Bonnie Greer on how Trump, Farage and Johnson have been able to channel the anger of the disaffected

PUBLISHED: 11:37 29 September 2016 | UPDATED: 11:37 29 September 2016

The rise of rage

The rise of rage

Archant

Looking at this tweet which just went out the other day, I was reminded of that undoubtedly hot night just this past August in Mississippi, when Nigel Farage strode out on to the stage of a Donald Trump rally.

This was one of modern politics’ most beautifully symmetrical moments.

Here they were – the two leaders of right-of-centre / right wing Anglophone populism – hugging one another like the brothers-in arms that they are.

Farage grinned broadly at the crowd yelling the words “Make American Great Again!” as if he invented them and indeed, in some ways he has.

With the shock success of Leave in the EU referendum campaign, right-of-centre/right wing populism has suddenly become a kind of language. It has become “The People”. This “People” are identified with the success or failure of one man.

Let’s call him “The Strong Man.”

First of all, how did Trump and Farage get to where they are?

An official at CBS, the American television giant, has been quoted as saying: “Trump may not be good for the country. But he’s good for CBS.” And CNN and NBC and ABC.

Trump is what’s known as “media candy” – always watchable, makes great copy; and he has quotable quotes. The French would call him a “numéro” – a “character”.

I’ve been on Question Time with Nigel Farage once and very many panellists on that show have too. He’s been on umpteen times and for the leader of a party with only one MP – and that one a defector from the Conservatives – you have to believe that, for this programme, Farage is social media click-bait.

In the huge arena that is broadcast news, what, in America, is called “infotainment”, engulfs what we traditionally understand to be the “news”. It renders it a kind of entertainment.

Add to this the rise of so-called “news” aggregating sites like Breitbart on the right and you have a circus which begs for the ring masters. Farage, for example, went on record in The Mirror, before the result of the referendum, saying that if the vote was 52-48 for Remain, then it was “unfinished business”.

But to fact-check Farage or Trump is to bring the circus to a shuddering halt.

In this age when young journalists are judged by how many retweets they get on Twitter, we must understand that our politics have become skewed, even “invented” like never before.

This is not to denigrate journalism and journalists. They have to eat – so the tightrope is walked.

What would not in the past be given much airtime suddenly is front and centre. Scrutiny becomes an inconvenience as the rules are set by The Strong Man.

Farage yelling to the Mississippi crowd: “We had a foreign visitor come over and tell us what to do! He talked down to us.” (referring to President Obama’s pre-EU referendum visit) creates, names and justifies a synergy between Trump’s “Basket Of Deplorables” and those who voted Leave.

Except that Leave voters, unlike Trump supporters, don’t care what they’re called. Because they’re angry. They’re enraged. They’re through.

As David Cameron drove out of Downing Street he was booed. He’s now being called “the worst Prime Minister ever” in some, quarters, a title previously held by Gordon Brown and Tony Blair before him.

No doubt there will be another “worst ever”. What’s striking is that only a year before, he’d won a majority in the House of Commons, something the Conservatives hadn’t been able to do since 1992. So perhaps the answer to the referendum result lies in that boo. Leaving Europe was, too, an expression of rage. Rage at being left behind.

In many of the areas that voted 
Leave, unemployment, disinvestment, a sense of not being in the national conversation prevail. Austerity hit these areas the hardest, coupled with the sense that there was no voice for them at Westminster – no one to express their fears and anxieties.

Free trade felt like an enemy, allowing those not born in the country to participate. With the weakening of the unions, there was no way that many post-industrial regions could fight back. These areas are called the “Rust Belt” in the US and are one of the battlegrounds between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They are battlegrounds in the UK and in Europe, too.

Leave quickly identified that immigration and the NHS were the “simple” stuff. Trump‘s “simple” is immigration, too, and “peace through strength”. Never mind that the slogan has a tinge of Mussolini about it. The people he’s talking to – and the ones “Leave” talked to – know little about him. This isn’t to denigrate them. It’s to point out the severe disconnect between government and The Governed.

Rationale; holding up facts and figures; parading a core of People Who Know only enraged this demographic further. No matter what happened, they were seen as The Winners pontificating to The Losers. This time, The “Losers” were determined that THEY were going to win.

This is one of the reasons that the rules don’t apply to Farage and Trump.

