‘But why are Jeremy Clarkson and Nigel Farage still so popular?’


5:49 pm - May 8th 2014

by Sunny Hundal    


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Suzanne Moore has written a column in the Guardian today that I whole-heartedly agree with.

Here’s her key argument:

Clarkson is not stupid. Nor is he a maverick or outlier. He is a central part of the establishment. He parties with Cameron. Just as Ukip is not a maverick party, but made up of disgruntled Tories; just as Boris Johnson is not a maverick but a born-to-rule chancer; just as bloggers such as Guido Fawkes pretend to be anti-politics mavericks but are hard-rightwingers – this section of the right deludes itself that it is somehow “outside” the establishment rather than its pumping heart.

Saying the unsayable is actually dully conformist. Pick on anyone different and mock them. Endeavour to take away not just their rights but the concept that they ever had rights in the first place. All this is done preeningly, while a white middle-aged man pretends he is downtrodden and now some kind of freedom fighter.

[I hate to point this out but its the Guardian that has twice published fawning profiles on Guido Fawkes emphasising his anti-establishment schtick.]

I broadly agree with what Suzanne says. But there’s a point here that follows on but isn’t quite addressed: so why are Clarkson and Farage still popular? Saying this is because their followers are just racist doesn’t quite hit the mark, despite the obviously racist remarks made by both.

There’s something else going on here.

Supporters of Farage and Clarkson do think its right that people speak truth to power. They do want someone who is anti-establishment. But don’t see themselves as the establishment.

Imagine a world that is rapidly becoming more sexist and homophobic. Attacks on women and LGBTs are on the rise and the younger generation have even worse attitudes. You can see your world crumbling in front of you and you want out. You’ll support anyone who stands up to this rising tide of hatred. Even if they’re rich, white and well-connected.

This is the world that Nigel Farage and Jeremy Clarkson fans are in. They hate progressive politics and they hate the march of political correctness. Their entire world is falling apart and they hate the future. They hate ‘political correctness’ and they see it going from the Left all the way to the Tory leadership.

Whether we on the Left think this is silly or not is irrelevant, this is the world they are in. For them, the likes of Clarkson and Farage are speaking truth to power. If your world looks full of political correctness and green politics gone mad, then you’ll support Clarkson and Farage for railing against it.

We are in the middle of a culture war.

Globalisation and immigration have made this generation (mostly older and less well-off) feel like the world is slipping beyond their control. This is why there’s no puzzle as to why Farage and Clarkson are popular despite being rich, powerful and part of the establishment: their supporters see them as on side in this cultural war.

I know where I stand as an unapologetic social liberal, and I’m comfortable with that. My side is winning, after all.

But the socially conservative classes know they’re losing badly, so the culture war is intensifying. They want their world back and they think Clarkson and Farage are the last holdouts.

In other words, there’s little point in asking why supporters of Farage and Clarkson don’t want to speak truth to power. They do. But they have a point – times have changed. They are no longer the establishment… we are.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Northern Worker

“They hate progressive politics and they hate the march of political correctness.” Your words. That’s exactly why people are fed up and support Clarkson and Farage. And, judging by Top Gear viewing figures and UKIP’s polling, there are a lot of very fed up people. Me for one. I don’t want to be bossed around by the Islington set and a bunch of unelected and undemocratic bureaucratics in Brussels.

Seriously? No.

To quote someone much more eloquent than myself who was commenting on the state of the ‘shock jock’ media in Australia:

“They are in the business of fluffing up a “hate woody” among angry frustrated middle aged men who probably didn’t get a great education, havent seen much of the world, aren’t getting laid, are sitting in gridlock, stressing about their mortgage on the McMansion, contemplating their mortality, knowing their best days are behind them and looking for someone to blame. That’s usually brown folks with much bigger problems on their hands escaping some hell hole that’s been sodomised by war and religion.”

Hundal:

We are in the middle of a culture war.

…which has been going on for at least fifty years now.

I know where I stand as an unapologetic social liberal, and I’m comfortable with that. My side is winning, after all.

If you take the key social/cultural changes over the last 50 years, I’d agree with you. On the other hand, part of the rhetoric of the last few years is that ‘social liberals’ have been losing as a result of the Coalition’s policies – unless what’s happening now is just one battle in that much longer culture war.

@NorthernWorker:

And, judging by Top Gear viewing figures and UKIP’s polling, there are a lot of very fed up people.

In the case of Top Gear, they come for the supercar porn, and have to put up with Clarkson’s casual xenophobia, racism, etc. while his two comedy sidekicks look embarrassed alongside him.

I seriously doubt that trans people are part of the establishment.

“I seriously doubt that trans people are part of the establishment.”

I think you’re mistaking things not being perfect with things not improving.

Surely you cannot disagree that we have come a long way and that attitudes are improving not getting worse?

