War of the infinite ideologies
- Credit: PA
Comedian, musician and writer Mitch Benn discusses the similarities between Avenger's character Thanos, and a certain MP.
I don't know what your favourite thing is about this newspaper.
Perhaps it's the publication's mere existence, a printed voice of sanity in the maelstrom of blimpish Brexit lunacy which otherwise dominates the newsstands.
Perhaps it's the cast of erudite, incisive and downright glamorous regular contributors (blushes).
But I'm certain that for a good few of you, it's the fact that this paper is just about the only publication on sale in the UK or indeed anywhere else in which you don't have to read about Avengers: Infinity War.
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Now don't panic, this is not a review – that's not my remit. Besides, if you're among the 3 or 4% of the human race who haven't seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, you probably have your reasons, and whatever those reasons may be it's unlikely that a humble columnist like me is going to change your mind.
Similarly, I'm going to be careful to avoid spoilers in my brief mention of the movie, although again, if you haven't seen it by now you're not likely to be too concerned about me blowing the ending.
It is a jaw-dropper of an ending, though. There was nearly a riot at the end of the screening I went to, being as it was an afternoon showing with an audience full of (by now screaming and wailing) children. I actually stood up as the credits rolled to address the tumult, pointing out that there's another Avengers movie scheduled for next year, and that as such the story doesn't end there (a bunch of people who were in the Richmond Odeon a month ago just read that and thought 'Oh so that's who that idiot was').
I bring up Avengers: Infinity War because I was reminded this week of its bad guy, the unstoppable alien warlord Thanos. He's a marvellous creation, both technically (he's played by the actor Josh Brolin, rendered as a computer-generated purple-skinned giant; the best non-Andy Serkis such performance thus far committed to film) and thematically: the film is, despite the title, all about him, with the titular super-heroes largely reduced to the role of helpless spectators to Thanos's genocidal rampage.
What makes Thanos a truly fascinating bad guy, as is the case with all really interesting bad guys, both literary and historical, is his unshakeable conviction that he is in fact the good guy. Plagued by visions of the slow death of the universe through starvation and depletion of resources, he is resolved to prevent this by wiping out one half of its population, thus enabling the survivors (he believes) to live in peace and plenty. He harbours no ill will against those he destroys in the course of his quest; he simply regards them as lacking the clarity of vision to perceive the righteousness of his cause.
You may be wondering what on earth has happened in my life to put me in mind of purple alien warlords... Well, the inspiration came in the ostensibly innocuous form of a tweet from the pro-Commonwealth economist and evangelical Brexiteer Andrew Lilico.
Responding to a tweet by a concerned Remainer about the probability of ten years of economic chaos (an extremely conservative estimate), Lilico sniffed, 'Brexit isn't mainly about us as individuals. It's about the future of our country and its contribution to the world and world history over the long term... Your next 10 years are irrelevant'.
'Your next 10 years are irrelevant'.
Now maybe that was meant as a specific dig at his interlocutor at that moment (the concerned tweeter was, it's worth mentioning, an editor on the BBC's Newsnight), but if it applies to anyone in particular it applies to all of us. Our next 10 years – if current projections are to be believed, our next 30 or 40 years – are irrelevant to the Brexiteers. All that matters is their idea, and the chance to realise that idea in all its glorious purity. Your job is expendable. Your health is expendable. Your kids' future is expendable. This is pure zealotry, pure ideology at its most pious and ugly. Lilico and his fellow cultists are ready and willing to sacrifice you and yours on the altar of their jealous Europhobic gods, and if you have a problem with that, well, it's just that you lack the vision to perceive the righteousness of their cause.
I've been saying for a while that Brexit has operated more as a religion rather than as a political movement, trading in appeals to emotion and 'belief' while the Remainers forlornly try to peddle facts – but as the last rational arguments for Brexit fail and are exposed, it's starting to bear a worrying resemblance to a millennialist death-cult.
The bus is headed for the cliff, the doors are locked, they're singing their songs of freedom as they floor the accelerator and we're going with them to 'The Better Place' whether we like it or not.
This is why it's essential that we prove the new High Priest Of Brexit, Jacob Rees-Demagogg, wrong, when he loftily proclaims (as he did this week) that the Remainers are fighting 'their last rearguard action' against Brexit and that soon all resistance will be a thing of the past.
If Brexit happens, then the last day of the campaign to avert it will be the first day of the campaign to reverse it. Perhaps we'll be renamed Returners by then but we're not going anywhere, Jacob.
Get ready for the long haul; we already are.
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