No one is quoting Farage’s “unfinished business”. No one in his Base is asking Trump to honour a custom that’s been done for over 40 years: revealing his taxes.

Because it’s not about that. It’s about The Rage and the sense that this is their last chance before the inevitable march of the unavoidable “overwhelms” them and the things that identified them as who they are gone forever.

Remain didn’t get this. But sites like Breitbart and channels like Fox News do.

They legitimise pub talk: dark conspiracy theories, paranoia and what’s called in the States “nativism” (White Nationalism). They help make the dark side of social media’s Back Fence the world’s back fence.

This new “Back Fence” is one of the roots of populism and a reason for the success of Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Podemos in Spain on the Left; and Marine Le Pen in France, plus movements in Italy and Austria on both sides of the spectrum.

This populism – with its idea of the charismatic leader – is why an Old Etonian like Boris Johnson, could mouth a phrase that said in effect: “ignore the experts”. 
It is also why he is fronting Vote Leave’s metamorphosis Change Britain, 
which is harrying Teresa May for a 
quick exit.

“Boris adds 2% to us,” a Leave person chirruped. Boris ‘Off-The Telly’ helps to channel The Rage and The Anger, give it a voice and meaning, too. The media, in particular, have to keep repeating those ratings, so they’ll continue to create infotainment and provide an arena in which the forces do battle. It will suit them to have this negotiation long and drawn out. It keeps the national conversation going. And them in business.

They dare not label this what it is: The Conservative’s Battle For Europe now in its 21st century form; and ancient indeed.

This ancient struggle-to-the-death caused David Cameron to call an “In/Out “ referendum in the first place, confident that he would vanquish “the bastards” as John Major labelled them and therefore set his seal upon the times.

But what is in his wake is uncertainty and a kind of chaos that has left many of the world’s economists and the markets scratching their heads. He has left the nation with a stripped-down Civil Service ill-equipped to begin the negotiations that would unpick 40 years of legislation and thousands of pages of secondary legislation.

We are now facing a massive structural change. What we might discover is how much the UK IS the EU, how much law 
and custom and practice are built on 
that 40 years; how much there is to be undone.

Those ideologues; media punters; and obsessives who won’t suffer whatever happens, have to shoulder the responsibility to a generation of the young who may not have freedom of movement; may not participate in the world with the ease that they might have had.

But, as Trump told his audience; as Farage has implied in Britain; and Marine Le Pen in France, too: this is the last throw of the dice.

“Hillary Clinton will let all the undocumented (“illegals”) vote!” Trump yells.

Those, whom the Elites did not hear correctly, carefully listen.

Many of those listening are some of the most dangerous people to social cohesion and peace in this world.

To me, Leave has to be held account for unleashing these people; they have to be held to account for every promise they made; every insinuation they gave.

The signs, so far, are not good. They won’t accept this responsibility.

So, let’s hope that Trump, Farage and their ilk do not unleash Yeats’ “rough beast” beautifully evoked in the poet’s great work ‘The Second Coming’.

Let’s hope that we don’t witness his Beast as it: “Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born..”

Bonnie Greer is a playwright, novelist and critic

Like this? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest Articles

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We have a number of set phrases in English which we use in a rather automatic and semi-obligatory way at particular times and in specific social situations – such as ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’, ‘happy birthday’ and ‘happy new year’.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scotland's three biggest parties have all experienced sudden jolts in recent weeks. MAURICE SMITH reports on the tectonic plates shifting once again north of the border

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A fitting 48 times the hapless foreign secretary, currently backtracking from his bungled attempt to topple Theresa May, outraged with his thoughtless comments and ill-judged actions

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Lib Dems have stepped back from the Brexit cliff-edge.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Despite its devastating impact, Hurricane Irma passed with only a handful of deaths yet received wall-to-wall media coverage. On the other side of the world, floods have left a far higher death toll, yet reporting has been sparse. LIZ GERARD asks what is behind this apparent hypocrisy and what it says about us

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sir Vince Cable is to set out his bid to scupper Brexit by declaring “I am a proud saboteur”.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Imagine a town studded with watchtowers like San Gimignano in Tuscany, but set high on a plateau, 100 miles from the nearest centre of population.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A top Brexit Whitehall official has been moved out of the Department for Exiting the EU amid rumours of a rift with David Davis.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The venerable Dr Johnson described patriotism as “the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It might not have grabbed the world's attention yet but, says AURORA TORRES, the over-exploitation of sand is a looming crisis for the globe, causing environmental destruction, putting communities at risk and sparking illegal black markets

Monday, September 18, 2017

The lights are going out in comments sections all over the world.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Home Secretary Amber Rudd today accused her Cabinet colleague Boris Johnson of "back-seat driving" as the row over his Brexit intervention deepened.

Monday, September 18, 2017

I couldn’t make it to the March For Europe last Saturday; perhaps this dereliction of duty means my Remoaner licence has now been revoked and I must now be demoted to Regrumbler or Rewhiner.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Angela Merkel may be on course for victory but her campaign for the German chancellorship is not the stately procession it might seem from afar. TONY PATERSON joins her on a decidedly bumpy election trail

Monday, September 18, 2017

Thousands of anti-Donald Trump posters inspired by Second World War public information designs have been plastered across Washington DC.

Friday, September 15, 2017

“Trees are sanctuaries,” wrote the German author and poet Hermann Hesse. “Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

BONNIE GREER on the conviction that you can have your cake and eat it

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A legitimisation of radical right-wing ideology is taking place around the world. The world was shocked by the events in Charlottesville, America, and by Donald Trump’s failure to condemn racist violence.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

RICHARD PORRITT with the week's big stories

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mancunian musician Mark Reeder arrived in Berlin in 1979 and never looked back.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Britain will "soon regret" leaving the EU, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has warned in his annual state of the union speech.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Right, so where are we now then?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are playing a very dangerous game of nuclear poker, argues Paul Connew. But does either leader have the cards that could avoid destruction?

Monday, September 11, 2017

When Muslim feminist SEYRAN ATES opened a liberal mosque in Berlin this summer she was met with a barrage of death threats and fatwas. But she says she is undeterred in her campaign to use enlightenment values to defeat extremism – in all forms

Monday, September 11, 2017

Many of the materials we use derive their names from the towns they were first made in. PETER TRUDGILL explores the stories behind some of the best-known

Monday, September 11, 2017

Theresa May’s insistence that she is sticking around as PM may have been met with scepticism and incredulity, but PR agent MARK BORKOWSKI argues her reboot may yet work

Monday, September 11, 2017

His stricken condition fuels macabre speculation, but Michael Schumacher’s real legacy is the remarkable run of Grand Prix dominance which began 25 years ago. ROB BURNETT reports

Friday, September 8, 2017

Writer, April 17, 1885 - September 7, 1962

Friday, September 8, 2017

For comedian MITCH BENN, Theresa May’s attempts to extend her political life put him in mind of his favourite film, Blade Runner. Here, he goes on the trail of Downing Street’s replicant

Sunday, September 10, 2017

An estimated 50,000 passionate Remainers marched on Parliament yesterday demanding the Government reverse its Brexit strategy.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tony Blair today made an explosive intervention in the Brexit debate, calling for tough new immigration rules which would allow Britain to stay in the EU.

Monday, September 11, 2017

British identity is fragmented like never before, with the rise of pop-up populism dividing people into “them” and “us”. Author PETER POMERANTSEV takes a deeply personal journey through Britain to find out what it means for the country

Friday, September 8, 2017

A refusal to confront its past leaves France facing an uncertain future, argues MARTIN EVANS

Friday, September 8, 2017

Al Jazeera may have its flaws, but its persecution is seriously bad news for the world, says PAUL KNOTT

Friday, September 8, 2017

If you’re looking for a phrase to describe the change in newspaper print circulations this year, it might well be “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”. The latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) demonstrate that only the Metro managed to increase its print circulation year-on-year, with every single other national title recording a fall.

Friday, September 8, 2017

It’s not just back to school for the nation’s children, this week, but also for politicians and British business.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Modern Germany has a very different political and media culture to our own, and some of that was on display in Sunday’s ‘TV-Duell’ between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her SDP challenger Martin Schulz.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

STEVE ANGLESEY picks out the worst Brexiteers of the week

Thursday, September 7, 2017

RICHARD PORRITT on the week's big stories

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Britain's chances of being ready to begin EU trade negotiations by the next round of trade talks in October are "in the neighbourhood of zero", former European Council president Herman van Rompuy warned today.

Podcast

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter