A CLIMATE OF INSULT
Our right honourable friend, Jack Torture, MP, PC often claims, hissingly, self-regardingly, that he, more or less on his own, did away with Deference, as though being deferential was a crime against humanity, such as the many he, himself, has committed.
Straw, his remarks aimed at a generation he presumes knows nothing, refers to the so-called counter-culture movement of the sixties, in which he took no part whatsoever, and which, had he then been in power would have suppressed with Stalinist vigour and which has it's origin not in Straw’s rancid party politics but in Showbiz, in the work of the US beat poets, of Lenny Bruce, of Private Eye, Peter Cook's Establishment Club, Ned Sherrin's TW3, of the British blues and jazz players –Davy Graham, Chris Barber, Alexis Korner and so on – and then in the consumerist druggy doggerel of the Beatles and the dandified, junky chic of the Rolling Stones, the complete Otherness of Bob Dylan and in an Undergrund Press which, momentarily, permitted a different voice; Straw, a then pimply outcast, a nerd, a square, a straight, nevertheless claims authorhip of such rebellion as was briefly here mooted, before becoming, itself, a dedicated follower of fashion. Deference Straw hisses, sagaciously, needed to be done away with - aside, of course, when it is quite properly due to holders of great offices of state, such as he.
Rather than an end to deference – to position, often inherited or to custom and practice unquestioned for centuries – which is fine and in a sense progressive, Straw actually allies himself facetiously to the mythical Summer of Love and with the stagey bad manners of John Lennon and not with an overdue reassessment of bourgeois protocols and hierarchies which was being carried out journalistically by Tariq Ali and Mick Farren, Felix Dennis and Richard Neville and in the Courts by John Mortimer and a clutch of literati.
In his remarks, last year, to Andrew Neil, about being the scourge of Deference, Straw claimed that such would be his chosen epitaph, his explanation, to the young, of his life and purpose, as though he had been, as his mentor Blair claimed, in his youth, a cute little rock ‘n’ roller.
You wouldn’t expect much else from a man who, as Foreign Secretary lied in his rotten, hissing teeth to the United Nations; WMD, swore Straw, a devout political Christian, are about to be launched against us by these Moslem devils, only not the ones in my constituency, of course; we must attack, slaughter, raze to the ground, he insisted, kow-towing to Uncle Tom Coh-lin Powell, himself a stupid stooge who now, too late, realises and admits that rather than being le premier nigger superieur he was easily manipulated by the Bush gangsters, his gross, stupefying, beribboned vanity conniving in the fiery deaths of myriad black and brown children, to the glory of Jim Crow’s white, corporate America, the KKK Internationale.
Bombing innocent people is perhaps the height of bad manners; and for all his simpering, faux-judicial sanctimony, his clumsy attempts at linguistic sophitication, his laughable magisterial air, Straw was and remains an uncouth thug, jumped-up, graceless, bowing and scraping backwards, selectively deferential, before monarchy, like some robber baron nouvelle, his hands stained, his breath reeking, his robes dripping blood, his face, to quote another cynic, looking like something Death brought with him in his suitcase, the epitome of NewLabour, his whey-faced, obnoxious son, groomed and sinister, behind him.
The freedoms, which Myth would have us believe were wrung, non-deferentially, from Power’s hands in the nineteen-sixties, are nowhere evident. We are photographed, morning, noon and night; thousands of new, imprisonable offences are manufactured in some Euro-punishment Hellhole; we can now be tried for the same thing twice or, presumably, as with the Irish referendum, however many times it takes until the right result is reached, the mouthy, unaccountable careerist chief constable satisfied; our correspondence is subject to surveillance and storage for future examination, perhaps in case something, quite legal now, may yet be criminalised and we can be retrospectively held to account; we can be hoisted off to the Land of the Free to be given nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine-years, just for thinking. The police can and do shoot, beat, enclose and abuse us at will, without fear of penalty; nothing new there, really, just a question of degree. The Executive, its last criminal chief officer applauded to the skies by the legislature, seeks our ever longer detention without trial, empowers bands of jobsworths to invade our homes, our businesses, our vehicles; if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, comrade citizen; wars on drugs, wars on terror, wars on crimes, wars on smoking, wars on drinking, wars on obesity; never was so cowardly a gang of reprobates and degenerates so studiously martial; a government of knaves, at war with its citizens, plundering our coffers, selling-off our landscapes, trampling on our civic and natural history, an orgy of haphazard planning decisions, spuriously green, vastly profitable to a vandalous handful, yet utterly meaningless in planetary terms, blights a land- and sky-scape unchanged since the Ice Age, nothing, neither the work of God or man, is safe from New Labour, all is now the servant of government, the land as well as the people; whence came such tyranny?
