At some point, politics became trendy. And I’m not sure exactly when this happened. Maybe I missed an outstanding episode of Newsnight, or a particularly enthralling round on Question Time, or maybe T4 has started interviewing party back-benchers; I have no idea. But at some point it did. And now political allegiance is en vogue with ‘da youf’, a bit like micro scooters were five years ago. And I don’t mean all members of the youth. Far from it. I mean the youth like those depicted in the show Skins, rather than the youth like those depicted in the show ‘Pens’.
Most allegiances are based more around a clear and defined enemy, than something to support and stand for. And in the incumbent Conservative party, people have that. A right-wing party with deep Etonian and Bullingdon roots, trying to push through a neo-conservative mandate which sees its rich benefactors actually gain out of the economic mess they helped engineer, with teachers and nurses footing the bill; they’re a bigger pantomime villain than Mr Burns. So the pseudo-rebellious post-modern youth with their sexy haircuts adapted it into their repertoire of passing interests, adding a further aspect of their ever increase social construct.
The problem is that politics, invariably, is pretty dull. That previous paragraph probably bored you to tears. It’s not like a Polaroid camera app. Or a Julio Bashmone EP. Or a Koi tattoo. Nah, it’s none of those. It’s legislative policy. And Barnsley-West bi-elections. And constituency surgeries to discuss paving slabs. Mind-bogglingly dull. The issue for periodicals and papers, however, is that there is the huge issue of the youth pound, whose only exposure to politics has been lurid tales of drug excess amongst the hippie revolution, and pictures of Che Guevera adorned on Fruit of the Loom t-shirts, with dishevelled facial hair and a partially smoked cigar.
It’s a huge market, but it’s not a market that’s going to leaf through pages of Commons bills. No, what you need is a cocktail of pop-culture references meaningless comparisons and slightly irreverent points of view. Just a collection of words that makes no sense in any order, but which are preferably 160 characters or fewer. Enter, the inane metaphor.
For a considerable time, kitsch and trendy media has been epitomised by the inane metaphor. It provides the perfect balance between ‘glib comment to toss out in a ramshackle pub/social media platform’ and ‘absolutely no need to do any wider reading or have any knowledge on current political events’. It turns political discourse into nothing more than off-hand comments which plague piss-poor comedy panel shows.
I’m not talking about a cheeky metaphor tossed out for laughs. Fuck no. I’m talking about the metaphors which seem to imply some form of tacit political insight, but yet make utterly no sense whatsoever on any level.
On the cover of Caitlin Moran’s latest book is an excerpt from it, in which she states:
“David Cameron resembles a camp robot made of gammon. A C3PO made from ham.”
Now, what the fuck does that even begin to me? What am I supposed to ascertain from this? David Cameron is not a camp robot made of gammon, nor do I have any feelings of ill-will towards a robot made of gammon, nor does a robot made of gammon conjure up any semblance of politicised feelings within me. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY, CAITLIN!? WHAT POINT ARE YOU TRYING TO CONVEY?! WHAT ASPECT OF SUCCINCT POLITICAL SATIRE AM I SUPPOSED TO ACKNOWLEDGE FROM THIS WITTY AND URBANE PIECE OF PROSE!?
Maybe there’s no depth. Maybe there is no ulterior meaning with this statement. Maybe it is just a literal description of her musing over Cameron on an aesthetic level. Maybe she legitimately thinks that Cameron looks like a robot made of ham, and the public need to be made aware of this. In which case, I’m going to write a book called “Literal Descriptions of David Cameron”, in which I talk about him having a large forehead. Get it on your Christmas lists for 2013, kids.
It’s harsh to single out Moran, as so many ‘respected’ writers are privy to this form of writing. But it’s just such a perfect microcosm of it. Reference to polarising figure + Reference to pop culture icon + Irreverent theme + Completely incoherent ensemble of words = Hi-larious cultural insight. What’s more, this was the excerpt from the book which was placated over the front cover. This was the pithy gambit which was meant to sell the book to you. The quote which optimised the wider content. What assumptions am I suppose to make from this? Let’s look at this… oh right, complete drivel. Great, my partner will love it.
You can make a shedload of these quips without much effort. If you’re ever bored on a long train journey, just use the bag of a fag packet and one of those little blue pens they have in bookies and Argos branches. Hours of fun. So far I’ve got:
Completely arbitrary. I don’t even know what any of them mean!
It epitomises this strand of trendy-hip-culture, where political commentary is nothing more than inane metaphors about a politician looking like a skip full of benylin, with most articles having a chic-cantankerous sub-themes and titles such as “5 things to make you facepalm this week!”. The audience for this sort of shite appears to be those who think an erudite and insightful comment is comprised of a particularly pithy meme. Easily motivated by a few buzz words, yet without any consideration for thought or depth. Just Pavlovian style responses to words like ”Tory’ or ‘Banker’. You could almost definitely toss a glib comment towards anyone who laps this shit up, along the lines of, ‘Yeah well, the decay of society is down to the breakup of the nuclear family, of which women are to blame. When they were housebound we never had chavs’, and watch the seethe flow out of them as they froth for a good hour over the incredibly facile and mundane statement. It’s a strange sub-section of society. They’re…alright…but they’re just so annoyingly benign about everything. There’s just this ambivalent and despondent ‘why is everything so shit? Know what I mean?’ subtheme to everything and anything they do or say. They’re the aloof side of apathy, rather than the ‘Ah, everything’s fucked, I gonna have a Twix’ side of apathy, which is the fundamental issue with this social demographic. They’re facile. You’re futile.
What’s strangest is that it only works when you’re spouting these trivial tit-bits about people who aren’t universally liked. When Frankie Boyle described Rebbecca Adlington’s appearance as ‘Like someone seeing her reflection in the back of a spoon’, people were appalled. And rightfully so. Yet Cameron has been described as having ‘A face like a whoopee cushion that hasn’t been sat on yet’, and the outrage is somewhat muted. I get that the absurdity associated with the Cameron jibes make it tough to be particularly offended by, but it still renders it a touch on the head-scratching side.
The wider issue is that prose which plauges piss-poor opinion pieces dilutes and makes light of serious issues that are affecting real life. David Cameron is a bit of an arsehole. But not because in a certain light he resembles a pork robot. It’s more due to things like the overseeing of his party pushing through policies which have hiked tuition fees, pushed for privatising chunks of the NHS, courting News International, allowing the likes of Vodafone to escape mass tax bills unpunished, wanton assault on state schools and assembling a cabinet which has become a cornucopia of the scandal-making Conservative party of the early 90s (With Gummer’s Burger, Currie’s Eggs and Mellor’s Chelsea shirt) look like a nunnery. But see there isn’t much comedy in that. It’s all quite depressing, really. So why would you bother reading it? Why sift through a Nick Cohen or George Monboit piece, or a classic Hitches/Thompson character assassination, when the supposed movers and shakers of contemporary journalism are making side-splitting comments about a disliked politicians similarities with a dustbin lid?
I guess, as outlaid at the start of the piece, this vacant approach to current affairs is only appealing to a sect who are seeing it as a pseudo fashion choice. No real interest in politics and current affairs, per se, but just trying to appear more erudite. So in that sense, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a passing phenomenon that will be replaced by the next generation’s version of the Tamagochi, or yo-yos. But, nonetheless, it’s rather… well… vapid. Isn’t it?