MITCH BENN on the Boris Johnson and Donald Trump supporters who can no longer defend their leader.
It’s not often that I feel sympathy for Donald Trump.
Actually I’d like to revise that statement; it’s never that I feel sympathy for Donald Trump. Whatever misfortunes he may fleetingly suffer he has invariably brought upon himself and besides, I’m not sure there’s enough misfortune in the world to induce me to feel sorry for him.
I did, however, experience a glimmer of empathy for him the other night as I, and everyone else, watched him trudge dejectedly back from Marine One to the White House after his ill-judged ‘rally’ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a few days ago.
Mr President, speaking on behalf of stand-up comedians everywhere: we’ve all been there, mate. We’ve all turned up to a tour date, taken one look at the size of the venue and realised, with a lurching stomach, that someone, either the venue manager or the promoter or somebody in between has somehow got entirely the wrong idea about how big a deal you are and booked you into a room that you haven’t got a prayer of even one-third filling.
Now admittedly in my case that involves finding out I’m playing a 500-seater theatre rather than a 19,000-seat arena but trust me, it’s the same feeling.
The knowledge that those few precious punters who actually turn up are going to be horrifically self-conscious of the empty chairs that surround them, that you’re going to have to work that much harder to put them at their ease and turn this into some sort of show.
Because that’s the difference: when this happens to comedians, we still have a show to do. We’ve got gags, routines, songs in my own case.
The problem which confronted Trump in Tulsa is that at a Trump Enormo-Rally the crowd is the show. He doesn’t have to do anything; just throw out the occasional comment about how wonderful he is, the odd snarky remark about how rubbish someone else is, then bask in the sound of thousands of MAGA hatted acolytes whooping and cheering. But if there’s not enough people there to whoop and cheer with sufficiently demented gusto then there is no show.
And since the primary purpose of Trump’s rallies is to fuel his own ego, it’s no wonder he was a limp shadow of his usual self by the end of the night.
He looked like a defeated horror-movie villain; the type who’d built some hideous life-essence draining machine to perpetuate his own existence by sapping the vital energies of young innocents, only to have the heroic Final Girl throw the mechanism into reverse just as he hooks himself up to it and suck the last vestiges of life out of him (that’s not bad, actually; I may have to write that up).
It’s been a week of harsh realities landing with a wet slap on the collective face of the right wing, though, hasn’t it; with the (apparently permanent) revocation of the Twitter privileges of a certain toxic failed game show contestant whom I won’t name (and while I’m here, I think whoever came up with the format for The Apprentice may finally top the list of people to go back and prevent the birth of as soon as someone builds a time machine) having prompted a mass exodus of Tireless Champions Of Free Speech (ie. Free-From-Being-Disagreed-With-Speech) from Twitter in favour of a rival platform, Parler.
So, having decided that Twitter is a smug, elitist, insular circle-jerk of confirmation bias and groupthink, a bunch of heroic freedom-loving conservatives have decided to create their own smug, elitist, insular circle-jerk of confirmation bias and groupthink.
But it can’t be a coincidence that all the right-whingers have thrown their Twitter toys out of the pram and naffed off to Parler at the precise moment that world events have shown that literally everything liberal snowflakes have been saying for years is true after all, can it?
The Tory government really is as useless as we’ve always said and Boris Johnson really is as lazy. Racism really is threaded throughout history and society; our nation’s wealth was built on slavery and American cops really do have a problem that needs addressing. Brexit really is going to ruin the country. Sexual predation really is rife throughout society and the bigger a cheese the predator is, the less gets done about it. The NHS really is the single most vital institution in our country, and Britain really is being sustained and held together by immigrants rather than ‘overrun’.
The free market left unchecked will doom us all; the environment really was being damaged by human activity and we could let it heal if we were organised enough. And, crucially, most halfway objective people openly acknowledge the truth of all this.
That’s why so many of those who don’t are off to Parler. They’re sick of losing the argument so they’ve just decided not to have the argument any more. Let’s not follow them there.