The entire apparatus of Power, as never before, skews all before it, towards its own interests. A handful of malevolent freaks owns the national press; the national broadcaster run by effete totalitarianistes nouvelle, fronted by Establishment gabshites, ensures that political coverage stops far short of reporting - much less interviewing - Difference, broadcasters and Westminster politicians all joined in a gross daisy chain, each up the other’s arse, like some devilish, de Sadeian tableau from 120 Days of Sodom, de-coupling occasionally, to shit in our faces.
The hereditary Dimblebys, arguably the most influential current affairs broadcasters - by dint of their father’s connections - studiously leaping on any voice of dissent which has not been, in advance, excluded from their dreary pretend shows and strangling it, maintaining, at all costs, a status quo of filthy, smirking, Hoonish rottenness. On next week’s Question Time the panel will consist of War, Plague, Famine, the broadcaster and writer Will Self and the Tories Security bint, Dame Pauline Neville Corpse, clap when you are told to by the floor manager. Or else.
We now have a twice-disgraced Gilbert and Sullivanesque baron, a First Secretary of Everything, a freaky blackmailer, a man brilliant enough to run Trade and Industry like none before –Oh, Peter is so wonderful - yet too fey to understand his mortgage application form, scolding and tut-tutting us for our impertinence in questioning him; his shabby, snot-eating, putative master skulking in dark places, shredding his nails, grinding his teeth in misery, yet unembarrassed that his former tormentor now keeps him in place and keeps him in line;
this, the United Kingdom, is gay Ruritania, closet pansies bitching at one another over the national corpse; gay wives, gay husbands, a cottaging elite, gay admirals and field marshals posturing and twittering, this way and that, at the prime minister’s bidding; select committees flirting outrageously with this ghastly man, Mandelson, as though parliament was Danny le Rue’s nightclub, whilst chiding us that we should do better by them, tighten our belts, that they might slacken theirs. I would rather have had the Deference, myself.
The hard-won freedoms of the ‘sixties, then, recently colonised by Straw, are an advertising construct, beloved of Q Magazine and other industry organs; we are more shackled than ever before. What we do have, however, as was touched upon the other night, by Mr mongoose, is a freedom to be rude,
“…..(some) fucking eegit, who thinks that because he has an insult in his head that he is somehow as good as the next horrible little bastard.”
our deferential, formerly polite and considerate - No, after you – restrained and inhibited civic environment, has become, this last quarter-century of Blatcherism, a Climate of Insult.
This is what we do; this, the national sport; this, our bread and circuses; this, the cake we are let eat. We are free, now, as never before, to insult one another.
Jeremy Kyle, Graham Norton, Jonathan Ross, Jimmy Carr, hideous grotesques all, paid millions of our taxpounds to be insulting, to be, inevitably, role models to our little consumers. No discernible talent distinguishes such as these, other than bad manners. The inescapable Steven Fry reads, sneeringly, insultingly, from an autocue as though it were a toilet wall and considers himself Wildean genius made smug, corpulent, farting flesh, his lame guests and his biddable studio audience an admiring coterie at a Savoy luncheon, gasping at his brilliance, as though this tuneless, repetitious, cack-handed bore was Noel Coward, rarely a minute passing without all hymning buggery, drooling at ejaculation.
Previous generations of otherwise worthless, narcissistic luvvies, Bruce Forsyth, for instance, were song-and–dance men, could do a turn, had some tradecraft, love it or loathe it, these were card-sharping journeymen, prestidigitators, jugglers, piano players, dancers and comics, soft-shoe shufflers, fire-eaters, sword swallowers, jongleurs moderne, troubadors; a trade as old as speech itself, older than whoring, is showbusiness.
The Big Brother House, though, isn’t show business but the first UK example of Cruelty Television, of insult made entertainment. Never seen but a fragment here and there, enough to avoid. Don’t know what the X-factor is but if it boasts Simon Cowell or Sharon FaceLift or Piers Moron among its presenters that’s bad enough, cruel enough, insulting enough for me to miss. These are individuals whose only talent is to be effortlessy cruel, in Moron’s case effortlessly unprincipled, too, not the worst tabloid editor in history but the most shameless, little Piers, waving his lawyers at any who question his probity.
