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Don’t blame me… this is the Age of Belief

A 'Q' sign, representing QAnon, is held up at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania. The conspiracy theory is the most extreme example of the Age of Belief - Credit: Getty Images

We now live in the age of belief, says MITCH BENN, where conviction trumps everything.

I’m under very few illusions as to how much influence I bring to bear on events. I can trot out wry observations and snarky comments (sometimes with a tune), so as to (hopefully) amuse the readers of this esteemed publication, my Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers, and if I’m really on form I might occasionally give those select groups of people something to reflect upon or chew over. What I can’t do – to a greater extent than any other engaged citizen of a nominal democracy such as our own – is actually change anything.

The only people who might take issue with the above statement are the last remaining members of the dwindling cult of Corbyntology. Whenever I take to Twitter to make any comment to the effect that our current administration are, say, performing at a non-optimal level, or leave something to be desired, or are a bunch of thieving conniving Philistines with the average IQ of a paraffin heater and the morals of a half-starved hyena, a bunch of surviving Branch Corbynians will emerge from the (no doubt sustainably sourced) woodwork to inform me in solemn all-caps that I have no right to raise any such objections, given that the sole reason the Conservatives now enjoy an 80 seat majority is that two years ago, I wrote a song about how useless Jeremy Corbyn was.

While I suppose I should be flattered that the rump Corbynistas credit me with such power and influence, I think it’s rather more likely that the Tories owe their unassailable command of parliament at least in part to the Corbyntologists’ Beloved Leader’s belief that he could win a general election with a personal approval rating of 16% (Ipsos MORI, 20.9.19 in case you want the citation).

(I suppose in the name of balance I should mention that the Brexit Ultras – who do seem to have gone a bit quiet these days – also seem to think that I and my fellow Remoaners are to blame for Brexit descending into chaos because we predicted that Brexit would descend into chaos, which is an interesting take on the whole concept of cause and effect, to say the least.)

Perhaps I should test the extent of my powers by writing a column entitled Mitch Benn Wins The Lottery, or a song about how I’m blindingly handsome with an uninterrupted hairline and a 30” waist, just to see what happens.

It’s been apparent for a while now that we live in an age where belief is everything. Belief trumps (no pun intended) facts. Belief beats knowledge. Belief matters more than reality. And belief is impervious to all of these things.

The Brexit Ultras will never be moved from their creed that Brexit is the deliverance of the nation; whatever misery it brings will be blamed on the doubters, the nay-sayers, the heretics… us, basically. The Corbyntologists will never waver in their belief that the man was (and could still be) the saviour of the country; his failure to actually achieve anything other than a Tory landslide will be blamed on… well, primarily me, if Twitter is anything to go by.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the fledgling Biden administration is coming to grips with the fact that it faces not merely the usual truculence and bad faith which has been the stock in trade of the Republican Party for decades, but also the fact that opposition to their regime is borne not just of political differences, but also, to an alarming degree, of unhinged conspiracy theories.

What proportion of diehard Trump supporters actually believe the teachings of QAnon and its various associated bits of peripheral dingbattery, and how many of them are cynically feigning belief in the hope of exploiting the credulity of others cannot be discerned from the outside, but the effect is much the same. You can debate someone over your differing views on the economy, healthcare, immigration and the like, but where do you even start with someone who sincerely believes your whole party to be a cabal of baby-eating Satanists?

It’s not a comparison I make lightly when I say that the reaction on social media of the Q-nuts and Still Trumpers when Biden’s inauguration was not, as they had assured each other it would be, interrupted by Trump himself returning at the head of a column of loyal troops to reclaim the presidency, was extraordinarily reminiscent of the response of doomsday cults when the world fails to end as they’d predicted, again. “It DID happen, only in secret. It’ll happen SOON, just keep watching. We weren’t proved wrong. We can NEVER be proved wrong.”

I’m not sure how we go about trying to fix this. I do know that one thing which won’t help is yet more polarisation of the news media, yet more reinforcement of the info-bubbles into which those who don’t want their world-view ‘clouded’ are retreating. Bang goes my chance of a job on GB News then…

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