Jupiter Descending: Race Scientist Lara Marlowe on Macron’s Fall from Grace

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It’s been a rough 100 days for Macron, whose fragile popularity is already plummeting, something that many saw coming from a long way off. Others, however, who saw their messiah in the vacuous MBA-cliché spouting tool, are struggling to come to terms with reality. Enter Lara Marlowe.

She starts out promisingly enough.

As Emmanuel Macron approaches his 100th day in office, hope that he would reconcile the French with both each other and free market economics is fading.

Yes, but how could this be?

The French president has made strategic errors, particularly in communicating his vision

This is unsurprising, given his vision is too complex for us mere mortals to understand anyway.

But his fall from grace is due more to his compatriots’ character.

Uh, what?

There is, alas, a great deal of truth to stereotypes about the perennially dissatisfied, ungovernable French. The desire to “burn what one has worshipped” is a national trait, recorded at the coronation of King Clovis in the fifth-century.

Yes, this is the level of analysis we get from Lara Marlowe. The only possible reason the French could possibly be turning against Macron is because of some mysterious, unchanging national trait that is so pervasive that it can be traced back to the coronation of a fifth-century Germanic warlord. I must admit that I find it a bit difficult to square the circle of how a ‘perennially’ ungovernable people managed to maintain the status of a major European power for more than a millennium, but I’m clearly not as informed as Lara Marlowe, who has personally measured the skulls of thousands of Frenchmen.

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Other ‘perennial’ French traits include a genetic desire for long-haired monarchs, wide streets, and armies led by teenage girls.

It is (surprise, surprise) the left who face the brunt of Marlowe’s ire.

François Ruffin, a documentary film-maker turned parliamentary deputy, competes with Mélenchon as Macron’s most vociferous opponent. Ruffin published an open letter in Le Monde two days before the election. “You are hated. You are hated, You are hated,” he wrote. “I hammer it home because … with the bourgeoisie that surround you, you are socially deaf.”

Francois Ruffin’s words should be tattooed on the inside of Lara Marlowe’s eyelids.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left Insoumis or “unbowed” movement, exploited class hatred against Macron during the campaign, addressing him as “Monsieur le banquier”.

But why would anyone have any reason to be suspicious of bankers? The hoary old cliché of the left talking about class warfare while the right practice it is no less true for being hoary and old. In fairness to him, Macron usually does manage to conceal his own class hatred beneath empty rhetoric, except when he doesn’t.

Marlowe has learned well from the Hillary Clinton school of insinuating that your opponents are sexist in order to avoid debating policy, something which she employs in order to discredit the left. (Also worth noting that neither Le Pen nor her party are mentioned in the article. For Marlowe at least, the real threat is Melanchon.)

This week a virtually unknown actor with links to the far-left launched a petition demanding a referendum on Macron’s desire to “write a job description” for the first lady Brigitte Macron. Some 300,000 internauts turned a non-issue into a cause célèbre.

Macron’s opponents misogynistically tried to use his wish to define his wife’s role to harm him. Do they expect Brigitte Macron to remain unseen and unheard in republican purdah?

Here Marlowe is just being brazenly misleading. As it stands, the president’s wife is entitled to an office, advisors and a wide range of other benefits. Moreover, they have wide scope to use their prominence as they wish. Creating an official position for an unelected spouse, while simultaneously clamping down on nepotism within government, reeked of hypocrisy and arrogance.

Macron’s plummeting popularity results largely from his determination to comply with the EU’s 3 per cent cap on deficit spending .

Wait, I thought you said it was because of the Merovingian dynasty or something? Opposition to arbitrary deficit targets and a disastrous continent-wide austerity program (one that even the IMF has criticised) seems like a pretty sensible reason to reject Macron, the guy who’s implementing them.

This austerity program is at the centre of everything. It’s the reason why Hollande’s support, and that of his party, completely and utterly collapsed. More worryingly, it is at the core of the recent successes of the far-right .Why on earth did Marlowe, or anyone else, think that having the same basic policy program implemented by someone younger and more photogenic would make them any more tolerable? I mean, really, was this the whole plan?

The piece concludes on a petulant note:

It all adds up to a catalogue of petty, often disingenuous, grievances. The world envies France its brilliant, dynamic, young president. The French appear determined to destroy him.

No, Lara Marlowe envies France its ‘brilliant, dynamic, young president’ and resents those who will actually have to endure his rule for not being excited about the prospect of their economy and society being gutted by doomed-to-fail neoliberal policies.

It’s clear for Marlowe that the people have forfeited the sun-king’s confidence and can only win it back by redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier then for Macron to dissolve the people and elect another?

What Liberal Britain Needs: A Blank Manifesto and a Can-Do Attitude

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Alas, neither boat sank.

The heading above is not (just) me being sarcastic, it is essentially what Janan Ganesh is arguing for in the Irish Times. More specifically, according to the Financial Times mainstay, what Liberal Britain needs is a ‘single-issue anti-Brexit party.’ I had never heard of Ganesh before today but the simple fact that he describes himself as a ‘Portillista‘ provides more than enough evidence for me to state, with some degree of confidence, that Janan Ganesh is the worst person who has ever lived, including Michael Portillo.

So what does this young man who, as a teenager, almost certainly had posters of Margaret Thatcher on his bedroom wall, have to say about the current crisis in which the liberal centre finds itself?

When commentators, financial markets and betting exchanges fail to predict the course of political events, it can be fruitful to consult less obvious sources of wisdom.

Actually when commentators, institutions etc. consistently fail to predict the course of political events it’s probably time for them to fundamentally reconsider their underlying ideas, beliefs and assumptions. Alternatively, they can become a newspaper columnist and continue being wrong until time stops. Personally, I would prefer the latter. Otherwise there would be no point in this blog’s continued existence. Ganesh posits a third option.

Interested hobbyists from other lines of work can be illuminating because of, not despite, their distance from the action.

This is quite a sensible statement. What the previous period has shown is that the London-centered bubble of the media commentariat is far removed from the realities of British society. Something as simple as a conversation with a taxi-driver or a checkout assistant could be genuinely eye-opening for someone like Ganesh.

The most useful insight into politics I have heard this year did not come from a practitioner or analyst but a conversation with the creator of an American television comedy that most readers will have seen.

Now here’s a man with his finger on the pulse. Also, fair fucks to Ganesh for successfully name-dropping without actually mentioning any names.

And it pertains to the question that arises whenever politically active Britons of a liberal bent convene and the pleasantries are out of the way.

‘What’s your favourite episode of the West Wing?’

What chance of a new movement – one that cuts a path between the rampant right and left?

Er, you mean the Lib-dems? On a side note, there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance at play when you can simultaneously describe yourself as a ‘Portillista’ *vomits into a kettle* and also not regard yourself as being on the right. Maybe he’s specifically referring to the ‘rampant’ right, who are more ‘rampant’ than the Portillistas? I digress.

The entertainer, who is sympathetic to the idea, and wise to what it takes to earn a mass audience, has a theory. No new movement can amount to much unless it is defined by an individual personality or a single proposition. As soon as it aspires to breadth, it will start to lose supporters and momentum. That phase must be put off until the project has enough life of its own to withstand the fractures.

But what proposition? What individual personality? And if the answer to the latter is a British Macron then you’re a complete idiot who needs to stand in the corner and have a long, hard think about the decisions you’ve made in life.

Emmanuel Macron’s election as president of France was the ultimate example in recent years of personal force as the way to a new political order.

If I didn’t know any better I’d swear Ganesh hadn’t read this blog. Putting aside this absurd notion, I would direct him to the fact that the Jupiterian Sun-King’s popularity continues to plummet, a sign that having disastrous and unpopular austerity policies imposed by a telegenic narcissist may not be much of a way to establish a ‘new political order’ (by which young Janan means the existing economic order).

On the sound assumption that Britain has no immediate equivalent of him [Thank Christ – TPM], the prospects of a similar change in our politics hinge on the second model. The one-issue movement.

Here we go.

A new political grouping has been in fitful gestation since Britain voted to leave the EU.

I too am excited about the resurgence of Cornish nationalism.

Uncomfortable in their own parties, a few Conservative and Labour politicians have probed the idea in discrete settings. Donors are primed with start-up capital. Tony Blair has improvised a role as a curator of these forces, and at times as their frontman.

So, the basis for this new centrist movement is a bunch of unpopular MPs, Lord Sainsbury and one of the most hated public figures in the United Kingdom? Leaving aside these small issues, what evidence do you have that there is any political appetite for this putative movement outside of the Financial Times staff-room?

An electorate that has withheld a decisive win from any party since his own days as prime minister is plainly open to some disruptive entrant to the market. If it shows promise, Liberal Democrat MPs might subsume themselves into it rather than stagger on as a futile dozen.

Is it? What exactly is it about the significant increase in votes among both main parties to the disadvantage of the smaller parties that suggests any desire for a new political force? Moreover, how does Ganesh not see any contradiction between suggesting that there is an appetite for a centrist, anti-Brexit party while referring to the actually existing centrist, anti-Brexit party as a ‘futile dozen’?

For all this, the breakthrough never comes – and not because Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system stymies the new. The project never gets that far.

Yes, for much the same reasons that ‘Krugmania’, my proposed wrestling tribute to the economist Paul Krugman, never secured any support; they’re both stupid ideas.

The trouble begins earlier. To avoid caricature as pro-European monomaniacs, and to let their restless energies roam, the people involved aspire to stand for something broad: political moderation in an age of extremes.

Jesus Christ, this is a fucking Carl Digger tweet.

This requires them to have policies, or at least first principles, across the full spectrum of government business. But each time a putative party settles its view on, say, fiscal policy or healthcare, it will alienate some of its original and potential supporters. It also loses definition.

Yeah, that’s the problem with political parties; the ‘politics’ bit.

Before the project has a single achievement to its name, it is bogged down in matters of internal theology. It becomes a paradox: a fissiparous political party with no MPs.

Or policies, or support, or membership.

“The moment you decide,” Blair writes in his memoirs, “you divide”.

Like when Blair invaded Iraq and divided loads of Iraqis from their internal organs.

He might not know how right he was. To avoid dividing into smithereens, the new movement he wants to midwife into existence must reduce its decisions to just the one. It must be an anti-Brexit force and, at least for a while, nothing else.

And how the hell is that going to work?

People could join without having to air their views on other subjects, much less reconcile them with those of other members. There would be no manifesto to honour or breach, no vaporous commitment to “new politics” or “radical thinking”, just a single cause of extreme salience. It is possible to overrate the importance of ideas in politics.

Only a man with no ideas whatsoever could downplay the importance of ideas in politics. So what Liberal Britain needs then is a single-issue party with no policies aside from overturning the ‘leave’ vote, something which is unlikely to happen for years, if at all? These people who join without having to air their views on other subjects, what happens when they finally actually have to take positions and agree on policies? Do they just suddenly stop having opinions about things besides Brexit and come together in mindless unity?

The problem is too much substance, not too little.

The fact that Ganesh can write this sentence and intentionally publish it without being overwhelmed with shame and self-loathing says everything you need to know about him.

A broad political party would struggle to even describe itself. “Centrist” means less and less when a single voter can have a dog’s breakfast of left and rightwing instincts. “Liberal” would alienate big-state social democrats. “Progressive”, a word that rather assumes unanimity on the ideal destination for society, is even worse. “Anti-Brexit”, on the other hand, is unmistakable. Even voters who despise the new outfit would understand the point of it.

Are you sure? I mean, I despise this entirely hypothetical outfit and yet can’t really understand the point of it. Then again, even people kindly disposed to a movement against Brexit would probably be equally perplexed. Sooner or later this conversation will happen:

Ganesh: Hello there my good man, how do you feel about Brexit?

Remain voter: Not too good to be honest, I was very strongly in favour of remaining in the European Union.

Ganesh: Have you thought about joining an anti-Brexit political party?

Remain voter: Oh, like Labour?

Ganesh: NO! NO! I mean a party that want a new referendum as soon as possible. Or even to just ignore the result entirely.

Remain voter: Oh, like the Lib-Dems?

Ganesh: NO YOU IDIOT! NOT THEM! *Ahem* I mean, would you consider joining a brand-new anti-Brexit political movement?

Remain voter: Er, maybe, I guess? What are its policies on things besides Brexit?

Ganesh: *stares vacantly*

Remain voter: You alright mate?

Ganesh: *runs away*

Remain voter: What a strange man. I hope nobody ever gives him and his half-baked opinions a platform in a reputable international newspaper.

This is probably one of the most deluded things I’ve ever read, and I follow The Flat Earth Society and Louise Mensch on twitter. The fact is that most remainers accept the result and only a hardcore minority wish to go against the democratic wishes of the population. Moreover, the electorate has moved on. The question isn’t whether or not to accept the result, but what kind of place post-Brexit Britain is going to be.

This then, is how low ‘Liberal Britain’ has sunk. In diagnosing what liberal, centrist Britain ‘needs’, Ganesh argues for a party with no ideas or policies that refrains from using the words ‘centrist’ or ‘liberal’ to describe itself.

How low the mighty have fallen.

Exclusive: John Waters – A Monk’s Eye View

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Introduction

This is a first for the Pleased Middle, a real bona fide scoop. First, some background. About three years ago, the monks of Mount Melleray, as part of some sort of extreme penitence, were compelled to have John Waters as a sort of guest speaker at their annual retreat, giving two talks per day for six days. For foreign readers, John Waters is best described as a mash-up between a morose Peter Hitchens and Harvey Keitel’s character in Bad Lieutenant, though more psychologically unstable than either of those.

A few weeks ago, a defrocked monk, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Pleased Middle Press Corps with his own account of what transpired during that six-day retreat. We thank our mystery monk for his dedication to the truth. Here follows his unedited account of that week.

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About three years ago, while I was still a monk of the Cistercian Order, we were informed that we would have a guest speaker at our annual retreat. This was no surprise, for guest speakers (usually a nun or missionary of some kind) were, and are, a regular feature of the retreat. That year, unusually, our guest speaker was to be John Waters. I was quite excited until I discovered that it wasn’t the transgresssive film-maker, but a less interesting individual of the same name. Nevertheless I felt it would be stimulating for our spiritual development to hear perspectives from a layman, even if he wasn’t the director of Pink Flamingos. As such, I volunteered to welcome Mr. Waters to Mount Mellary and to show him around.

On Sunday evening, Mr. Waters arrived. I greeted him at the gates. The first impression Mr. Waters presents is that of a sexually embittered trad musician whose eyes are bottomless recesses of melancholy. Nevertheless, he managed a smile and thanked me for my hospitality. I inquired as to his journey and was surprised to discover that his drive from Dublin had taken over nine hours. When I asked why, he explained that he usually drove in bizarre, winding and circuitous patterns in order to avoid ‘them’. When I asked who ‘they’ were, he refused to answer. I would later discover that whenever Mr. Waters made veiled references to ‘them’, he was implying the existence of an international conspiracy involving the ‘lavender mafia’, family court judges and Diageo.

I took Mr. Waters to his room and allowed him to get comfortable. He placed his luggage in the corner of the room and produced a length of hard leather. Seemingly ignoring my presence, he stripped to his waist and began to whip himself mercilessly on his back. I attempted to interrupt him, informing the journalist that self-flaggelation was not common practice among Cistercians, and was, in fact, severely frowned upon. He just smiled and told me he would see me at breakfast.

Mr. Waters had agreed to provide two half-hour talks per day. Since the retreat formally began on a Monday, I awoke that day with some excitement as to what I could expect to learn from this layman. I was, alas, disappointed. The columnist’s first talk was a rather laboured piece of exegesis that tried to demonstrate that Patsy McGarry was the ‘lawless one’ referred to in 2 Thessalonians. The second was a rather unusual confession of John Waters’ own sexual proclivities, which was, I must confess, inappropriate and irrelevant, particularly when he asked for audience feedback as to the specific penance recommend for each of the (relatively mild) sex-acts described. Neither of these talks gave me much hope for what was to follow.

Tuesday was perhaps the nadir of the week. John’s first talk was a explanation of how much comfort he had taken from the Book of Job during his own persecution, during which he unironically compared his being called a homophobe on the Brendan O’Connor show to the destruction of the second temple. The second talk was less coherent, simply consisting of random threats of litigation.

Wednesday morning’s talk focused on what Waters described as the ‘continuing progress in Iraq and Libya’ which concluded with Waters anointing a papier maché AIM-9 Sidewinder missile with holy water. During the afternoon talk he described how the Irish Times had personally thwarted the consecration of Russia. When pressed for evidence, he produced an image in which he appeared to have crudely photoshopped a picture of the 1985 Moscow Victory Day parade to depict Fintan O’Toole (in full military garb) standing next to Gorbachev atop the Lenin Mausoleum.

Thursday’s talk revolved mainly around an event called the ‘Electric Picnic’ which I had previously believed to be a music festival, but which Mr. Waters described as a ritualistic cult-celebration. Central to his description was something called ‘Soul-Poison’ which I initially assumed to be some new form of recreational drug and / or musical genre. It turned out to be beer. The afternoon session, however, was a great deal worse, bordering on heretical when Waters claimed that he knew the third secret of Fatima, and that it involved alimony payments.

Both sessions on Friday were a powerpoint-aided taxonomy of the differences between paedophiles and ephebophiles. I wasn’t sure of its relevance to spirituality, though I was certainly impressed by its exhaustiveness and depth of research.

By the last day, John Waters’ health had visibly deteriorated. His hair and beard were tattered and unwashed, with substantial amounts of toffee knotted throughout. His pallor, not great to begin with, had declined to a sort of soupy-greyish blue. Indeed, his skin seemed to hang off his bones like melted wax. Nevertheless, he managed to hold himself together for the first talk in which he quoted extensively and approvingly from John Knox’s The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. I personally felt the inclusion of a protestant theologian to be rather unusual, even though I am of a somewhat ecumenicist disposition. His final talk was perhaps the most unusual, a comparison of Mao’s China and the UK Family Court system. It concluded with Waters rending his garments and howling in tongues. Most of us became quite uncomfortable at this point and slipped quietly out of the room, leaving Mr Waters to his demons.

John Waters left that night, under cover of darkness. The visit, it was agreed by all, had not been a success. The Abbott, whose idea it had been to invite Mr. Waters, was even worried that he would be excommunicated for his decision. Indeed, he later privately admitted that inviting the director John Waters may have been a better choice.

For myself, it was the beginning of a crisis of faith that would lead me to leave behind the religious life. My encounter with Mr. Waters showed me that searching for meaning in a world where Mr. Waters had a column in a national newspaper was a fruitless endeavour, a Sisyphus-like struggle that was ultimately futile.

Still, some nights, I dream of John Waters, not in his human form, but that of an emaciated buzzard, perched on a telephone pole at a music festival, sighing and shaking his head in disappointment at a world that has ignored, mocked and rejected him. At the end of the dream he flies away, pursued by an eagle with the head of Patsy McGarry.

Alison O’Connor’s Erratic Empathy

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It’s been a trying week for Alison O’Connor, who discovered twitter is mean, a fact that should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever been on twitter. More specifically she is referring to the fact that people responded to this particular tweet with mockery and derision.

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The Jobstown verdict, in which a jury found people not guilty of a silly charge for which there was no evidence (aside from the fertile imagination of crooked cops), has been causing a more general furor among the commentariat. Having ran through a number of possible explanations for how a jury didn’t reach the ‘correct’ verdict (a number of long-prison sentences for causing a government minister to be delayed slightly), they eventually decided on two explanations:

1. The charges were too severe (because they failed to stick).

2. Them social medias is killin’ the judicial systemz (by depriving broadsheet journalism of its monopoly on trial coverage).

It is the existence of social media that concerns O’Connor, whose screed begins blandly enough:

I have always felt that the privilege of being a journalist is that you get to write things that are read by an audience, or if you also broadcast, to say things publicly.

I’ve always felt that the privilege of being a Sheffield Wednesday midfielder is playing in the middle of the field for Sheffield Wednesday.

Alison continues:

But what ended up happening that day in Jobstown was good old-fashioned bullying, just as it is online. There it is an opportunity to express utter contempt for those who do not hold the same “pure position” as they do. To describe it as political expression is nonsense.

A key part of the approach by the militant wing of this protest group was an exceptionally successful campaign to utterly dehumanise Joan Burton. By doing so it made it perfectly alright in the eyes of these people to put the former tánaiste through such an experience.

This experience was being delayed for a few hours in a car, while surrounded by a battalion of Gardaí, with air support. This strikes me as being a fairly liberal interpretation of dehumanisation.

How was she not to know that things might not get out of hand and that the car could not have been overturned?

Yes! Moreover, how was she to know that none of the protestors were suicide bombers? Or that Paul Murphy wasn’t about to rip open the door with his teeth in a bid to devour the women within?

Seriously though, the 180 Gardaí would have been provided some fairly strong re-assurance that the car wasn’t in danger of being overturned.

However, it’s not just Joan Burton who is feeling the brunt of the bullies, but Alison O’Connor herself, who was subjected to a series of accurate descriptions of Alison O’Connor.

The replies covered a wide range. I was called an asskisser, poor little snowflake, unable to handle it, an ignorer of perjury, a liar, a victim, part of the MSM conspiracy (had to look that one up, it’s mainstream media apparently), an attention seeker (trying to get myself on the radio or television), smart arsed, privileged, naïve and unable to see outside my own privileged social set.

All of these things are entirely correct, except for the existence of a mainstream media conspiracy. Most Irish media commentators are so firmly practiced in the art of sycophantic group-think that a conspiracy would represent a needless formality.

The article ends on a defiant (albeit childishly petty) note:

Anyway the good news is I’m off on holidays for a few weeks. Needless to say, given my privileged position, the vacation involves a private yacht, casinos and a bevy of servants. In the event I think I may well take the advice of one of the many who tweeted me in the past few days. It was: “Get off Twitter if you can’t ignore the nutters.”

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There really is little of note in this article. O’Connor is such a blandly typical mouthpiece of orthodoxy that she could be replaced with an algorithm and nobody would notice the difference. However, two things did catch my eye, in the course of what was largely a self-indulgent whine, which are significant in terms of the off-hand, dismissive way in which she mentions them. The first is this:

There are many questions to be asked about the trial, chief among them the decision by the DPP to bring charges of false imprisonment which potentially carried a life sentence. Those on trial have been cleared of the charges, and they were a heavy weight for those six men to bear in the intervening years.

Why then does this, a years-long trial in which bogus charges were inflicted on six innocent people, largely as a result of Garda perjury, merit only one throwaway paragraph? While a heated protest in Tallaght, and people making fun of Alison O’Connor, is deemed to require an entire, indignant column?

None of this is not to ignore the true suffering of the people in Jobstown and other places like it during the austerity years, and their legitimate desire to protest about what they had to disproportionately endure.

It absolutely fucking is. Indeed, to get a real insight into O’Connor’s feelings towards places like Jobstown and the right of their inhabitants to protest one should instead look to this 2015 column, written at the height of the anti-water charges movement:

The anti-water-charges movement has ‘jumped the shark’ in the sincerity of its protests. That is the phrase that comes to mind as I observe the antics of some of the protesters, who have brought the movement into disrepute. I just wish they would shove off and let people, including those employed by Irish Water, or our democratically elected representatives, get on with their business.

This paragraph, in a way, cuts through the bullshit and shines a light onto O’Connor’s real views. Despite a half-hearted, and entirely rhetorical, acknowledgement of the suffering that places like Jobstown have suffered at the hands of austerity, those plebs should ultimately know their place well enough to ‘shove off’ and let their betters ‘get on with their business.’

One of the defining tropes of a declining neo-liberalism is its entirely managerial nature in which politics becomes a competition between competing brands of the same politics. Beyond this ‘debate’ there lies an ecosystem of vapid pundits, the Noel Whelans and Alison O’Connors of this world, who derive their lifeblood from commenting on this shallow, tedious game.

Places like Jobstown really don’t enter into this world (nor, of course, do most places or people). Indeed, for people like O’Connor, Jobstown or Knocknaheeny are every bit as strange and exotic as Timbuktu or Kyrgzstan. When they do enter the world of politics, they are vilified as ignorant bullies who need to ‘shove off’ and let the middle-class managerial elite get on with the job of governance.

Alison O’Connor’s political utopia is a small room wherein she and her buddies discuss the sock decisions of a handful of enlightened despots.

 

John Drennan Wrote a Book and Its Amazon Page is Beautiful

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Among the strange cultists of the Sunday Independent, John Drennan was noteworthy only in the sense of resembling Milos Zeman (in terms of health, physique and intellect) after a two-year long pub-crawl, a truck full of woodbines and a stressful fifth divorce. Within the weirdly insular world of the Sindo, a closed system where everyone who writes for it has convinced themselves that they’re geniuses by (1) constantly saying so and (2) using high circulation figures as a thick, fortified shield against the vagaries of reality, it is entirely possible to never be right about anything and also consider yourself to be the greatest political commentator / restaurant-reviewer / literary critic / fashion correspondent in human history.

Of course, since most of the Sindo commentators see no reason to ever leave the compound, they can pretty much avoid the experience of hubris indefinitely. Not so John Drennan, who ill-avisedly entered the real world, with predictable consequences. This decision also led to the creation of the world’s most amazing Amazon product page.

This is the story of that Amazon product page, a thing of beauty that will, like Milos Zeman, outlive Drennan himself.

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To set the scene, about three years ago the Sunday Independent hive-mind decided that what the country really needed was a new right-wing party, a sort of PDs Mark II. The fact that there was absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever was no problem for the hive-mind, who decided that they would find this constituency of opinion by simply reporting its existence until life imitated art. This was a bold strategy and the hive-mind saw its messiah in the form of Lucinda Creighton, an up-and-coming blueshirt who broke the Fine Gael whip because of her passionate advocacy of bringing the full weight of the carceral state onto the heads of any woman who didn’t want to bring their pregnancy to term. Supported by innumerable Sindo puff-pieces, Creighton was pushed forward as the redeeming angel of the Irish right, and soon began work on a new party. The project attracted the worst people in Ireland, including snake-oil property charlatan Eddie Hobbs, various oddball Falangists and, of course, John Drennan, who became their Director of Communications and Political Strategy, a sort of low-budget Joseph Napolitan.

Unsurprisingly, Renua was a car-crash, pretty much imploding on launch as the more respectable right-wing independent TDs stayed well away, leaving Creighton and a handful of anti-abortion backbenchers whose political and media skills were . . . unsophisticated. Moreover, it was unclear what political space the party was supposed to inhabit, given the overpopulation of the Irish right. Renua failed to attract any significant support, aside from one prominent celebrity. In the end, the project was a complete failure; the Sindo, having spent months hyping it up, ditched Renua almost immediately. Having hoped to run a candidate in at least each Dáil constituency, the party limped into the 2016 general election with just 26 candidates and a set of policies (a three-strike law, a flat-tax) nicked from the US Freedom Caucus that were well to the right of Ireland’s Overton Window. The result was the loss of all their TDs and the gradual abandonment of the party which, despite having no prospect of ever winning a seat anywhere, inexplicably soldiers on.

It was in the heady period between the launch of Renua and the electoral implosion of Renua the that Drennan decided to write a book, which bore the title: The Great Betrayal: How the Government with the Largest Majority in the History of the Irish State Lost its People.

Obviously I didn’t read this book, nor did anyone else including (most likely) Drennan’s editor or immediate family. The timing of its release, just before Drennan left the Sindo to become Renua’s spin-doctor, suggests that it was meant to act as a self-serving attention-drawer to highlight Drennan’s political acumen and vision; a sort of The Audacity of Dopes. This leads us nicely to the Great Gatsby of Amazon Product Pages.

The following fact must be borne in mind at all times throughout examining the product page: John Drennan, as Chief Strategist for Renua, bears a large chunk of the responsibility for the biggest political farce in recent Irish history, a total, unmitigated car crash which should have ended the careers of everyone involved.

The first thing to note is the super-lengthy title which seems to echo high-status works like The Spirit Level or The Better Angels of Our Nature. The difference is that this is a soggy pile of nothing written by a public house patron-botherer. How did the publisher attempt to push this bilge? (I obviously haven’t read it, but I can categorically state that it is awful).

From penalty points to water charges, funding cuts to tax hikes, The Great Betrayal is a cutting assessment of the upheavals, egos and scraps that shaped the 31st Dáil by Ireland’s most sagacious political pundit-turned-political operator

Yes, that’s the blurb. That’s how the book describes John Drennan, Renua’s Chief Spindoctor.

Written with the unique insight of one of the most original observers of Irish politics, The Great Betrayal provides an entertaining and enlightening narrative of a government that, in the eyes of many, betrayed the hopes of the Irish electorate for a democratic revolution, almost immediately after being elected with a thumping majority.

Blurb: Please stop saying nice things about John Drennan, it’s not going to end well for you.

The Great Betrayal is required reading for anyone wondering how it all went wrong and where we might go from here.

It definitely isn’t.

Again, I obviously haven’t read this book. Luckily, at least one other person may have.  So I leave you with the words of the product’s sole (1 star) reviewer, whose eloquence far exceeds my own.

how the hell this book turned up on my kindle its about the I r a and I m welsh I have even been charged for it !!! now its gone from my library anyone else had this problem

Amen brother.

Kathy Sheridan and the Modern Prince

Kathy Sheridan, Irish Times Liberal-about-town and crusader of the collapsing centre, responsible for gems like this, is reacting to the Grenfell tower disaster and the UK election. She has some thoughts.