It may be argued, of course, that contestants on these shows deserve everything they get – the bullying, the cheap shots, the roaring, cat-calling disapproval, Gladiator style, of the worthless studio audience - but fabulously well-paid programmers and controllers have a duty of care not to expose the slow-witted, the easily-led and the vain to cruelty of this sort, to ineraseable insult from the likes of Cowell.
But it is not just the low-brows who insult a capitve prey, listen to Mad Melanie Phillips or Claire Fox or, in his heyday, the nasty pinch-faced litlle faggot, Starkey, on the delightfully titled Moral Maze. There is cruelty and insult for you, a gang of useless, posturing “commentators” bullying and tormenting, an audio-crucifixion of some poor heterosexual, academic, vegetarian or Muslim, for the epicurean delectation of members of the Radio Four audience, listening at home, carefully and in a very balanced way, drinking FairTrade tea, in their cardigans and support hose, mouthing silently to themselves Go on David, Stick It To The Bitch, Go on My Son. Starkey’s delight in insult has led him to vast riches and splendour as a TeeVee historian, although he remains and obnoxious little prat
Regular readers here will contest that the People cry out for this shit, for this wickedness, they watch it, they deserve it and maybe they do - but I don’t deserve it and countless others should not have civic life polluted by insult, learned from greedy nonentities on the telly.
The celebration of the unworthy is everywhere. Screaming gay footballers having sex with one another, via some poor groupie in-between; toasting, is it called, roasting? I don’t know what kind of men these are, the premiership gang-rapists, other than the wrong kind, needing a very good, sudden, sharp, unexpected, ferocious punch in the face from a proper bloke, the force of Decency smashing their gleaming, sponsored teeth, stars in their eyes, the acrid taste of hot blood suddenly, shockingly in their throats; instead, these freaks strut the land, insulting all before them, immunised, indemnified by celebrity, hallowed.
To insult, deprave and corrupt, to be boorish and vile, one to another, these, under Straw, are our freedoms. Without even examining the insult added to injury inflicted by spiv bankers or scrutinising the cassus bellus for our squandering, abroad, Tommy’s life and limb as well as our good, fascist-kicking name, we can see from just the everyday, the mundane, the prosaic, how low we are sunk, Lily Savage, a repulsive, insulting drag queen, the New English Rose; East Enders, wretchedly violent, priapic, misanthropic, cruelly slandering an entire class, teaching our young amorality and hysteria, peddling instant gratification, lionising cruelty, refining Insult weekly; Insult, the new national treasure.
And as we do unto to others, so we are done unto, the large print giveth and the small taketh away. No more Boom and Bust, Ruin, instead, writ large and small, legitmate expectation dashed; retirements, long planned-for, husbanded frugally in advance, laid waste by those guaranteed luxurious longevity, garlanded in ermine, wafting from one QUANGO to another, Ashdown, Kinnock and soon Prescott, nobodies playing grandiose ambassadors, commissioners, plenipotentiaries. There is a tiny, tiny story, almost too trivial to tell but shockingly illustrative. In the taxpayer-funded constructors’ gold-rush which is the Olympic games, already three times over budget, compulsory purchase orders have thrown hundreds of allotmenteers off plots which they had spent a lifetime cultivating, their allotments, tiny scraps of rich dirt wheron they learned rest and renewal and Creation’s cyclicality, plots where they clung-on to sanity and peace, amid an ocean of urban alienation, bulldozed. Imagine. Now, they must buy their broad beans at Tesco’s, like good consumers; a tiny wee story, just another handful, their work made Insult, their lives made Sorrow.
Some freedoms are won, it is true; homosexuals may live largely unmolested, women are much less discriminated against; blacks and Asians, if not entirely integrated at least not firebombed, inventing, quaintly, their own niggers, coons, jungle bunnies and ragheads - the Albanians, the Poles; the nonce is still everywhere, low dives and high places, conspiring, trading but often, now, despite the best efforts of Pope Nazi and the noncing monsignors, children are believed; we live longer, better and healthier, enjoy freedom from illnesses which carried off our grandparents. Such advances, however, are not those to which Straw falsely alludes; they are not freedom of thought, much less freedom of assembly, freedom to organise, to dissent, to march, to travel, we have no freedom to chastise our employees, to picket the parliamentarians, who keep the matter of their regulation closely to themselves, playing, in the four-yearly festival of competetive promising, musical chairs, as though this meaningless ritual sufficiently policed their serial, collective criminality.
The next time, then, that men and women of a certain age pontificate about How Freedom was Won, Deference O’erthrown in the 'sixties, look ye around at Insult rampant. And punch them in the face.