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Monday, 29 April 2013

Who's speaking up for the mad-as-hellers?

If you're old enough to remember the 1970s, you may remember an Oscar-winning film called "Network" in which an unhinged television broadcaster played by Peter Finch persuaded thousands of his viewers to open their windows and yell: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more!"

Well, there are, I suspect, many millions of voters who are sorely tempted these days to shout something very similar. So my question for you is this: why do there seem to be so few mainstream politicians prepared to reflect the sentiments of the "mad-as-hellers"?

Let's try to name a few angry politicians: in the UK, Nigel Farage of UKIP and George Galloway of Respect: in the US, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and a handful of Tea Partyers. In France, Marine Le Pen of the National Front; in Greece, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza. Mainstream, they ain't.

Tony Blair wrote a remarkable piece in the New Statesman the other day, in which he said: "The guiding principle should be that we are the seekers after answers, not the repository for people’s anger."

Now, I have nothing against seekers after answers -- I've pretty much made it my life's work to be a seeker -- but what on earth is wrong with politicians being a repository for people's anger? What's wrong with seeking to represent the people who increasingly feel that no one is listening, no one cares, no one understands what their lives are like?

Anger alone, of course, is never enough -- you need to offer credible solutions as well -- but it's not unreasonable, is it, to expect someone other than Mr Farage to try to articulate the rage that a significant number of voters feel about the events of recent years? Banking crash, bank bonuses, corporate tax avoidance, double-dip recession, job insecurity -- yes, and the EU and immigration -- surely it's not so unreasonable to be angry?

It's not easy for parties in government to articulate voter anger -- to do so would naturally encourage the response "So why the hell aren't you doing something about it?" But for Nick Clegg to argue, as he did yesterday, that Labour are "making the classic mistake of opposition" and that "by offering anger rather than hope, [they] are steadily becoming a party of protest", strikes me as frankly bizarre.

Almost as bizarre, in fact, as Boris Johnson's attempt to argue that the rise of UKIP is actually good news for the Conservatives because it confirms that "a Tory approach is broadly popular" and that the Labour party "is going precisely nowhere". Hmm …

As for Nick Clegg's argument, why can't an opposition party both articulate anger and offer hope? Why should anger be the prerogative of the political fringes? And anyway, I'm not sure I've seen much sign of Labour offering anger; from where I sit, the main Labour message seems to be "we know you don't like what that coalition lot are doing, but we think we may have to do something quite similar if/when you elect us."

I have a theory about why the anger has gone out of mainstream politics -- and it revolves around television. The telly-box is what the media studies people call a "cool medium" -- it is much kinder to soft-spoken, reasonable people with an ample store of pithy sound-bites than to tub-thumping ideologues who could make themselves heard in the far corners of Trafalgar Square without the aid of a microphone.

So Michael Foot has morphed into Tony Blair, and Enoch Powell has become David Cameron. I exaggerate slightly for effect, of course, and it's not exactly irrelevant that neither Foot nor Powell ever won a general election. (Arguably, neither has Cameron, but we can leave that for another day.)

But if UKIP do well in the local elections on Thursday, let's see how long it takes Ed Miliband to start speaking up a bit more for the mad-as-hellers.

2 comments:

Gaye Berry said...

Could it be that with the "spin" that has replaced news, the general public doesn't know that it should be mad as hell?
Could it be that with the punches that have come from unemployment, food stamps, dumpster-diving, and otherwise trying to suvive, the general public is just too punch-drunk to feel mad as Hell?
Could it be that a defeatist attitude has replaced the will get mad as Hell?
Could it be that the general public feels as condemned as the devil and as locked in Hell as the devil; so what is the point of yelling "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Could it be that hopelessness and despair has replaced any will to fight back?

Gaye Berry said...

What is there to get mad as Hell about?
- food loaded into Dumpsters while Hundreds of Hungry Americans Restrained by Police;
- Boston Marathon Bombing happened on Same Day as "Controlled Explosion" Drill by Boston Bomb Squad;
- Obama Approves Raising Permissible Levels of Nuclear Radiation in Drinking Water. Civilian Cancer Deaths Expected to Skyrocket;
- No Bank Deposits Will Be Spared from Confiscation;
- How the FBI Fosters, Funds and Equips American Terrorists;
- Privatization of Water: Nestlé Denies that Water is a Fundamental Human Right;
- America is Still in an Official State of Emergency;
- Dangers of War: What is Behind the US-North Korea Conflict?
- Why does Boston Celebrate Martial Law with Chants of ‘USA, USA’?
- Boston Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Alive and Uninjured When Taken Into Custody. Now He is Dead.
Tower of Basel: Secretive Plans for the Issuing of a Global Currency
- The Diabolical Bank "Bail-In" Proposal
- Russian War Games send a Strong Message against NATO Intervention in Syria?
- Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming
- US Threatens War With North Korea, Demands China to Cut Off Support
- Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic
- The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases
- Genetically Modified Corn is Loaded with Chemical Poisons
- The Boston Bombings and the FBI: "Official Tsarnaev Story Makes No Sense"
- Growing Campaign to Revoke Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize
- Fed's Assault On Gold: "Short Selling" and the Rigging of the Gold Market
What's there to be mad as Hell about, and even if we were, what is there to do about?