From their perspective, attitudes are going in the wrong direction. Hence why they’re lashing out. That’s my point.

And we should take heart from the fact that they’re lashing out… it shows they’re losing.

Hundal:

Surely you cannot disagree that we have come a long way and that attitudes are improving not getting worse?

I’m inclined to agree (just about). However, if one takes feminism as one example, the argument there is that things are getting worse, if this article is anything to go by (cf BBC2’s Blurred Lines last night).

Either (some) feminists are right, or there’s a lack of historical perspective, or making the claim that ‘things are getting worse’ is simply an attempt to foment a sense of crisis in order to get recruits.

9. Churm Rincewqind

The real problem with Suzanne Moore’s article is that it’s merely a parade of her prejudices, comprising unsubstantiated assertions and straightforward inaccuracies – the statement that “UKIP is made up of disgruntled Tories” is just plain wrong if YouGov is to be believed.

I’m more inclined to agree with Sunny that the (mainly) older and less well-off feel disenfranchised, and tend to support those whom they see as on-side such as Farage and Clarkson.

What’s missing from the debate is any serious consideration by the liberal left of whether they have indeed been disenfranchised in real terms, and I do think that there is an extent to which this is true.

“I don’t want to be bossed around by the Islington set and a bunch of unelected and undemocratic bureaucratics in Brussels.”

Me neither.

But do I have to turn to Clarkson/Farage types to express my discontent?

11. Jonathan Bagley

An elderly radio presenter plays a 1930s oscure original version of a very well known song. The best known version was one used in a famous musical with altered lyrics. The original version contained the N word and, following just one complaint, the BBC told the presenter it would accept his generous offer to resign, although the BBC didn’t want the true story to emerge. I’ve not heard much from politicians about this episode.

Just one of many reasons Clarkson and Farage are so popular. A major reason for me is the smoking ban – brought in on the back of fraudulent science and statistics; and even less excusable, the EU Tobacco Product Directive effective ban on ecigs, which will result in tens of thousands of future UK lung cancer deaths and will become UK law in 2016. Farage has made a video supporting ecigs. Cameron and Miliband have kept well away from the TPD. Like Obama, he tries to hide his smoking habit. How pathetic is that? Is it any wonder politicians are so despised? To give him his due, Clegg did want a skip full of Silk Cut as his Desert Island Discs luxury and he doesn’t hide his smoking habit.

Hi
Just discovered your site whilst looking for a photo of Oliver James…

What you say above is correct. But it leaves out a few things from consideration:

1) the New Establishment do not see themselves as such, Focault predicts ppwer cirulates unconsciously and this continues, whoever have the cultural power, they dont see it as their power, just “the way things are”. Therefore they fail to check their own inclination to ABUSE their new cultural athority: jence shutting down debate on huge tpics by simply denouncng those who wish to put a view..unless they agree it.

2)Clarkson is one thing but sacking a local BBC DJ most of the country has never heard of because he oce alone played a 1930’s pop tune without realising it contained a racist word…thats another. Thats some guy falling foul of a dominant piety, haplessly and innocently.

3)As a LGBT fringe lifestyle person I do experience the oppresion of difference tat has emerged in Britain this past decade, every day I go out in public and receive abuse for my appearance. I even have a recording of a guy in Sainsburys saying “that bloke should be burned” (ie, like a witch I guess. BUT, I dont find the growing “politically corect” new establishment poeties in opposition to this…they are ENCOURAING it, with twats like the aforementioned Oliver James basically trying to bracket “acceptable” lifestylles and spread conformity. For example, part of the cultural war is to dictate what is “acceptable” alternative lifestyle “(henee the “regularisation” of gay relationships via gay mariage, implying that any other form of gay relationship is of less legitimacy) and “my” side, those who believe in freedom of discourse among consenting adults are coming under New Liberal inspired legislative oppression (see the 2008 Crime and Immigration Act, Section Six…which most UK fetishists refuse as yet to believe applies to them, though it does and could see consensual acts land them on the sex offenders register…as a direct result of campaigning by feminist groups).

Your key point is important. i live with wha you observe and I dont fnd that “my” side is reflected EITHEr in the Clarkson camp OR “your” New establishment either.

Addendum;
Apologies for my typos and failing to close parenthesis after “I guess”.

To summarise: If you are genuinely “different” in appearance or lifestyle tings in Britain are DEFINTELY GETTING WORSE. There are “acceptable” versions of “dfference” but thats like saying “any colour as long as its red”. A large part of this conformist trend is drive by narrow conceptions of “what is right”. The concepion of “what is right” has changed, but change is not in itself progress.

When I return to Britain from Europe I certainly feel the difference, and its not the “older men” who are responsible for the oppression emerging in this country. Britain was a much freer place in the Eighties or even the Seventies than it is now. I did not feel persecuted for my lifestyle then, I do now

At risk of monopolising the topic, but if I may pick up on anothers point:

“A major reason for me is the smoking ban – brought in on the back of fraudulent science and statistics; and even less excusable, the EU Tobacco Product Directive effective ban on ecigs, which will result in tens of thousands of future UK lung cancer deaths and will become UK law in 2016.”

I used to smoke a cigar about once a month in a bar. Since bing prevented doing so I took to smoking several every week at home. I wasnt a smoker, now I am…as a direct result of New establishment legislation.

But tthe smoking ban pales to nothing compared to the extent of intrusion of New Establishment legislation in the form of the extraordinary ban on 100 watt incandescent light bulbs! (I stocked up with hundreds of them in advance).

What it amounts to is that the New Establshment have given up on trying to persuade anyone of anything they think everyone should do (stop smking, live in darkness, etc)…largely due to the faiure of their arguments… and now impose their choices by legislative fiat.

On the other hand, when I am elsewhere in Europe I find the ban on smoking simply ignored. Some bars even display signs saying “smoking welcome”. The issues we are discussing are largely a British pphenomenon.

Sunny:

What exactly is a “social liberal”? And how does it differ from a “liberal socialist”?

Activists of either description are very prone to discriminate against views they do not like. Hence, they are not liberal, though they are politically correct.

Axel:

“As a LGBT fringe lifestyle person I do experience the oppresion of difference tat has emerged in Britain this past decade, every day I go out in public and receive abuse for my appearance. I even have a recording of a guy in Sainsburys saying “that bloke should be burned” (ie, like a witch I guess. BUT, I dont find the growing “politically corect” new establishment poeties in opposition to this…they are ENCOURAING it, with twats like the aforementioned Oliver James basically trying to bracket “acceptable” lifestylles and spread conformity”

But if literally ‘anything goes’, there are no norms. If there are no norms, then there is no society. Generally, I prefer to wear a jacket and tie, particularly in winter. But as an old-fashioned liberal, I simply don’t care what you wear. Nothing you could wear would shock me.

However, most people don’t think like this. And not only in the UK. In India, you will be considered offensive if you wear shorts, for example. In Islamic countries, if you expose your shoulders and legs, you will experience disapproval. In Italy or Spain, if you enter a church in shorts, you may be asked to cover up.

So, in your case, you have gently to expand the norms. Conform, but up to a point. ‘Challenging’ the public with your dress is a matter of degree. Take it in stages and ultimately all will be well.

Tone:
“So, in your case, you have gently to expand the norms. Conform, but up to a point. ‘Challenging’ the public with your dress is a matter of degree. Take it in stages and ultimately all will be well.”

You completely miss my point. Sunny says society is “improving” away from the culture represented by “older white men”, that the New Establishment of certan stereotypped Left wing views (“political corectness”) is a move away from conformity on behalf of non-conformists such as LGBT etc. BUT, I am saying that these New establishmennt “non conformist” dogmas are actually imposing new types of conformity. EG, its OK to be gay in a gay marriage but not a gay single who uses gay porn. This is bearing down on everyone eventually. To extend the example, PC dogma has it thhat all porn is expolitation and is making consderable headway into having possession of any kind of porn banned in the UK, the C&I Act 2008 is their first big success in re-branding previously legal activities between consenting adults as “extreme pornography”. This repressive trend isnt coming from “older white men” but from the “politically correct” New Establishment, Feminists etc. So Sunnys argument that Clarksons tribe is losing and that is a good thing is wrong, Clarksons tribe is losing and thoose who are winning are more intrusively intent on dictating lifestylles than the losing tribe of “older white men” ever were.

Like you I wear a jacket and tie and sometimes even a dinner suit…but young people still call me “freak” because of the way I look. Young people who conform to all the new dogmas of bellieving in “plura;ity” etc, have plenty of piercings, tattoos, dyed hair etc, and embody “accepptable difference” but who think a middle aged guy in a jacket and tie is a freak.

So the concept of “normality” has shifted to include acceptable versions of being gay or hving ear spacers or being otherwise “different” to a pattern, but these people are less tolerant of non-stereotyped dfference than the “older white men” of Clarksons tribe, or you or me.

The idea that change is inherently “progressive” is extremely foolish.

Farage’s unconvincing efforts to whitewash racism in UKIP ranks has an appeal for middle-of-the-road bigots for whom the BNP is a road too far. There is a huge amount of alienation when it comes to the political status quo and an anger with everything from immigration to the economy to the perceived invasiveness of correctness culture. UKIP offers a channel for the type of small minded resentment that’s becoming a bit of a contagion if certain well trafficked comment threads in the UK are anything to judge by.

18. cbr100rr

I am British and live in France, But I am fed up with foreigners coming and living in the UK, It is OK for me to live in France as I am British. But we should not allow people to come and live in our country.


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