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The hot take is quite simple: Corbyn and May, bemoans our Kathy, are two sides of the same coin. Given their clearly different political visions (as demonstrated by the fact that they both produced manifestos saying exactly what they intended to do) it’s unclear what exactly she means by ‘two sides of the same coin’. Indeed, the UK election may have seen some of the most clearly defined political and ideological battle-lines since the 80s. Let’s soldier on and see if she can make herself clearer.

The sub-headline reads: ‘Labour leader may have handled the Grenfell disaster better but he is flawed too.’ I don’t deny this is true but it’s sufficiently banal that the names and actions could be replaced with anything else conceivable and still more or less make sense:

  • Morris might have eaten more sausages than Seán but he is flawed too.
  • Sinéad O’Connor may be a better singer than former Finnish president Tarja Halonen but she is flawed too.
  • Cats may have more fur than Irish Times Columnists but they are flawed too.

Some light could possibly be shed on all this by examining her column from the previous week, in which she attributed May’s election disaster to her own personal failings. An element of truth in that certainly, but the defining feature of the election was policies not personalities. For a centrist who imagines politics simply to be a matter of following the rules and doing just enough to sell neo-liberalism to the great unwashed this may be unimaginable, but it is what happened. Tellingly, her post-election piece contained the following.

If your pig-headed, 14-year-old with the edgy boyfriend took the family car and crashed it into a wall, you would probably be teary eyed at her contrite apology and her promise to ditch the boyfriend and consult all round before indulging in any further japes with family property.

. . . May, a grown woman, did that to a country.

Not sure what to make of that but it’s telling that nowhere does Sheridan mention the Labour Party, manifestos or policies, the latter of which she likely considers ancillary unless they relate to EU membership.

Incidentally, if my pig-headed 14-year-old with the edgy boyfriend regularly wrote the sort of muck that Sheridan does she’d be sent off to boarding school. You’ve been warned Sorcha.

This week’s column comes out fighting, or at least shouting. The central claim being a (kinda) defence of May’s refusal to visit Grenfell residents and an attack on the comparably positive reaction to Corbyn’s handling of the disaster.

You can only admire the stamina of Jeremy Corbyn. By the weekend, the 68-year-old had surely hugged the entire populace of north Kensington and environs. His characteristically hangdog persona exuded humility, tears and empathy – and something new. Still jubilant from losing the general election to the Tories less catastrophically than expected, he walked among his people under showers of pixie dust, as the world’s media – the ones not busy struggling to decode the DUP’s DNA – scrambled for a look at the man who had defied all predictions of extinction. Zero to hero in a few weeks.

Perhaps reflecting on how the media (i.e you) were so utterly clueless with regard to what was going on in UK politics and society may prompt some self-examination, Kathy? Or maybe we just need a British Macron. Yeah, we need a British Macron. He’ll be called Mr Hamish Shirewood-Macronington and he’ll sort all this out.

By the way, notice how she dismisses an election which saw Corbyn’s Labour Party gain its biggest vote increase since Clement Atlee by using the (already-tired) trope of ‘Hate to break up the party guys, but he did lose’? Even the people employing this shite don’t really believe that the election was anything but a triumph for Corbynism. In Sheridan’s case the fact that just one week ago she wrote a column excoriating May for an electoral disaster would suggest that, on some level at least, she understands that it was the opposite of a disaster for the main opposition party. Or so one would hope.

Meanwhile, Corbyn’s lifelong avoidance of power has rendered him untouchable. The beauty of fashioning long, political careers out of protest and making the right noises while avoiding responsibility and consequences have nothing to fear from angry voters. So Corbyn can slug it out with the queen in the empathy stakes and bask in the contrast with scaredy cat May. Right now, he owns the hugs and tears territory because he seems sincere but also because he remains untested.

Lately Corbyn has been avoiding power through the unusual means of aggressively attempting to become Prime Minister. It’s also worth noting that to your average empty-headed centrist cliché-peddler, the very notion that articulating, arguing for and working towards a political vision consistently, and then refusing to compromise on that vision by stampeding to the Blairite centre (de-regulating banks, selling off the NHS and bombing Iraq along the way) can only be understood as a bizarre form of careerism. If anything, Corbyn’s consistency is precisely why people like him. They like his politics. They voted for those politics. They did so because the politics of the neo-liberal centre have been tried and they have failed spectacularly. Again, this is an idea utterly alien to someone like Sheridan who sees politics in fundamentally managerial terms. The neoliberal rules of the game are always the same. Until, of course, the rules get thrown out the window by the electorate.

We look at political leaders and fantasise about what a composite of them might be. Someone with dignity, energy and a well-stocked mind; someone who listens without ego; who has the moral authority to change course from a cherished goal, humble enough to admit it and to explain why; someone who does not pull moronically transparent strokes or patronise the people with simplistic narratives. Someone who is cunning, yet steadfast and decent; who instinctively recognises the boundary between building warm relationships with world leaders and licking their toes; who plays a long game and is incapable of putting party before country; someone who doesn’t feel the need to be a gas card, to have a quip for every lad up a ladder, or to have a pint with every voter. Someone who doesn’t want to be our new friend; someone who seeks not to divide but to appeal to our better selves; who engenders hope and a can-do spirit by fostering quality and fairness in everything they touch, beginning with housing, jobs, education, healthcare and laws that favour the greedy. How hard can it be?

Actually, most people don’t give a shit about any of that. In the UK, people voted en masse for policies and manifestos, not amorphous leadership qualities. They’re a lot smarter than you give them credit for, Kathy. It’s the commentariat who are fixated on managerial leadership and PR spinnery. Luckily, that commentariat looks increasingly sad, discredited and irrelevant.

Incidentally, I can imagine quite a few broadsheet columnists reading out that last quoted paragraph, looking at a Macron election poster and masturbating furiously.

We can dream. More realistically, maybe, the question is less about what we want or expect from our leaders than what we can do to protect ourselves from them when they turn bad. Checks and balances were supposed to protect America and Britain from autocratic leaders. How’s that working out?

Reasonably well.

It goes without saying that neither of Sheridan’s columns since the UK election are worth reading. They contain little in the way of analysis and are incoherent in their fury. They are also just incoherent. Indeed, as political developments take place that are just utterly beyond their already-frayed intellectual apparatus, the cretinous centre seem increasingly unable to respond with anything but inchoate dismay.

This isn’t so much an opinion piece as a temper tantrum by a liberal struggling to make sense of a world she simply can’t comprehend anymore (and never really did).

 

The Amazing, Evolving Taoiseach

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Bit late to getting a Cork Irish Examiner membership so missed this moving piece from Alison O’Connor, another in the genre of ‘Area Man Becomes Taoiseach Before Onset of Middle Age‘. Once again, Varadkar’s simultaneously brash and introverted personality is to the fore.

I heard of someone meeting Varadkar at a function. To break the ice, the person said they were from near where some of Varadkar’s down-the-country relatives live. Now, this would be grasped as a golden opportunity for a typical Irish politician to break into a “seed, breed and generation” type of discussion. But the response from Leo? Dead air.

Now, this would be grasped as a rather tedious description of a man with poor social skills. Though one suspects Leo saves his more enthusiastic responses for King’s Hospital Old Boys.

Whereas Noel Whelan was aghast at the mere fact of Leo being young(ish), Alison O’Connor is also stunned by the fact that he actually continues to age.

That is the kernel of what is fascinating about him. He remains a work in progress. As he said himself, at his first Q&A with journalists, last Friday night, he is “evolving”.

Into a Charizard? Or just a slightly different, older version of himself? Like all humans everywhere since forever?

What is (especially) strange about O’Connor’s article is that she seems to be almost about to break into some sort of politically-informed criticisms of the new head of government but again and again is dragged back into her own silly trope of ‘maturity’. For example, Varadkar’s Iona-esque moralising against abortion is explained as an example of his childishness and underdeveloped political sophistication.

The conservative TD and medical doctor, as he was described at that time, in a report in this newspaper, went on to give a really good example of why his colleagues would have considered him immature.

Elaborating on the abortion question and the thousands of Irishwomen who travel to the UK for terminations each year, he resorted to the offensive flippancy that used to be one of his hallmarks. He essentially compared abortion to gambling and prostitution. It was rather a wow moment.

I’m not sure if this is immature or simply an unfiltered and accurate reflection of his own awful opinions. Moreover, O’Connor never states clearly whether her problem is with Leo being in favour of having Lucinda Creighton and Paul Bradford sit on the chests of pregnant women until their due date, or with expressing this opinion in an overly dismissive way. One would assume the former is worse than the latter, unless you’re a liberal whose primary concern is that politics remains a polite, convivial and orderly discussion between technocrats.

It’s always interesting to observe a new leader of the country, but it is impossible to say how anyone, despite their record, longevity, or even their consistency, will perform in that role.

This cretinous banality belongs in the introduction of an undergraduate essay.

The obvious question is whether there might be more maturing to be done, on the job.

The content of this ‘maturing’ is rather opaque. Though one suspects it consists of refining his rhetoric while maintaining and implementing his Thatcherite principles.

Of course, given the media enthusiasm for Leo Varadkar and his 21st Century Politics, we shouldn’t be surprised to find this same fervour reflected by the public.

Fine Gael 29% (+1)

Oh right yeah.

Harry Potter Returns

JK Rowling, in a desperate bid to win young people back to Blairism, has written another thirteen titles in the Harry Potter series with a much more overt focus on the political and economic issues of the wizarding world.

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Harry Potter and the Triangulated Tax Scheme

Harry Potter and the Shower of Bastards

Harry Potter and the Passive Aggressive Unfollow

Harry Potter and the Blast of Reality

Harry Potter and the Barley of Winter

Harry Potter and the Intellectual Bankruptcy of Centrist Neoliberal Technocracy

Harry Potter and the Plate of Biscuits

Harry Potter and the Collected Works of Anthony Giddens

Harry Potter and the Flaff of Floom

Harry Potter and the Out-of-Touch Author

Harry Potter and the Devastating Twitter Takedown

Harry Potter and the Decline of the Potteries

Harry Potter and the Blairites’ Lament