prove. And yet, there were BoJo and Mini Me Mosley-Farage busking around London selling snake oil in River City.
And no one stopped them.
Imagine the Brownshirts marching around Berlin with gasoline and matches saying someone was going to set the Reichstag on fire, and then, when it burned, they said, good thing we were on the scene.
Or, imagine Oswald (no, the other one) walking around in front of the book depository with a rifle.
And yes, we are aware that in a sense that’s exactly what did happen in both cases but the truth is in both instances there was so much shadow and fog and so much organic confusion that what dominates both narratives is deception.
Brexit, in contrast, is a coup as an infomercial.
Historical parallels are easy and yet falter.
The record of deceptions and gross miscalculations is long. Yes, they knew Vietnam was a black hole, and yes, they knew there was no authentic missile gap, and so on but again, deception and whispered campaigns of still more deceptions dominated the landscape.
It is the difference between The Quiet American and a Pynchon novel on the one hand, and Captain American, the Winter Soldier which, for all its worth, is a pale imitation of a spy thriller.
Three Days of the Condor, is it not.
With Brexit the Brexiters possess a combination of religious fervor and delusion as exemplified by Rees-Mogg, the political hermaphrodite style of Johnson, and the gutter fascism of Mini Mosley-Farage and it’s all right out in the open.
And how has it been successful when it should have exploded in their faces like an ACME Road Runner contraption used by Wiley E Coyote.
Part of the answer would seem to be that the lunatics have gamed the system.
The free press was never very fit for purpose unless you define purpose as being a Scylla and Charybdis as imagined by Kesey in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Neo Fascist attacks on “Fake News” are of course just what they appear to be – neo fascist.
But the press has been rancid for decades if not a century plus.
And the establishment media is a whore house.
And it’s no accident that Johnson was at one time a print slut of the worst sort.
It’s been a while since Paddy Chayefsky dropped Network on everyone and said in big block letters the media was a crack whore.
Currently being rerun for Broadway his savage and accurate assault on the establishment media has been transformed into a defense of the media in the face of Trump’s burn the Reichstag attacks.
And of course, the malignant troll is a clear and present danger.
But so is the establishment media – the people who brought you WMD, and light at the end of the tunnel and the threat posed by the Chinese and their opium dens, and you get the pictures and I’ll provide the war. The same people who helped bring you Trump. Because he was worth billions of free clicks and revenue.
Citizen Kane is old.
No one remembers it and if they do it’s because it shows up on lists of important films.
That most people ignore because Marvel/Disney and Sony are having a pissing contest.
But amid all the hysteria about attacks on journalism and all the righteous defense of journalism, there has been absolutely no excavation of just how corrupt and toxic journalism has been and continues to be.
Certainly not by the journalists.
Broadcast News, Nightcrawler and Absence of Malice should be discussed on MSNBC and CNN but they wont be any more than the Vatican is going to hold an open debate about Nazi gold or the Inquisition or pedophile priests.
As an antidote to the lies of Brexit and Trump and the lunatics who say the collapse of the environment is a Chinese hoax, some degree of self examination by the media would go a long way towards shoring up the sclerotic defenses of an in theory, free society.
But the barbarians are not at the gates. They are in City Hall and they are in 10 Downing Street and the Senate and obviously, The White House.
And the toothless, compromised, corrupt institutions, have been turned into political zombies.
And so, you can wake up or go to sleep to headlines where the Prime Minister of the UK, can calmly announce that he may close Parliament and that Members of Parliament do not have a say on Brexit because the “people have spoken.”
And no one of any stature says, you second rate Cromwell-Mussolini hybrid wanna be mother fuckers are going to get a giant boot up your neo fascist asses.
Instead there’s a lot of dull speeches and more or less useless protests, and essentially business as usual.
And of course the “opposition” has been as irradiated as the establishment.
One of the fundamental problems with the “opposition” as personified by Corbyn and Pelosi Inc is not that they don’t take the threat seriously but that they don’t take themselves seriously.
You can’t pull the sword from the stone because your pollster’s said it would play well in Scotland or Iowa. You do it because you believe in your bones that it’s right, and because your enemy is lethal and if left to sow their shit in the sinews of the state, we’re all fucked.
But the “opposition” has looked in the mirror and seen nothing.
Profiles in courage?
No, profiles in limp compromise.
After all, we’re capitalists get used to it, is hardly on par with, we have nothing to fear but fear itself, or a House divided cannot stand or, their finest hour, let alone, a speech on Saint Crispin’s Day.
As always, split between factions determined to prove they are woker than thou, subverted by agent provocateurs, ignored by the establishment media, except for periodic dog and pony or flea circus episodes of public ridicule, they dither and whine.
Imagine, should we survive, years from now, historians asking in bewilderment how a gang of third rate clowns like Trump and Johnson, succeeded.
Analogous to the more famous, how did the Nazis gain power debate, the truth is, the current crop of thugs are to that gang as a guppy is to a Blue whale.
The in your face quality of all of it is down to the fact that as toxic as they are, they are symptoms.
The corporate colonization of the pillars of the in theory free society has made these political pustules possible.
And that is the fault of everyone in the system.
The colonized education system, the colonized political machine, the colonized media, the perpetual state of apathy and hysteria in which a media heroin is injected directly into your amygdala in order to both stupefy and agitate – the rise of snark as a legitimate form of debate brought to you by a parade of class clowns employed by conglomerates they publicly denounce while taking their money, all contribute to the transformation of politics into a reality television show.
Exactly as Chayefsky predicted decades ago in Network.
And, as Orwell predicted before that.
Here’s the United Kingdom, burning.
Here’s the Amazon, burning.
Here’s the fire next time.
But first, a word from our sponsor.
For a solid if problematic analysis of Brexit:
Well, yes Bernie but it’s been a rancid sewer for a long, long time.
A politician with spine?: