Sunday, 5 January 2014

Patriotism - Gove, Glover and the desperate right

2014 has already got off to a great start for observers of the right.  The new in-word is "patriotism", and anyone who does not swallow the party line is guilty of at least being "unpatriotic" or, by implication, a traitor to the narrative that a particular set of idiotic carpet-munchers wishes to perpetuate.  Clearly this is a Tory strategy to marginalise UKIP by wrapping up their meretriciousness within a Union Jack, while at the same time encouraging the Scottish independence campaign through its sheer hubris.

The first stirrings came from outside the more usual inner coterie of stupidity.  Stephen Glover, many years ago, did the country a service by being one of the founders of the Independent.  Since then, he has drifted off into the hinterland where he joins such luminaries of tolerance as Melanie Phillips in propping up the contemporary equivalent of Horatio Bottomley, Paul Dacre, at the Daily Mail, promoting "why oh why?" rhetoric and bashing the BBC whenever the opportunity presents itself to his narrow mind.  The BBC produced a perfect opportunity this week.

There has been a tradition of the Today programme using "guest editors" to create an agenda between Christmas and the New Year - filling otherwise dead air with items that do not have an immediate connection to the news headlines.  Glover, bless him, must have either been sleeping or hungover not to notice the pro-banker propaganda of the Chairman of Barclays, or the establishment gush from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller earlier in the week.  Instead he vented his fury on the musician PJ Harvey, whose programme included critical pieces on the City, as well as exposure for John Pilger and Julian Assange.

However questionable some of the choices (Assange is an unsavoury self-publicist whose claim to be a victim rather than a fugitive form justice would be well-tested should be submit to Swedish jurisdiction) this was well within editorial limits.  One does not have to agree with everything that is said on the programme - it would in any case be impossible without engaging in the kind of logical impossibility that the right appears to be believe to be compatible.  Orwell's doublethink is clearly alive and well here.  Instead Glover described the programme with a number of damning epithets including "unpatriotic".

This was the same accusation levelled at the Guardian over the NSA revelations - equally risibly.  The right-wing commentariat, to a greater or lesser extent infected with Murdochitis and the influence of the neo-cons, cannot conceive that patriotism can co-exist with criticism and challenge - indeed that it can only be sustained when there is some form of acceptance of alternative narratives and viewpoints.  The blurring between their definition of patriotism and authoritarian nationalism should be a cause of concern to all of us.

So the next fool, poking his hamster-cheeks above the parapet of the cesspit, is the risible Michael Gove.  It will rightly be difficult to escape the centenary of the First World War this year.  Gove's beef is that "left-wing" historians have tended to point out not just the scale of death and destruction wrought in the war, but the futility and long-term impacts of both the war and the peace settlement.  Apparently Blackadder and the 50-year old Oh! What A Lovely War! are the kind of sedition that should be countered with military triumphs (Gallipoli, for all fans of Winston Churchill, springs to mind) - and the evil nature of the German regime and the Kaiser - a cousin of the reigning British monarch and thus connected with the feudal relics across European empire.

With the predictability of a cuckoo-clock Gove then brings in the "unpatriotic" tag to spread obloquy across the range of historians who have pointed out the holes in the right-approved historical timeline.  So in politicising the centenary, and attempting to wrap his sorry form within a narrative rejected by most sane people, he is stooping even further into the gutter than normal.  Reducing history to a series of simplistic, nationalistic slogans is a disservice not merely to those of all countries who perished but to current and future study.

Accusing anyone of being unpatriotic is both offensive and odious - and reflects badly on those who bandy it around.  This is the intellectual and moral equivalent of the toad Nick Griffin's financial bankruptcy and stems from a similar sense of historical determinism and entitlement to the good things of the world.  One suspects that they would be deeply offended to be reminded as to which of their many role models coined the term "Great Patriotic War" in 1941.

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